Monday was our first full day of meetings, and there was an air of anticipation in the group. We were up bright and early for a meeting with Kristina Kappelin, a Swedish journalist based in Italy. We did our best to get the apartment ready and we organised some breakfast. She arrived on time and we started our meeting. The first thing that struck most of us, I think, was how approachable she was. She gave us an overview of the work she has done in Italy, both recently and in the past. She gave some very interesting insights into the recent Lampedusa tragedy. Another important theme which she focused on was trying to give us an understanding of the political culture in Italy, and in turn how civil society interacts with this system. I think we all felt we could have sat with her talking for hours longer, but due to our busy schedule we had to leave promptly for the Swedish embassy.
We put our walking speed to the test and made it to the Swedish embassy with two minutes to spare. The Swedish embassy was a nice but efficient looking building, not like some of the other more extravagant embassies, people had different interpretations of this but it was interesting to discuss. We had a meeting with Tobias Axerup, a Swedish diplomat in charge of the political and economic sections of the embassy, and his intern Simon. It was an extremely informative session because he spoke about three areas in some detail; politics, economics and migration. It was useful because it gave us all a contextual base for trying to understand Italy in general and Italian politics. I found his overview of the economic situation in Italy particularly interesting.
After the meeting, we all felt a bit drained and hungry so we decided we would make lunch in the apartment. So we bought vegetables and some other ingredients to make frittatas. It was a nice feeling that we could all sit together in our apartment and make lunch, while also being in the centre of Rome. The frittatas worked out well with only some minor flipping issues to begin with.
After lunch we decided to go out and explore some more of the city so we walked to the Spanish steps and tried some recommended tiramisu. We wandered around some churches and took in the beauty of the historic city.
After a long day of walking we turned a corner, and there was the Pantheon standing in front of us. The phrase breathtaking is often overused but in this instance it is completely accurate. We all found the Pantheon truly amazing and as it became dark in Rome the Pantheon became even more beautiful. I think Gon’s remarks sum it up quite well; ‘Pantheon is perfect, “perfect” is pantheon. The most unfortunate thing is to die without visiting Pantheon. I met gifted children there’.
For dinner we had planned to meet some students from a political society, they brought us to a beautiful restaurant called Fiore di Zuzza, in which most people had some really good food. Although it is a cliché, it cannot be denied that Italian culture is very much based on good food, but also it is a social factor in Italy. Enjoying good food with other people is the prime social experience and it has been really nice sitting down everyday with our group enjoying the culinary delights of Italy. After dinner we decided to walk home, this became the norm with us walking everywhere we went. It was raining a little when we left the restaurant but as we walked further the rain got heavier and soon it was torrential. In a moment, our unhappiness at the rain turned into joy, we decided to embrace it. As you looked down the street in the centre of Rome, you could see no people or cars or buses, it felt as though we were the only people in Rome. We decided to run home, I will never forget the image of us sprinting through the centre of Rome in a rain storm. When we got back to the apartment it was a bit of a task to deal with everyone’s soaked clothes and shoes, but there was a general consensus that it was well worth it.
We all went to bed happy and tired, but also we felt a lot more at ease with our understanding of Italian politics.
Tack så mycket!