My experience in Rome so far has been overwhelming, beautiful, exciting, and relaxing. After almost a week of getting my bearings and understanding the town around my apartment, I am amazed by how low-stress and relaxed the lifestyle is. Those who know me best will understand how much I'm appreciating (and probably overdue for) this slow-paced environment. Garbatella has become a perfect setting for me as it is a great getaway from the familiar yet fast-paced environment in America. Often we get into our daily rhythm of schedules and plans and assignments, and forget the reason we are doing them at all. Since I've been in Rome, I've learned to be fully present and appreciate each conversation, savor each taste (except gelato, which I have absolutely no problem finishing in a flash) and take in each view. And yes, there are tons of amazing views.
On Saturday, we visited a small town on the outskirts of southern Rome known as Castel Gandolfo (historically the Pope's summer home). Our program took us for a "Day in the Countryside" where we walked around cobblestone alleyways, looked out over Lago Albano, and stepped into mom-and-pop stores for cheese, wine and pastries. Some of us took a tour of the Pope's enormous summer home. I'm glad I went on this tour to learn about the religious history and see the dozens of rooms with intricate ceilings, wallpaper, and decorations. After our visit, we drove to a large restaurant for a 10-course Italian meal. I'm honestly concerned that Thanksgiving at home will never again compare to the amount of food that we consumed on Saturday. I have never felt more satisfied than I did after some of the meats, veggies, pastas, and cheeses that day. The lunch was also a fun way for our group of friends to get to know each other better in a lively but relaxed setting. It was a beautiful day of great food, conversations, and pictures.