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After our long day in Florence, the family and I grabbed a very late dinner where we ordered far too much food and stuffed ourselves- I had my new favorite dish that I recently discovered- cacio e pepe, which is pecorino cheese and pepper, it sounds simple but it is fabulous. We finally called it a night and went back to the hotel to go to sleep.
The next day was the last day my family was in Rome so we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and took a nice long stroll down Via del Corso- a main street starting in Piazza Venezia and running all the way to Piazza del Popolo with great stores for shopping and eating. Once again, Nicky and dad were awesome and put up with us girls stopping in literally (yes dad, literally) every store. Renee was awesome enough to treat me to a few things and I think my arm muscles grew just from carrying all of my bags around. We did make a few stops for my dad and Nicky though; dad got an awesome new pair of shoes from Timberland and Nicky stopped in a Footlocker.
Along our travels we ran into some talented street performers dancing and even a perverted clown who made balloons and hugged Renee and me just a little too tight. One store in particular caught all of our eyes- the Perugia chocolate store. Perugia is known for their chocolate and it is where Bacio chocolate has its factory- you can even tour the factory like a real-life Italian Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We were drawn in by the seven-tiered chocolate fountain in the window and we all stocked up to get our chocolate fix- I indulged in my new chocolate obsession- white chocolate.
After satisfying our sweet tooth we continued on our walk, stopped in a few more stores and finally made it to Piazza del Popolo. I had never been to this Piazza but I discovered that it is definitely the prettiest I have been to in Rome. There were the usual crowds and we somehow ran into two tourists from London and got into a 20 minute conversation with them about New York, New Jersey and England. They asked us what we call sandwiches around where we live (heroes never hoagies and sometimes subs) and ranted about how expensive everything is in England- they were definitely an interesting couple.
We sat on the steps of the fountain in the Piazza in the sun while Nicky and Maddie stared at the street performers who seem to float in mid-air. As their vacation was coming to a close we all just took a moment to take in our surroundings and appreciate how lucky we are and I thought how lucky I am to have such great parents and a great family. Then, of course, it was off to lunch. I feel like most of the time here is spent just killing time between meals; our schedules definitely revolve around eating. The tiny restaurant we decided to eat at was delicious; the pizza I had, the gnocchi Nicky had and the veal my dad had were all so full of flavor and it definitely proved that the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants often have some of the best food.
Following our lunch we absolutely needed Gelato. So I took the fam to Giolitti, a very well-known gelateria. The gelato there is unbelievable and I always get white chocolate and Oreo or white chocolate and milk chocolate. Everyone got their favorite flavors and it got my dad’s seal of approval when he said it was “stupid” -which is dad talk for something is so good that there are no words to describe it. We waddled our stuffed selves to the hotel to take a breather before we went to my apartment so they could see where I live and then go to dinner.
When we got to my apartment my dad joked that he wanted to go back to the hotel where they have bell boys. My apartment is one of the nicer ones students live in here so I consider myself lucky, but after coming from the hotels we had been staying in, I agree with him. I gave them the tour, which takes all of two minutes, and we hung out for a while to pass the time until we were hungry enough again for dinner. Like clockwork, we were ready pretty soon. I took them to Trastevere, a very cute area in Rome with winding streets that are very easy to get lost on, restaurants, shops and cobblestone streets with wine corks in the cracks, my personal favorite characteristic of the area. For dinner we had a little bit of everything- suppli (rice balls), artichokes, bruschetta and prosciutto. My dad once again had ox tail and I once again had cacio e pepe. For dessert I took them to an unbelievable crepe place where we enjoyed a crepe with Nutella, white chocolate, caramel and bananas- and yes it is as good as it sounds and yes my mouth is currently watering.
Feeling stuffed yet again, it was time for goodbyes as my family went back to the hotel to pack for their flight the next day and I went back to apartment to reenter the real world. It was sad to see them go but it was comforting to know that at that time I would see them in just two and a half weeks and as I am writing this now (very delayed) I only have eight more days in paradise. Time flies.
“Time is free, but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”- Harvey MacKay
After a nice relaxing weekend in Naples and Pompeii we returned to Rome for the week until we jet setted off to our next location. As I’ve said before my sister’s fiancé, Matt, has never been to Europe so he wanted the full experience with tours and sightseeing and all. Their week was filled with every mornings, tour guides and a lot of walking. We met for lunches and dinners and, as I acted as translator during their time in Italy, enjoyed the local food and wine. While I have been here for over a month, I have yet to taste such good food as I did when they were here (Matt was very adamant about not eating at touristy places, but only authentic Italian restaurants).
Aside from gaining a food baby and losing most of my budgeted money for the next two weeks, we explored and wandered the streets of Rome, tasting Nutella crepes and discovering a fabulous gelato place in Trastevere. Tee and Matt also discovered-and ate at frequently, as in, multiple times a day- a traditional Italian deli where they tried to communicate with an elderly Italian man who did not speak any English. Eventually, they learned how to say the essentials- bread, meat and please.
Having them here, especially Tee, was a great pick-me-up. I’m not homesick at all and am enjoying every second here. However, in true Italian culture, my very large family is very close and I miss them all very much.
While I was in classes Monday-Wednesday (that’s right I only have a three-day school week) they explored and toured Rome, seeing all the sights: The Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, The Vatican, the Roman Forums, the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica to name a few. After my classes I would meet them for dinner and drinks and we would recap the inevitably funny events that took place earlier in the day.
After being in Rome for a few days, my sister wanted to take her fiancé and me to a place she used to go to when she studied abroad here a few yeas ago. So, Wednesday night we went to the Ice Club. This is a club that is completely made out of ice- the bar, the walls, the seats, even the glasses- are all ice cold. The temperature is about -5 degrees Celsius, which, for those of us not on the metric system, is about 23 degrees Fahrenheit. When you walk in you receive a large silver insulated cape that is draped over you by a nice Irish man; this did a pretty good job at keeping you toasty while inside the bar. You are then ushered into a small room where you must close the first door before you can open the second door so that the ice inside the club does not melt.
Once inside, we found our own little igloo to hang out in and had some very delicious drinks. It isn’t until about 45 minutes in when you start realizing how cold you are getting. The club was pretty empty when we got there but then slowly started picking up. People just popped in and out at about one-hour increments because, let’s face it, how much longer can you stand in a freezing cold room drinking freezing cold drinks. After about an hour and a half we finished all of our drinks and left to go home.
The next day consisted of Tee and Matt doing more touristy things and me working on all of my papers and homework so I could enjoy my upcoming weekend in Amsterdam. I met up with them later for lunch at their favorite little deli and we dined and drank wine on their hotel’s rooftop terrace. It was a quaint little area with breathtaking views of the surrounding areas and churches; it was convincing me even more that there was no one else on earth I would rather be in than this beautiful city in this beautiful country full of magnificent history and unbelievable experiences.
We called it an early night because the next morning we needed to be up bright and early ( 3 a.m. to be exact) so we could jet set off to Amsterdam!
“Having a place to go – is a home. Having someone to love – is a family. Having both – is a blessing.” – Donna Hedges