The places I once called Rome’s havens are now mine too. This morning on the way to class I stopped in with my guy friend at my favorite sweet little Sicilian-style bakery to get an overpriced fluffy cornetto on the walk to our last final (and truthfully treated myself to two cornetti instead of one). Now after completing the last final, I am sitting at my cafe just above the Tiber River staring out at Castel Sant’angelo while I sip on a cup of te caldo (hot tea) and read the book Eat, Pray, Love. These two havens and others as well are attached to memories of my time here in Rome which I will never forget. At Bibliobar, my cafe, I would go once a week after classes to get a beverage and cornetto with one of my friends and at times others would join us on this journey too. This book cafe on the water became the place to decompress after a week of classes, dive into our excitements for the weekend, and open up about the realities of being abroad. It may not be the most authentic Italian joint but it is a slice of paradise to me.

(Left to Right: Sipping tea at Bibliobar, Cutie friends at Bibliobar)

Before I came abroad, I sat in on a student panel at Hope College, and a former study abroad student gave the advice to find a coffee shop to go to every week which every other panelist agreed with almost in unison. They spoke about the benefits of finding a place to call “yours” while abroad. They said it has the opportunity to allow you to grow in a new language because the longer you are there the more you learn so you can track your own progress, you will meet locals in your country (and eventually appear as a local yourself), and create place reinforcement. I may not have met many locals at the book cafe near the water but over time I have learned how to order my beverage by saying “vorrei un…” and say for here “qui” which is more than what I knew 3 months ago. These simple phrases hold more power than I thought they would.

To anyone planning to study abroad, I will give you the same advice I was given before departing to an unfamiliar place: find your country’s havens to turn into your homes. Whether it is a cafe you go to weekly, a tree in a park to paint under, or simply an americanized restaurant that helps you miss home a little less, these tiny meaningless spots to the untrained eye give meaning to your experience abroad.

Here is a list of my places and their meanings for any Rome goers or whom it may interest:
1. Bibliobar Cafe – the book cafe near the water where friendships were deepened and afterschool laughs were had. A calming spot near the water to decompress.
2. The steps in Vatican Square – sitting on these steps with friends while we watched the sunset and ate gelato were personal favorite memories of mine. The Vatican was also my “aha I am in Rome” moment every day I would pass it.
3. Mammo Street Cafe – the food I missed most of all while I was abroad was not pickles or raspberries but bagels. Mammo provided the comfort of home through food and their bagels in my humble opinion are out of this world! When you miss American food, go to Mammo.
4. La Salumeria – a personal favorite lunch spot near school. They have the best sandwiches in Rome! I recommend the Contadino or the Yankee.
5. Nannarella – a must-go-to dinner spot at least once during the semester. A popular and delicious restaurant in Trastevere with a Piazza outside usually playing live music. For the tiramisu connoisseur – like myself – this holds the number 1 spot for the best tiramisu I have had in Rome.
6. Le Altre Farine del Mulino – my sweet little Sicilian cafe I mentioned above. Delicious pastries 10/10! A quick place for an on-the-go snack or a nice spot to sit and read with the Vatican out the window.
7. Scholars Pub and Restaurant – fairly americanized with Monday night trivia, good music to dance to, and classic fries to fill your belly. If you are looking for something to do, they have events here and there so keep up to date with what’s going on. My friends and I started going here for trivia on Mondays and although never winning a single game, we tested our knowledge and came up with goofy names each week.
8. Margot – a restaurant I went to during orientation and had my first three-hour dinner with friends. Good food, good service, good company. Our waiter made us laugh when he tried to teach us Italian and made us feel more comfortable with not speaking the language.
9. Santa Marinella – a beach nearby if there is a nice day and you are craving the water. Bring goggles to see what’s out there and a towel to lay on in the sand! A great place to try a solo trip if you are nervous about traveling alone but want to give it a go.
10. Castel Sant’Angelo – you HAVE to check out the view from the top and if you like history, it has stories associated with each part of the castle too. I went here on a class field study but going on your own or with friends can be just as fun!
11. The Churches – the Vatican and Basilica di Santa Maria di Trastevere are my two personal favorites but there is a wide array of churches to check out around every corner of Rome. The Vatican is where I went my first few weeks in Rome but then I stumbled upon Santa Maria di Trastevere while walking around with my study abroad bestie one afternoon and started going there.
12. Lastly, music – as someone who adores dancing whenever music comes on, I love roaming the streets of Rome discovering the next underground Taylor Swifts. Most commonly found in Piazzas or outside the Roman Forum, from violinists to harp players I am constantly impressed by these musicians. One night in particular, my friends and I were listening to a jazz band in a piazza when these strangers began pulling people into the circle to dance and suddenly there were about 40 of us dancing on the cobblestone streets under the moonlight. It truly felt like a movie moment.

(Left to Right: Friends dancing, At the Vatican, and Margot)

Published by Katherine Chalmers

Class of 2024 Major | Religion Program | IES Rome - Language and Area Studies Location | Rome, Italy

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