Here in Rome, there is a secret everywhere you look. Sometimes the secrets are different for everyone. Sometimes secrets are the café right underneath your apartment, or the park across the street. Sometimes secrets are found on Aventine Hill, where if you peer just perfectly into the key hole then you have the perfect, most beautiful view of St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City. Rome is a city full of wonder, and you just need to look around to find what you’re looking for. I had the time of my life this past weekend, and I did it all under 20 euros. Studying abroad is not cheap, don’t get me wrong, but there are ways to go abroad without having to drop 5K. For example, I got a tan at the wondrous Santa Marinella Beach. It was only 10 euros roundtrip from the central Roma Termini train station to the Santa Marinella stop. Once you’re there, the beach is only a quick 5 minute walk, and it’s free to the public! On a perfect day with the sun blaring down on you and not a cloud disrupting the blank blue canvas, this beach was a little slice of heaven. It was away from the crowded streets and endless noises of life in the city center of Rome. The grains of sand were fine and clean. Walking barefoot was a luxury that you don’t realize you miss until it’s gone. The breeze from the Mediterranean Sea was salty and cool, perfect to lay out and relax in. While the water was quite chilly and there wasn’t an Italian inside, we hopped in and laughed, relishing in the feeling of water against our burning bodies. It was crazy, but it was fun.
The next day me and a few friends discovered a true Roman experience. As recommended by our Italian Culture through Food, Environment, and Sustainability professor, we went to a small town called Ladispoli for their famous Artichoke Festival. It is quite an endeavor and I truly never thought that there were this many artichokes in the world. Back in the States, I had never actually known what an artichoke tasted like. Now, I’ll never forget. I had it fried, steamed, sautéed, stuffed into sandwiches, and made into liquor.
They even had whole statues and figures made out of artichokes! This was an honor to be able to go to this festival and look through the eyes of an Italian and live like they live. Children were blowing bubbles and holding balloons, street performers brightened the mood with their talent, and people were gorging themselves at any of the infinite food stands that lined the road. Barely any tourists, this was an authentic experience that felt like a secret I was held privy to.
by Haesu Lee