One of my favorite parts of Rome is the fact that everywhere you go, you’re sure to run into some obscure, out of the way historic site. The city is absolutely filled with them. Even though there are so many interesting places, you still get a little thrill every time you discover something new. The best way to do it is to walk around with someone knowledgeable about the city who can point out the little things you wouldn’t notice. Luckily for Temple Rome students, we have Professor Jan Gadeyne who organizes the Wall Walk every year!
The Wall Walk is an ordeal. It’s an 8 hour trek around the center of Rome, following the ancient Aurelian walls that used to surround the city. Now, only 5% of Rome is located within the walls. Still, the walk is an absolutely amazing introduction to the city and its different neighborhoods. Of course, the Wall Walk is considered a rite of passage for Temple Rome students normally, but this year it was extra difficult. It rained. The whole time. We stopped at least twice to see if the walk should be called off, but it wasn’t. We didn’t even stop for lunch as usual, we just kept walking to get as much distance in before the rain started again! It was incredibly beautiful thought and well worth the trouble.
One of my favorite parts of the Wall Walk was found in Monte Testaccio. The source of its name- a huge mountain of ancient pottery that was used by the Romans. After they got the olive oil out of the great amphoras, they would simply throw the leftover pots away instead of reusing them. The pile of pots grew so large that it exists as a noticeable hill today, and gives the name to the neighborhood of Monte Testaccio. It would be so easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it and just hurrying along, but once you notice it becomes a glaring anachronism that symbolizes Rome- a modern European city with an ancient past that is still continuously, amazingly, present.
Not only that, but Romans are incredibly conscious of their ancient city. They have to be, the reminders are everywhere. Not only are there relics of ancient buildings, but the Aurelian walls are mostly complete and surround the historical center of Rome with the memory of those ancient times. Their piazzas are finished with ancient Egyptian obelisks, and of course the presence of the Pantheon and the Colosseum cannot be ignored. The ancient history of Rome is tangibly present in ways that it simply can’t be in America.
Added to the experience of seeing the ruins in Rome the experience of visiting the ancient town of Ostia Antica and the other local sites, this time studying in Rome has become an incredible opportunity to connect with the past. As a history major, I particularly value the connection made here. It is a powerful experience, seeing statues and villas constructed thousands of years before you were born. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had here in Rome has been wandering around, looking for more of these connections to the past.