A little bit about me: I am not the kind of person to sit around and wait for other people. I wasn’t always this way and honestly it’s something I have to consciously work towards at times. But I’ve learned that if I wait for other people to get their shit together (sorry for the mild swearing to any relatives who may read this… though I think at 20 years old I’m allowed the occasional bad word), I may never get to do the things I want to do. So if that means going to a movie by myself, going to a restaurant by myself, or whatever it is by myself, then so be it. It seems stupid to me to miss out on something solely because I don’t have anyone to do it with. So when I was planning my weekend trip to Rome, I didn’t hesitate to buy plane tickets without consulting anyone else first. I didn’t want to risk the tickets going up in price, or having to alter my plans to fit with someone else’s. And that’s how I ended up in Rome, alone, for my first solo trip abroad.
This was a trip of lots of firsts. First time being completely by myself in another country, first time since being abroad that I was somewhere where I didn’t speak the language, first time in Rome or Italy, first time flying Ryanair (of which I had heard enough to by mildly nervous about the experience), and my first time staying in a hostel. Despite all this and considering the fact that I’m writing about it now, I obviously survived the weekend in one piece 🙂
I left Valencia Thursday evening after class, after a few setbacks in printing my boarding passes. Thankfully, my host brother helped me go to what I would call an internet cafe (who knew they still existed? This one was pretty deserted, though) to print them after my host family’s printer and then their neighbor’s failed me. Moral of the story? Don’t print your boarding passes an hour before you need to leave. (For those of you wondering why printing my boarding passes was so essential, Ryanair charges you a ridiculous amount of money to print them at the airport. Oh, budget airlines.)
I got to Rome around 9:30pm. If it all possible, I’d recommend not arriving in a city you don’t know after dark. I didn’t help that I hadn’t downloaded the map of the city on my phone beforehand and my cell-phone data wasn’t working very well, so I only sort of knew where I was going. And the sign on the building for my hostel said a different name, which was quite confusing. It all turned out okay though.
I woke up bright and early the next morning (well, it was like 8:00 in the morning, which is bright and early for a night owl like me) to head to the Vatican. I took the metro from Termini (the main train station in Rome which my hostel was only two blocks from) since it would have taken me about an hour to walk there. My limit for walking from one point to another is about 35 minutes (roughly a mile). If it’s further than that, public transportation is necessary.
I got there fairly early, so the lines to get in to Saint Peter’s Basilica where very minimal. There were still a lot of people, though. The Basilica was very impressive, probably the fanciest church I have ever been in (which I suppose is the point).
St. Peter’s Basilica is home to the famous Pieta by Michelangelo, which was very cool to see in person, even if it was from several feet away and through a pane of glass. One of the coolest things about studying abroad has been seeing in person the works of art and architecture I learned about in my high school art history class, which I still remember quite well even if it has been three years (thanks Ms. Gregory!).
I then climbed the cupola (dome) of the basilica, which was a lot of stairs, even though I took the elevator up part of the way. At one point, the stairs are a super-steep, super-tight spiral where you have to hold on to a rope as you climb.
The views from the top were worth it. It was a little hazy, but I could just barely make out the top of the Colosseum in the distance (thanks to eavesdropping on a tour guide, who pointed it out on the horizon).
After climbing back down, I made my way towards the center of Rome, where I ate some delicious, made-in-Italy gnocchi for lunch. I then headed to Trevi Fountain to make a few wishes. I ended up here several more times throughout my trip (I quite like this fountain, especially late at night when there are significantly less tourists crowding around it).
Next, I went to the area of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. By the time I got there, it was too late in the afternoon for me to do all of the things I listed above, but it was okay because you have two days to use the combined ticket for the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill. (Helpful hint to people who want to visit these awesome ruins: buy your ticket at the Forum and NOT at the Colosseum. I waited in line for 5 minutes at the Forum ticket office (right across from the Colosseum), bought a ticket, and walked right in to the Colosseum, completely bypassing the line of at least 200 people waiting to enter.) I decided to do the Colosseum that evening and return the next day for the Forum and Palatine Hill.
After the Colosseum, I walked to the nearby monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, which has several different names and nicknames (I’ve heard it called the typewriter and the wedding cake). I’m not really sure what it’s for, but it’s an impressive building.
I walked back to my hostel at this point, getting back just before dark. I decided to rest before grabbing dinner with a girl I met at the hostel. We walked to a cute pizza place in a strange part of town along the train tracks and brought the pizzas back to the hostel to eat and chat.
Staying in a hostel was actually one of the highlights of my trip. I met two really cool people, who were staying in the same room as me, who I met up with for meals. I think I would have been pretty lonely by the end of the trip if I had stayed somewhere alone and not met anyone. Plus, I would have been uncomfortable going out at night by myself, so it was nice to have people to go do things with in the evenings. The hostel itself was pretty nice (nicer than the airbnb I rented in Barcelona), so it definitely sets the bar pretty high for any future travels.
Well that sums up my first full day in Rome! Stay tuned for a post about the rest of my weekend! Hasta luego
Update: read Part 2 here!