On a gloriously sunny November morning, we and the rest of the fall 2020 Rome class meandered down the Appia Antica, an ancient Roman road that remains today as a pleasant lane through the Italian countryside.
We modern travelers walked over worn stones engraved with ancient ruts, recalling the stories of past travelers on the road — including many saints, heroes, and previous UDers. We strolled down the path not to reach a specific destination, but simply to experience the road, appreciating the walk for the journey itself.
This is coddiwompling, and it allowed us to joyfully embrace detours and discoveries along the way. Sometimes we paused to attempt translating a Latin inscription on a burial marker; in another instance we entered a field of goats and made friends with the dogs herding them before continuing on.
This walk of the Appia is a tradition every Rome class participates in. Another tradition involving walking is when, early in the semester, the ever-watchful professors abandon their students to let them find their own way back to campus.
Walking becomes a part of every Rome traveler’s experience. As Ed Gramling, a survivor of the fall 2019 class, so sagely stated, “It saves money.” It offers not only convenience and affordability but also contributes to the formation of the UD student’s soul.
Plato in his “Republic” famously compares the soul to a city. By wandering down the winding cobblestone paths, students are invited to explore the soul of the city and, in turn, impress it upon their own.
Joe Bartke of the fall Rome class of 2020 said, “Walking is an act of physical contemplation … it allows one to meditate on the city.” During his Rome semester, he enjoyed walking “along the Tiber, underneath all the sycamore trees as they were shedding their leaves.”
The act of walking also allows one to slow down and “fully simmer in the experience,” observed Klemens Raab, a current junior who attended the Shakespeare in Rome program as a high-schooler. He said, “Taking a cab wouldn’t feel right because firstly, Italians can’t drive and secondly, because it doesn’t allow one to have the full experience such as breathing in the smell of cigarettes.”
He continued to say that not only does walking “keep your soul on earth longer which is good,” it also helped him grow to know his classmates and teachers better. He fondly recalls how “Dr. Moran was a speed-demon going up the Spanish Steps.”
Gramling appreciated that walking “lets you have the experience of the journey, being able to get distracted and see things on the way to the destination.” For example, he was once surprised to come across St. Ursula’s skull.
Bartke’s favorite path to walk was the route from the Vatican to Scholar’s Lounge, while Gramling’s was the way from the Spanish Steps to Abbey Theatre.
Walking around Rome, the layout of the city slowly becomes ingrained upon the mind and soul of the student,much to the annoyance of one’s feet. The city remains within their memory such that the Vatican, a favorite pub, and the river Tiber exist not only in Rome but also within the student. The ceiling of Monte Cassino becomes the starry ceiling of his mind and the Tiber flows in his veins; these are carried with him throughout his life as a student and beyond.
Bartke affirmed that “getting lost is the best way to do it.” UD Romers agree that throughout their coddiwompling, the unexpected adventures and times they got lost become the best stories. And, as Fr. Robert Maguire recalls one of his students telling him, “every trip into Rome is a short story.”