Heathrow Airport: Airport of Kings. I sat with my wimpy yoghurt parfait perched sleeplessly in the sitting area between Dolce & Gabbana and Caviar House, accompanied by a fellow New Englander and Centrista. Heathrow is the kind of airport that heretofore had existed for me only in the literature of young writers trying to wow with fancy adjectives and name drops.
When I emerge from my flight, a 5.5-hour trip of trying (and failing) to fall asleep, I find myself in an airport the size of Rhode Island, the oasis for travelers on their way to every corner of the world. After passing through security into Terminal 5, the Newport of Heathrow, I am greeted by swarms of better-rested, better-dressed people of every race and creed: here a group of trendy Londoners, there a turban- and headscarf-clad family, over there a gaggle of chatty Asian tourists. The shining visages of Charlize Theron, Robert Pattinson, and (proving that he is, in fact, everywhere) James Franco beam out at me from advertisements trying to sell me the latest products from Dior and Gucci. Umm, I think I'll pass today, thanks. A mountain of Ferrero Rocher chocolates beckons, as do the pushy salespeople wanting to sell me duty-free cigarettes. A squadron of prim and proper flight attendants marches by as though walking right out of a Hollywoodized airline commercial.
A fun game I should have played: guess what parts of the world you can't get to from Heathrow. (Hint: Mumbai, Stockholm, Moscow, Miami are incorrect answers.)
We arrive in Rome in the early afternoon and proceed to be heckled by a non-taxi driver trying to swindle us out of a couple hundred euros (probably) before eventually grabbing a metered white cab. The drive to the Centro isn't too long, but does at least afford us the sight of several notable billboards. Okay, just one: an advertisement for the upcoming Italian romcom "Tutta colpa di Freud" making excellent use of the ever-familiar Mondrian-style movie poster aesthetic. Even in Europe, some things are just like home, I guess.
Letizia greets us at the Centro with a warm smile and gives us the rundown in record timing (I can tell she's had lots of practice with this spiel): this one's your room key, this one's the gate key, here's your wifi login info, a map of the area, a list of local facilities; here's your monthly bus pass (sign here), your student ID (sign there), this is your lock box for your valuables, there's your mailbox, dining room is downstairs, rooms are upstairs, Luisa will help you with your bags, breakfastlunchanddinner start on Monday, bye! The facilities at the Centro are quite nice—all the rooms have sinks, the bathrooms are clean and functioning; there's a computer room stocked with Italian VHSes, a terrace/hangout space with a 50 year-old foosball table, mini-gym, and the legendary Italian clothes-eating washing machines (as well as drying racks to combat them).
I'll spare you the mundane details of how I tried napping until 7 and skip ahead to the part where the group of Thursday arrivees went out for dinner at a hole-in-the-wall pizza place. (As the Friday arrivees and I learned, there are actually much better pizza places in the neighborhood, if you, uh, walk in the direction of civilization.) After sleeping/staying in bed most of the day, I got up in time to meet the day's newcomers and join them for some meandering around Trastevere. The area reminds me a lot of Βάρκιζα, the suburb outside of Athens where I spent two weeks several summers ago; that is to say, despite the graffiti-ridden walls, it's a safe and lively area with every convenience needed just a short walk from the Centro (and dog-walkers EVERYWHERE). There's a park around the corner I intend to explore tomorrow with camera in hand, and I have yet to try my first Italian cappuccino...but I can hear it calling me.
To close out the day, here's an iPhone snapshot of the Centro library, where I hopefully won't end up spending all of my evenings. Although as of yet, I am the only person I've found here who's taking both advanced Greek and advanced Latin, so...here goes nothing!