I was terribly nervous when I set off for Rome in September 2008 bound for the British School at Rome. It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Rome; I’d been for a couple of nights in 2005 during the course of a three-week tour of numerous Italian cities with my then-boyfriend. But circumstances had changed somewhat since then: recently single, and soon to embark on my third and final year as a Classical Archaeology and Ancient History student at Oxford University, I was now heading out to Rome for two weeks on an undergraduate archaeological summer school. Two weeks of site visits in the blazing Roman heat and lectures in the evening: a dream come true for one of a scholarly disposition such as myself. Little did I imagine that the summer school would turn out to be the happiest two weeks of my life, sowing the seeds of an enduring love affair with this incredible city.
My dad and I had got up at the crack of dawn to drive in his small vintage MG to Heathrow Terminal 5 in the pouring rain. I’d been too nervous to sleep, and felt slightly spaced out as well as somewhat apprehensive upon bidding farewell to my dad. I’d flown alone before, but had always been met by someone the other side; and the thought of finding my way from Rome’s Fiumicino airport into the city centre by myself was currently my main object of concern. We’d all been sent instructions on how to get to the British School at Rome, and unless one wanted to fork out for a taxi, it seemed complicated.
The British Airways flight passed without event, and the plane landed in Fiumicino on schedule. After clearing security, the arduous process of getting to the British School at Rome began in earnest. First I got on a stiflingly hot train into Rome’s main train station, Termini, and from there onto a Metro, and, having made it to the stop advised in the BSR instructions, I then had to head above ground and locate the stop for the tram which would take me directly to outside the BSR. Having waited some minutes at what turned out to be the wrong stop, I located the right one and successfully arrived at my destination. The journey had required car, plane, train, Metro and tram, but finally I had arrived, greeted by the sight of the imposing Neo-Classical facade of the British School.
Many of my fellow course students were already milling around in the central courtyard awaiting the introductory meetings and tour of the building, and I just had time to scribble this in my diary before going down to join them:
2nd September 2008
Remarkably, I have actually arrived at the BSR having successfully navigated my way through a plane, train, Metro and tram journey. Now in my plain but adequate room which thankfully has air con and is just opposite the bathroom, which I’ve not yet ventured to investigate. Was given a warm welcome by the Director’s assistant and there’s going to be a tour of the building (which is very impressive) in half an hour.
Managed to bugger up entering a code for the safe, luckily with the door open rather than containing my camera, passport and iPod. So will be carrying valuables on my person for the foreseeable future. Except bulky camera which have put in wardrobe. Hope it’ll be ok. Also my UK-EU plug adapters don’t work which is a disaster as I need to charge phone and camera batteries and use hairdryer. Will have to ask someone methinks.
I then proceeded down into the courtyard, feeling incredibly nervous, to join the others. The course directors were both lovely, and the tour of the building actually made me feel rather at home in that the BSR as a whole bore a striking resemblance to an Oxford college, even down to the pigeon holes.
Later that evening I wrote in my diary:
Had a lovely evening! We had an introductory lecture about the course and how Rome has buildings representing every century since the 8th century BC and how we can link the past with the present and whatnot. The air conditioning in the sleek new lecture theatre was broken, as a result of which the room was rather too warm, and would have been rather soporific had the lecture not been so interesting and the lecturer so engaging.
After that it was drinks out in the courtyard, which I spent chatting to some lovely people from various different universities, with whom I then sat at dinner too. Dinner was announced by a bell and was served in the central courtyard by a couple of Italian chaps. It consisted of pasta followed by meat and spinach followed by fruit – a rather larger meal than I’m accustomed to, but I understand that this is how it’s done in Italy.
Anyway, better get some sleep – busy day tomorrow. Looking forward to Monte Testaccio! Dreading the heat though – as is everyone it would seem.