A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Rome, and like each time I return, I was surprised by how normal it felt. All of the sights, sounds, and smells were so familiar that I simply fell back into the rhythm of the city I called home for three wonderful years. Landing in Fiumicino airport and hopping on the train to Trastevere felt like a natural instinct, and as soon as I stepped out of the station to begin my morning journey down Viale di Trastevere, it was muscle memory that guided my every step. I was back.
Morning in Trastevere was always my favorite time, so I decided to take a walk before the city was fully awake. The trams clattered past me as I turned the corner and walked through the hustle and bustle of the marketplace in Piazza di San Cosimato. The familiar sounds of ceramic coffee cups clanking together, the whirring of machines making fresh espresso, and the metal grates being pushed up outside the glass storefronts let me know that the cafès were open and ready for the day.
After paying homage to my old apartment, I continued on my journey through the crooked side streets already echoing with the day’s first “ciao!”s between neighbors. I smiled and quickly jumped out of the way to avoid a scooter swerving through the alleyways, and kept strolling. Droplets splattered my feet as I circled the steps of the fountain in the middle of Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere and watched an elderly man stroll past me with his three dogs.
The morning soon turned into afternoon and as I became surrounded by groups of vacationers, I felt like a happy tourist, exploring my old neighborhood and rediscovering the same streets I once walked multiple times a day. However, I realized I had an advantage that my fellow wanderers lacked: I was somehow also a local in this city; I was home.
As soon as I could feel my legs getting tired, just as many of the restaurants and cafes were closing for their mid-day siesta, I thought of the perfect place to go for a relaxing break. I excitedly flashed my JCU alumni ID and stepped into the Guarini Campus. Grabbing a cup of cold water from the fountain, I said hello to old professors hurrying to class, and caught up with friendly staff members. I took a seat in the Lemon Tree Courtyard, scored some free WI-Fi, and not a moment of it felt out of place.
Looking around me, I was suddenly overcome with nostalgia. It was in this very place I found solace between every class; it was where I worked on papers and projects, and caught up with friends and classmates, often for hours on end, no matter the time of day or weather.
I found comfort in the middle of a chaotic city, and could stay in this haven for as long as I pleased. No matter how much time passes, I know I will always have a safe place to call mine in the Eternal City; a place that will welcome me home after a long day of wandering. John Cabot University gives me an excuse to keep coming back to Rome, for it was this university that makes Rome eternally mine.
Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Grew up in The United States, France, Germany, The Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria