TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY TEMPLE ROME OFFERS.
Now that the orientation period has officially ended with the last (free) excursion on Sunday, I can’t stress enough how important it is to participate in all that Temple provides. Every trip, tour, talk, and demo is given solely for our benefit, and there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with a new city than to engage and learn about it! There were definitely times when I did not feel like waking up early, as was the case for Sunday’s day tour which started at 8:30am, but thankfully my altered sleepy-self didn’t talk me out of it. The trek around the ancient Aurelian Walls of Rome led by the very passionate and knowledgeable Professor Jan Gadeyne was the perfect way to explore Rome’s past, present and future all at once. According to Gadeyne, the Wall Walk is the best introduction to Rome’s niches and hidden gems; of which tourists and even Romans themselves miss out.
Before heading on our 13 mile journey over the course of 8 hours, Gadeyne introduced the walk with two important Q&A’s:
1. Why should I walk the walls of Rome (instead of lying in bed on a Sunday)?
- a. To stay in shape, although you already ate too much pasta and drank too much wine.
- b. To make sure I don’t become a tourist and only know the cliches of the city.
2. How many city walls were there in Rome?
- Many…The earliest go back to the 8th Century BC and surrounded the Palatine and Capitoline Hills. In the 6th Century BC, they built a new one around six of the seven hills of Rome, and in the 4th Century BC, one that went around all seven hills. But we will mostly walk around the walls built in the late 3rd Century AD, and here and there also along walls built by the popes in the 16th and 17th Centuries. In the late 9th Century AD, a wall was built around the Vatican.
The Wall Walk itinerary included 32 stops, starting at Porta San Giovanni and ending in Porta Metronia. The wall was built initially as a defensive border of the city, but today only surrounds 5% of the Roman population. We followed the wall as much as possible, but switched between neighborhoods inside and outside of the wall for different perspectives. We only rested twice, once for a coffee break and again for a lunch break, so as you can imagine, the walk was a long haul. But with so much to see, the walk really did not feel like 13 miles and my legs didn’t even get tired until the last hour. When we finally came full circle, Gadeyne congratulated us all on our feat by treating us to free sodas at a nearby restaurant and had us all write our names on a list so he could post it. We definitely deserved bragging rights!
What’s funny is that my favorite part of the walk was when my friend Abby and I got lost. Even with a group as big as ours, Rome streets and sidewalks are so narrow that we managed to lose them as soon as they turned a sharp corner. We had just entered into the neighborhood Trastevere through the Ponta Santo Spirito, and the area was full of people. Once we realized we weren’t following anyone familiar anymore, we had a mini panic attack before I realized I had my prepaid Italian phone with me. I called a friend in the group who gave us semi-helpful directions…she didn’t really know the area well either! It took us awhile, between asking locals and identifying landmarks, before we found the right street the group had turned on, a steep windy road uphill…which we had to sprint up in order to make up for time! By the time the street flattened, we were tired, red-faced and sweaty despite the cold and light drizzle. But fortunately we had caught up just in time for the lunch stop and a great view of a rainbow overlooking the city which the group had missed!
It surprised me how few Temple students actually went on the Wall Walk, though. I guess they were intimidated by the early start and extent of the walk, but they really did miss out! Prior to the walk, I didn’t really have a clear picture of Rome mapped out in my head, so I was unsure of how and where to get to certain piazzas and monuments. But now I’m more familiar with neighborhoods and so venturing out on my own won’t be as confusing…and even if I do get lost, who knows, something good could come out of it again!