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After a wonderful stay in Sorrento, Positano and Capri the fam and I woke up to catch a train from the station in Naples to Rome, where they were staying until Sunday. We left two hours before our train and thought that would give us plenty of time to make it to the train station, which was only about an hour away. Unfortunately, there was a crazy amount of traffic and it took us a little over two hours to get to the train station and we missed our train. Flustered and running around we bought new tickets and finally got on the train with all of our luggage, which was another adventure in itself. A short train ride later we fought through people with our luggage and eventually made it off the train.
We thankfully were able to be picked up by a car sent by the hotel my family was staying in because the other car that was supposed to pick us up fell through because we missed our train and were late. We arrived at the hotel, which was beautiful and once again the staff was so attentive. It was very close to the Spanish Steps so the location was perfect. After we checked in and got settled we walked a little bit to go to dinner. We found a cute place on the corner and sat down to eat. It was here that my family discovered how annoying Rome can be sometimes- or how annoying the men selling roses on the street can be. Everywhere you turn there are men selling roses and other knick knacks and they come right up to you while you are eating and bother you to try and get you to buy something. Usually I just ignore them or say no grazie but Nicky and Maddie couldn’t help but look at the toys they were selling so we attracted a little bit of attention. My dad finally got so frustrated and yelled at him to go away. We enjoyed a meal of seafood and pastas and listened to two men play the accordion while we ate.
When we finished dinner we decided to walk over to the Spanish Steps and climb to the top. I had never been to the Steps at night but they are really pretty. The lights from the streets lit up the stairs and we were able to capture some great photos. After that we walked over to the Trevi fountain, which is my favorite place in Rome, especially at night when it is less crowded and lit up. My favorite part about the Trevi fountain is going there late at night, after we go out, around 2 or 3 a.m. when there is no one there and it is quiet and the only sound you hear is the rushing water. We took some pictures there and my family got a kick out of how many people there were and how no one here understands personal space as they all crowded around us. We decided it was time for bed after our hectic day- tomorrow we had a three hour tour of the Colosseum and ancient Rome so we went back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next morning we feasted on another impressive breakfast spread then hopped in a cab and headed over to the Colosseum to meet our tour group. We started outside of the Colosseum and got a crash course in ancient Roman history. Our guide was informative and presented all of the information in a way that more interesting than the way I learned about it in a class room. Next she took us into the Colosseum. I had been inside it with a class at the beginning of the semester and learned about the architecture side of it but on this tour I learned about the political, social and historical facts about the Colosseum. It was all too interesting and made me want to watch all of the movies about gladiators and ancient Rome.
After the Colosseum we went to the Ancient Roman Forums where we learned even more information about the ancient civilization. I had been there once before with my art history class but had once again concentrated more on the architecture of it and not on the history so all of the information that our guide was feeding us was very interesting and gave context to all of the ruins we were looking at.
After walking for over three hours our feet were extremely sore so we walked to the nearest restaurant to eat. Our restaurant was in a great location and overlooked some of the Forum ruins so we admired them as we ate our pasta and chatted. We caught a cab back to the hotel after lunch and walked around to find some gelato and a macaroon shop we passed the previous day. The macaroons were amazing and full of so many interesting flavors- I have definitely become a macaroon lover during my abroad months. It was back to reality after that because I had to go to my last class that day and I would meet my family the next day for another tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
I met my family the next afternoon and we headed over the Vatican to meet our tour guide, who was awesome! She gave us so many facts and hours of information. I picked her brain about art and the history of the Vatican and St. Peter’s. She was so knowledgable on the subjects and I really enjoyed her tour. I loved the way she presented the facts, with stories and context instead of just boring numbers and names. She also engaged my little siblings, which made them tolerate the four-hour tour. It was nice seeing the Vatican and everything in it, especially Raphael’s room and the Sistine Chapel. I’m a huge art and history nerd so I loved analyzing the art with her and asked about a hundred questions. She was definitely the best guide I have had on a tour.
Four hours later and much more informed, we ended our tour at St. Peter’s and got on line to climb to the top of the dome. Renee, Maddie and myself decided to take the elevator to the first level and meet my dad and Nicky who were climbing all of the steps. We arrived at the first stop and looked down into the beautiful Basilica below. There was a mass going on and we could hear the choir singing, which added to the beauty of being suspended above such a masterpiece. Being inside the dome was a very cool experience and we were able to get a closer look at the intricate details and designs and really marveled at how massive and intense the dome actually is up close.
We continued on our way up about 300 stairs, in addition to about the 200 other steps my dad and Nicky already climbed. It was hot, small and tiring. I am very claustrophobic and the higher we climbed the smaller and smaller the hallways got and the smaller the steps got until eventually we were almost turned sideways and were tip toeing up the steps. The walls and the steps were slanted because of the shape of the dome, which also made climbing difficult. Eventually the steps were so small and the hallway was so curved that there was a rope provided for us to hold onto as we climbed. After a few minor panics and a lot of sweating we finally arrived at the top and the fresh air on my face felt amazing. We pushed our way to the edge and pressed ourselves up against the fence to get the most breathtaking view in all of Rome.
We took a lot of photos and then made the trek back down more tiny steps.
We climbed the first level of steps and then Renee, Maddy and myself took the elevator the rest of way down. We stepped off of the elevator and into the Basilica where we walked around and admired it. My dad was especially impressed with the massive structure that is so ornately decorated and constructed and he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around how people did something so miraculous so long ago.
After our long day of touring we hopped in a cab and went off to a restaurant that my uncle went to when he was in Rome and had highly recommended it to us . It was a very cute restaurant and was decorated with sports, fishing and hunting memorabilia. It was run by several bad-ass looking, burly Italian men who suggested dishes like ox tail and cow intestines- I decided on some salad and pasta but my dad and Renee got the aforementioned dishes and couldn’t stop raving about how tasty they were. We stuffed ourselves silly and were then presented with some cookies and dessert wine. After trying to bite into a cookie one of the men came over and showed me that the proper way to do it was to dip the cookie into the dessert wine, which was absolutely delicious. Then we headed back to the hotel to hang out and get to bed because the next morning we were off to Florence- but first I had a paper to write because contrary to what my family may think, sometimes I actually have school work.
“Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”- Brad Henry
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