We got to the airport in Rome and noticed right away that everything was more expensive here. For the most part, Spain was surprisingly inexpensive. Except the crazy expensive drinks. We got on a train to our hostel/apartment. At first I was confused about the train and the metro and whether or not they were the same thing. Future travelers - trains, trams, trolleys, and metros are all very different lines!
We booked our stay in Rome through hostelworld.com but it was really more of an apartment run like a hotel by two brothers. We found our building easily but then didn't know which button to push to contact our host to get in. A woman walked out of the building and we asked her if she knew how we could find EnvyItaly Hostel and she took us straight to the apartment.
One of the brothers, Angelo greeted us very happily and showed us the room. It was big, clean, had a full size refrigerator and TV, and our own bathroom! We were just south of the Vatican and could even see the dome of St. Peter's Basilica from the outside of our apartment.
We got settled then met Angelo back in the kitchen. He introduced us to the French couple staying in the other room in the apartment then gave us a lot of helpful information. He gave us a city map and talked us through everything. He circled all the bus stops, grocery stores, good restaurants, and all the sights and activities. He also had a typed up sheet to go along with the map and had numbered all his favorite restaurants etc nearby. He was super helpful and super nice! We noticed that what we would call a bar, they call a pub - not a bar. To them a bar is a cafe, like a coffee bar.
We walked around the area to try to find some groceries since we had a lover stay and a fridge. Every place we found just had fruits, veggies, some bread, and wine. We started to wonder if that's all people eat here.
We met my good friend from high school Lindsey for dinner and gelato. She is doing a month long study abroad program in Rome through Mizzou.
We met her at a place about halfway between her apartment and ours. We struggled a little to order and the waiter got really confused when I tried to order wine. The food was great! We thought we got up and went to the counter to pay but the waiter was not very happy when we tried to stand up and walk to the counter. A man sitting next us clearly thought we were stupid, scoffed at us and told us that we paid at the table. We just laughed and promptly left because we made things worse for ourselves.
Lindsey bought us gelato near her apartment after dinner and it was fabulous.
She also took us to the supermarket that actually had more than fruits, veggies, and wine. We bought some yogurts for breakfast, some water, and a bottle of wine. We also finally found some body lotion! We ran out of lotion a while ago and had been searching everywhere for travel size body lotion. All we could find was really thick hand creme and often not even in travel size. This supermarket had baby lotion so we got two tubes of it and my dry hands and legs much appreciated it.
We went back to Lindsey's apartment for a bit just to visit and see where she was staying. The apartment was really nice and the rooms were huge! She shares a room with another girl but they still have plenty of space! We FaceTimed my mom because she was dying to say hi to and talk to Lindsey. I think she told us at least 5 times while we were talking to FaceTime her when I saw Lindsey again. I could've just let the two of them chat, I didn't even need to be on the call!
We left Lindsey's and she walked a few blocks with us before we parted ways to go back to our apartment. We walked through St. Peter's Square to get back home. It was beautiful light up at night and fairly empty too!
We started our day bright and early at The Vatican. We had bought tickets the day before to avoid waiting in line. We got in to the museums super quickly and easily without any wait. The people waiting in line who didn't buy tickets in advance probably waited at least 2-3 hours to get in!
Finally, we reached The Sistine Chapel. Pictures aren't allowed but I had to sneak a few - it was too cool to not capture.
Next we went into St. Peter's Basilica. It is huge! We walked around for about 30 minutes before heading to the line to go up to the dome.
We paid the extra €2 to take the elevator up instead of the stairs. It was definitely worth it because once we reached the top of the elevator, we still had 300+ steps to go to get to the very top. The elevator took us to the inside of the base of the dome.
Then we followed the signs and tiny hallways to the very top. It was already a hot day and I was wearing jeans. I got super hot and sweaty and claustrophobic in these tiny halls packed with people. I was close to having a panic attack in one of the stairwells! Just when I thought it was over, we went down another hallway of stairs and the walls of the dome were starting to curve over! I was not a fan.
It was worth the hike once we reached the top!
We made our way back down and out to get some lunch. We went to place called Mary Pizza, just across from the apartment, that Angelo recommended.
After changing into some shorts, we navigated the buses and made our way into the city center for the afternoon. First stop, the colosseum.
Even though there were no signs, we got yelled at by security for using the GoPro stick to take some wide angle selfies. I know some music festivals back home have banned selfie sticks because people were getting hit in the head with them and they were blocking people's views etc, but I didn't see why it was a problem here. Probably 80% of the people in the colosseum had some form of a selfie stick or GoPro pole and most got away with taking their pictures.
We listened in to a few tour groups in English to learn a little more about the colosseum as we toured the levels.
On the second level, a few parts of the structure jut out and make little balconies with great views. We could see the city, the Arco do Constantino, and the Roman Forum (old ruins) from these little balconies.
We got some great pictures from the outside too! We picked a good time to go see the colosseum because it had cooled down a lot from earlier and I think some of the crowd was gone too.
Since we got such an early start to the day, we decided to keep going and pack as much into one day as possible!
We started off toward the Trevi Fountain. I knew it was under construction but I was still so disappointed when we got there and saw all the scaffolding.
My cousin Caitlin recommended a restaurant called Il Peperone for dinner so we tried to find it. We found its location but unfortunately it's a different restaurant now. We decided to have dinner there anyway because it was getting late and we were getting hungry. The spaghetti was pretty good!
We found our way home on the city buses and went to bed with another full day the next day.
I woke up in the morning with huge bug bites all over my left leg! I figured they had to be mosquito bites from dinner the night before but they were bigger and more inflamed than any mosquito bites I had ever had. They were so itchy and painful!
Addendum: It is not November 2, 2015 and I STILL have slight scars left from these bug bites!!
We made our way to the Spanish Steps next. In the summer there are usually flowers out on the steps but I think they just hadn't put them out yet. The fountain at the steps was fresh mineral water that you could drink straight from or fill up your water bottle.
We walked back towards the colosseum and the Roman Forum area to check out all the ancient ruins.
Afterwards we met up with a family friend for a yummy dinner and some wine.
After dinner we visited Piazza Navoria. It was very similar to Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The vendors here seemed to be a lot more afraid of the police than they were in Madrid though!
We stopped for some gelato on the way home and went to the same place that we had gone win Lindsey the night before. I'll miss daily gelato!!
After another long day of lots of walking around town, we made our way home. I made some makeshift calamine lotion by crushing up aspirin with water and putting it on the bites to hopefully help with some of the inflammation.
We fell asleep right away because we were so exhausted and had to pack and leave in the morning.
We packed up our bags and had some yogurt for breakfast in our room.
We went to check out and pay our host for our stay but he only took cash and we didn't have enough. Angelo told us where the ATMs were and that we could just leave our bag and take our time. Check out time was at 10am but he told us we could take our time and get some coffee and explore a little more before we came back with the cash to check out.
We got some cash and also stopped at the pharmacy for some hydrocortisone cream for my bites.
We made our way over to the nearest train station, Roma San Pietro, to go to Termini Station to catch the train to Florence. We needed to get to platform 5 for our train, but it was blocked off from the entrance we came in through. We went up to platform 6 and were fanatically running trying to find a way to get over to platform 5 before our train left us! We finally made our way around and found out train car.
Our seats were in a little group of four seats facing each other with a table in the middle which was nice. We were assigned the seats across from each other and two ladies that were together were assigned the other two across from each other. My Spanish skills came in handy again here because the women asked if we wanted to switch so they would be on one side together and we could be on the other side together. We agreed and they very nicely let me put under their seat since there was no other room on the train and my bag wouldn't fit under my seat on the window side. We had a quick conversation in Spanish about how hot it was and how here was no space on the train. They told me they were on vacation from Costa Rica.
We arrived at the train station in Florence and said goodbye to our Costa Rican little old lady friend.