Rome hadn't seen more than a smattering of flurries in 25 years and it had no idea what to do when four inches of snow fell last week. The city skidded to a standstill for about 4 days -- a full day for every fluffy inch. We witnessed the gridlock in the streets, waited for busses that never came and imagined Vespas veering off the Via Veneto as they careened down the winding hill. As kids will do the world over, Italian children giggled while catching snowflakes on their tongues and leaned out of apartment windows, arms outstretched, marveling at the sight of their first real snowfall. Snowmen with olive eyes, carrot noses and pasta smiles appeared on corners next to blackboard trattoria menus on sidewalks transformed into seas of umbrellas. The Villa Borghese took a brutal beating with pine, cedar and giant magnolia branches bent to the ground under the unaccustomed heavy weight of sleet and snow. The park was strewn with broken branches and paths were blocked by upended trees and snapped limbs. Nighttime temperatures plummeted to the 30s so when heading out in the evenings, we now wear our warmest apparel. While we wisely packed in layers, we each have only one supremely warm fleece or angora and so these have become our obligatory everyday uniforms.
Two days after the momentous snowfall, we donned our cold weather attire and headed for The Scholar’s Lounge to watch Joe’s beloved NY Giants take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Just off the hub of Piazza Venezia, Scholar’s is Rome’s most popular Irish sports pub among American study-abroad students; it serves hearty pub grub, broadcasts all the world’s major sporting events and is just across the Tiber from Trastevere, home to many US university programs. We arrived at 9:30pm, a full three hours before the 12:30am kick off and still only managed to secure one bar stool for the two of us. Ninety percent of the crowd was under 25 years old and we were two of the very few over 50. I hadn’t been in close contact with so many 21 year olds in a very long time (nor, for that matter, in a bar bathroom with an over-served coed losing her lunch)! We met two energetic young women from the University of MD (one from Smithtown, our NY hometown) and attempted to chat over the deafening music with several lovely girls from Boston College whose Claddagh rings, highlighted hair, crew-neck sweaters and perfect teeth gave them away as being from an elite New England school. There’s a palpable energy in a room filled with Americans, especially those eagerly awaiting the start of a major sporting event and lifting their glasses with the steady cadence of a college crew team. It’s difficult to describe the sense of camaraderie that filled the place as all erupted in the singing of “Sweet Caroline,” special for us for obvious, heartfelt reasons. But then came the musical highlight of the evening: all in Scholar’s, Giants and Patriots fans alike, enthusiastically belted out The Star Spangled Banner along with Kelly Clarkson. Singing our national anthem so far from home in a bar filled with homesick American expats was an emotional experience we’ll never forget.
The whole night was terrific and our resolute support for our team was rewarded with a come-from-behind Giants win. Great game, great people, great music, great drinks... terrific time. We had fun walking through slushy 4:30 am Rome, exhausted but still reveling in the G-men and their victory, to catch an early morning bus back to our apartment. We spent the next two days sleeping even later than usual and recovering from the revelry of our Super Bowl all-nighter. What fun it was to be college kids again.
Pictures of our adventures: http://gapyeargirlgoestoeurope.shutterfly.com