First of all, I apologize for the late posting. 3 days in Rome = BIG blog post and I was up to my ears in reading due today. Better late than never! (And yes, the title of this post is in reference to the Lady Gaga song. We sang it pretty much the entire trip.)
I will start out by saying that quite frankly, I do not care for Rome. This was my second visit, and it only confirmed my feelings. It is just not my city; big, loud, touristy, and quite often sleazy. However, I do think it is a place you really just have to go to and do the tourist thing once, because it has some jaw-droppingly cool sights. On with the show...
We boarded the bus at 7 and arrived around 10ish, where we began a walking tour of the city. I was really surprised at how familiar everything was, even though it's been almost 4 years since I was there.
The tour guide was great and really knew her art/architectural history, which when on a tour in Rome is a very good thing. We stopped at the Pantheon, which is just a super cool thing to see:
Yes, it has a hole in the top. BUT because of the way it is built, the air pressure rises and keeps rain from flooding it. Cool, right?!
And of course we hit the Trevi:
And then took a quick lunch break. The others went for pizza but it didn't appeal to me, so I got this:
(Sorry for the blur - I was HANGRY!)
Rather mediocre prosciutto & mozzarella panino. Whatever, it filled me up.
We met back to continue the walking tour. I actually really like tours - when the tour guide is good - because they often know tiny little details that take the experience to a new level. For example...
This is one of several "talking statues" in the city. In ancient Rome, people would write poems or prose, usually making a statement (and usually a not-so-nice one) about the government and current political issues. This practice is still continuing:
Rock on, Romans.
I thought that this was TOO cool. I wanna take part in a tradition that's been done since BCE!
We checked into the hotel and proclaimed it NAP TIME. After a 3.5 hour walking tour, we deserved it. When we got up, we checked out an exhibit of remakes of Leonardo da Vinci's many inventions:
This picture looked like an open book (listen, I'm trying to become a better photographer...I gotta throw myself a bone here and there).
The first piano.
The first army tank.
An entire hallway of little inventions from an oil press to a wind speed measuring tool. The man's genius is utterly intimidating.
This would make the coolest present...if it weren't 30 euro. Oh well.
When I first came to Rome with the fam, I was moving towards the peak of the worst point of my ED (eating disorder). My fear of gaining weight was irrational to the point of hysterics, and being in a different country and out of my comfort zone only made it worse. I spent the majority of that trip depriving and starving myself because I was petrified the 50 pounds I had worked for the past 2 years to lose would suddenly hop back on during this 3 week vacation. Yes, it was ridiculous, but I can not truly articulate how real and looming that fear was for me. I left my first trip to Italy with many regrets, and many about food - I was too scared to ever order anything but salad and had given up my chance to experience what I can definitely assert now as some of the best food in the world. But here I am, back in Italy. And I am not leaving this time with regrets.
That story did have a point - on our first day in Rome, my parents went to find some lunch. I was so horrified with myself for eating a croissant on the airplane for breakfast that I decided I would nap off some jet lag instead of going to eat. My parents came back absolutely raving about the food they had had and I was green with jealousy. The next night, we found a lovely rooftop restaurant for dinner. I, of course, could not bring myself to order the pasta, but upon tasting my mom's plate of fresh tagliatelle, only got greener. Thus, I was determined to find these two restaurants on this second trip to Rome and finally get vengeance on that stupid ED.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to find the first restaurant, but it turned out that it wasn't a dinner place anyway, and the rooftop restaurant was very close, so all was not lost. I found it. And I got pasta.
Calamarata - fresh pasta with calamari and tiny shrimp and tomatoes. It. was. SO GOOD. Victory.
After dinner, I dragged the roomies to the gelato place we went to on our first trip known as some of the best in Rome. It didn't disappoint:
Valhrona Cocoa + Vanilla Bourbon. I could have eaten 5 more of these cups.
On our way back to the hotel, I decided I was in dire need of fruit and water so we stopped at a little market, and I did a baaaad thing...
Yes, that is a mini bottle of Prosecco. 1,50 euro. I said "hey, I'm on vacation!" Oy. Note to self: Do NOT buy 1,50 euro Prosecco. Hardly worth 50 cents. I swallowed about an ounce of it before the food snob in my head told me to get real. It was fun to get though :)
Saturday began with breakfast at the hotel:
2nd Note to self: Never, under any circumstances, get - much less consume - a cappuccino from a machine. Your taste buds will not forgive you.
I would also like to say that I really love muesli + yogurt. Oh, and I don't like oranges. You know you love my randomness.
Today we toured St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and the Castel San Angelo, a fortress where the popes stayed when there was danger. I did visit the Vatican on my first trip here, and I'll be honest, it's not a place I cared to visit again. I don't want to offend anyone and won't comment further, just saying that it's not high on my list - but it's also totally subjective.
This was a really blurry picture that turned out looking really cool (IMO). Maybe my photo skills are improving?
Swiss guards. Check OUT the sweet uniforms. I'm pretty jealous.
It was nice to see this again though...
Michelangelo's Pieta. When I went the first time, it was so crowded I could barely breathe and it was pretty much "hey, look, famous scuplture - ok let's leave!" This time I got to stare at it for a while, and the expression on the Virgin's face is absolutely amazing. You would never know this was stone, it's so full of life.
It was great to have the tour guide back, because of her art history knowledge - St. Peter's is full of artworks from almost every artistic era and it was really cool to see and compare almost side-by-side a Baroque style sculpture to that of the Neoclassical style. Yes, I'm a geek. Don't hate.
Next up was Castel San Angelo, which seemed like a semi-random place to tour but was pretty cool neverthless.
Definitely had some sweet views over Rome:
The tour ended and we dragged ourselves to this cool salad place we'd heard about, Insalata Ricca:
The Tropical: mango, sesame seeds, crab, spiny lobster, pine nuts, avocado, greens. It was a little too heavy on the olive oil and not enough on the fish, but it did the trick - I was craving greens like no other!
Following lunch, we were determined to see the Sistine Chapel - I didn't see it on my first trip here and it was really the only thing I felt I "needed" to see in Rome. It is a part of the Musei Vaticani, which is basically one ginormous museum of Catholicness. It had some cool stuff...
The longest gallery in the museum. They weren't kidding.
They really like intensely-painted ceilings. Like, a lot.
LOTS of tapestries. Really big tapestries. Considering the average life span back then, these are pretty much three lifetimes-large.
The floor. No joke.
You thought I was kidding about the ceilings. Nope.
But it was just too much. I thought the Sistine Chapel stood alone, separate from the others museums, and was NOT prepared for an hour of other major artworks before actually getting to the chapel. After a while I stopped trying to appreciate the works as fast as possible and just started following these:
I was starting to feel like I had missed it after all those long, important-looking galleries. But trust me - when you are in la Capella Sistina - you know it. It was so incredibly colorful and just...whoa. No words.
That was about 6 hours of touring. My senses were completely battered and I was feeling it. Rome is just too much for me. I was ready to PEACE out.
We were ready for a chill dinner, and found a restaurant recommended to us by our program. It was really perfect - noisy but in a cozy way, with good bread and a cool waiter. And of course, pasta:
Whole wheat tagliatelle with asparagus and mushrooms. I had major trouble deciding what to get, but whole wheat pasta is so rarely on restaurant menus and I love it so, I just had to. It was not amazing, but it was quite tasty and I felt good about my choice because that's one of the many great effects of healthful food!
We also had some very nice wine with dinner:
I am starting to taste good vs bad wine. I am sticking to my guns on the "no-drinking" thing, but I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Italian custom of a glass with dinner. It's more the custom than the actual taste that I enjoy. And all I ever want is about a 2 oz pour, so it's really perfect. I'm so growed up!
The cool waiter got cooler when he brought us free dessert wine. Yum yum! And such cute little glasses :)
I was still craving gelato, so we stopped at Blue Ice, a Roman gelato chain, just to see what it was like. I got mint chip and wildberry yogurt. No, they did not go together well, but they were separately exactl what I was craving and I enjoyed every bite. Sorry, no picture, it was super crowded with drunk Scottish soccer fans. Don't ask.
I considered going out, because, well, it's Rome...but I crashed. I'm sorry. Rome ain't for me.
Breakfast was a repeat of Venice, involving lots of filched fruit, nutella, and various cracker packs. That's how us college kids roll.
We had to check out of the hotel at 10 but weren't boarding the bus until 12:30, so we decided to wander. All of a sudden I looked to my left and recognized Sant Eustachio, the cafe I went to on my first visit there. It is the "espresso temple" - the best espresso. ever.
I had two. Amazing.
Right before boarding the bus, I noticed a juice bar right next to the hotel - totally my kind of place. Raw food, amazing fruit-filled smoothies...yup. A Gillianasana temple.
I got the Noio - not sure you can see the menu, but it was raspberry, melon, banana, lemon, ginger, honey, yogurt, and apple. It was awesome. Worth being the last one on the bus. What I won't do for a smoothie.
We toured the Colosseum before heading back to Firenze, which is probably one of my favoritest places in Rome. I really love it - there is something about walking around knowing that you are stepping on the exact stone that people stepped on thousands of years ago that is just incredible. Goosebump-inducing.
I took this picture just because I thought the juxtaposition of ruins and paved streets was kind of cool. Past meets present type-of-thing. I'm an English major, I'm trained to see symbolism in everything.
The trip home was blessedly shorter than expected, mostly involving sleep, Michael Buble, and muesli I snagged from the hotel.
Rome. I went, I saw. And I was happy to go.