Monday, March 1, 2010

roma: what a whirlwind.

Let me just start by saying...RO-MA RO-MA-MA! Just kidding. But we did do a lot of Lady GaGa singing this weekend.

I'm always a little overwhelmed about how to begin on these long weekend recaps when I don't get to do updates day by day AS I'm experiencing everything. To be honest, Rome just felt like a whirlwind. I loved it, but I never really felt like I was THERE, you know what I mean? Anyway, the trip started at 7 AM on Friday morning, when I was on my way to the bus...and realized that I'd forgotten my passport, which API had expressly asked us to bring (that we didn't end up needing...annoying!). So Sam and I both ran back to the apartment, up the hellstairs, and then back to the bus, where we got some of the WORST seats, all the way in the back. Oh, well.

I slept most of the way, after putting my headphones in. We arrived in Rome around 11 AM, and were herded off the bus, divided into groups, and sent off onto the most impromptu and unexplained tours, ever. I could hardly hear the guide, but I was having a good time just being there and seeing everything. We started in the Piazza di Spagna, where we saw...

the Spanish Steps.

Then we headed to the Trevi Fountain, where I, of course, took the cheesy shot of me throwing my coin in.

The fountain itself.

The Pantheon was also on our route.

The Piazza Navona.

Haha, the guide wanted to show us this statue really badly, but when we got to it, it had been covered for some reason. Apparently, back in the old days (technical term), when people weren't allowed to speak out against the Roman government, people would come in the night and write on these statues all over the city whatever they were thinking about, and then other people would write in response on other the statues were "talking" to each other!

There was also a market area called Campo di Fiore, and this little truck in there just amused me.

Flower stand in the market.
After the tour, we were all WIPED, so we checked into the hotel and I crashed for about an hour. I was ready to go after that, though, so while Gillian and Sam napped some more, Marissa and I went out for a walk. We stumbled upon a cute little bakery with the most DELICIOUS looking pastries, so of course we had to stop. I thought this was a cannoli, but I was wrong...still good, though.

We walked toward the Tiber River (Tevere, in Italian) and stumbled upon the isola in the middle of the river.

The sidewalk to the Isola was really pretty.

On the bridge, we came upon a man making copper jewelry by hand. I bought a copper ring from him from 6 euro. Pretty sweet.

Later that night, after Sam and Gillian had joined us, we went to an exhibit in the Piazza Cancelleria of drawings and remakes of Leonardo da Vinci's works.

The exhibit was very interactive, and interesting.

Water shoes! Remember, from the movie Ever After?

That night, we went in search of this mysterious restaurant where Gillian's parents had eaten while they were in Rome. After we made it all the way across town to where their hotel was, we found out that it was a lunch restaurant. Fortunately, Gillian had another trick up her sleeve. She took us to a restaurant on top of a building on a terrace, so we had a view off. The food was definitely good, but I wasn't totally WOWED. Apparently, when we were leaving, the waiter told my roommate Sam that I was beautiful, haha. We were totally exhausted at this point, so we retired to the hotel with a bottle of wine and just relaxed.
The next morning, we woke up super early to take advantage of the hotel breakfast without having to wait in a super long line. After breakfast, we were taken on a tour of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Look! That's me in front of St. Peter's, with The Jacket on (in spite of the ridiculous this-is-so-not-February heat).
There was all kinds of crazy art in the Basilica. It was beautiful, but a bit too ornate and overdone for my taste...but I guess that is the Baroque style. Me and my roommates just felt that it is a little hypocritical for Catholics to espouse the philosophy of living humbly and serving the Lord and then to have this enormous church full of priceless art and extreme wealth...but maybe that's just my cynicism about Catholicism talking.

Statue of St. Peter, and the line of Catholics waiting to touch his feet.

After the tour of St. Peter's, we were taken to the Castel of San Angelo, where the pope went in the past in case of emergency, for protection. The castle itself was pretty fascinating, but by this point, I was SO hot, sweaty, and thirsty that I could barely pay attention to the guide. I needed a restaurant, and fast.

This was the view from San Angelo's onto the city of Rome. Pretty inspiring.

After grabbing lunch at a salad bar that API had recommended in the Vatican area, we realized that none of us knew where the Sistine Chapel was. If you had asked me, I would have told you that it was in St. Peter' wrong. We guessed that it HAD to be in the Vatican museum, because there was just nowhere else on the map that it could possibly be. Fortunately, we were correct. Most of us thought that we would buy a ticket, walk in, and be able to go directly to the Chapel....wrong again. We walked through hall upon hall of art, and honestly, by the end, I was just walking without even looking. I had come to see the Sistine, dammit, and that was what I wanted to see! I was especially enraged after the final room was full of MODERN about a non sequitr! Some of the art, though, was pretty incredible. The photo below is Raphael's School of Athens, which is immensely famous, my roommate Marissa explained to me.

There were all sorts of tease-y signs like this, making us *think* that we were about to finally see the Sistine Chapel, but every time we just walked into another art-filled room. I think it was Gillian who said, "I feel like I'm going to need someone to tell me when we're finally there." There was a lot of "Are we there yet?" -ing and we were all relieved to finally get there. I snagged a seat on one of the benches along the walls, and honestly, almost fell asleep looking at the ceiling. I don't have a lot of religious education background, so a lot of the pictures didn't really make sense to me, but it was still pretty incredible that one man had painted the entire thing...solo. Also incredible were the guards in the room...but incredible in an inappropriate way! They kept shushing the crowd so loudly that their shushes would ECHO. They must have had some serious lungs of steel, but it was definitely a mood killer. And talk about hypocritical. I've always had a problem with shushers, though. Do you really expect huge groups of tourists to enter this hugely famous chapel and remain entirely silent for upwards of twenty minutes? You, sir, are kidding yourself if you do.
Oh, blogspot, uploading my pictures in reverse order again.

This is the salad I ordered at Insalata Ricca. The Tropical Salad, with mango, avocado, crab, lobster, sesame seeds, pine nuts, corn, and oil and vinegar dressing. Not AMAZING, but definitely light and fresh like I needed after the ridiculously hot afternoon.

After the Sistine Chapel, we intended to go to this coffee shop near the Pantheon that our tour guide had supposedly told a girl the day before that it had the best ICED coffee in Rome. Now, we have yet to see iced coffee in Italy, so we definitely went to check it out. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The guy looked at me like I had two heads when I asked, so we settled for a cappucino at a different bar on the way back to the hotel.

Roomies on the bridge. Look! It's The Jacket again!

Just a shot of the Tiber.

That evening, after resting at the hotel for a couple of hours, we took API's restaurant recommendation for dinner, again and were very pleasantly surprised! The restaurant was very cozy and intimate, and the waiter was extremely helpful in picking out a bottle of wine for us. I had a pasta dish with fish (forget what kind!) and tomatoes that I was very pleased with. We were very proud of how Italian we were, since we had arrived after 8 PM for dinner instead of at 7ish like we usually do (the Italians eat MUCH later than Americans!) and then sat there, enjoying our wine and just chatting for a long time.
After dinner, Sam and I decided to check out the nightlife in Rome. I'll spare you the gory details, but we went to a bar called Sloppy Sam's (and you can bet that Sam got a lot of mileage out of that) where we met these Scottish guys who were literally wearing kilts. There were a lot of them in town for the weekend rugby game against the Roman team. We got bored around 2 AM, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.
The next morning, we had to check out by 10 AM, so we got up early for breakfast again, and then packed up our stuff and got out. We only had a little time before we had to be back for the bus tour, and Sam was feeling the effects of the night before, so we just got an espresso at a caffe and mostly just chilled. I did get Marissa to take a shot of me in the Piazza Navona, though, one last time.

Me enjoying my uber-expensive latte. They definitely overcharge you for table service. If you think having to tip 15-20% is a big deal, America, then think again!

Haha, Sam loved this red Vespa.

I was pretty bummed because there was this juice/smoothie bar next door to the hotel that we all really wanted to try. When we got to the bar on Sunday morning, however, it was CLOSED. Of course, when we walked past it again at 12:29 PM, literally 1 minute before we were supposed to be on the bus, it was open. We ran inside, but only Gillian managed to get her smoothie before the API directors told us to get our butts in gear. Sad day.

We went on a very whirlwind bus tour of the sights of Rome before stopping at the Colosseum. It was pretty cold and windy by this point, so it wasn't as great of a sight-seeing day as the day before had been, but it was pretty sweet nonetheless.
Little known fact: Did you know that the women had to watch from the highest level with the slaves because they were prone to falling in love with the hot, muscular Gladiators? Yeah. Also, the thumbs up/thumbs down thing in the movie Gladiator is all wrong. Apparently, giving a thumbs up means that you want the guy to be killed, because the thumbs up represents the sword being out of its sheath. When you do a thumbs down, you wrap your other fist around your thumb, to symbolize it being put away, and giving the man salvation.
Me inside the Colosseum.

Me and Sam on the lowest level, where the animals and Gladiators stayed until they had to go out and fight.

The whole thing was pretty intense. I was quite impressed that it was still standing after 2000+ years, and that we were still allowed to WALK in it.

Yep. I'm a ham. I swear it's genetic.

Just walking down a street in Rome..going to get a cappucino...hey, look, it's THE COLOSSEUM!
The ride home from Rome was uneventful, took us about three and a half hours include a 20 minute stop for food and bathroom break. I definitely had a great time, and the city was quite different than I expected. I had been expecting something dirty, overcrowded, and EXTREMELY touristy, but I got a taste of big city charm with a lot of historical themes woven in. A pleasant surprise, and I definitely enjoyed this weekend much more than my crowded and rushed experience in Venice.
The rest of this week is going to be a blur for sure...I have an essay due tomorrow that I have procrastinated on to the MAX, then a couple more days of classes before I leave on Thursday night for Innsbruck, Austria for the weekend! Stoked!


  1. Can't wait til you can be the tour guide! Look forward to when in Rome.......great travelogue. Looked good in the coat.

  2. you got lady gaga stuck in my head. again. she better not have a song for verona too.