Don’t Forget to Look Up

trastevere Rome, walking in Trastevere, Americans in Rome, John Cabot University, Rome architectureTake a walk through Trastevere. What do you see?

Maybe you notice the jaggedly uneven cobblestones that might catch your foot and make you stumble… but you keep on strolling. You might pass what feels like a hundred twisted side streets, curving through the neighborhood. As you find your way on one of them you may come across a grand doorway, giant and wooden, with ornate carvings all around its archway. You may notice a piazza or two, full of life, and tourists and locals alike bursting with character. You won’t be able to miss a few Roman drinking fountains, splattering the ground and splashing you as you bend down for a sip.

You will most likely spot a handful of local coffee bars, bustling as neighborhood regulars stand huddled together, slamming down a quick espresso and clinking the little cup and saucer on the top of the counter. Maybe you’ll get the chance to chuckle as a mini garbage truck attempts to make its way through the skinniest street in town.

Yes, if you live in Trastevere, you will probably recognize this list. You most likely notice each and every one of these things every time you set foot outside your apartment,  or walk from campus to campus between classes. I, too, fondly remember these quirky sights and would not bat an eye if I passed one of them. These quaint little scenes have almost become ingrained in the architecture… they are Trastevere staples; the “mundane” images a JCU student passes on a daily basis.

I remember one sunny day during my final semester in Rome, my afternoon class got canceled, so I took advantage of the free time and beautiful weather and embarked on a stroll through the neighborhood, the same one I had done a few hundred times before. But this time I noticed something different: I looked up to admire a cute little balcony covered with flower boxes. Bright geraniums hung over the side and overlooked the street. I had never noticed it before. What else had I missed all those years by looking down or straight in front of me as I walked quickly and hastily to my destination? Why I hadn’t I looked up more?

trastevere Rome, walking in Trastevere, Americans in Rome, John Cabot University, Rome architecture

I must have looked like a lunatic as I continued my usual route, neck extended, and chin up to the sky. I stared straight up…this time, I didn’t want to miss anything.

There’s a whole world up there too, you know?

Huge terraces covered the rooftops above. Buildings of oranges, yellows, browns,  and blues ran into each other; home stacked on top of home. Architecture of all shapes and sizes somehow connected. Clothing hung from a sturdy line as it stretched across the alleyway, a clear sky its backdrop. A courageous nonna reached her whole upper body out the window to add a few T-shirts to the line. Picturesque balconies stood strongly and proudly, and lamps hung across the streets by a wire.

I kept walking with my head up, my eyes feasting upon the layers of Rome. Open shutters on the top floor invited my gaze into a loft apartment; the walls were covered in delicate bookshelves and old paintings, and the ceiling decorated with a powerful chandelier.  I wonder who lives there?  A few windows down, a boy sat diligently practicing the cello. Next door, a maze of bright green vines crept upward, clinging to the side of the building. How long have those been there?

I finished my walk and stopped on Via Luciano Manara. Full of inspiration, I was excited that I had taken the time to enjoy this city during my last few weeks as a JCU student. I slowly brought my chin back down, and looked straight forward. I was glad I had looked up… but there standing in front of me was the most beautiful sight of all: my front door. I was home.


Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Communications Major
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria

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