Grazie Roma! How Traveling Helped Me To Get Over Heartbreak

Featured, Italy, Love on the Road — By on July 23, 2010 at 6:00 am

By Brittany Gowan
Special to the Lost Girls

Studying abroad was always something that I wanted to work into my college equation but by my junior year, with good friends and a boyfriend I loved, I couldn’t imagine leaving a life so happy and fun. Unfortunately or fortunately, I’m still not sure which it is, life changes.

It happened for me right after New Year’s. My boyfriend, the big love of my life, informed me that he had taken a job out of the country and would probably be leaving the U.S. for good. Being completely in love and now utterly devastated, the simple act of functioning seemed impossible. A few days after this news, I applied to study abroad the next semester. Though shocked by my boy-news and slightly alarmed by my impulsive decision-making, my parents were, as always, supportive. Since I thrive on big city life, I applied to the American University of Rome. Pleasant Mediterranean weather, European lifestyle, and Rome’s impressive history were very appealing. I got accepted and left on my next grand adventure in late August.

I ran, not walked, to Italy. Though I always wanted to study abroad, I would be kidding myself if I said a love of travel was my only motive. I raced to get away from everything that reminded me of him in hopes that somehow I could persuade myself to move on. Ironically, I always told him, “You can’t run from your problems.” Yet I couldn’t get away fast enough. Thoughts of him followed me everywhere; on the plane, when I landed at Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino), and then worsened with every dark haired, dark eyed boy who sported aviator sunglasses and possessed a certain swagger. In Italy, that combo is hardly rare.

For the fall semester, I lived in Monteverde, a district of Rome, southeast of Trastevere. To get around, I often walked but most days I rode the bus line called the “44”. Since it was always packed, the potential for rudeness from other passengers was high and every ride guaranteed a hilarious story by the time you got off. Dinner conversations with my roommates revolved around the drama of the “44”.

Positioned so close together, smelling your neighboring riders was unavoidable. A waft of Giorgio Armani cologne was frequent and haunting. Young Italian men seemed to douse themselves with it and for me it annoyingly served as a constant reminder of the guy I loved who left. As I attempted to escape to Rome, the dark haired boys and cologne took me right back. Besides the scents of the city, the sights were incredible. With its old world architecture and charm, Rome made me want my old BF by my side to walk the city’s romantic streets or stand in awe at the Vatican or Coliseum. Shared experiences are much more satisfying than those discovered alone.

Moving-on in the boy department wasn’t going to be easy so clearly I needed to change my expectation for this journey. If a new boy wasn’t in the picture, my time abroad would be about learning, growing, and enjoying. It would also be about girl bonding during late night gelato runs and enjoying the treat while sitting on the fountain steps in the Piazza Della Rotonda, and admiring the Pantheon. I met fellow students who would become life long friends and discovered a tasty snack called Suppli al Telefono, a ball of goodness filled with risotto and mozzarella cheese. Suppli surpassed any previous favorite food and still makes my mouth water instantly. The best came from the Pizzeria Da Simone just blocks from the American University of Rome. After my Wednesday night class, I would grab one or two of them before I tackled the “44”.

As the semester continued, my thoughts were consumed by Rome. I found myself wondering if the vibrant blue sky, playing backdrop to the palm trees, could be any more beautiful and whether a photo could, even on a small scale, capture the gorgeous sunset from the Pincio, a hill facing west overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. Fully immersing myself in the experience was my coping mechanism. Every day in Rome was a good day. A cheesy smile was perpetually plastered on my face. The sun would rise over the surrounding mountains, as part of the daily “Buon Giorno” greeting party, and never disappear until the moon wanted its turn. Rain and clouds simply aren’t accepted into the Mediterranean mix.

It’s very easy to get caught up in one chapter of your life and one boy who stole your heart. But in big cities, where walking is promoted and interaction is inevitable, on every winding street is a new possibility. Rome’s buildings and ruins are so ancient and magnificently constructed that, on a broader scope, your life hurtles can feel small and insignificant. Every day in that marvelous city, happiness and hope slowly seeped back into my system. Grazie Roma!

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    4 Comments

  • Stephanie says:

    LOOOOVE this piece. How you feel towards Rome is EXACTLY how I feel towards Madrid. ü Thanks for a wonderful read.

  • Krista says:

    So, SO good. 🙂 Travel did the same for me, mending my shattered heart and helping me see that life really could be beautiful again. 🙂 Thank you!

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