Il Dolce Far Niente

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Umbria,
Sunday, September 22, 2013

I have learned so much throughout the past weekend. Most of our group left to various places: Cinque Terre and Venice. While those are both quite alluring places and I will visit them at some point, I decided to stay back. Rather than getting up on Saturday at 5am to catch a train (after a long, tiring week) I slept in until 11:30, one of my favorite things to do. How glorious sleep feels after desiring it so badly!!!
Besides the buttload of homework I worked on this weekend, I made time for some fun. Last night I went out with 2 other girls to an authentic Italian restaurant. We had no idea what to do! Everyone there had obviously come many times and knew the procedure of seating yourself and waiting quite a while for service. Once again we felt humbled by the stares of the Italians as we attempted to follow suit. We made it through though, and thoroughly enjoyed the pizza and Fanta :) After dinner we walked around to let the food settle and stumbled across an arts and crafts festival in Trastevere! There were booths lining one of the cutest streets in our part of town and I happily strolled and shopped with the girls. I'm not going to lie, my happiest moments in Rome so far involve eating and shopping. But for real, I felt so centered lazily admiring the jewelry and scarfs. I don't feel like a tourist or outsider, quite opposite to the feeling during dinner while being stared at.
This feeling of belonging has come to me more regularly the longer I've been here. It hits at random times, like when I am out walking to school, or at a coffee shop, or wandering the streets like I did today. I feel relaxed and peaceful. Most often I am alone and feel as though I can take my time. This feeling reminds me of the Italian phrase "il dolce far niente" which means "the sweetness of doing nothing." Most of our actions in life have a purpose. I take my 45 minute walk to get to school so I can go to class. I leave the apartment to go to the grocery store or go out to dinner or drinks. But it doesn't have to be like that! Today I decided to go on a walk around Trastevere just because I wanted to explore. I didn't have a purpose, except my own pleasure. And that is the sweetness of doing nothing. I'm not "killing time" as American culture dubs it, I'm enjoying myself. Nothing could be more important in life.
Much of the time, when I have a purpose, I fulfill it and then move on and start thinking about the next purpose already. The satisfaction is small, no matter how big of an item I just accomplished, because the rebound rate is overwhelming. I finish my 50 page art history reading but I immediately think of the next 4 homework assignments I have. It's mentally exhausting and leaves little room for enjoyment. This future-orientated attitude is something I've nurtured my entire life with my to-do list mentality. When I find myself living a checklist life here, in ROME, I get embarrassed. I'm here to enjoy myself, why is that so hard to do sometimes?
Clearly this idea of doing nothing is something I need to work on. Maybe my "purpose" will be to fit in with Italian culture ;) Make that your purpose too, in America!

Another beautiful blessing of this weekend was going to Assisi on Friday. We left at the crack of dawn and took the train. Speaking of random things I enjoy...taking the train is one of them. I just can't get over how cool it is, probably because it reminds me so much of Harry Potter. We arrived around 10 and stopped at a basilica in which St. Francis died. Within the large basilica, there is a small Chapel that the Benedictine's (holler!) provided the funds for Francis to start his order back in the 12th century. He started it at the bottom of the mountain because that's where the poor lived, and he was quite committed to poverty. Then we made our way up to the little town on the mountain. We got a tour of the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is a 2 story church covered in beautiful frescoes. We visited Francis' tomb which is something I'll never forget for it's holiness. Then we went up to the upper Basilica to see the lightness and airiness of its frescoes. It really is an amazing Basilica, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside. Our tour guide was a bit smelly too, which we all assumed was because they live in such poverty that they don't wash their clothes very often. ;)
After the tour it was about 12:45 and we are all feeling pretty famished because we ate breakfast at 5:30 that morning. But, we couldn't eat yet...we had to walk up a mountain first! Europeans eat really late so we had to endure. The climb was pretty gradual though. We took our time and walked along the streets of Assisi. I think my smile was glued to my face the whole time because it was such a darn quaint town. The stones were beautiful, and it seemed like classic Italy with a touch of individuality. We reached the top of the mountain and made it to a castle, where we finally had lunch! Then we toured the castle and climbed one of the turrets which had an amazing view of the countryside! It was worth it! We didn't have time for much more unfortunately, and had to catch a 4:00 train back to Rome. I would feel disappointed if I weren't coming back with my parents in October! I want to see more of Assisi!
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