Italy #10: Silent Stories

Austin ’25, describes a day in Rome and reflects on the importance of making meaningful connections.

Our second day in Rome started with an optional excursion to a nearby park where people had the opportunity of doing some light Latin readings in nature’s calming presence or a light jog in preparation for the full day of walking ahead. I slept through it. After a quick breakfast of pastries at a local breakfast place, we took the 8 bus into the heart of Rome and began our packed day with the Capitoline Museum.

Easy to say, the baroque and medieval art style we saw in the museum took my breath away, whether it be the marble statues full of emotions or the fresco paintings so realistic they play the role of murals and furniture. Each piece that I walked by seem to tell a story, from the smug look of the Emperor Constantine, to the Emperor Commodo’s strange obsession with Hercules, to even the smallest details like the bust of Medusa’s head demanding sympathy with her open mouth and creased eyebrows telling the tragic story of how she was wronged by the gods. The basement of the museum was filled with inscribed graves and dedications which each told their own tale. Despite some being in Latin and some being in Greek, the language of grief was unmistakable. A common practice was for inscriptions on graves to address the people walking by the graves to pay their respects and seeing the dedications to and from different people as well as their stories gave me a sense of humanity’s collective solidarity in death. We quickly ended our visit in the museum on that slightly grim note. So by this point of the day I, as well as my other companions, was weary and starving. After a quick lunch with my randomly assigned lunch group where I consumed the epitome of Italian cuisine: a bacon cheeseburger, we were off again.

Our afternoon was occupied with a walking tour through the streets of Rome, where we were given some time to wander around in groups. Churches were the name of the game on this walking tour. We saw not one, not two, but three churches just today! The churches of Saint Maria and Sant’Ignazio di Loyola were impressive for their decorative frescoes showing scenes of dancing angels frolicking in heaven while the church Sant’Agnese next to the Fiumi Fountains was interesting for the legends behind their respective architects’ rivalry. Sculpted by Bernini, one of the sides of the four sided fountain representing the great rivers of the world was said to have been covering his eyes out of disgust seeing the church being built by his rival Borromini right next to it. After visiting these churches, we went to a pizzeria for the earliest dinner we’ve had since the plane ride that took us to Italy. We walked back to the convent under the setting sun, wrapping up the day with a group reflection activity outside our home.

As we sat silently in the twilight occasionally interrupted by the serene sounds of a neighbor’s vacuum, we reflected on moments over the last two weeks that brought us closer together as a group. A common theme that rose up when we shared were the small gestures, how the simple act of hanging back during a long walk to strike up a conversation could make someone feel more connected to the whole group, and how sharing photos at meals helped us feel more welcome.