Roma, Rome, the Eternal City, the Holy City. Whatever you call it, this sights, smells, sounds, and especially the tastes of this ancient city linger long after you leave. Deciding to spend a month in another country has to be the best choice I have made in quite a while. Living in a place is far better than simply visiting and to really say you have been to Rome, is not just seeing the Coliseum, St. Peter’s or the Pantheon. It is to say you’ve gotten lost in the winding labyrinth of the old part of the city, and finding some of the best food you will ever eat. The see Rome you have to think you’ve found it all only to turn a corner and find something new.
Arriving the first day in Rome was a bit of a blur. Our flight landed early Rome time and having no grasp of what time it is, or how to speak the language made getting the first meal an interesting adventure. Much of the first week was devoted to getting settled and seeing some of the major sites. After the first few days and the excitement and rush of being in a new place calmed, we began to take in our immediate surroundings. The hotel and St. John’s Campus are located in the Prati district, and only about a 10-15 minute walk to the Vatican. The amazing thing about Prati is the lack of tourist activity, so, for a bunch of tourists, it was a great place to get the feel for Rome. From the small café’s, gelloteria’s and the regional market we felt as if we were experiencing Rome as Romans (well as much as a bunch of people from New York can be Roman). We enjoyed many afternoons simply eating fresh buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto and, of course, drinking wine.
Of course, attending class was required daily but being finished with class at 1 pm left the entire day for exploring and seeing new sites. Additionally, the class trips made the experience very engaging. The first trip we took as a group was to the Corte costituzionale della Repubblica Italiana, the Contituitonal Court of Italy. There we met with Justice Sabino Cassese, who engaged in an interesting discussion comparing the judicial systems of Italy and the United States. It gave us a really interesting perspective not only on the jurisprudence of another legal system but the differences in the use of the constitutional interpretation in a civil law country. Another great trip was visiting the Biblioteca Casanatense to examine Medieval Manuscripts containing copies of some of the oldest surviving law books. These books contained the works of medieval legal scholars discussing and analyzing the legal texts which had been copied and recopied from Imperial Roman sources in an attempt to better understand the law. For our Art and Cultural Heritage Law class we toured the Roman Forum guided by an archeologist who has done excavations there. Here we could see firsthand the need for legal protection of the precious artifacts discovered in the Forum over the generations, and the further protection of those important finds yet to be discovered. A week later we met with an archeologist who was working with the Italian Ministry of Culture to have stolen artifacts and pieces of cultural heritage returned to Italy. The in-depth and practical learning that accompanied these many class trips during the month provided a broader insight into how the law can function on a day to day basis. Particularly after 1L year, where most class time is spent on legal theory, it was nice to being to understand how we could apply the legal knowledge and skills for future endeavors in our legal careers.
Another amazing benefit of being in Rome for an entire month is the ability to travel. Not only is Rome an amazing city, but it is located in a great place, basically right in the middle of Italy, which allows for easy travel to many places. Personally, I was able to travel to Florence, Turin, and even Athens, during the weekends. I know of a few people who were able to make it to Naples, Venice, and even Paris. The opportunity to spend a month in Rome gives you unbelievable access to go where you have never been or return to a place you love. The ease in which you can travel around Europe, once your there, is unbelievable. Whether by bullet train or a cheap airline, the options are unlimited.
Whether you go for the food, the travel or the intellectual experience, Rome has everything to offer. The experience is well worth the hectic month leading up to the trip dealing with finals and the journal writing competition. The city is amazing and getting to experience a place by living there is an opportunity that few ever have.