The thing about Rome is that it’s not a conventionally beautiful city. Most apartments are not freshly painted in the creamy pale shades that you will find outside the Spanish Steps, and the streets are not cleanly swept anywhere you’ll go. The sidewalks are bumpy and cracked and covered in litter, but perhaps the most defining aspect of this city’s appearance is the omnipresent graffiti. On every building, metro car, and dumpster, you’ll find anything from political protests to random english words artfully sprawled out.
I’ll be honest, when I first arrived here five days ago, I was underwhelmed. Like most Americans would when they arrive in a foreign country, the first thing I noticed was how dirty everything is. My image of Rome was tainted by the mindset I was raised in, an almost “cleanliness is next to godliness” type view. But after less than one week, my entire perception has changed. I look around and see the smile of the man who works at the pizza shop on my corner, the wrought iron gates covered in ivy of an apartment complex I pass on the way to university, a little girl and her mom walking their perfectly-well-behaved small dog, and I am enraptured by the beauty. Rome is truly a work of art, but its aesthetic isn’t one you’d ever be prepared for. In the words of Phil, a psychotherapist who lends his services to those of us in the Arcadia program, “Rome is a harsh, full-on, lived in city,”--and that right there is where the beauty lies.
People have been living in Rome long before Italy was a country, before the United States had been thought of, before the Jesus Christ of the Bible had even been born. It is the heart of Western Civilization, and though a millennium has passed, Rome is still standing in all of its original glory. While the rest of the world changes and adapts to fit into a rapidly globalizing society, Rome remains unwavering in its culture and significance. There are more stories that stem from this land than anyone could possibly retain, and I am finding unfathomable beauty in becoming just one of the many who have contributed to creating this living, breathing, thriving work of art.