The Capitoline Museums, Venice, and Gelato: Reflections on my Final Days in Italy

I cannot believe that my final blog post is being published over a week late, and I am so sorry for the extreme delay. After having a draft that I wrote in Venice deleted from my computer last weekend, I have been struggling to find the motivation to reproduce what I had written. This minor inconvenience combined with terrible jet lag has seriously set me back for a few days.

I arrived safely in San Diego after the longest flight of my life, and I have never been so excited to be home. Now I am ready to reflect on my study abroad experience, share some final photos from the Capitoline Museums, and wrap up my travel blog. Although I’m upset that my post is so belated, at least I can use this opportunity to add some photos from my final days in Rome.

I was walking past Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill last week when I realized that my perspective on this area had changed in four months. I finally understood how to find my way through the busy intersections and confusing cobblestone streets. After walking everywhere for almost four months, I became more familiar with the streets of Rome than the streets in my hometown.

I thought about wandering around during my first days with absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I remembered the first time that I navigated from my school to Piazza Venezia without getting lost. I remembered passing by the Roman Forum, admiring the ruins, and wondering what in the world each building had once been. Three months after seeing the Roman Forum for the first time, I was sketching the forum on a final exam and writing a short essay on its remaining structures. Three months ago I saw the Castel Sant’Angelo and learned about the Emperor Hadrian for the first time; last week I turned in a twelve page research paper on the construction projects of Hadrian and Nero. My first night in Rome I was so afraid of speaking Italian in public that I walked out of a gelato shop without ordering, but three months later I was excited to speak Italian whenever I could. Studying abroad certainly changed me.

During my last weeks in Italy I was able to tour my parents around Rome, take them to visit Pisa, and explore the streets of Venice with them. These trips made me realize how much I had learned about Italy in my short time there. Without having studied abroad, I would not have acquired so much information in such a short time. Walking the streets of Rome and visiting the sites with my class allowed me to understand the layout of the ancient city better than ever before. I had read about concepts like Roman bathing and politics, but having lectures in the bathhouses and ancient ruins was an entirely different way to study. The Ancient Roman Civilization course I took was outstanding, and it reminded me why I decided to study Roman history three years ago.

The final site visit for Ancient Roman Civilization took place at the Capitoline museums, and I have some photos to share of my favorite pieces from this collection. We were only able to visit one of the Capitoline museums during our visit, which gives me another great reason for me to return to Rome one day. I only visited a fraction of the museums, monuments, and restaurants in this enormous city, and I know that I’ll explore Rome again one day.

This replica statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback is the centerpiece of Piazza del Campidoglio, where my class met for our final site visit.
The original version of this bronze statue can be found inside of the Capitoline Museums in a recently improved exhibit.
I love the colossal statue of Constantine in the courtyard of the Capitoline museums. These pieces of this statue were originally from the Basilica of Constantine in the Roman Forum. This basilica (and this statue) once was dedicated to Maxentius, before he was killed and usurped by Constantine. The horizontal slice across the neck of this statue shows where Constantine replaced his enemy’s portrait head with his own.
This gilded statue of Hercules was found buried below the Temple of Hercules Victor in Rome. It appears to have been buried after having been stricken by lighting.
This piece, a portrait head of Commodus in the guise of Hercules, is one of my favorites. Not only is the marble work stunning, its existence provides us with interesting information about Commodus (the notorious emperor depicted in the Russell Crowe movie, Gladiator). Commodus received the damnatio memoriae after his assassination, which might lead you to wonder why we still have this well-preserved statue of him. The damnatio memoriae was reversed when Septimius Severus retroactively adopted himself into Commodus’ family. Therefore, this statue must have been created in honor of Commodus after that decision by the next emperor.
We ended our site visit that day overlooking the Roman Forum from a balcony in the Capitoline Museums. This was one of the final panoramas I took in Rome. Without my camera’s ability to take panoramas, I could not have captured nearly as many beautiful photos of Italy.

Taking a course on Ancient Roman Civilization while studying abroad in Rome was so helpful. By the end of the semester I was able to identify locations throughout the city on a map, describe the purpose of historical monuments, and understand daily life in the ancient Roman world. I was also lucky to take two other courses with knowledgeable and kind professors. Studying Latin literature while living in Rome was a unique experience, and it brought me closer to others who have a passion for history and literature as well. I am also grateful for my Italian teacher who made our small class feel like a family and made me look forward to going to class each day.

After completing my Latin final, I took a cab across town to attend a farewell lunch with my Italian class and our teacher. I couldn’t believe how quickly our classes were coming to an end. We shared a bottle of Prosecco and cannoli.

My one regret from this experience: not eating more cannoli while in Italy.

The next day I woke up early to accompany my parents on their trip to Pisa and Venice. They continued crossing sites off their bucket list, and I was given another chance to explore these cities. The last time that I visited Venice, Tyler and I stayed on the island of Murano and spent most our time there. Visiting Venice again was fantastic, and I finished up all of my Christmas shopping in an assortment of shops near St. Mark’s Basilica.

We decided against the traditional Pisa pose for this photo.


Seeing St. Mark’s Basilica in person was definitely worth the trip to Venice. The piazza was a great place to grab a cappuccino and watch people play around with the friendly hordes of pigeons.
The Grand Canal is gorgeous at night. Venice is unlike any city I have seen.

During my last days in Rome, I became oddly sentimental. I sadly said goodbye to all of my favorite buildings, ate a final meal at both of my favorite bars, and photographed every gelato that I ate (in case it was my last). As excited as I was to go home, I was also coping with the fact that my study abroad experience was ending and  I was about to leave Italy. My last days were bittersweet, and I still miss being in Rome. The time abroad passed more quickly than I expected.

I needed to stop and take a picture of the Pantheon with Christmas decorations surrounding it. Rome was beautiful throughout the month of December. I wish I could have spent Christmas there too.
As I said farewell to the Castel Sant’Angelo, I realized that this statue of an angel looks like it might be using a selfie stick to take a picture. Maybe I had just been surrounded by selfie sticks for too long.
My parents wanted me to pose for one last photo in Piazza Dell’Orologio. Going to school in this beautiful piazza every day for four months was a perfect experience. The location was ideal.
My last cappuccino and pastry in Italy. I don’t want to admit how many pictures I took that were similar to this one. For a few days I assumed that every cappuccino would be my final cappuccino.
My final gelato at midnight before my early morning flight. I don’t know how I’ll live without gelato, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.

A few months ago I read about an altar dedicated to the goddess Fortuna Redux, “Fortune who brings you home” found along the Via Appia in Rome. I remember at that time I was so anxious to go home, and the idea of Fortuna Redux resonated with me. Now I’m sitting at home, getting ready to publish this final (belated) blog post. Although I am certainly happy to be home in San Diego, I also wish that I could be back in Rome. After I fully recover from this experience and feel ready to travel again, I know I’ll be planning another adventure abroad and future trips to visit more sites and restaurants in Rome.

I realized that Rome is not going anywhere, and that those cups of gelato were not my last. Maybe a few years from now I’ll celebrate my college graduation by returning to this wonderful place that reminded me why I love studying history. Perhaps I’ll visit the Via Appia and thank Fortuna Redux for bringing me back to my second home, anywhere in Rome.

Thank you for reading my blog! Arrivederci!