Annika Ohran: Returning to Rome

ROME — It is known as the Eternal City, and for good reason — it has held a monumental role in history for millennia and is full of structures, buildings and works of art that date before the time of Christ. This is perhaps what most people think of when they think of Rome — the Colosseum, powerful emperors and the city’s illustrious history. 

But there is much more to Rome that you experience only when you live there. After an absence of two years, coming back to Rome after living there for six months reminded me of everything I love about the city, and how much it feels like home. 

Basilica Ulpia at night, by Annika Ohran

Rome may not exactly fit the expectations of those who travel there. Far from the splendor of ancient days, today Rome is a hodgepodge  of architectural styles from different centuries, a blend of secular and sacred, functional and fragile. Graffiti covers the walls of the city, next to crumbling ruins overgrown with shrubs and cats, next to beautiful Renaissance-era churches, next to garbage-lined streets, next to Gothic buildings and next to modern-day sculptures. 

And what I find most beautiful about Rome is the way that it is all mixed and jumbled together. Rome has a beautiful sense of chaos and clarity. Rather than feeling like a bunch of different places and things fighting for attention, there is a cohesiveness to everything that makes Rome seem inviting, as though there is room for you here too. 

Don’t get the wrong idea–living in Rome isn’t poetic all the time either. You encounter firsthand the locals’ frustration with the government and the level of trash in the city, the public transportation’s inability to arrive on time (bar the metro), the sweltering heat and lack of air conditioning.

 But you also experience the warmth and friendliness of the people, their blunt and forward personalities, their expressiveness and excitement. The way that after sunset the city comes alive with families. Mothers congregating to talk about the day and Roman and immigrant children playing soccer in the squares. 

Returning to Rome, I was reminded again of everything I love about the city, and especially getting to see the people I care about. I reconnected with old friends and reminisced on the past. One of my friends remarked on how everything is still the same — they’ve gotten a little older and a little grayer, but they’re still living the same lives in the same community.

 The continuity allowed me to feel right at home as soon as I returned. The best part of a city is its people, and those who call Rome their home are happy to welcome you into their midst. They love Rome, for all its flaws, and they are happy when you love it, too. As one American living in Rome, Erin Cabatingan, said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.”

And after two years of American food, I was overjoyed to eat some good Roman pasta and gelato.

Aerial view of Rome, by Annika Ohran

Categories: Europe News, Europe Travel, Opinion, Personal Blogs, Study Abroad Themes

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