Rome, Italy The Eternal City

Italy was a combination of many different things.  A good combination to say the least. It’s a country of food, romance, history, wine, and so much more, and I indulged in all of it. It was a trip that was so relaxing, but so fulfilling all at the same time. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was also strange because we had been planning this trip for months and the fact that it was already here was so exciting and crazy to comprehend!

Arriving to Rome was one of the more glamorous arrivals we have had. We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hostel. It was quite the adventurous car ride.  The driver probably drove way over the speed limit, he got entirely way too close to the cars in front of us, and he slammed on the brakes a few too many times for comfort. In the end we arrived safely, so it wasn’t that bad after all.

I was so relaxed at the fact I did not have to navigate at all and someone else was doing it for us, but the relaxation did not last long.  When we arrived to our hostel, we arrived to a place with no signs, actually they had nothing.  So during our first hour in Rome we almost died from driving and now our hostel didn’t exist. After searching for 20 minutes on every floor and no one to be seen, someone finally walked through the door. The man barely knew any English, so communicating was not easy, but we found the hostel, so that’s all that mattered.

When we finished checking in, the manager at the desk tells us that our bathroom in our room does not work so one of his friends from another hostel is coming to pick us up and we are staying there.  You can imagine the look on my face and the fear that was racing through my mind.  I have been in Rome now for an hour and a half and so much has already happened that made my anxiety level soar.

It ended up working out for us.  The manager’s “friend” came and walked us to our new hostel.  Our room ended up having a magical view of a plaza, we had a room to ourselves, and a nice room for that matter.  So all the times that I had freaked out during our first view hours there were unnecessary.

When we finished getting settled into our room we walked to the Colosseum. It was such a peculiar feeling being in a city, seeing the sights that I learned so much about in school.

I see these famous sights in movies and in books, but none of it does justice to being there.  The feeling of eating my first Italian gelato on the stairs of the Colosseum was magical.

We then had our first Italian dinner of many and it did not disappoint at all. For my first meal I had seafood risotto. It was inevitable that my whole entire trip in Italy would be about the amount of carbohydrates I could consume. I definitely ate way more pizza and gelato than I should have. But hey, when in Italy do as the Italians do.

The next day we made our way through out the sights of Rome. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Stairs, the most expensive shopping street in the world, and so much more.  The Trevi Fountain was an incredible sight to see.  Of course, I had to make a wish and throw a coin in. Stupid me though threw the coin in without making a wish, so I had to do it twice.

Wishing at the Trevi Fountain

The best part about being at the Trevi fountain was just sitting there, in the sun, and watching all the people.  It’s a warm feeling to witness so many people seeing this great monument for the first time and marveling in all of its charm.

Our first day in Rome was indescribable. We saw so much and we walked SO MUCH. I thought my feet would have fallen off if I walked any more. We ended it with our first Italian pizza and of course, another gelato.

The next morning we set off early on our tour of Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Isles of Capri and Anacapri.

Our first stop was Naples. It wasn’t the greatest or most beautiful place, but it was definitely good to see. We were there for around 30 mins and that was probably enough for me. The city is dirty and the people are on a whole different level of rude than the people in Rome.

After Naples, we headed to Pompeii. Pompeii was the ancient city that was destroyed and covered in ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It is such an eerie feeling to walk through these sights that are excavated and see all the ruins left behind.

You see the houses of the people who lived there. The streets they walked and the town that they lived in.  They even have excavated people from the ruins that were covered in ash and mud. Being in Pompeii and standing among the ruins was surreal. I was standing at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius, learning all about the history that surrounded me, and I was just at a lost for words. To be standing where people lost their lives, lost their homes and families was a feeling I can’t describe . I was basically in the midst of a live history lesson.

When we left Pompeii, we went headed to our hotel on the island of Sorrento for the night. As we were driving to Sorrento, we had some of the most beautiful views.  The sky was painted with blues and purples and we arrived just in time to watch the sunset. We watched the sunset from a balcony over looking Naples Bay with Mount Vesuvius in the foreground.

Views of the coast of Italy

That night, we had a complementary four course meal for dinner. One of the best dinners I have ate in a long time.  During our two day tour, we had more three and four course meals than I have ever ate in my life, and I loved every minute of it. I have the extra pounds to prove it.

The next morning, we went to the Isles of Capri and Anacapri. During this whole vacation I had one thing I wanted to do.  All I wanted to do was see the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a natural cave that was discovered by the Romans, but became a popular destination in the 1830’s. The cave is popular for its natural light phenomenon. When in the cave, the light from the sun reflects on the white sand and it makes the water have a neon blue effect.  The downside is that the way you get in the cave is all determined by the tide.  Our tour guide was saying the tours the day before were not allowed in the grotto because the weather would not permit it.

I was holding out so much hope to see the grotto.  When we arrive to the Island, out tour guide went to check if the grotto was open. For some reason, thank the Lord, it was open. It was one of the most magical things I have ever seen in my whole life. For the short minutes that we were in the grotto, it all seemed fake.  I could not fathom the thought that I was in Italy, in this tiny row boat, seeing the Blue Grotto. It was an opportunity only a handful of people get to see.  I felt like the luckiest person alive and still do.

Inside the Blue Grotto

As soon as we left the grotto, the weather started to get bad, and in less than 30 minutes they closed the grotto. It was a sign from God.  We were one of the first and last boats to go to the grotto and I could not have been happier.

During the rest of the day we explored the islands. We saw views from the very top of the island, to views from the bottom.  When the day was over we headed back to Rome for the night.

The next day, after much needed rest, we went to The Vatican.  We went through the Vatican museum. Seeing my fair share of museums, I quickly realized they are not the most exciting places for me. You really have to be in touch with your artsy side to enjoy it.  We walked through the Vatican and ended at the Sistine Chapel. I was slightly shocked by the Sistine Chapel. I had this idea in my mind of how it would be and it was nothing like it. But it is breathtakingly beautiful and such an incredible sight to see. You walk in, everyone is quiet, tourist are trying to sneak pictures and Italitan guards are walking around telling people to be quiet.

After the museum, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica.  This was an adventure.  Being broke college kids, we had two choices. We could either pay €7 and take an elevator to the top and only have to climb around 200 stairs to see the views or we could pay €5 and climb 551 stairs to the top. Our logic was if we climbed the stairs, we could save €2, get a work out, and be able to buy gelato or a bottle of wine.  You can see where our priorities lie.  Climbing all those stairs was worth it when we reached the top. From the top you can see all of Rome. You can see the beauty of the city from one place.

The thing we did not think about was the fact that once we climbed up the stairs, we would then have to climb down them.  You can sense my enthusiasm. It was fine though, I just rewarded myself with gelato afterwards.

We then took a free walking tour of Rome. It was one of the most knowledgeable and historical walking tours I have been on.  I learned more in the 2 hours I was on the tour, than in any class room.

Our tour guide explained Rome like a cake.  There are different layers of Rome and every layer explains a time in history.  From the beginning of the 1 century BC to modernism, Rome has every history and time period stacked in one city.

We learned about the Spanish Steps, the creations of the Trevi Fountain (which produces almost €4 Billion each year. And all of the money is donated to charity), the Roman Forums, the Colosseum.

After the tour was over, I felt so intelligent with all the history I had consumed. I felt as if I could teach a whole history class and not run out of things to talk about.

The next day, our last day in Rome, we did a tour of the Colosseum and then the Roman Forums. Just when I thought I had learned enough about Roman history, I found myself in another history lesson.

In the Roman Forums, we saw Julius Caesars’s home, his town square and even the sight of where he was cremated.  We also saw the prison where St. Paul and St. Peter were held before they were crucified.

During my time in the forums, I was bewildered by how the ground I was standing on held so much history.  The same ground that triumphant Julius Caesar walked on. I was basically living in the history textbook for a few hours and I loved it.

The Roman Forums explained how Rome is a city built on top of a hidden city.  People cannot dig into the ground with out finding new ruins to be excavated.  It’s a crazy thought to wrap your mind around.

Our next and last stop before we left was the Colosseum. It’s amazing to actually go into the Colosseum and see pictures of the original structure and how it looks now.  The original structure was made out of marble and when Rome was rebuilding itself many years ago builders took the prized marble off the Colosseum and used it elsewhere leaving the Colosseum as it is today.

My time in Rome, la cita eterna (the eternal city), and other parts of Italy, was nothing less than spectacular.  It was historically appetizing, full of alluring views and definitely the most fulfilling (enjoyment and food wise) trip I have been on and it wasn’t even over yet. After we left Rome, we headed to Berlin, Germany. Another city full of history.

It still feels like I am living in a dream and one day (2 months to be exact) someone is going to pinch me and it will all be over.

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