Whoever said travel day is stressful, you’re not wrong. After an exhausting Monday morning flight from London to Rome, we made it. At least I can unpack a little! We stayed at the Grand Hotel Palatino, not far from the main sights of the city. It was very nice and modern. The itinerary for the week was heavily packed, with orientation every morning, walking tours after, and then dinner, with maybe an hour break in-between each event… I was already tired from reading the schedule. That Monday, the day we arrived in Rome, I decided to take it easy and just relax. I had to make sure I was ready for the adventures of the week. We had an amazing first night dinner at Le Terme del Colosseo. It was my first real taste of Italy and we got a three course meal. Learning experience of the day: Italians like to separate their food in dishes. Dinner doesn’t come out all at once. It’s courses. You’ll never seen a lot of meat and pasta in the same dish. For example, spaghetti and meatballs IS NOT A THING in Italy! It’s an American twist. In Italy, the first dish could be spaghetti and sauce, and the next dish would be just meatballs. Our first course was ravioli with ricotta cheese and spinach and tomatoes. Then, chicken with salad and mashed potatoes. I have to say, the mashed potatoes were probably the best i’ve ever had, even compared to the homemade ones at home (sorry dad). To finish, the best tiramisu ever. After dinner, my friend Siobhan and I decided to walk around by our hotel. We saw a beautiful large archway with steps and decided to go check it out. We walked through and then took the street to the right. We turned a corner and I stopped dead in my tracks. Right in front of us was The Colosseum. I cannot believe my eyes. One of the most massive and beautiful ancient sights was right in front of me, and a block away from my hotel. The Colosseum was the #1 sight I was beyond excited to see, and the fact that I accidently just stumbled upon it taking a causal walk after dinner made it 100x better. It was an amazing surprise. I took some pictures, and just sat on a bench for a good fifteen minutes just staring. I can’t express how amazing that moment was. After some time, we headed back to the hotel and decided to call it a night.
The next day, on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning we started off with an amazing breakfast buffet offered by the hotel. Cereals, eggs, bacon, fresh cold cuts, cheeses, and more were sprawled out all over a huge, elegant dining room. After stuffing my face, I headed downstairs to a meeting room for the first day of orientation. I got all the information needed, from academic information to housing, and they even gave us a mini Italian lesson. I have to say, it was hard to pay attention because I was itching to get outside and go explore Rome. After orientation, I grabbed a quick lunch with some friends, and got my first ever taste of real Italian pizza. Sorry America, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat your pizza again…..okay that’s a lie, but NOTHING compares to the pizza here. We met back at the hotel, and we were separated into groups for a walking tour of Rome. Today, we were visiting Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps), S. Maria del Popolo, Pincio, and the most exciting sight of the day for me, the Trevi fountain. Our tour guide was AMAZING. Francesca was so passionate about the history and art of Rome, it put a smile on my face to see someone love something so much. I am not into history and art much, but with the way she spoke, I was right in front most of the time and all ears taking in all the new information I was learning. Visiting the Trevi Fountain was the highlight of my first day in Rome. I definitely had my Lizzie McGuire moment tossing a coin over my shoulder into the fountain. Dinner that night was at La Gallina Bianca, a typical Italian restaurant, and consisted of pasta with cheese and bacon for course one, beef strips with artichoke and mint for course two, and ended with gelato for dessert. I crawled into bed soon we got back to the hotel, extremely tired from walking over 9 miles exploring Rome.
Wednesday: day two in Rome. All our mornings started the same: breakfast, orientation, time for lunch, and then a walking tour, and then dinner. Todays adventure was Vatican City. Vatican City was #2 on my most excited to see places in Rome. We visited the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The second I entered the city, I realized that I definitely was not in Kansas anymore. The place was beyond beautiful. The architecture, the sculptures, the paintings; everything was just breathtaking. We learned about the history of Vatican City, the Christian religion, and about the different types of art around the museum. We learned about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the meaning behind the different scenes and people, and until you walk in there, you will never understand how absolutely stunning that piece of artwork is. The fact that I saw such a massive painting on a ceiling made my MICHELANGELO himself, made my whole trip already worthwhile. I had no words walking in there. After that, we had some free time to explore St. Peters Basilica, and I wish I had more time to of been able to really take everything in. The place is massive, and of course covered in hundreds of different paintings and sculptures . As a Catholic, being able to pray in Vatican City was an experience I value greatly. We met back up with our group, and headed back to the hotel for dinner. Tonight was rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce and bacon, chicken with roasted potatoes, and then chantilly cream with chocolate to tie it all together. After, a bunch of students from my program and I all hungout in the lobby of the hotel, just getting to know each other and meet people. Time went fast, and before I knew it, it was almost midnight. Time for bed.
By Thursday morning, I have to say I was beginning to get very tired. The constant running around and the massive amount of information we were receiving was a lot to handle. I was ready to go to Florence, and be able to settle in. But, I was only in Rome for a week, so I quickly composed myself into having a positive attitude and was ready to take on the day. Todays tour itinerary was visiting the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and the Vittoriano Monument. We also visited city hall and learned a lot about the way the Romans handled politics and working in the city. Walking past the ancient ruins was shocking to see. The craziest part of it was seeing how some ruins were not at the ground level we were at. For example, one of the ancient temples had its front doors about one story higher than when we were standing. This is because so many years ago, the ground level was much higher than today. I found that fascinating. As we were heading back to the hotel we passed this ancient ruin “garden” that was in the middle of a square. As we stopped to look at it, we noticed there were dozens of cats walking around and lounging out in this area. An animal rescue program would rescue cats and take them to this large area to live. They had a lot of space and places to play. The best part, was if you saw a cat you liked, they had a little office you could go to and adopt one! Yes, I almost came back with a new cat…This tour was shorter thankfully, as the sights we were seeing this day were closer together. We headed back to the hotel and I took an amazing nap for dinner. What’s on the menu tonight? Well, i’m glad you asked. Dinner consisted of barley soup, meat rolls with prosciutto, and panna cotta for dessert. It was my first time eating panna cotta, and it is now one of my favorite desserts.
Friday. Our final day in Rome! Thankfully, today we had no orientation, and our final two sights were the Colosseum and Fori Imperiali. I was extremely excited to finally be able to go see the inside of the Colosseum. After getting there a bit too early, and having to impatiently wait for almost a half hour, we finally got to go in! The structure of this place was insane. We learned how they used so many arches in their design structure, and that’s one of the main reasons why most of it has been so sturdy and lives to this day. We learned how the gladiators would train, the fights, and the audience. Each social class had their own area inside the Colosseum. The lower levels were for important and rich men, while the higher levels with no seats were for lower class people and women (since women were considered much lower than men at the time). As I trekked around the massive structure, I don’t think my mouth could of hung open any wider in awe. After a semi short day, we headed back, and I anxiously packed my suitcase ready to leave for Florence the next day. Some friends and I hungout around the hotel and we all ate our final dinner in Rome at the hotel dinner buffet. Having to be up early for a four hour bus ride the following morning, we headed to bed super early, ready to finally travel to our home for the next few months.
To find out about the first adventures in Florence, I guess you’ll have to tune into my next blog post 🙂 Ciao!