Reading Week Part 2: When in Rome…

Continuing my trip from when we flew out of the Barcelona airport at 5 AM…

Day 1 (11/4)

I think I may have slept for an hour on the plane, and we when touched down in Rome exhaustion was setting in for all three of us. We took a bus to the center of Rome, which dropped us off a few minutes away from our hostel apparently. But we ended up walking up and down the same two streets in the spitting rain for about an hour, asking guys who only spoke Italian where the Legends Hostel was. After receiving wrong directions about three times, we FINALLY finished our scavenger hunt to the hidden door of this mysterious hostel. It turned out not to be that bad inside, but the time it took to find the place was super frustrating. We dropped off our bags and worked up some energy at breakfast to explore some of the city.

 

 

Using a big map as our guide that we received from the hostel, we basically headed towards the areas with the prettiest looking buildings drawn out. We ended up wandering around a lot of the city so we covered some cool places that we didn’t even expect to walk to on the map. We planned a walking route to get to Trevi Fountain, walking past Plaza de Rebublica, the President’s House (which has something going on inside because there were people crowding around the front, we just couldn’t really understand what was happening). We made it to Trevi Fountain right in the middle of the day and it was definitely one of my favorite touristy places I’ve been to in Europe so far. The fountain really had a magical quality to it. The backdrop to the fountain had gorgeous architecture with statues of the gods creating a magnificent scene. The area was so packed with people, but we made our way down to the water at the fountain and threw in our coins over our shoulders after making a wish (I hope mine comes true)! Legend has it that if you throw in a coin at the Trevi Fountain you are guaranteed to return to Rome one day.

 

 

 

After we took our pictures at Trevi Fountain, we continued our walk around the city with the map as our guide. We wandered towards some ruins in the middle of the city (not the Roman Forum, but just some other land that they randomly blocked off by random roads and buildings. It’s crazy to me all the history that this city has. Every corner you turn there is another beautiful building towering over the street that leaves you wondering its significance and what it used to be. We went to a beautiful museum called the museum of Italian Reunification, paired with a monument called Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, who was the first king of a unified Italy). The entire structure of the place was incredible!

 

 

We stopped for a late lunch at a really fun area called Campo de Fiori, which is an outdoor marketplace and square with some really good Italian restaurants. I got authentic Italian gnoocci with a cream sauce for lunch and it was delicious… and I was completely stuffed. Our feet were getting so tired from all the walking around that day, along with exhaustion setting in from barely a few hours of sleep, so we made it an early night and went back to the hostel to get some rest for a busy day two…

 

Day 2 (11/5)

We bought a metro pass for the day to travel around Rome a bit quicker (yet the train system in the city only has two lines… SO small compared to London). We woke up early and made it to the Vatican area to explore the famous site. A woman approached us about taking a Vatican tour which enabled us to skip the lines and also get some interesting information which we wouldn’t get on our own, so we signed up and toured with a group. The Vatican area was very unique and was nothing like I’ve seen before at a museum. We walked through a bunch of rooms with lots of crazy colorful paintings and sculptures, and other works of art. It was awesome to see the Sistine Chapel but they unfortunately wouldn’t let us take pictures of it… thanks Michelangelo (probably not your fault, but whatever)!

 

 

 

Our tour ended at St. Peter’s Basilica which was my favorite part of the Vatican tour. It was the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen and the inside was just enormous. The paintings, sculptures, and entire atmosphere of the place were incredible. It’s where the pope hangs out so I can see why it’s so nice! Overall, the Vatican in general was pretty cool to see, definitely a must-visit while in Rome, but I don’t see myself spending that money to go again anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

After this extensive tour, we stopped for lunch and I got some good ravioli. We then headed to St. Angelo’s castle which looked really cool on our map. It didn’t lie, this place was massive and one of my favorite castles I’ve seen so far in Europe!

 

 

 

 

My friend Calvin who studied in Rome last year told us that we needed to visit Piazza de Popolo and we got there right at the perfect time of the sunset, which made for some great pictures of the city. We walked around the area called Villa Borghese (which is like the Italian Central Park) but it was getting really dark so we couldn’t see much of the park.

 

Our last stop of the day was to the Spanish Steps, which were really crowded no matter what time of day you go to see them, and then for some evening gelato (YUM). After getting back to the hostel, Megan decided to stay in and Kelly and I went back our for a three course dinner at a ma and pop little Italian restaurant owned by the sweetest old couple who served us. The meal was delicious! I had salad, spaghetti carbonara, chicken, bread, wine, AND a tiramisu-like dessert! Kelly and I had such a good time just talking and relaxing at dinner… and we left really full and happy.

 

DAY 3 (11/6)

We dedicated this day to see and tour the COLOSSEUM and Roman Forum (the ruins)! A nice guy approached us and convinced us to spend a little extra money for another tour which enabled us to once again skip the lines and have a knowledgeable tour guide. I absolutely LOVED the tour of the Colosseum. Did you know that the main reason for its destructed outer part is from an earthquake!? I learned so much about how they entertained the people at the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater) during the Roman Empire with fights between gladiators and animals. There were tons of visible passageways where they used to transport and keep the fighting animals under the arena before fights. It was so cool! Seeing this iconic site was by far the highlight of Rome.

  

 

 

   

We also toured through the Roman Forum after the Colosseum and learned even more about the Roman Empire and how the ruins were not really destroyed by the earthquake, but by their own people who needed materials to build newer churches, homes, and communities elsewhere in Rome. It was so fascinating to see what the people decided to leave (things that weren’t important enough to take and recreate). It was such a beautiful day and Megan, Kelly and I really enjoyed walking around and exploring some ancient history.

 

 

   

For lunch we stopped at yet another Italian place (shocker) and we split a few things: Cheese tortellini and a four cheese pizza, then we got gelato yet again (duh, so good). During the nighttime we had planned on going out to a popular tourist bar called the Drunken Ship but it was a far walk from the hostel and we ended up just hanging out in our hostel’s kitchen area and talking to some other foreign travelers, mainly two guys from New Zealand and Canada. It was a good night to just hang out and meet some people.

Day 4 (11/7)

This was our last day in Rome, sadly. We woke up early and actually got two, yes two, breakfasts. The traditional Italian breakfast is just a small croissant and cup of cappuccino so we decided that we needed to try that before we leave. However, this breakfast is absolutely not filling enough for us Americans, so we found another nice place that offered bigger American-style breakfasts and the three of us ordered ham and cheese omlettes. They were so good and we were properly full after that. The waiter at that restaurant was really funny but creepily flirty with me… typical Italian behavior I think. After breakfast(s), it was time to part ways with Megan and Kelly because they had an earlier flight to Prague while my flight was later in the afternoon to Dublin. So I had a few hours to wander around Rome myself and visit some places we didn’t hit in the other days. I did enjoy walking around myself… I went back to the Spanish Steps, then Villa Borghese during the day and explored a lot more than we saw in the dark. It really was a beautiful central park-like area with green grass fields, fountains, and playgrounds. After that, I went back to Trevi Fountain and just people watched tourists taking pictures by the site as I devoured my last snack in Rome: a Nutella croissant. It was a perfect last moment to my Rome visit.

 

 

 

 

 

I made it to the airport late afternoon, and finally took off to my last destination: Dublin with Raleigh and Eliza!

Things I LOVED about Rome:

THE FOOD (both the meals and desserts), the historic atmosphere feel, beautiful architecture, sunny days, the Colosseum, listening to people speak Italian.

Other things I noticed about Rome:

-you can basically cross the street with your eyes closed as long as you’re at a crosswalk. Cars will stop for the pedestrians at any time! It was awesome.

-There were the most amount of smokers in a city that I have ever seen. Everywhere we walked on the streets, there were people basically blowing smoke in our faces left and right, it was hard to avoid sometimes. Super frustrating.

-The city itself was pretty clean, which was refreshing to walk around nice streets

-There were soooooo many annoying street vendor guys who tried to get us to buy their crappy tourist items ALL THE TIME. NO, I do not want to buy a cheap scarf, Colosseum figurine, or another magnet. Thanks, go away.

-I’ve never seen so many homeless people in a city. I felt like they were on every street corner, sitting with dogs, with other homeless people, always grumbling at people walking by asking for money in Italian. The worst thing I saw in Rome was a woman lying on the sidewalk in her own urine. That moment really stands out in my head, unfortunately.

-I feel like sirens of ambulances were constantly going of all the time. Ever seen James Bond? Yeah, the sound was like that.

-The majority of the toilets didn’t have seats on them… for women’s too.

-There were tons of vendors on the street selling roasted chestnuts for some reason… I thought that was really random, but Kelly and I split some after the Colosseum becuase we felt like we had to try them. Not bad!

-I can really understand the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” now. The buildings everywhere were too elaborate and beautiful to even be built in hundreds of years. It truly was something I’ve never seen before!