Wednesday, August 29, 2007


When I first left for my internship almost a year ago, the original plan was for me to finish my 6 months in Slovakia and then spend the rest of my time traveling including a trip with my sister. Well I've learned that nothing in life is ever certain and plans change while life is happening making it rather impossible to plan too much! I still had every intention and desire to keep my promise to travel with my sister Anela and so the planning began! (I swear I should become a personal travel agent) After looking at all of our options we decided that Italy was the best one because of its close proximity to Croatia and because we could see a lot in the short time that we had.

Our first stop was of course Rome! We managed to make it on a train into the city from the airport but not without witnessing quite the debacle; the train was clearly leaving as per schedule (and packed to the brim I might add) but this guy thinks he can stop it. He manages to hop on the train as the doors are closing with his baby carriage no less. Then he proceeds to press the door opening button over and over again, as well as the emergency button because well he left his wife and the BABY on the platform! It appeared that the train conductor wasn't having it so he just kept on and didn't stop the train. Again I found myself wishing I could understand another language because he spent the rest of the train ride huffing and puffing into his cell phone. I would have loved to hear his reasoning.

Anywho, we took a taxi to get to our hotel and for all their bad rep, this taxi driver in particular didn't rip us off. I spent forever and a day researching hotels in Rome and it really paid off because our place was amazing both for the price and more importantly the location. It was a cute little Bed and Breakfast located between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. I was all over the air conditioning after sweatin in the heat in Croatia which also continued in Italy.

Anela and I fell in love with Rome right from the first night. We went out for a walk and happened to come across an open air concert with opera and classical music in front of a beautiful church. Seemed like a big deal so we stuck around for a while. Then we went and found a cute little restaurant in a small side street close enough that we could still hear the music as we ate our pasta and drank our wine. Perfection! (and my new happy place as you can see).

The next morning was an early one because I was told that we should get to the Vatican very early in order to avoid the lines. In my mind I was prepared for a long wait, but luckily for us, the rest of the tourists slept in that day and we managed to go in right away, no line up whatsoever. I was absolutely amazed by the sheer size and magnificence of St. Peters Basilica. We bought a guide book on our way there so I tried to keep up with the significance of everything that I was seeing but after a while I gave up and focused on what was in front of me. The visit to the treasury inside St. Peters is definitely worth it, some of the pieces housed in there are incredibly old and represent very significant points in the life of the Catholic Church. The free audio guide was definitely a bonus! While in St. Peters we also went to the Papal tombs but opted out of going up to the tower because the line up had started to develop.

The rest of the day was spent at the Vatican Museums as we gawked over one masterpiece to another. I would strongly suggest getting the audio guide, I remember it being a bit pricey but well worth it. Unfortunately mine broke towards the end but they were kind enough to refund my money. I think my favorite part of the whole museum was all of the fresco's on the walls especially in the Raphael rooms. I think it goes without saying that the Sistine Chapel is amazing in a word. Anela took about a million pictures so I can always go back and pretty much relieve every piece in the whole museum.

All of that only bring us to about late afternoon of day 1 but it was enough to get our appetite going. When picking a pizza place in Rome however, make sure you stay away from the main streets. Our first pizza was pretty terrible (didn't think you could get bad pizza in Italy) but from then on we always picked a place on a secluded side street and it was always delicious. I say every time because that’s literally all we ate, and caprese salad. We got our fix!

For the evening events we headed to Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. I was blown away by Trevi Fountain, less all of the tourists of course. I had my only encounter with a mean Italian at a Gelato shop close to Trevi. So of course I’m craving ice cream, and more so than usual in the heat. Anela and I stop in this shop and there is what seems like a 100 different flavors. I ask the guy if I can try a little piece of the crème caramel before I go for the big scoop, standard practice in all ice cream shops I’ve ever been to. They even have cute little spoons that they designed specifically for this! But this guy says to me with a straight face “NO.” So I try again thinking he doesn’t understand what I want, maybe its my sloppy English and still he says no and adds “ You buy You try!” Anela and I were just floored and can’t do anything but look at him with our mouths open. Then he has the audacity to say “so you want to buy.” Yeah no thanks buddy, not from you. You’ll be happy to know that I did get very good gelato from the place next door and got to try it before hand as well! Italian’s do know their ice cream.

We spent our second day at the Coliseum area. Didn’t get up as early cuz Anela was starting to call me Hitler for cutting short her beauty rest. But then we ended up in a long line to get in. I heard that you can skip past the line if you do a tour so I hopped outside and signed us up for one. Unfortunately I don’t think it saved us any time because we just missed a tour and had to wait for the next one to begin. And in all honesty, I didn’t learn a whole lot more from the tour that the guidebooks didn’t tell me. I also wasn’t as blown away at the Coliseum as I thought I would be, and I actually liked the view more from the outside than I did from the inside especially at a cost of 21 euros.

Good part about doing the tour though was that it included another tour of Palatine Hill. This tour guide was a lot better and gave us a lot of interesting little tidbits that we can use for dinner conversation down the line! Like for instance did you know that the expression “short end of the stick” comes from the Romans use of a “toilet brush” or our form of toilet paper nowadays? Apparently, the brush part would fall off and all you were left with was a stick….it was dark….you fill in the rest. It could have all be a huge joke for him but it kept us entertained. Plus Anela and I received a personal tour of the Roman forum afterwards so all in all I guess we got our money’s worth.

By the end of it we were so exhausted from all of the walking and the extreme heat but I made Anela walk with me to Circus Maximus which turned out to be a big, dried out field. Needless to say she wasn’t impressed with me and insisted that I take a picture of it since I wanted to see it so badly. They should really leave that off the tourist map or at least put something on there to look at.

The rest of our time in Rome we walked around to some of the smaller monuments plus we tried to do a little bit of shopping. Both of us snagged some good Italian wine and I also brought back a big block of Parmesan cheese, olive oil and olives. I can say that we felt like we’d seen everything we wanted to see in Rome, plus we got to take in some of the culture. A lot of catching up was done over pizza, wine and fresh air! Our trip couldn’t have gone better.


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