Abby Abroad: Reminiscing Roma
It's been awhile since I wrote a post, but a lot has happened since then! I've been home for a little over a month now after my program was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. I was devastated to have to leave Italy, but I was lucky to leave right before the rest of the country was heavily impacted by the virus. I am thankful for the time I had, the places I've been, and the people I met; it's just sad it ended too soon. I am keeping healthy and staying home, and finally found time to finish the last couple videos from my final weeks in Italy. So, if you're bored during quarantine, come along a virtual trip through Rome with me!
I didn't know what to expect of Rome, but I knew I wanted to visit. Luckily, my program planned a long weekend for us to go at the end of February, and they couldn't have picked better weather. Winter in Rome felt like May weather in Wisconsin. It was sunny and blue skies, making for the perfect weekend to sightsee.
After a 3 hour bus ride, we checked into the Monti Palace Hotel on Thursday night (HIGHLY recommend if you visit Rome-- it was right next to the Colosseum & the breakfast was definitely a highlight of the trip). We checked in and walked to Pizza Forum for an atypical Roman meal of pasta, grilled chicken and french fries (no pizza though).
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel which was so delicious and very cute! They had mini glass jars of jam and honey, pastries and a fancy coffee machine to make espressos or lattes. We packed a lot of sightseeing in today: first stop, the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain is normally very busy, but we arrived first thing after breakfast to avoid a large crowd. We visited the Spanish Steps, which were patrolled by officers who would blow their whistle at tourists who dared to take a seat on the steps. At the top of the steps was the Trinita dei Monti (Church of Trinity), which we visited before making our way to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was a former Roman temple, and now used as a Catholic church. The church was built in a circular shape with a hole at the top of the dome. There were several drains in the floor of the church to collect the rain that fell through the hole, and while we were inside, there were a few birds flying around! It's architecture was really different from any of the churches I've seen so far, and was also used as a model for the Duomo back in Florence.
Before meeting our group in Vatican City, we stopped to see the River Fountain in Piazza Navona and went inside the Sant’Angnese in Agone church in the square. We walked all the way to Vatican City, which was a great way to see the city. Vatican City was probably one of my favorite visits in Rome because of the rich art and architecture inside. Our tour included the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The museum showcased rooms of floor to ceiling frescoes which were commissioned by the Papacy throughout the centuries. They contained about 70,000 works of art, but about 20,000 of those are on display.
The Sistine Chapel was something everyone needs to see in person, pictures just don't do it justice. While photos are not allowed, we snuck a quick photo as we were leaving the chapel. The Basilica was beautiful and very large; on the tiles of the floor were markers comparing the size of other Basilicas all over the world to St. Peter's. None of them were even close to comparison (in size and beauty) to St. Peter's! Afterwards, we took the metro back to the hotel and ate dinner at La Taverna Cucina Tipica Romana Pizzeria and found the best gelato at Flor.
Day two in Rome began at the Colosseum where we toured the interior of the amphitheater and walked around the Roman ruins and gardens in the Roman Forum. Afterwards, we took the metro to the Borghese gallery and garden (which reminded me a little of Central Park) to eat lunch at the Rose Garden Cafe in the park. I unknowingly ordered a Roman salad, which looked like they took only the stalks of the lettuce leaves and drizzled dressing over it... would not order that again.
We met our group again for a walking tour of Campo dei Fiori, Ghetto Ebraico, and Trastevere. I left the tour towards the end to meet up with a friend from high school who was studying abroad in Rome. We went to mass together at an American Catholic Church, which was the first time I heard mass in English since I left. Afterwards, we had the best pizza I ever had at Dar Poeta and grabbed gelato on the way home.
Our last day in Rome, we packed our bags and took the bus to Tivoli to see Hadrian's Villa, which is a Roman archaeological site nearby Rome. Our tour guide's husband owned a restaurant in the city called, Ristorante Terme di Diana, and they prepared a family-style dinner for us. We arrived, and they continued to bring out course after course after course of delicious Roman cuisine. For dessert, we ate Panna Cotta, which was not a favorite, but I also am not a big jello fan.
We arrived back in Florence at sunset and walked our luggage back home. As we turned the corner at Piazza Santa Croce, we were welcomed to a sweet surprise! Our neighborhood was having a Chocolate Festival! Simultaneously, my roommates and I turned to look at each other and celebrated with cheers. The old Italian men standing a few feet away from us looked at us strangely, but we didn't care, we had chocolate to try! We bounced from one chocolate stand to the next tasting and purchasing treats. The festival attracted confectionaries from all over Italy, and it was the best chocolate I've ever tasted. I bought chocolate covered strawberries and ate them while we watched the cotton-candy sunset over Santa Croce. It was really a sweet way to end the weekend.