While some of my friends were basking in the sun on some tiny island in the Caribbean for spring break, I was in the city that started it all – the city that solidified civilization as we know it today – Rome.

Getting there was no easy feat. Enduring an eight-hour flight may be considered frightful to many. However, the German-based air carrier Lufthansa offered an open bar to make the time pass quite quickly.

Upon my arrival at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport – quite tipsy, I might add – I found myself wandering the streets of Rome within hours, trying to become acquainted with the city.

It’s there that I felt I was in my very own Dan Brown adventure.

Indulging myself with pizza, pasta, gelato and the occasional glass of wine or two became the standard. People-watching became one of my new favorite hobbies while touring. Sitting and analyzing people as they came and went was enough to quench my thirst for diversity among people.

Though fully immersed in Roman society and culture, I opted to stay in Hotel Kennedy, a comfortable and quaint hotel minutes from the major tourist attractions. The concierge even greeted me with “Ciao, bello,” which brightened every morning.

Considering my mediocre background in art and art history – the confession of a hardcore math major – I couldn’t help but notice how much I felt like a child in Disney World for the first time – in utter awe.

The city of Rome would make an art historian orgasm. Art can literally be found all over the city. It seemed I was walking through history with every block I crossed. It was intoxicating being in the presence of the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Bernini and Raphael.

Their works can literally be found everywhere throughout the city. From churches to fountains to piazzas to semi-nude sculptures – of which there are plenty – their masterpieces still stand for everyone to enjoy.

Possibly the most impressive art of all can be located in the smallest independent state in the world – Vatican City.

Countless amounts of text have been written about Vatican City, but nothing compares to actually being there in person. Ironically enough, Vatican City is a gay man’s paradise. And I say this without hesitation, considering that Michelangelo himself was a lover of the young Italian boys back in the day.

There is nothing subtle about that little microcosm. Everything is in your face – gold, marble, intricate designs and sculptures. Even the 400-year-old oil painting of the fully nude male doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. The amount of detail in the penises is simply overwhelming.

After spending several days letting the tourist in me come out and having to endure the inefficiency of the siesta, I ventured to a smaller town, roughly two hours by train from Rome – Arezzo.

Arezzo, in the heart of Tuscany, has unofficially become UR’s sister city in Italy. Many students throughout the course of their college career choose to study abroad in this small, yet blossoming city. If you truly are a fan of visiting spots that have hardly been deflowered by tourists, Arezzo is the place to go. Everything – from the people, to the streets, to the air from the mountains – offers a radical change from the hustle and bustle of Rome or Florence.

Nevertheless, I can take the countryside only for so long.

Heading back to Rome, I tried to sum up my week in Italy. It’s hard to believe that a person can actually grow in so many ways in a matter of a few days. I came back to UR invigorated to finish up my second semester. With only four weeks left before the last day of classes, I can smell an adventure-filled summer looming ahead.

Buitrago can be reached at jbuitrago@campustimes.org.

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