Ken in Rome: Isn’t it romantic?

Kennedy Bustos, Staff Writer

Kennedy Bustos is participating in UTSA’s “COLFA Semester in Urbino” program. She’ll be spending the semester in Urbino, Italy. She is thrilled to document her adventures in an exclusive column for The Paisano — her home away from home. Follow her journey @keninrome on Instagram.


“It’s just so romantic, isn’t it?”

Sharing coffee and conversation with newfound friends — or “cafe crawling,” as I lovingly coined it — has slowly but surely become one of my favorite pastimes in Italy. We often contemplate the epiphanies intrinsic to our Italian experience. As we relish in the warmth of fresh espresso, we discuss the cultural immersion and how it compels us to reflect on our lives at home, our lives in Italy, on life itself. Somehow, miraculously, the time away from home has forced many of us to see our lives from a different perspective: reinforcing the people, places and things that enrich our lives. As for me, Italy has gifted me with the ultimate souvenir, a very necessary reminder: seek romance in every moment you can. 

Admittedly, I am quite inclined to romanticism. I have spent countless hours living in the pages of books: captivated by characters, seeking solace in solitude. My relationship with literature is undoubtedly the spark that has ignited various elements of my being. The all-encompassing empathy I possess for those around me, my undying passion for the art of writing, the meaningful connections I form within minutes of knowing someone — all of this and more are beautiful consequences of being a reader. 

Reading, of course, has made me a romantic … but not in the way you are likely imagining. 

Romance is more than something you share with a person. Romance is something you share with the world. 

Find romance in … writing to your loved ones. The comfort I have found in writing postcards is nothing short of profound. The convenience of technology has certainly made communication less complicated, but nothing can compare to the intimacy and romance of pen and paper. Life is far too short and if you love someone, they deserve to know: they deserve to be reminded of it. A letter is a keepsake, for the writer and the reader. 

Find romance in … existing unapologetically. My friends and I, equipped with the euphoria of new music from Harry Styles, sang through the streets of Vicenza without an ounce of shame. We were graciously interrupted by Ennio, an Italian man “at the young age of 80 years old.” He expressed his appreciation for our “beautiful” voices, as he had not been graced with the opportunity to hear the English language in quite some time. Ennio was eager to share his story with us: he grew up in Italy, served with the Italian Navy and coincidentally, lived in Texas for quite a while. We left the conversation inspired by Ennio and his incredible zeal for life. Our encounter with Ennio materialized because we allowed ourselves the space to exist without fear of judgment: to sing through the streets with unabashed joy. Abandon all pretense, shed your concern for societal perception and welcome the freedom inherent to living in the moment. 

Find romance in … the mundane moments. The moments that stick in your soul — the ones preserved in amber within the shelves of your memory — are the moments that happen unexpectedly, without fanfare. The moments you stumble upon without trying, the moments you fall into without intention. You won’t always remember the destination, but you’ll remember the journey. When I reminisce on my time in Italy, I’ll remember the “moments between” — like preparing meals for my friends late in the evening, savoring every step from start to finish, sharing their joy as we would at last fuel our bodies, our souls. 

Find romance in … experiencing art with the entirety of your body, your mind: grieving for what you have lost, for what you will eventually lose. While roaming the halls of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, I found myself entranced by Giambettino’s Cignaroli’s oil-on-canvas, “The birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel.” It’s a poignant portrait of grief: so poignant that it held me captive, minutes ticking by as I quietly wept, lost in the sorrow of the figures within. My friend and kindred spirit, Triss, held me as I bore witness to the beauty before me. Grief is an unfortunate equalizer — a portrait from the 18th century is still so resonant in the 21st century, perhaps even more so now. Allowing ourselves to experience art so viscerally that it moves us to tears is the pinnacle of romance. Let yourself feel grief and find power in the pain, for it is integral to the human experience. 

There will be days, of course, when romance cannot be found, despite the best of intentions. The magical thing about life, however, is that every day is a blank canvas — every day is a chance to start anew, to seek romance in the world.

Isn’t it interesting how “hopeless” and “romantic” are often said in the same breath? Don’t be fooled, friends. Romance isn’t the absence of hope — it’s the celebration of it.