Sunday, September 18, 2016
It’s 7:30 PM on Sunday night, and I just returned to home in Florence from an exquisite weekend in Rome! Sasha, VD, Olivia, and I had a wonderful weekend getaway to one of the world’s most well known cities; Sasha will remember her 19th birthday celebration fondly. Although we were only there for three days, it felt like it was a week! We walked approximately 20 miles this weekend. It helped make up for the gelato tastings once, twice/three times per day 🙂 Here’s my travel recap:
Our train left from Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station at 8:17 AM on Friday morning. We had a comfortable booth to ourselves, so we faced each other for the hour and a half long train ride. Unlike almost all the other passengers on the train, we talked and laughed throughout the short journey. We each talked about how our parents met and how they are all happily married now. We hope that we’ll get there someday far away. We traveled via Italo on a fast train. We went 250 km/h for practically the entire ride (145 miles); that’s about 150 mph!
We arrived at Rome Termini Train Station around 10 AM. We took a roundabout route (courtesy of Google Maps) to our hostel, Generator Rome. It opened just this month, and it was very clean and nicely decorated. I would’ve guessed it was a hotel if I hadn’t known. We dropped VD’s suitcase off, but Sasha, Olivia, and I held onto ours until we could check in.
From the hostel, we went straight to a cafe called PA.PO Bistrot. VD and I had Nutella toast, sandwiches, and a yogurt parfait with a cappuccino, and Sasha and Olivia sipped on smoothies. It was the perfect lift for our first day in Rome. After breakfast, we headed to the Trevi Fountain. I associate this fountain with the The Lizzie McGuire Movie. It’s an all-time favorite of mine, and I clearly remember the scene when Lizzie throws a coin into the fountain and her wish comes true (well, sort of). It was surreal seeing it in person. The filtered water is so blue, and the statues are mesmerizing to look at. It was very crowded, but we got another tourist to take our photo.
Around 1:30 PM, we made our way back to our hostel (30 minutes from the Trevi) to unpack our bags in our dormitory. There were two sets of bunk beds, a toilet room, and a shower room. No towels, soap, shampoo, or any of that jazz in the room, but we did have comfy blankets and sheets to make our own beds. We slept in our beds for about two hours to recharge. As everyone knows, traveling is exhausting! We got ready to leave around 5 PM, and Olivia found a place to eat on her phone that we wanted to try out. Turns out we ended up in a not so nice part of Rome. There was graffiti everywhere, beggars on the streets, run down buildings. We walked through a tunnel to get there, and it drew the line between the two different parts of the city. We poked around the streets for a little while before making it safely back to the other side of the tunnel (before it got dark). We won’t forget that experience! We always know to anticipate unexpected places when traveling somewhere new; it’s one of the best aspects of traveling.
We were very hungry after that excursion, so we sat outside at a cute restaurant we spotted on the street. I had an extremely satisfying mountain of spaghetti and clams. It hit the spot. Everyone had pasta that night. We ate gelato afterwards, got lost trying to return to the Trevi, and ran in the rain back to our hostel. That was very memorable. We were soaking wet, running uphill on the slippery cobblestone, laughing, and dancing simultaneously on Via Rasella. I loved that.
We all showered back at our hostel, stayed up until midnight to wish Sasha a happy birthday, and had a very restful sleep. It was quite the first day in Rome.
Buon Compleanno, Sasha! We had another great day on Saturday. We didn’t end up going to the Colosseum like planned; instead, we went to the Villa Borghese Gardens. We stopped in at a church on our way. The ornate decorations fascinated me so much as well as the architecture and acoustics of the building. There was a woman at the entrance of the church with a baby in her arms and a cup in front of her; it wasn’t empty, but it was close to it. I don’t know what my thought process was in the moment, but I got my wallet and took all the change out of it. Olivia had the same idea. Hopefully we contributed to a meal for the woman and her baby.
The park was absolutely beautiful. It was a sunny day, and locals and tourists were out enjoying it. We walked around, admired the dogs, and took lots of pictures. Then we rented a four person bike for an hour. You can imagine how much fun the four of us had on this bike. We biked all around the park, smiled at everyone we passed (and didn’t end up hitting somehow), and reveled in the moment of being young, independent, and in Rome.
We ate at a cafe in the park, discussing how lucky we are to be doing this program. It’s something that will serve us well for the rest of our lives and an opportunity not every 18 year old gets. Our paninis were yummy, and the live violin was very soothing and relaxing. The four of us sat in serenity as we listened and watched our surroundings.
We rented a boat for 20 minutes after lunch on a small pond in the park. We were joined by couples, families, a huge goldfish, a turtle, and lots of ducks and geese. VD managed to make us go in circles for most of the time, but it didn’t matter. We spotted a bridge and groom taking wedding photos. My heart melted. I heard Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” playing in my head. So romantic!
After the park, we went back to the Trevi to toss a coin into the fountain and take photos. That was one of my favorite parts of the trip. After, we moseyed to the hostel to take another nap. It was greatly needed after our eventful afternoon! We got ready around 8 PM this time to go out for Sasha’s birthday dinner. We went to Alessio Restaurant and sat outside downstairs. We had pasta and pizza (I ate my first plate of lasagna here), and brownie and panna cotta for dessert. We told the waiter it was Sasha’s birthday, so they turned off the lights and brought her dessert out with a candle. The whole restaurant sang “Happy Birthday”; it was very special and memorable.
We went to a local bar after and talked to some other travelers, but we came back at midnight to go to bed. Sasha loved her birthday celebration, and I’m so glad we could all celebrate in Rome.
This morning we got up at 9 AM to clean our messy room and check out by 10. We had a croissant and cappuccino for breakfast then headed to the Colosseum. VD and I ended up going in because she couldn’t bring her suitcase; Sasha and Olivia had been before, so they watched the suitcase and waited for us (such good friends). We waited in line for about 20 minutes then walked around one of the Seven Wonders! Absolutely insane walking up the steep steps and taking in the view. We even waved to Sasha and Olivia from a balcony high up. I’m so glad we got to do that.
We passed the Trevi one last time and bought paninis before heading to the Spanish Steps. No one was on them because there was a stage being set up in front of them. We got a great view of them though! We sat on a doorstep and literally people watched for 45 minutes. We guessed where people were from based on their fashion and language. It was very entertaining and intriguing. We ate more gelato and took the subway to the train station around 2 PM. The subway moves a lot faster than it does in Manhattan, and there’s graffiti all over the train, which was different and pleasantly surprising to me. Our legs were shot by the time we got to the train station. We paid 0.70 euros to use the bathroom and sat at a restaurant upstairs to journal and reflect on the weekend.
We napped on our train that we caught at 4:45 PM and walked home from the station. I will remember this trip as my first traveling experience in Italy. I hope there will be many more to come! A big thanks to my nana and pop for helping to fund the weekend. I stayed within my food budget (barely), and room and transportation totaled to 120 euro. I promise to post photos of this trip when I have faster wifi! Until next time, Rome. xo ~e.