Eleven weeks on Dartmouth's Italian language program in Rome. Spring, 2016.

Fighter planes Planes bearing Italy’s colors concluded the processions celebrating the birth of the Republic, post-World War II.

They’re so friendly, Italians. A barista liked to help us with our homework; an elderly woman on a bus insisted I needed to go to her favorite gelateria; a man pointed us towards a hidden beach, elusive to the tourists; taxi drivers applauded our Italian; and everyone asked what we studied. Early on, we wondered whether or not Italians preferred to hear loud English or broken Italian on the tram into the city. I quickly had an answer: they love hearing us try.

On three separate occasions, the Italian culture class required us to go to different quarters through Rome and interview people–university students, parents, workers in clothing stores and pizzerias. And it speaks miles that we could do this within the first week. I’m trying to imagine a program that would let foreigners walk around New York City asking for interviews. I don’t see it.

Festa della Repubblica

On June 2nd, Rome celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Fascism after World War II. They had a beautiful parade outside of l’Altare della Patria, which recognizes the first king of a unified Italy. Romans’ joke that atop this ostentatious building is the best place to take a photo of Rome because it’s the one view without the monument.

Soldiers march A group of soldiers march in the procession.

Veterans receive applause The military has, for two years, made a team for the Paralympics. They received among the loudest applauses.

The President seldom opens up his gardens to the public. However, Republic Day is an exception. With incredibly long lines, security continuously brought people water and called a marching band to perform.

Guard outside the President's house A guard stands at the foyer leading to the President’s gardens.

President Mattarella A large crowd greets President Mattarella in his gardens.


Florence is far more concentrated than Rome. It centers around a magnificent church that did not quiet down until 3 am. I only know that because we visited an underground pasticceria. It lacks a storefront, only selling whole-sale to restaurants, but by night they will sell freshly-baked desserts for €1 to whomever knocks on their back door.

View from atop the church The view from atop il Duomo, the church at the center of Florence.

Another view from atop the church It was a really good view.

A man reads on the ledge of a bridge People talk on a bridge as a student works on a ledge below.


One of the first weekends, I googled “quick trips from Rome” and the same names kept coming up. Orvieto represents a quintessential old Italian town. It’s tiny, atop a hill and centered around a church, like Florence scaled down. We got a tour through a tunnel network that offered escape routes to another castle visible in the distance.

We came back to the tunnels at night to find a dozen people, all in business attire, watching an olive oil sommelier deliver a PowerPoint presentation, which he projected onto the tunnel walls. They invited us to join, served us wine, and taught us to confront waiters if they don’t show you the bottle–I never did that.

View from the square The view from the main square.

Inside the caves Our tour guide explains how they discovered the caves and how ancient Romans utilized them.

People going out at night Families and students roamed the streets after dinner.

Smoking outside the church A group of students watched the sunset on the steps of the church.

Cinque Terre

You may not know the name, but you’ve seen photos of these towns. They’re beautiful, especially the crevasses that haven’t yet made it on a postcard. I had read about a secret beach that wound up being inaccessible, but a local pointed us towards an alternative. You go through a short tunnel that’s seven or eight feet off the ground; it looks like the tunnel just bleeds into the ocean.

Tunnel to the beach A hidden beach with two or three other people.

Sunset Narrow pathways lead to and from different beaches.

Water at sunset Waves break against the rocks just after sunset.

Colorful buildings at sunset The colorful homes are famously photogenic.

View from a watch tower The view atop an old watch tower.


Every Roman that I talked to told me that I needed to skip Venezia and go to Sardegna, an island off of the west coast. We meandered between beaches–someone there told us that you can’t have private beaches in Italy, which explained why people didn’t mind us swimming in their backyards.

A beach in Sardegna Any given beach, save the largest, had a dozen people on it.

Children play with squid Children prod at a fisherman’s catch.