By Jessica Helfond

Our first day in Rome. Slight jetlag, slight nervousness, and extreme excitement was in the air. We met at our apartment building in the morning with our program director and professors and they took us to the study center where classes were held so we would know how to get there. We got on the tram, took it 7 stops, and then walked through buildings until we got to the study center. There was even a giant open air market near the study center that had super fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a wide variety of pastas and olive oils. It was so cool to walk through and see all the fresh Italian cuisine.

Once we got to the study center, we had a short orientation about program logistics. Essentially, they told us who to contact if we had any issues or questions and gave us a rundown of everything we would be doing throughout the program.

After our orientation, we all walked to a nearby restaurant called Fattoincasa. And let me tell you, we were not prepared for the meal we were about to have. They came out with 5 rounds of appetizers. JUST APPETIZERS! They started with bruschetta, then went to bread rolls with eggplant meatballs and tomato sauce, then prosciutto and mozzarella, bean soup, and fried zucchini. After that, they finally served us pasta. We could choose from 4 different pasta dishes, and I chose penne pasta with a basic tomato and basil sauce. But let me tell you, the taste was anything but basic. All of lunch was so delicious, and we knew if that was what our first taste of Italian cuisine was like, we were in for a MAJOR treat throughout the rest of our month.

After we were done with lunch, we were able to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. So, naturally, we roamed around Rome for the rest of the day. We started walking and ended up in a giant piazza (which we later found out was called Piazza Navona). There was a huge fountain with an obelisk in the center of the piazza, along with a giant building with beautiful architecture. At this point, we had been walking for a while and it was very hot, so naturally, we had to stop for gelato. We stopped at what was supposedly one of the original gelato shops in Rome called Giolitti, and let me tell you, we were NOT prepared for how good it was. I got caramel gelato that, in hindsight, was one of the best gelato flavors I had while in Rome. It was so creamy and cool on a hot day and was exactly what we needed.

After gelato, we wandered further and eventually ended up at the Spanish Steps. We walked all the way up to the church at the top and were able to admire the view. After that, we wandered around some more, before eventually taking the tram back to our apartments. And that concluded our first day in Rome. There was so much excitement in the air about being able to explore a new city and try new foods, and it was a great first day of what proved to be an even greater month.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019.