Alternate working title: The City Of No Dryers* and Death Wish Drivers
I love seeing new places and having new experiences, so this year, I decided to travel to Rome. None of my friends were available for a last-minute trip, so I set out happily alone. I was in The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Turkey last year but staying in one city for my entire trip was so relaxing and so much better!
The trip started out on a bad foot (or should I say knee?). As anyone living in DC knows, the metro system is less-than reliable. Knowing this, I set out 30 minutes before I needed to be at my bus stop to catch the only bus that travels to IAD airport and leaves once an hour. Thanks, WMATA. This trip should have taken 15 minutes at most. It took me about 28. Given my tight window to make it from the metro station to the above-ground bus stop, I knew I needed to hurry. Of course the metro exit closest to the bus stop was closed that night. So I took the exit about three blocks around the corner. I got this…until I didn’t. While running up the street, pulling my suitcase behind me, with my carry-on bag over my shoulder, I tripped and fell – hard. I swear it was in slow motion. I remember thinking, relax, it will hurt less, just let it happen. And so I did. I will never take my own advice again. Two weeks later and I still don’t have full movement in my left knee. Again, thanks WMATA. Not only did I royally bang up my knee but I also got cat-like scratches all up and down my right thigh, accompanied by pretty green bruises. This was not the end of the damage. My nice leather walking shoes are permanently scarred as well. I was frustrated about getting hurt and that turned into anger after noticing the irreparable damage to my shoe. To add insult to injury, I, of course, missed my bus and had to take a cab to the airport. You owe me, WMATA.
Given the above, the 17hr flight to Rome was less than comfortable. It took me so long to walk through the airport to my connecting flight in Istanbul, I was happy to have a 3 hour layover.
But before that blessedly long layover, I had a little incident in the plane bathroom. I got locked in. While all the flight attendants were up serving beverages to passengers. Meaning, there was no one at the back to hear me knocking loudly, for 10 minutes. Thankfully, I was able to wake a passenger sitting in the last row who assisted in releasing me from my 2 x 2 ft confinement. Apparently, the outside handle fell off. Sabotage?? Just kidding, no one was out to get me. (That’s the official story anyway. There’s a movie in the works based on my experience. Probably starring Liam Neeson.)
Anyway…the rest of my trip to Rome was uneventful. Until I arrived at the airport and connected to the free wifi. I found several messages from my airbnb host and an airbnb Help person, worried about where I was. Huh? I totally sent her my flight times – 10:30pm arrival…until, wait, I’m in Europe, duh! She totally thought I was arriving at 10:30 AM, not 22:30. I messaged her right away and cleared that up. Of course, I arrived just late enough to miss the metro to her house so I had to take another taxi. That was a whole other experience in life-flashing-before-my-eyes.
Apparently drivers in Rome are all insane. This was echoed by locals that I met, so I know I’m not exaggerating. My taxi driver drove in the middle of the road. Literally, down the dotted line. He flashed his lights at drivers in front of him that were going slower than him and they got over to let him pass! I could see his speedometer from where I was sitting in the back and he never went under 140km/h! He sped through yellow lights when all the other cars stopped and he drove around pedestrians in the crosswalk. It was a little bit more excitement than I had hoped to have my first night in Rome. Thankfully there is now a better airport transfer service in Rome that wasn’t there when I visited and I totally recommend – Welcome Pickups! Pre-book and prepay and know you’re getting a safe driver! Worth it.
I also got to ride on the back of a motorcycle a couple of times which was equally as nerve-wrecking but oh. so. exhilarating.
Day 1 – Pantheon
My host was amazing and I was able to get a full nights sleep.
I don’t know about you, but I always forget body wash when I travel. Never fails. I ended up using shampoo the night before to get the travel grime off myself but I needed to got to the store and get some, along with snacks and breakfast foods – cuz I eat all the time. My host gave me directions to the nearest store and so I set out, without internet, to hopefully find a place I couldn’t pronounce the name of, with directions that consisted of, “Go out, go left, cross the road, go down around and it is two streets later.” Yup, got it. Actually, it was pretty easy to find. And I shopped – successfully! I had to confirm with my host that I did indeed get milk and cereal rather than possibly, cream and dog food…and she said that I did good – granola cereal and whole milk. It’s nice to start with a win.
The rest of the day was spent at the Pantheon, exploring the areas around my temporary home and drinking coffee at a couple of cafes.
For dinner, I went to a host-recommended restaurant around the corner for pizza. There, I met 4 old people sitting at the table next to me, fascinated with the fact that I was there alone and that the oldest one had never been out of Italy. She was 96. They were completely sweet and even shared their Suppli with me. If it weren’t for them, I would have never discovered that delicious, heaven-sent, delicacy consisting of a fried ball of rice with cheese in the middle. I ate that with my meal every day after. We need that here.
Day 2 – Vatican City
This day was rainy and grey. I, thankfully, purchased a ticket to the Vatican in advance since the line was two blocks long when I arrived. I was astonished by the amount of people there and the amount that kept arriving as I toured.
There were no pictures allowed in the Sistine Chapel but I did take some of the other areas. Honestly, I got lost so many times, I saw some places twice and I’m sure I missed others.
That night, my host asked if I wanted to share dinner with her, her roommate and a friend. Of course I agreed and she made some really good soup. While she was making the soup, I was attempting to chat with the three of them and the varying levels of English fluency. At one point, the friend turns to me and says, “You know, I usually can understand a lot of English but you, I can’t. You speak weird English.” Ummmmmm, ok. What does that mean? I’ve never been told that before but if that is the case and you all were just too nice to tell me, it’s ok, I forgive you.
Day 3 – Crypt of Cappuccini, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Bernini Museum & Pyramid of Cestius
The Crypt was my first stop and it was eerily awesome. There were no photos allowed inside so I only got the below of the outside of the building.
I then stopped at the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. I am grouping these two together since there were so many tourists that it was hard to enjoy either. Also, the Trevi Fountain was covered in construction materials which made it hard to see the structure.
The Bernini Museum was unplanned but the courtyard was so quiet and peaceful, I decided to take a slow walk around. That was also, in part, due to my inability to walk quickly, but still…
The Pyramid of Cestius was near the Porta San Paolo. This is the location of the beginning of via Ostiense, the road that connected Rome and Ostia and functioned as its main gate. I guess I was there on an off day because the gates were all locked and I wasn’t able to go in but I did take some shots from the outside. (Shots on my camera, not the other kind.)
I leave it to you to discern which is which.
That evening I met some locals that I had dinner with and did some after-dinner touring. It was great. Every person that I met on this trip was amazing, truly.
Day 4 – Lateran Palace & Colosseum
Did you know that the Pope lived somewhere else than the Vatican?! Outrageous, I KNOW! Well, I happened to be staying a short walk from the original living place of the papacy (papal order?). Here, I give you, the Lateran Palace.
Contained within this magnificent structure are the Scala Sancta aka Holy Stairs. According to the Catholic tradition, these are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the events known as the Passion. “The Holy Stair Must Be Climbed Only on One’s Knees”
My next stop was an eagerly awaited one. Again, I was very glad I bought a ticket ahead of time since I was able to skip the long lines and go straight to the Very Intelligent Person ticketing area. They most likely did not call it that, but I’m going to.
My tour included a guide walking us through the basement level and very top-level of the Colosseum. I was doubly glad I bought these tickets since both areas are closed to regular foot traffic and can only be accessed with a guide.
I was able to see the waiting areas for the Gladiators and animals that were involved in the games. They were let up onto the stage using a complex system of pulleys and levers and trap doors.
The top-level of the Colosseum afforded views of the Roman Forum and the Arch of Constantine.
For dinner, I met another group of locals that I hung out with. The people I met were seriously the best part of this trip!
Day 5 – Roman Forum, Palatine Hill & Church of San Clemente (no photos allowed)
The Roman Forum was amazing. I was completely overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was standing in the middle of such rich history. The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument was just past Palatine Hill. This building has a lookout courtyard on the top that they allow tourists to take advantage of. I took so many photos here.
This evening concluded with me meeting some friends I had made earlier in the week at the Food Truck Festival in a field near the Pyramid. I have to say, their “American BBQ” food truck was a little less than American, but overall, it was great. I got Suppli!
Day 6 – Around the City
My flight left early Monday morning so I spent Sunday just seeing a few things I missed. I also successfully gave directions to an Italian-speaking tourist on the metro! Excuse me while I pat myself on the back. It was a proud moment for me. If you know me at all, you know that I still get lost in DC (and I’ve lived here for almost 6 years!). Small wins, people.
Back to the sites…
Front of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument:
Opposite the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, the screened-in corner of this house was where Napoleon’s mom used to live and watch the horse races from her perch. If you look closely, you can see that the top of the building says ‘Bonaparte’.
More of the Forum on the other side of the Via Sacra (Sacred Road).
The Marble Foot. There is a small street in the Campo Marzio neighborhood of Rome’s historic center called Via del Pie’ di Marmo, or Marble Foot Way. It is named after a large marble foot perched on the side of the street that is all that remains of a colossal statue.
Elephant and Obelisk is a sculpture designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers in the center of the Piazza Navona in front of the church Sant’Agnese.
And last but not least, the outside of the Colosseum.
I can’t even say enough how much I enjoyed this trip and meeting the people I met (did I mention that was the best part?). Traveling alone is actually pretty great.
By the end of my trip, my knee was beginning to heal a little. The surface skin, that is. Until I was selected for additional screening before boarding my flight from Turkey to IAD. That is when a TSA agent aggressively checked my person for contraband and hit my knee so hard it began to bleed once again. Thanks, TSA. Annnnnd, my flight back was pretty unpleasant. Not to mention the lady next to me that had two seats but kept putting her feet in mine and then her friends would stop by to chat, leaning over my screen while doing so. C’mon people, plane etiquette is a thing! Compared to my other international flying experiences, this was by far the worst but not to worry, I don’t hold grudges for long.
Ciao until next time.
*seriously, no one has a dryer! It was explained to me that the weather is nice enough year-round that dryers are not necessary – everyone hangs their clothes to dry.