Throughout childhood geography lessons, the far and foreign destinations seemed unreachable, like places that only our dreams could bring us to. It is impossible to fully grasp the vastness and beauty of the world without first visiting those sites that appear in our textbooks time and time again, even now in college.
Our eyes once scanned over those pages that would depict the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert and the scorching heat that blanketed each grain. On another page, there would be a picture from Rome of the famous Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s angels dancing on the ceiling. Years continue to pass as more places in the world become apparent to us. While approaching adulthood, a pulsing world of wonder becomes visible that is no longer just a compilation of photos plastered on a page.
For many of those who decided to attend Loyola for their college education, the option to travel the world and study abroad is made more realistic than ever. With more than 100 programs in 55 countries, the Office of International Programs can make traveling the world a part of a student’s college experience. Specifically, Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) is a host to hundreds of students from all over the U.S. each semester.
As a JFRC alumna from the spring of 2014, there are hundreds of tips that I could give to those students who decide to take advantage of this opportunity. For now, I will share the utmost important ones that I found crucial for Italian daily life, as well as enjoyment of time (in italian culture, it’s believed that every day should be filled with enjoyment.)
First and foremost, the key to a successful abroad experience is planning ahead. Waiting for the last minute to plan trips results in buying for expensive plane tickets, sharing 8-bed hostel rooms with random travelers and missing out on gems of the cities.
Sometimes the chaos and spontaneity is what makes European traveling so exciting, but a basic agenda will never hurt.
Due to the fact that much of my time abroad was so jam-packed with stalking places to stay on hostelworld.com, searching Yelp for decent restaurants and asking locals for the best places to go out, I wanted to suggest a couple Rome-must-do’s for prospective abroad students.
These suggestions are the less obvious things that a college study abroad traveler normally wouldn’t think of would know and expect to go to. For instance, everyone knows to see the Pantheon, but not many know that just a few blocks down is Giolitti (address: Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, Roma), the best gelato I ever had during my time in Italy.
Do and see everything you can, because those months that seem like such a long period of time slowly slip away to become only a bundle of memories when you are back at home.
And for my last bits of advice before I get to the specific locations: take chances, get out of your comfort zone, immerse yourself in the cultures, meet and bond with the locals, try every food even if it “seems gross” and most importantly, have the time of your life.
Even after visiting more than 15 destinations, I left Europe pleased that I had spent a majority of my time living in Rome. It has everything from booming nightlife to cheap, unforgettable cuisine. I could write a whole book on what you need to experience in Rome, but I hope these at least get you off to a good start:
First and foremost, let’s start with one of the most important aspects of Italy’s culture: food. Tony’s Restaurant (Vicolo del Cinque, 36, 00153 Rome), formally known as Hostaria del Moro da Tony, lies in the bustling neighborhood of Trastevere. Though it is tucked away along a cobblestone alley of the area, the surrounding bars and restaurants come alive in the evening time, making it a perfect location for dinner before a night out.
The family-owned spot became a favorite of mine for its welcoming employees and delicious Gorgonzola gnocchi. This dish still remains my favorite plate that I ever had during my time abroad. As an appetizer, make sure to get an order of calamari. The wine is cheap and the atmosphere is great for a large group of people. Sometimes they even throw in a couple of free orders of tiramisu.
Right around the corner from Tony’s is a gelato shop called Old Bridge Gelato (Via della Scala, 69, 00153 Roma). For two euros, you can get a stomachache-worthy amount of the various flavors of your choice. Though Nutella was a must for me, everyone has their own favorite. Stracciatella seemed to be a common favorite for both the locals and tourists in the shop. There is another Old Bridge Gelato (Viale Bastioni di Michelangelo 5, 00192 Roma) location right across the street from the Vatican.
Finally, go to Art Café (Viale Galoppatoio, 33, 00197 Roma) for a great nightclub swarming with all kinds of people, from locals to abroad students. It is the epitome of European nightlife with its loud array of house music, crammed VIP lounges and vibrant energy that will keep you dancing until the sun comes up.
It’s the little places off of the beaten path that make Europe so special, and I hope you find hidden gems of your own as well.
To assist you in finding your own hidden gems around the map, use these websites for convenient traveling, lodging and food:
https://www.airbnb.com (apartments, villas, houses)
http://www.yelp.com (all of the above)
http://www.justeat.it (Europe’s GrubHub)