When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

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I was really sad to leave the amazing city of Paris, but we were on our way to Rome- so I couldn’t stay upset for too long.  We had planned to meet up with two of Cindy’s friends who she met studying abroad since they would be in Rome the same time as us.  We met them at our hostel and checked in.  I have to say this was the dinkiest one we chose throughout our trip, but the owner was really nice and there was a full kitchen available for our use.  We decided to stay in a six-bed- me and Cin, her two friends, and another couple backpacking as well.  

I think hostels are perfectly fine when going with friends, but I don’t know how I like the idea of sharing a room with 4 other people when traveling with my boyfriend.  This couple was celebrating their graduation from med-school, and I guess with all the loans they accrued over the years, they had to cut costs somewhere.  They weren’t very friendly to say the least, but respectful in our close quarters at the hostel.

The day we arrived was rather a blur, as were all the days of traveling (possibly due to sleep deprivation and running throughout airports at 5am.)  Thankfully all the pictures are dated and time-stamped!  According to my photos, we visited Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel that first day.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold up, and it rained on and off throughout the day, with heavy downpours a few times.  We made the best of it since we weren’t prepared for the rain (I was wearing flip-flops, and  let’s just say I don’t have a good track record of wearing flip-flops in the rain; I held on to one of the boys for dear life!)  We explored Vatican City, the smallest country within a country, with its own currency and post office!  The four of us enjoyed St. Peter’s Square, admiring the outside work of the Basilica.  The quality of work was absolutely amazing- so much detail on each piece, definitely ancient Rome at it’s peak.

sistine-chapel-ceiling
After the boys were done joking around, we entered the Sistine Chapel.  You must be modestly dressed in order to enter, paying respect to the most recent Pope and all those in the past.  Once inside the basilica, it was a rather quiet place.  It contains the world’s largest collection of historical artworks, which makes sense since it is one of the oldest countries in the world.  I have to admit that the Vatican exceeded my expectations, it is such a beautiful place filled with more history than you can imagine.

vatican-city-5
The picture above includes the balcony and famous window where the pope delivers his blessings.  The announcement of a new pope also occurs from this balcony. The painted artworks on the ceilings were truly impressive- I was in awe.  The iconic image of the hand of God giving life to Adam, painted by Michelangelo is seen on the photo below (middle left).  Taking pictures inside the Papel Chapel of the basilica is prohibited, and guards stopped whoever they saw flashing pictures.  Don’t you wonder how so many images of the ceiling come up on google, I do.  Apparently the guards aren’t properly trained!  >> look here! haha.  Cindy sneaked in a great picture though!  We were pretty impressed with how the picture came out.  Paintings cover the surrounding walls, including the fresco The Last Judgement.
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Just look at that ceiling and all the golden touches.  I’d be surprised if it wasn’t real gold- only the best of the best was used, you could tell.
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Vatican City was a great way to spend a day in Rome.
 
Later that night, we decided to put away the history books and have some fun.  We asked the owner of our hostel for a recommendation for dinner, in which she suggested Merulana.  And what a yummy place this was!  I ordered a fabulous pasta dish; the noodles were cooked to al dente perfection.  I can honestly say this was the best meal I had in all of Rome.  Simple and amazing.  And the prices were great (about €8.5 in total for an overflowing dish of homemade pasta).  I spent the next 20 minutes or so in heaven eating it all up.  If only I could have brought my leftovers back home to the states!  We then decided to each order a Long Island Iced Tea, and boy we were wow-ed when our drink came out!  The waitress brought over an entire pitcher, along with 4 extra long straws.  We did not know what to make of this, so we got our drink on and watched the EURO2008 Soccer games.  The boys were so ecstatic when the team they were rooting for won.  We somehow ended up in a cab for about a half hour after the boys instructed the cab driver to take us to a club.  All in all, a very entertaining night to say the least.
drinks-at-merulana
 
The next day, after sleeping in and having an authentic pizza lunch, we headed straight to the Colosseum.  The surrounding area was nice, but the second I peaked my head into the main attraction (the interior of the colosseum), I was utterly astonished.  I was expecting something grand, but this exceeded all of my expectations.  The colosseum was built in the 1st century AD to be used for mainly gladiatorial contests, as well as for other public entertainment, such as mock sea battles, dramas, executions, and re-inactments of famous battles.  This free-standing structure has unfortunately suffered extensive damage due to earthquakes, leaving only part of the outer wall still standing, yet I was amazed by how much of it was still left.  Look  at those perfectly constructed arches- pretty impeccable.
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colloseum
 
Again, the weather didn’t hold out for us, and it rained as we attempted to see as much as the Roman Forum as we could.  The rain was rather heavy, and of course I was in flip-flops again, so I paid more attention to my gate than the ancient structures and ruins.  The forum is continually being restored and preserved, so it’ll still be there next time I go.  Notice the ruins of the columns on the right hand side of the picture below.
roman-forum
 

We devoured some gelato in front of the colosseum, and our day was complete!

The next morning we said goodbye to the boys- they were venturing off to another city that afternoon.  Cindy and I wandered around Piazza Navona for awhile, which was full of tourists examining the three stunning fountains, fine buildings, and beautiful church, with many eating in open-air cafes.  There were many artists willing to paint people, and we watched one puppeteer who was absolutely hilarious, and sang Michael Jackson.  Next stop, the Spanish Steps!

piazza-navona
spanish-steps

Of course we got some gelato before taking a seat on the Spanish Steps!  It was so nice and relaxing to sit for a while and eat our gelato, while people watching.  I am pretty sure eating is now prohibited on the steps.  Not surprisingly, these are the longest and widest steps in all of Europe!  

spanish-steps2
 
After enjoying our gelato and taking a few photos, we headed to the piazza at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna.  We viewed the fountain at the base of the steps, and walked over to the Trevi Fountain!  This fountain can be argued as the most beautiful and famous fountain in all of Rome.  The sculptures among the fountain are amazing, with the central figure being Neptune, god of the sea.  We inched our way to the base of the fountain [it was so super crowded], and tossed a coin over our shoulder with our backs to the fountain.  Let’s hope this brings us back to Roma one day!  We took a picture tossing the coins in, but the camera failed. Technology fail!
 
trevi-fountain
We then walked around the Trevi square for bit, and headed over to the Pantheon.  What an amazing sight this was- with it’s large marble columns and thick brick walls.  At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which was the only source of light in the Pantheon during time of its use.  I was surprised by how much light it provided- the sun shown through the oculus so brightly, it was almost blinding to look right at it!  I guess they used their imaginations back in the day when electricity was not created yet!  The interior of the temple showcases tombs of the famous artist Raphael, and several Italian kings.  The marble floor, still the ancient Roman original, is comprised of a series of geometric patterns.
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A few more sights we saw somewhere in the mix of the few days we were in Roma:

Arch of Constantine          
arch-of-constantine                                                                   
Domus Augustana
 
domus-augustana
Clemens XII Pont Max
clemens-XII-pont-max

So after our few lovely days in Roma, we boarded the plane back to London.  Cindy showed me a few more sights, but by that time, I was so exhausted, I couldn’t take anything in.  We had to find a hostel fast for our last night since our other plans fell through (we were unable to stay with her friend), so we managed to find a $7 dollar hostel!  It wasn’t the greatest, but it was bearable for one night.  You get what you pay for!  And towards the end of our trip, we were definitely looking for ways to cut costs.  All we needed was a bed and a place to put our things.  We got a free buffet breakfast the next morning as well.  We had to lug Cindy’s suitcases out of storage to the airport- that was rough bringing two 50 pound suitcases throughout the city using public transportation.
 
I still find myself telling stories about my “adventures” throughout the different countries, being a part of the Cannes Film Festival, climbing the Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower, and exploring the Colosseum.  To my surprise, the language barrier was not too much of a problem (we used our small bits of French and Italian from 7th grade when we could).  I found myself drenched in history every city we went to; I was rather surprised I enjoyed it so much since I am in no way a history buff.  This trip has really greatened my passion for travel throughout Europe, and I hope I have the opportunity to travel to as many cities/countries as possible in the future.
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