Monday, April 20, 2009

Doing as the Romans do..

I was fortunate enough to book my trip to Rome at the last minute.  I wasn't too thrilled about going mainly because I didn't really know too much about it.  I've always kind of pictured it in the back of my head as "old and dirty."  I was proven wrong as it by far exceeded my expectations I had set.  The flight was around 2 1/2 hours and I flew directly into Rome’s main airport.  I took the train to the main station in the middle of Rome, Termini, where our hostel was fairly close.  Since I booked a different flight than the rest, I arrived first and checked into the hostel while I waited for them to arrive.  We had a 4 person private room with our own bathroom.  It was in this nice plaza that was close to many of the main attractions Rome has to offer.  When the rest of the group arrived everyone wanted to have a quite night as we were hungry and tired from the day of traveling.  We decided to go to an authentic Italian restaurant across the street from the hostel for a quick Italian meal.  Four hours and a few laughs later, they kicked us out because they were closing the restaurant at 11:00pm.  We were pretty tired so we just decided to call it a night and head back to the hostel for an early day the next morning.

We got some information about the double-decker buses that tour around Rome from the hostel and decided to try it out.  We bought the 2 day hop-on hop-off pass so we would not have to worry about taking public transportation (Rome is much less inefficient than Madrid’s metro/bus lines).  We ran the tour once all the way through to listen about the history of each monument and such while we passed them.  After the first run tour, we stopped at the Trevi Fountain where it is said if you throw a coin behind your back into the Fountain, you are ensured a return to Rome.  Approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown into the Fountain a day and the money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy.  I was one of those stereotypical tourists and threw my 0.50 Euro into the fountain while making a wish.  Hopefully that whole return to Rome thing comes true.  After the fountain we headed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or as its better referred as by Americans, The Wedding Cake.  It’s a very large monument that has an incredible view of Rome from the top.  After pondering on top of the monument for a while, we headed down to the Coliseum.  It was surreal seeing one of the most famous structures in the world literally right in front of you.  Since it was near the end of the day, we decided not to take the tour of the inside and continue on with walking around the city.  That night we did a Bar Crawl where I talked to some girls that were studying in Rome for the semester.  They went to Carnegie Melon and were leaving in 8 days.  I asked them if they were tired of the Italian food yet and they replied with, "I don't think I can ever eat or look at Italian again."  By the end of the weekend, we could already start to feel that way as everything is carbs with tomato sauce.. but I'm not complaining too much, Italian is my favorite food.  

The next morning we wanted to make our first stop to the Vatican.  We entered into St. Peter's Basilica and words cannot describe how beautiful and extravagant the inside was.  Pictures cannot give proper justice to this breathtaking structure.  Gold was everywhere, famous sculptures, paintings, and alters dedicated to many past Pope's and other significant people.  From the center of the Basilica where the alter of St. Peter stands, the Statue of Liberty could fit with room to spare in the top of the dome.  After walking around inside the basilica, I stopped in the prayer room and said a quick prayer.  It was really moving praying in one of the most holy places in the world.  After walking around a little more, we headed to the Vatican Museum to check out Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and specifically, "The Creation of Man" fresco.  They really made you work to see the Sistine Chapel because you probably walk through 50 other rooms just to see it at the very end.  It was really neat to see but, the whole room is overwhelmed with paintings.   It is hard to really get a grasp of what’s going on in all the works.  After the museum we got some phenomenal gelato and finished the evening up walking around the city.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hostel to call it a night and pack for our flight in the morning.  

I can really say I now really appreciate the Roman and Italian culture.  My first experience of Italy was Milan where we had a difficult time adjusting to the city, the people, and the Italian language.  Now, it was like second nature to us.  I didn't really notice a language barrier at all this time as it is so similar to Spanish.  You could always get a general idea of what was going on, especially if you were reading something in Italian.  Plus, EVERYONE spoke English.  I could not believe the people from the store workers, waiters, and everyone in between spoke English.  I saw more American tourists in Rome than I have any other city in Europe.  I have been so fascinated by the Roman history and culture that I have been Wikipediaing like crazy random facts and history of Rome.  I really hope to return again sometime and utilize actual tour guides instead of kind of winging it like we did.  The whole city is like one huge Museum and I strongly recommend checking it out if you get a chance.  

Me infront of the Colosseum

Trevi Fountain
Me in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
One of the rooms leading to the Sistine Chapel 
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican
Inside St. Peter's Basilica

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