Hey everybody, I apologize I haven’t posted sooner, but I just couldn’t waste the precious little time I had in Rome. What started as an aweful journey turned out to be one of the best of my life. I don’t know how well I’m going to do explaining all of that happened, or if that’s even possible, but I’ll try by darndest. Prepare ourself, grab a refreshment and maybe a light snap because this is going to be a long one, folks. Where to begin… At the beginning, I guess.
So, we were supposed to fly out of Granada to Madrid, then off to Rome. Well, as it turns out, life had other plans. Recently, Ibera has been experiencing a worker’s strike due to the recent job cuts they made. Because of this, our flight out of Granada was cancelled, so we had to take a bus. Not that big of a deal, except this meant we now had to get up and be at the bus stop by 7:15 instead of 11:15. Ouch.
As it turns out, sometimes these “problems” turn out to be blessings in disguise. That was the case with this one, as had we taken a plane into Madrid, we never would’ve seen or heard the hundreds of people chanting and blowing horns telling the British to go home.
To be honest, it was a bit scary because at one point I had to go to the bathroom alone, and I wasn’t sure how a mob would react to a tall, blonde, clearly NOT Spanish person alone among them.
After we arrived in Rome and checked into the hotel, we were free to roam the city on our own. I went with a group of friends to a pizza place near the hotel. I was definitely worried that the food would be overhyped and it would be a bit of a letdown, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One of the best pizzas of my life
I got a pizza that had tomato sauce, mozzarella, hot salami and chili flakes– hands down one of the best pizzas of my life.
First gelato– one flavor is nutella 🙂
After dinner, a bunch of us met back at the hotel and set up plans to go to the Trevi Fountain. All of the girls in my program were excited to go because of the role it played in the Lizzie McGuire movie, but I honestly had no idea what it was until we got there. On the way we made a couple pitstops, one to visit the historic Spanish Steps, and the other to eat some historic Italian gelati. I’m only going to post this picture of it, but you can rest safely knowing that I tried it many, many more times. Like, aout 5 more to be exact. Some of the flavors I tried included black cherry, coffee twice, chocolate mousse, milk cream, snickers, lemon, nutella twice, and possibly one more. It’s hard to keep track of such goodness.
After the gelato stop, we arrived at the Trevi, and it was beautiful. I’m glad we ended up seeing it the first night, because Saturday was rainy all day and torrential downpour at night and Sunday I was just exhausted. Supposedly if you throw in a coin you will one day return, so here’s to hoping that will happen.
That was pretty much the end of Friday night, so far so good, but Saturday would take a turn for the worse. We wake up Saturday to rain. A steady drizzle with substantial wind. Luckily, we had been scheduled to take a bus tour around the city… Unfortunately, the bus dropped us off at the Colosseum, about an hour from our hotel. In Europe there seems to be a trend of men in the streets pushing whatever product they can get their hands on. Be it CDs, iPhone cases, sunglasses, or in the case of rain, umbrellas. These guys were extremely obnoxious and persistant and EVERYWHERE. Luckily for me, I managed to haggle one standing outside the bus down to 3€. It worked really well keeping me dry, until the wind picked up and pretty much destroyed it. Most of us decided to pay the 12€ for entry because how often are you in Rome to even have this chance? Inside was surreal for two reasons: first, I was actually seeing this historic landmark that is famous around the world, and the thought that men fought to the death here for the entertainment of other men is hard to grasp.
After we were all set with the colosseum, there was a metro station right outside of it, and as any sensible person would think in the torrential rain and wind, I suggested we take the metro back to the hotel and get lunch at a place nearby. The girls, being much more adventurous [read: not sensible], decided it would be more fun to walk and find a place on the way. Well, two hours and a lot of wind and rain later, we managed to find the hotel and sat down for lunch at a place nearby.
Wet and tired after 2 hours in the rain and wind.
The place we went to was just as delicious as the first place, if not more so. My friend Lindsey and I split a dish of pizza and a plate of pasta. I’m only going to post one picture of each type of food, to spare y’all the trouble of looking at so much delicious food.
That pretty much sums up Saturday, and to say the least I was not very happy with my time so far in Rome. The wind and rain were really taking their tole and I was not looking forward to the rest of the weekend. Turns out Sunday would be one of the best days of my life so far.
Sunday morning, I woke up early and met some friends in the lobby so we could get a jumpstart on everyone to get a good place in line to see the Vatican Museum. We managed to get in within half an hour of the Museum opening, so I’d say we did pretty good. Once inside, I was really excited to see the Sistine chapel. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I was able to sneak this beauty :). When we finally got there, I felt a bit underwhelmed, to be honest.
After seeing so many grand cathedrals that could easily hold jumbo jets, that was what I was expecting for the Sistine Chapel. Not so. Because it’s a chapel, not a cathedral, it was much smaller than expected. Once I was able to sit down and actually look at the ceiling, it started to blow my mind.
First, the people and objects in the painting all appeared 3D, sticking out towards me on the ground. How could a man using a tiny paintbrush make such details appear so vivid from 50 feet away. How did he know what it would look like? Also, how could he start in one corner, and work for years across the ceiling and know how to proportion everything so that it all fit? It really was impressive and awe-inspiring to see.
We left the Museum about 11 so we could get a good place in the crowd for the Pope’s last Angelus. We were among a crowd of over 100,000 strong who came out for the Pope. Somehow, we managed to just casually walk through the crowd and get much closer than I expected. My friend Carlene was able to snap an amazing picture of the Pope giving his speech.
Again this was a very surreal moment for me. Here was a man who I had heard about for years. He was the leader of 1.2 billion people and I was seeing, no experiencing and receiving him giving his final Papal blessing. Not only that, but this was the first Pope to retire in over 600 years; I was part of history in the making!
After the Angelus was over, we headed to the Pantheon. What I mean by headed is meandered through this amazing city of Rome, popping in many a souvenir shop, stopping for more gelato, trying hot wine for the first time (btw, it’s absolutely delicious), admiring the life-like painting by the many artists set up in various plazas throughout Rome. Eventually we accidentally stumbled on the Pantheon, and it is massive, both inside and out. Inside, there is the body of the famous painter Raphael, who I took a picture of, but didn’t realize who it was until a friend told me hours later.
By this point, we were pretty much ready to go back to the hotel, but we decided to make one more stop on the way. I wanted to see the Trevi fountain, so beautiful at night, during the day, and so did some of the others.
I cannot stress enough how happy I am that I went the first night, because when we showed up at the fountain it was hard to see through all the tourists. We did manage to take this photo of all of us which I was really happy about.
We had been walking or standing for about 8 hours by now, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.
SInce water is so expensive here in Europe, we have to take very quick showers. The only time we can splurge is when were at hotels. So I splurged. It was the best, well, only really, bath I have taken in years and it felt good to just soak all the weariness from my bones.
That night, I went to dinner at a small, family-owned Italian restaurant with many of the same people. After we ordered our drinks, the waiter brought us out a free plate of pasta to share, which we passed around. I ordered the lasagna, which completed the trifecta of Italian foods I wanted to try in Rome: pizza, pasta, lasagna. It was soo good, I didn’t even care what was in it, I know, what a shocker.
For dessert, the brought us free tiramisu and another type of cake. Considering here in Rome, everything costs money, even the bread they put on the table for you, the service we were receiving was out of this world. We made sure to tip them nicely before we left, even though you’re not supposed to tip, they deserved every penny of it.
We managed to persuade them to take a picture with us. I know– tourists, right?
To finish off the night, we went back to the hotel and just hung out in one of the rooms. We drank some vino, played a card game called kemps/kempz, and rocked out to country music. It’s such a rarity that everyone in a room likes country, there’s usually that one person who hates it (and I’ll admit that used to be me haha). It was the perfect ending to the perfect day. Hopefully, this will be a day I never forget.
(Okay folks, hold on to your seat belts, only half a day left to go and you’re free to stop reading.)
St. Peter’s tomb
Monday morning, I went with a couple friends to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. Remember me talking about massive cathedrals? This one took the take BY FAR. It was enormous and just struck me with a sense of awe from the second I walked in until the second I stepped off of those hallowed steps.
I got to see St. Peter’s tomb, and while I’m not religious, it’s still crazy to think about the fact that this man who is known around the world, who lived close to 2,000 years ago, is right here in this very building in front of me.
We went down into the grottos beneath the Basilica,which housed all the tombs of past Popes. Again, the thought that these men lived hundreds of years ago and commanded so much power over so many, much more so than today, made my head spin slightly.
We headed out to get gelato one last time before we had to leave. I have to say, for how our trip to Rome started, I couldn’t be happier with the way it has turned out. I’ve seen so much and been part of history in a way that could never have been predicted in… over 600 years? Haha.
Let me know what you guys think about the increased use of pictures; too many? would you like to see more? Or is it just right? Let me know! I’m trying to constantly improve each post as I go along, so any and all feedback, both positive and critical, is welcomed and appreciated.
I’m going to end this one here, seeing as I’ve already bored y’all to tears, it’s 1am, and I’m leaving for Morocco, Africa tomorrow morning. Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions of my life and I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to see all I’ve seen and lived all I have been able to. I will forever be grateful to those who helped push me to go and those who made it possible in the first place.
Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.