First off, I apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of days. Believe me, I’ve been dying to share my experiences! The dodgy hostel wifi has a different idea. Hang in there with me!
I arrived at my hostel in Rome later than expected. Hasn’t it always worked out like that? Actually, things have been falling into place in just the last second lately. The very last train ticket, the last minute before reception closes, the last ferry trip to the Blue Grotto…yeah, I think I’ll start knocking on wood now.
Rome certainly has a charm at night. The people seem happier, the buildings seem to sparkle just a little bit more. I’ve found that everywhere I’ve been, the city explodes past 9pm. Not to say that it turns back into a pumpkin during the day, but you can’t help but smile while walking past every artist and street performer on your way down the cobblestone.
When I arrived at my hostel Roman Holidays, I was immediately greeted by several friendly travelers, a welcome shot of Greek liquor and limoncello, air conditioning and clean linens. The luxuries of the world these days (I’m speaking specifically about the linens). I met this great guy named Gioros who lives in Athens who was very friendly as well as two friends who were traveling together. Both were twenty three, one of whom was going for her PhD and the other was already a sixth grade teacher in Los Angeles! They are superheroes. It was great to have some unexpected company that night since I assumed everyone would be in bed by the time I got there. It was certainly the most homey hostel I had stayed in yet and I was almost sad to leave!
I decided to spend the next day taking it easy and exploring the city. I’ve started to realize how important it is to take at least one day to walk around on your own and discover the culture and the atmosphere without a map to guide you. It’s also a good idea to get to know the main streets at least vaguely so you don’t get terribly lost every day. That usually ends up happening to me anyway though no matter what I do! I wandered off first to visit the famous Trevi Fountain, make a wish and toss in my coin. Despite the large amount of tourists flooding to the scene, I wanted to have my own special moment while there. It is possible. I closed my eyes, made a very well thought out wish and tossed my coin behind me. It was a Swiss coin that I had been given by a fellow traveler Anna in Venice. I figured it would stand out amongst the others and was better kept in those waters than the depths of my money belt.
I found that the lines in Rome were the longest of any I had seen. I was debating on what attractions I wanted to spend money and time on seeing in detail. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to walk to a few of them that evening and admire them on my own time first. I walked past the beautiful St. Peters Basilica and the Colosseum which were both so grand. I found it crazy to think about a time when these buildings weren’t tourist attractions, they were just an every day part of the city scape. I’m sure it’s still like that for the locals, but I doubt the novelty or the beauty ever wears off for them. How could it? Once again, another city with stunning architecture at every turn.
I think I had gelato more than twice that evening before heading back to the hostel. Yes, my first day was simple but beautiful and I was beginning to fall in love with the random encounters I would run into when I least expected it. For instance, this guy was walking around with two budgies he named Julia and Alexander. He walked up to me, placed them on my head, grabbed my camera, snapped a photo while telling me it was free of charge and then left.
I chose the Colosseum and the Vatican as my two destinations for the next day. I had met a guy staying at my hostel named Edsel. We got to chatting and decided to see the Vatican together that day! He’s close to thirty and has his degree in English Literature, living in South Carolina. I’ve been trying to spend at least one day wherever I go with new friends. We didn’t talk too much, but even the comfortable silence was nice and it was a change to have a walking buddy!
The second we arrived at the Vatican, it started to pour rain. It was the first time I had seen rain since I left so I think a nice down pour was needed. Below is a photo of the Basilica seconds before the rain started to fall.
The Belvedere Torso
The Vatican is a never ending building. I spent a solid two and a half hours admiring the paintings and artifacts and I’m sure I could have spent an entire day there! It’s the large murals that get to me the most. My favourite of course was the famous ceiling painting by Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam and other leading painters in the Sistine Chapel.
Edsel and I parted ways after the Vatican and I headed to the Colosseum. I ended up taking a tour so I could skip the massive lines and to be completely honest, I listened for a while and learned some interesting facts then I ditched the group. It was all too rushed and I wanted to walk around and get my own feel, like usual. Some of the Colosseum had been restored while there were other parts that were completely original and you could see the difference. I was surprised to hear it was finished in only eight years! Eight. The amount of time it takes to finish all these paintings and buildings is astonishingly short.
On the way to the direction of Celeste’s hotel, I got lost. But the beauty of getting lost is that it always leads me to something amazing. This time, it wasn’t a cute boy giving me a ride on his Vespa (and that was certainly a highlight), it was this great group of kids singing and dancing to Colombian music (and quite well, I may add). It was such a ball and the happiness was infectious! I loved every minute of it! If you’re interested, check them out at http://www.migras.org
Finally, it was time to see a familiar face and thank goodness. I was skipping all the way there and her hotel couldn’t have been closer to mine either! What a reunion that was! I admit, I cried a little bit and held on a little too long. It was refreshing to be around somebody that I naturally connected with on a best friend kind of level. We all know the kind. The one you really only have with a soul sister. Her and her Mamma and I had a great dinner at a rooftop garden then Celeste and I went out on the town to (you guessed it), have some gelato. If you cut me open, I would bleed gelato. I’m telling you right now. We even headed back to the Trevi fountain and got to make a wish together which is something I’ll always remember. The time may have been short, but every minute of it was perfect and we couldn’t stop repeating “We’re in Rome. Together. I can’t believe we’re in Rome.”
I had one final day there and spent the morning photographing and the early afternoon visiting the Tivoli Gardens. I’ve been finding lately that it’s a very difficult task to take someone’s photo without them scowling, looking away and becoming less candid, or mumbling Italian profanities. It’s a test on my end, that’s for sure. It’s forced me to take a closer look at the body language of the people around me. Sometimes I think it tells a lot more than a face does.
I didn’t realize how far away the gardens actually were. You may recognize this setting from a few movies (okay, of course The Lizzie McGuire movie is one of them…I know you all thought of it). I expected the gardens to be a lot bigger and a little brighter but there were some really neat fountains and it was definitely a peaceful atmosphere.
With a Zen mindset, I headed back to the train station and ordered a ticket to Naples. It was time to say goodbye to Rome and hello to the islands of Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi coast!
Cross your fingers for stable wifi and I can’t wait to update you all again soon!