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Paths Unfathomed

You Don't Know What You Haven't Been Exposed To

ITALY | Sunday, 20 July 2008 | Views [296]

During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I participated in a study abroad program called the People to People Ambassadors Program (I loved it and recommend it as a safe and educational option for young people!). It was the first time I had ever boarded a plane, let alone been to another country. We landed in Rome, Italy at about mid-day and for our first activity we were split into groups, given a map, and told to find five monuments before reconvening. Our group leaders dispursed and we were on our own, in a lively plaza, surrounded by crowds of people who didn't speak English. It was both thrilling and terrifying.

Of the four groups, ours was definitely the slowest to organize. We stood at the bottom of a set of massive steps, huddled around our map. With no clearly established leader, we tossed and yanked the map back and forth before finally realizing we were wasting valuable time. I remember taking the map, unsure of my leadership skills but impatient and determined to "win the race". After a quick glance it was obvious to me that we were at the mouth of our first destination, "La Piazza di Spagna", or "The Spanish Steps". With our bearings now gathered, we started to easily journey up and down the cobblestone roads, heading towards the next closest destination: The Trevi Fountain.

Unfortunately, with the lack of visible road signs I missed a turn or two, unexpectedly landing us at the Pantheon earlier than expected. Because all of the locations were almost linear to one another, we decided the best move would be to back-track to the Trevi Fountain before continuing to the fourth location. Again though, the closer we became, the less street signs we could see. We turned down road after road, coming to this dead end or that one. The clock was ticking; we were growing impatient and flustered.

We asked someone for help (as best as we could). Unbeknownst to us it is common for Italians in Rome to misdirect tourists as a prank, so we wound up further away than where we had began. But we trekked on. We circled the area repeatedly. Finally we found a sign that read "Piazza di Trevi". We followed it right and continued straight, but there were no more directions. Finally we turned down this rustic path. We followed it under a quaint archway and came face-to-face with a tan, cemented wall, of which protruded a face spitting water into a bowl below. We all rejoiced! We had finally found the Trevi Fountain! All of our persistance and determination had culminated into this moment. Although it wasn't quite what we expected, it seemed a little small for a famous monument, we were relieved to have finally found it. We posed for pictures in front of the monument and started on to the next.

We emerged from the pathway and found ourselves facing another "Piazza di Trevi" sign, however, it pointed to our left, not behind us from where we came. Curious, we followed it's directions. It led us to a much larger fountain in the middle of a bustling square. It was the size of a pool, with these three elegant, bear-sized statues standing in the center. Each statue was of a Roman God, with Neptune standing proudly in the middle. None of us had seen the Trevi Fountain before, not even in pictures, but once we arrived it became obvious: the previous fountain we joyously celebrated at was just someone's personal basin.


Tags: exploring, italy, navigating, pantheon, people to people, rome, spanish steps, students, trevi, youth

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