On June 13th my best friend and her husband were starting off a group tour through Europe in Rome, and you better believe I jumped on the opportunity to meet up with them. I arrived in Rome Thursday evening and had the next 24 hours to myself. This was the first trip I had embarked on on my own, and I must admit I was a little bit nervous. Not for the traveling part, but for the actual being at my destination alone part. But overall, it turned out to be pretty nice! I stayed in a female only hostel, Hostella, that was fantastic. It was clean, comfortable, safe, and cozy.
There were mostly solo female travelers staying there, so it had a nice social atmosphere where people wanted to get to know each other. I got dinner with one of the girls who was staying in the same room as me, Jessica from Mexico. It was a fun reminder of how things felt when I first began my study abroad. When everything was new and everyone was excited to get to know each other. With time we all settled into life studying in Groningen, and the novelty of meeting people from other parts of the world wasn’t as significant. But staying in the hostel, and chatting with Jessica who had just arrived to Europe a couple of weeks prior brought a little of that novelty back.
Friday I had most of the day to myself. First things first I was off on a walking tour. It started at the Spanish Steps, took us to the Column of Marcus Aurelius, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo, and finished off in Vatican City.
It was so hot by the end of the walking tour all I wanted was to be inside. I made the ambitious trek of walking back to my hostel (the opposite side of Rome from the Vatican) so of course I had to stop for some gelato on the way.
6pm was the ETA for my friends, and luckily their hotel was really close to my hostel. As I was walking to their hotel I rounded a corner and saw a big tour bus parked down the street with people unloading. Immediately I spotted my best friends husband, and then her right by. I was clear down the street and on the other side, so I shouted their names trying to get their attention. Well the only attention I got was a lot of looks from the other people in their group. So I motioned to them to get Shalie and Aaron’s attention, to no avail. Finally I just booked it across the street, ran up behind Shalie, and threw my arms around her. After the initial “who is touching me” confusion she realized I was there and what an awesome reunion we had! After four and a half months apart we were reunited in Rome.
We spent the evening eating lots of carbs and sight seeing. I must say, cities at dusk are my absolute favorite.
(Even with construction the Trevi Fountain is beautiful. But there was construction on just about every major site we went to see, which did get old.)
Saturday was their only full day in Rome, so it was packed in. The day began with a guided tour through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. We even caught a glimpse of the Pope! He was riding through the square waving at the crowds.
From there we had another great guided tour through the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Their group was nice enough to let me tag along on their excursions, at my own cost of course, but I got quite the discounted rate.
The three of us headed back on our own to Vatican City to see inside of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Well, funny story. I wasn’t aware that there was a modesty code for certain places in Vatican City (the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s to be exact). Your knees and shoulders need to be covered to go inside. So before we went through the museum in the morning I had to buy a scarf from the gift shop to cover my knees. I was wearing a tank top as well, but the guards at the Sistine Chapel said it covered my shoulders enough to pass through. So of course, I hoped the same would hold true at St. Peter’s. Negative. I was stopped by the guards for my shoulders. I asked if there was anything I could buy inside to cover them, and the guard told me that might not be necessary. He had my take off my scarf so he could see the size of it, after looking it over he says “we’re going to make you a toga.” This was the result, and now I can say, I wore a toga in Rome.
We topped off our day with a search for souvenirs and a glass of wine. We all left early the next morning. As far as Rome goes, I am really happy I had the opportunity to see it. The historical sites were incredible, the amount of history there is amazing. However, it wasn’t my favorite. The traffic there is scary, there is very little structure to the roads and I saw a lot of bad accidents. It’s very touristy, which isn’t always bad, but it made for really disappointing food. Italian being my favorite cuisine I was really looking forward to some authentic Italian food. Everything I had could have very easily been frozen and warmed up in the microwave. The atmosphere felt really stressful and hectic. With just the two days there, I was content with what I saw and didn’t feel like I needed to be there any longer. That being said, I am still so grateful for the opportunity, and most of all to have shared it with my best friend and her husband. I am tremendously blessed to not only have been reunited with them, but in ROME. Still doesn’t feel real. And that was the best last trip I could have asked for.
A goal of ours was to reenact the cover for the Mary-Kate and Ashley classic, When in Rome. After many, many attempts, here’s our final product.
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move: as far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least their food, it’s a plus for everybody.” -Anthony Bourdain