Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Italy: Rome

After a long, never ending night of no sleep from the annoyance going on in my right 
hand, I arrived at the train station, found my assigned seat and prepared for an hour 
and a half of a much needed nap. 

Well, that much needed nap never happened. The trains in Europe are arranged 
where there are two seats facing backwards, a table in front of each seat and then
 two more seats facing the table and the two other seats. Therefore, for an hour 
and a half I was going to be facing and sharing a table with two strangers. Not to 
mention, sitting next to a stranger.  Luckily these strangers, also known as my seat 
section sharers, didn't bite and ended up becoming my new Roman friends. 

For the next hour and a half we ended up chatting and I learned that my new found 
friends had names! Who would have guessed! Dipak and Erica were both from 
Chicago and on vacation. Their third party, who unfortunately I didn't get to hang 
out with because of that annoyance in my right hand, actually lives in Rome. 

We arrived in Rome around 11:00am. Dipak and Erica had already been in Rome for a 
few days and had the hang of the big city. They offered to walk me to my hostel. 
After I arrived safely, we exchanged information and made plans for drinks and dinner 
and said, Arrivederci! 

The front desk at the hostel gave me a wonderful map tour of Rome along with a 
walking route to the Vatican. That afternoon I had reservations for the Musei Vaticani
The walking tour I did was pretty impressive if I say so myself. 

Day One: Orange
Day Two: Blue

As I started my journey walking down Viale Enrico de Nicola I happened upon the 
Museo Nazionale Romano. I didn't have the need time to go in but I did take some 
photos of the entrance courtyard. 

After the mini courtyard shoot I headed down Viale Lugi Einaudi to the
Santa Maria degli Angel.

Directly across from the was the Piazza della Repubblica

I walked north on Largo Santa Susanna to Via Leonida Bissolati  to Via Vittorio 
Veneto, where I passed the United States Embassy, and then back south down Via 
di Porta Pinciana. The I walked north up Via Sistina to the Trinita dei Monti

I walked down the Spanish Steps, not realizing I was walking down the Spanish Steps
into the Piazza di Spagna. 

Still not realizing I had just walked down the Spanish Steps I headed down 
Via dei Condotti which is the Fifth Avenue of Rome. Every store, I couldn't afford, 
was on this street. Later I would take a little time to visit some of my favorites.
 But for now, I was on a mission to the Vatican!  

I headed back North on Via del Corso, where I started frantically looking for a slice 
of pizza after my stomach told me it needed food now.  I continued to follow the map
 to the Piazza del Popolo, because it said by the big fat orange highlighted circle, 
that I should see it.  By this time, the stomach was demanding food so I quickly 
walked the Ponte Regina Margherita. 

I stopped somewhere along Piazza Cola di Rienzo to grab a slice. I cut South over 
to Borgo Pio where I walked the rest of the way directly into the Vatican Wall. 
But, not without stopping for some gelato! Straight gelato day five to be exact.

This gelato was THE most amazing gelato I had on the entire trip. Cookie gelato. 
There are no words to explain how this melt in your mouth, chocolate chip cookie, 
in ice cream form tasted.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

I finished my cone at about the same moment I entered the Vatican walls. 
The magnificent, impressive, and gigantic walls. I passed through the arch and 
found myself standing directly in front of Basilica Sancti Petri in Piazza San Pietro, 
which I recognized from watching the Pope's speeches on TV. I was finally in the 
Vatican City. I had made it. 

I waited in a fast security line for access into Saint Peters Basilica. Once you enter, 
you have free range of the entire Basilica. The place was enormous. The ceilings 
were higher than anything I have ever seen in Italy. If it wasn't ornate or carved in 
stone or wood, it was covered in gold. 

My camera isn't built for dark settings and using the flash wasn't working so most of 
my pictures from Saint Peters are out of focus or too dark. It's such a shame. I had 
some great shots. It was a pretty spectacular sight, one which I was hoping to share 
more of. But, I would like to share some that are presentable.

After Saint Peters I headed around the Vatican Wall to the Vatican Museum. I was almost 
to the point where my exhaustion starts to turn to pure evil. I was at about "I might 
blow up if one more person cuts in front of me" state and figured it would be a good 
idea if I did the Vatican Museum quickly. That however was not the case. In fact it 
was actually impossible. It might sound a little like I'm complaining here, well that 
is exactly what I am doing. I am going to complain about my trip to to the 
Vatican Museum, in Rome Italy, In Europe. 

When making arrangements and reservations for my Europe trip (I might add I did 
a fantastic job, patting myself on the back) I didn't book a Vatican Museum tour for 
the specific reason that I did not want a tour of the Vatican Museum. Unfortunately, 
that is what I got. 

How do you ask, did I get a free tour of the Vatican Museum? Well, I visited. 
And apparently I visited during the "Vatican Museum Tour Hour." There were so 
many different tours going on at the same time you couldn't pass one like any 
normal museum and be free and clear. I literally pushed, probed, throttled, ducked, 
side swiped, jumped, squeezed, squished, squashed passed at least one hundred 
different tours. Of course not without getting many, very nasty looks and comments, 
in many very different languages. I didn't care. I was on my final mission of the day,
 the Sistine Chapel

Finally, I had made it. I was standing staring at the Sistine Chapel. It was all around 
me and I was so exhausted, annoyed and disturbed I couldn't focus and enjoy the 
fantastic room or art as much as I wanted to. I wanted to stay as long as I could. What 
felt like thirty minutes probably only ended up being three. It took me three minutes 
to look at the entire piece and bolt out of so quickly you could have seen smoke 
behind me. Not only was I exhausted, annoyed and disturbed, my right hand was 
becoming unbearably painful. 

Please note that you cannot take photos in the Sistine Chapel or else I would have been all over it! 

The first thing I did was find a bathroom. I actually stood at the bathroom sink with 
my hand under cold water for longer than I actually stood enjoying and examining 
this famous and incredible work of art. I couldn't believe it myself. I was so 
disappointed and in so much pain. I needed to lay down but I couldn't walk anymore.
 I hobbled over to the first bus I saw, which miraculously happened to be the correct 
bus, walked back to the hostel, asked the front desk for ice, showered and tried to 
sleep while icing my poor hand. 

Around 6:00pm I got up, dressed and headed for the free WiFi while waiting for
Erica and Dipak to arrive. We hopped on my first subway ride in Italy and headed 
towards Trastevere, which is the little adorable, cool, artsy, happening part of town. 

We got off at Circo Missimo and walked the rest of the way to Trastevere. We passed 
the South side of Palantine Hill as the sun was setting. 

We headed down Via dei Vascellari and discovered this cute little bar which had 
exactly what we were looking for, aperitivo. Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink in 
which most restaurants have a free mini buffet of food. Delicious food which 
include meats, cheeses, breads, pastas, salads.

 After two platters of aperitivo and a few glasses of Prosecco we decided we would like
 a change of scene. We were waiting on some other friends of Erica and Dipak's 
for dinner. However, we decided to go to the restaurant not knowing if there would 
be a wait. On the walk over, Dipak started telling me about the restaurant he was 
taking us to. Apparently Dipak is an avid watcher of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, 
as is my Father. This restaurant, Roma Sparita, was featured on the show.

I immediately got excited, not for the fact that Anthony Bourdain shot his TV show 
here but that the food was probably going to be some of the best I've had yet! Dipak 
was telling Erica and me about their famous pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe, which of
 course I had to try. 

The pasta is an egg noodle pasta with pepper and Pecorino cheese inside a Parmesan 
shell. Oh my gosh was it good. So good, even though my poor shrunken stomach, 
for not eating for days while sick, was about to bust, I managed to eat almost the
 entire thing. With a little help of course! Here are my two new friends 
Erica and Dipak! 

Yet again, my hand ruined another amazing event abroad. It started to bother me again.
 I left before their other friends even arrived. I called my parents, only for the 
emergency of course, to tell my Dad about the restaurant in which he interrupted, 
"You mean the one with the egg noodle pasta in the Parmesan shell, oh my gosh you
 ate there? I saw that episode! Did you have it? How was it? Oh my gosh I can't 
believe you ate there! I'm so jealous!"

Then I told them the real reason I was calling, my hand. After 24 hours it was 
getting worse. I explained the best I could to the Doctor who preceded to scare me 
by telling me I probably had an infection in which I needed to find a hospital that
 very moment. I explained that it was different in Europe and the pharmacy's 
could prescribe prescriptions without a doctor. I convinced them to let me go 
tomorrow morning if my hand wasn't any better. However, I remembered how 
painful last night was and decided, after I returned to the hostel that I 
wanted to go NOW. 

The girl at the front desk directed me to the closest pharmacy, which was only five 
blocks away. It was 10:00pm when I walked in and they were closing. I begged and 
threw my hand to the pharmacist who then looked at it and said something 
which sounded important in Italian. I explained, "I was bitten by something." 
She told me immediately what she was going to give me and to apply it 
three times a day.  

I asked if she thought it was infected and she looked me directly in the eyes and said 
"Yes, I think it's infected." I think I detected a silent "you idiot" at the end of her 
answer but blew it off for the fact that my hand was hopefully going to get better.  
I paid my nine euros and automatically started squeezing the cream all over the top 
of my hand and middle finger. I might have gone a little overboard but at this 
point, I didn't care. 

I headed back to the hostel and immediately fell asleep. And, I actually slept. 
Thank goodness!

On my final day in Rome I was able to sleep in until 9:00am! Did that happen? 
Of course not! When on this trip have I been that lucky? I woke up around 7:00am. 
I went down to the bar and ate a free breakfast the hostel provided and 
snooped the internet. 

Then, I headed out on my last adventure, the Colosseum! I made a reservation for 
the Colosseum tour because everyone I spoke to said if I were to take one tour, 
it should be the Colosseum. 

Note: Refer to blue path on the map above for my day two walking tour. 

I took advantage of my nice long walk to the Colosseum. For someone who loves to 
take photos as much as I do, I was surprised that I was utterly and completely sick 
of taking photos. I did manage to struggle through some shots.

I didn't even have to look at the map once I turned the corner towards the 
Colosseum because this was the view that I saw (see first picture below)! Once I 
saw the Colosseum I was excited to realize that I got a little camera happy again. 
Thank goodness because if I came home with only a few shots of the Colosseum
I would have been devastated. 

The Colosseum is so photogenic! I couldn't believe it when I uploaded the photos. 
There are so many different angles, materials, and colors that come off of this 
beautiful architectural being that I couldn't stop snapping away! Please bear with 
me during the collage of Colosseum photos. I couldn't pick just one. 

Of course I arrived at the Colosseum for my tour only in Alexis fashion, thirty 
minutes early.  My group waited around sitting on pieces of the Colosseum which 
were transformed into benches. Then our tour leader arrived, handed out these 
fancy little headsets and we were off.

I learned a lot on the tour but the one thing that really stuck out in my mind was that 
Pope Nicholas V, being the Pope and all, thought that the Old Saint Peters Basilica was 
in bad repair and needed mending. He ordered the demolition of the Colosseum,
 to rebuild the Basilica. By the time of his death, 2,522 cartloads of stone had been transported for use of the new Basilica. That my friends, is why the Colosseum 
looks the way it does today. 

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Colosseum as it is today, is beautiful, majestic, and 
by far the coolest thing I saw on my whole trip. However, being able to see 
the Colosseum in full would have been an unbelievable experience. To actually get 
the real feeling of what it was like to be a spectator or gladiator would have been 
such a rush. If you think about it, they could still have reenactments. We can only 
imagine what it looked like, and as much fun as that is, Pope Nicholas V ruined it for 
me. I will never forgive Pope Nicholas V. 

The City of Rome rebuilt a portion of the floor and a small seating section to help
 the visitors imagine what it looked like. 

Throughout the interior and exterior of the Colosseum, you will see precisely 
placed holes. These holes once housed wood and metal support beams along with 
metal hooks that were built into the walls for extra support in the stone. 

A view of Palatine Hill or Palatino from the Colosseum. 

I walked down Via di San Gregorio to the entrance of Palatine Hill and spent the 
next two hours walking around the archaeological site. 

Stadio di Domiziano.

Baths of Septimius Severus.

Baths of Septimius Severus.

View of the Colosseum from Palatino. 

View from Palatino Hill looking over the Foro Romano and the Colosseum. 

View from Palatino Hill looking over the Foro Romano.

Here is a list of some of the buildings you are looking at in the Roman Forum.

Standing in the Roman Forum looking up to Palatino Hill. 
You can see what is left of Tempio dei Dioscuri or Temple of Castor and Pollux. 

I headed North on Via dei Fori Imperiali to Via del Corso where I saw 
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

On some lonely street I headed West and found myself at the South side of the Pantheon
I walked North around Via della Rotonda to the Piazza della Rotonda

I stepped inside for a few minutes to snap some shots of the famous oculus and peruse around.

Unfortunately, just like every single other famous monument, church, building, 
museum, bridge, and dome I saw during my European travels, the Pantheon was also
 under construction. Therefore, you will notice down below, a little more than half of 
the front of the Pantheon. I tried to leave the scaffolding where it was, in Rome. 
I didn't need to bring it home with me. 

(London was the worst. I'm not kidding, every single thing was under scaffoldings, tarps, tents and 
workers. Matt believes it's because they are getting ready for the Olympics. I just found it quite annoying. 
He found it quite annoying that I had to point it out every time).

After a delicious lunch of Lasagna at Ristorante di Rienzo in Piazza della Rotonda
I headed East on Via del Seminario to Via dell Umita to Via del Lucchesi and ended up
 right smack in front of the Fontana di Trevi.

At this point, if you notice throughout my pictures of day two, the sky seemed 
to be getting darker and darkery and it finally started to rain. Not a heavy rain, 
just an annoying spitting rain. I thought it was a good time for me to find a sweet 
treat and headed into the closest bar. After the rain let up, I headed towards my last 
and final stop of the day. 

But first, a gift for my colleagues at MAC II. As I previously mentioned, no where in all 
of Italy did they have any wonderful local hand made gifts. I thought what better 
than what we love to do during brief breaks at the office, magazines! I just so 
happened to spot a new stand in the middle of a little street and bought Elle Decor 
Italia and AD Italia. 

When I got to my last and final stop of the day I was a little disappointed. Not with what 
I saw, but the fact that unknowingly, I had already seen the Spanish Steps!!! I had 
already also walked down the Spanish Steps. I felt like such a nerd. I decided it was 
finally time to do a little shopping down Via dei Condotti. Obviously I didn't buy 
anything but I still had fun.

I grabbed my last gelato of the trip and headed for the subway. I stopped at Stazione 
di Roma Termini to get my 5:22am morning train ticket to the airport and confirm 
the train time. Then I headed back to the hostel where I organized, packed and laid 
out my clothes for the trip home. 

My Australian friend from Venice, Aishleen and I had been texting all day, sorry 
parental units, and decided to meet up for my last dinner in Roma! I even had a 
place all picked out! 

Dipak and Erica could not stop talking about the most delicious pizza they had one of 
their first nights in Rome. Because of their Roman friend, they were hitting up all 
the local joints. I texted Dipak, who was probably on a flight to Paris, and asked him 
what the pizza place was called. This is what I got back...

"Sopra Sopra I think is the name. Either 1 or 2 blocks South of via volsci and Via di 
Porta Labicana. And South of Via la Tiburtina in San Lorenzo part of town." 

Well, that probably doesn't make any sense to you but he basically named a few 
square blocks.

 We were completely up for the adventure so I one again turned on the data roaming 
and we headed off into the night. Luckily San Lorenzo part of town was really close 
to where I was staying so we were very hopeful! 

We ended up finding the restaurant, which is actually named Sotto Sopra, very easily.  
We just happened upon it! It was like magic! Incredible! However, they didn't open 
for dinner until 8:00pm so we had an hour to kill. Not a problem.  We walked the 
streets of San Lorenzo and were fortunate enough to find a small outdoor market, 
some thrift shops in which I tried on a round of very large sunglasses, said hello to a 
few "gatto" and "cane" and headed back to Sotto Sopra. 

By the time we sat down we were famished. I figured since it was my last night in Rome 
I was going to go all out. The sever came over and handed us our menus. We realized
 for the first time, these menus didn't have any translation on them and then we 
realized, our server didn't speak any English! I couldn't have been more excited. 
This meant, we were having a real Italian meal off the beaten tourist path of Rome. 

We ordered the antipasti and when the server gave us two options of bread I told him 
to pick the best. He chose focaccia. I coudln't have been more pleased. This is what 
came out.

The focaccia bread was the size of a pizza. 

There were three different meats and three different cheeses. You can't miss those 
two balls of fresh mozzarella in the center there. 

Did I mention we were hungry? 

And then I fell in love. With a pizza! I can't explain how amazing this pizza tasted in 
my mouth. It was like an explosion of flavors. I ordered the SottoSopra 1. Which I 
figured must be one of their specials since it had their name in it. It was your typical 
pizza with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce along with fresh tomatoes, and basil. 

My favorite part, the crust. It tasted like Indian Naan bread. It was so perfectly fluffy 
yet crunchy and just delicious. I am sitting here right now drooling and wishing I was eating another slice. 

Aishleen got the bruschetta (cooked) with mushrooms. We swapped slices. Hers was just as perfect as mine. 

I had to capture my love affair as it was soon to be ending. But, not until the 
next morning.  Yes, I took my pizza home.

I had to sneak my pizza into my hostel because food was not allowed in the rooms. 
I didn't care. This pizza was going upstairs with me. I tucked it under the bed and 
said good night. 

The next morning at 5:00am I checked out of the hostel, grabbed my bags and pizza 
of course and headed to the train station. Once boarded, I opened the box, said 
bongiorno my love and devoured the remaining half. I didn't have a fork, knife or napkin.
 I folded it New York style and chowed down. I got a few looks but one couple told 
me they did the same thing in the cab!

I arrived to Terminal 3 at the airport two hours early. I didn't know what was going 
to happen and really didn't want to miss my flight. I went to print my boarding pass at 
one of those quick check-in machines but, just my luck. All four happened to be out 
of order. So I stood in line. For an hour! When it was finally my turn the woman told 
me the flight was overbooked and they didn't have a seat for me. I couldn't believe it.
 I was on the verge of tears and still on antibiotics. However, my hand seemed to be
 a little better.

Somehow she managed to find me a seat...hmmm. I was about to throw my bags on 
the conveyor belt for security when I received a tap on the shoulder. It was the 
woman behind the counter. She said would you rather have a direct flight to JFK 
rather than a layover in London for three hours. I said of course. She brought me to 
the counter, gave me a new itinerary and told me to head to T5. I hopped the first 
bus to the American Airlines terminal and ran directly to the counter. Of course they 
had no idea what I was talking about and said I was not on their flight. 

This is when the waterworks started and possibly a text to Mom saying "I might not make 
it home." Then they told me I had to wait because they didn't know if they could get 
me on the flight. At this point, I had already missed my flight ton London. Now the emergency phone call to Mom took place. Eventually everything worked out and 
they got me on the flight. Not without delaying it for three hours first. 

This delay gave me time to shop the Duty Free's! I bought some Italian chocolates. I 
didn't know if they were any good but I couldn't come back from Italy with Kit Kats 
or Toblerone. 

I also managed to squeeze in a little gift for myself. Not without another emergency 
phone call to Dad asking him to be Mom for a moment. (It was the middle of the night 
and Dad was working and Mom was sleeping). I said "Dad, I found the most adorable 
Gucci Dachshund key chain that I absolutely want but don't need and can't afford. 
You need to be Mom and say you don't need it." "Ok" he said, "You don't need it." 
I said "But Dad, it's so adorable!" After a few more minutes of conversing he said "Oh
 go buy the damn keychain!" 

So I did. I would like everyone to meet Artu! Gucci named him, I didn't. But I thought 
it was cute so I kept it! 

After three hours of shopping, eating, waiting, eating, shopping and waiting, I 
boarded the plane. I took my final sleeping pill and slept almost the whole way. Of
course I woke up for lunch which was none other than pasta! Possibly the pizza snack 
as well. 

I watched the plane land and once we hit ground I started to tear. I was so glad to be 
back I couldn't explain. After everything. I was finally home. It took me an hour and a 
half to get home because the traffic was terrible. I unpacked and took the longest 
shower of my life. I scrubbed my feet for ten minutes each, shaved, scrubbed my 
body with salts and left the conditioner in my hair for at least another ten minutes. 
 I lathered my body up with lotion, threw on P.J.'s and hopped in to bed. I watched 
a movie and fell asleep by 10:00pm. Not only to wake up from 3am-6am and edit all 
982 photos I took. 

As time goes by, the more I write and the more I remember I am so thankful to 
have had this wonderful experience and adventure. Would I do it again 
tomorrow, probably not. But will I do it again sometime. Absolutely. I am so blessed 
with everyone who helped me along the way. Especially with my parents. I don't 
know what I would do with out you. I love you and thank you for your support, 
strength and love. 

To everyone I met on the trip and everyone I visited on the trip, you are wonderful 
and I am so thankful to have met you. I hope we continue our long distance friendships 
and meet again in another adventure!

A big THANK YOU to Matt, Kevin, Sara, Carly, Mike, Aishleen, Linda, Anita, Dipak 
and Erica! Without you, my trip wouldn't have been as special as it was! You made it 
more perfect than it ever could have been! 

Thank you to my friends and readers. Especially Mary Lockhart, for commenting on 
every post! You know how much I love comments so thank you and I love 
you!! I hope you enjoyed my wonderful and amazing excursion through London and Italy!
 I love you all!


  1. AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!! I am so happy you had such an amazing trip!! The pictures are all incredible!! It brought back great memories of my trips to Florence & Rome!! It's awesome that you will have this blog to look back on!!!

  2. Thanks for making me infamous!

  3. Since you said you love comments, I figured it would be OK for me to add one. :)

    I read every word of every one of these blogs. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them up and add all your photos. You're a great photographer.

    And I just have to say...I'm not a huge fan of Italian food (horrid, I know), but all of the food you had looked *really* good. I feel like taking a trip to Italy just to eat.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your blog on Rome and London, having visited both cities for the first time in the last few years. I spent some time in Trastevere and you made me feel like i was there again.

    You know you really could be a travel writer...such an interesting mix of culture, tourist sites, food, photos, weariness, exhilaration! You really transported me back...Thanks!