When I got off of my train in Rome, I felt a rush of excitement. The Eternal City. Surely something out of this world exciting is going to happen in this beautiful city. As I began my walk to my hostel, I crossed my fingers that at any moment now I would get swooped away by a gorgeous Italian guy on his vespa…
Date: June 6th, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 17:30 EST
Location: Home – Atlanta, GA, USA
Let me begin by saying Rome is not a cheap city. When I was looking for a hostel, they were all very pricey and mostly booked, but I did end up finding a room at the Funny Place Hostel, which was a short five-minute walk from the train station. The room didn’t exactly give a hostel vibe and there wasn’t much of an atmosphere, but it was clean and comfy, and that would have to do. That night I decided to stay in and write, I was exhausted from being on a hot train all day and desperately craved a night in.
The next day I woke up ready to see Rome, armed with my map and a thirst for adventure, I began my journey. As I walked over to the Roman Forum, I found myself in the midst of what I would describe as the China Town of Rome. Everywhere I looked I saw signs in an Asian language. “Where had my GPS taken me???” I wondered as I began to panic. Within five minutes though, I began to see the swarm of tourists. “Good,” I said to myself calmly, “I’m heading in the right direction.”
“Most people are trying to get into the Colloseum, so the lines for tickets are super long, instead get your ticket at the Forum. Shorter line, same price,” the woman at my hostel had suggested. I bought my ticket for 12 euros and as I wandered around the Forum I was taken aback. “I am walking in history,” I thought to myself. I had seen so many beautiful buildings and bridges during my trip, but these ruins were something else. Palantine Hill gave me an epic view of the Colloseum, and as I stood there taking it in, I felt like I too was a part of history. However, when I entered the Colloseum, I almost felt a little underwhelmed; the outside was so gloriously preserved, but the inside was overrun by tourists and since there was construction going on at the time, it felt a little less authentic. That being said, I would still highly suggest checking it out because you do get a sense of the madness that happened there. I continued walked, and The Altar of the Fatherland took my breath away. Although it wasn’t finished until 1925, it’s easy to imagine that something that grandiose could have existed during the times of Ancient Rome.
After getting a taste of history, I made my way over to a trendy area a friend had suggested I check out – Trastevere, like the Brooklyn of Rome. I saw cool markets in the streets and interesting art all over buildings and walls, for a moment I felt like I was in Berlin again. I walked through ithappily enjoying the contrast between old and now, but unfortunately ended up walking too far because by the time hunger hit me, I was in a touristy area again.
I’m not too proud to admit this, but I was too tired of walking in the heat to find a good spot; I ended up eating a the first place I saw that sold pizza, that being said, it was still pretty good
The walk back to my hostel took over an hour and a half, but I didn’t even notice how long it took me because I had developed such a deep appreciation for walking around in the city – I knew I would miss that when I got back to Atlanta. I made it back to my hostel around 7:00 p.m. and I was exhausted, so I snuggled up with my old friend Netflix.
Later that night, the same friend who I had made in Venice and then traveled with in Florence arrived in Rome. We had become travel buddies, but there was no sense of awkwardness because a great platonic friendship had developed. Unlike traveling with the Dane (re: Croatia), I didn’t necessarily feel as much pressure to revolve my plans around him; Paul and I just bounced around from place to place acting as wingmen and photographers for each other. That night, we shared a bottle of cheap Italian wine and then wandered over to The Yellow Bar, a hostel bar that’s bursting with American tourists and Top 40 Hits. We danced to familiar music and enjoyed cheap cocktails. Not exactly the ideal place to meet a mysterious Italian guy, but I did end up dancing with a cool guy who lived in New York.
Paul and I had tickets to see the Vatican on Monday, so Sunday we took the day to wander around sightseeing. We walked almost 15 miles that day according to the Health app on my phone. We saw the outside of the Vatican, church squares, plazas, ruins, and of course the Trevi Fountain. At the fountain I had my Lizzy McGuire moment, and it might be cheesy to say this, but I felt like I didn’t really need to make a wish because I was already living out one of my dreams to travel through Europe.
We walked over to Trastevere to find a good place to eat. As we stood outside of the
restaurant, Alle Fratte Di Trastevere, we wondered if it would be a good spot. “The food is delicious, trust me,” said an elderly woman with a thick Italian accent. We took her word for it, and man am I glad we did because for less than 12 euros each, we had one of our best meals in Italy. The veggies tasted fresh and flavorful, the pizza’s dough was perfection, and I savored every bite of the meal. As we continued our exploration of the city, our stomachs were full and our hearts were happy. After our late lunch, we walked over to the Pincian Hill and got an amazing view of Rome, and then we spent an hour sitting on one of the bridges watching the city.
Around 7:30 p.m. we began our walk back to the hostel. “Can you just imagine them building the Colloseum?” Paul said in wonder. “HOW?!?” he exclaimed. And “HOW?!?” seemed to be our question for all of the things we saw in Rome. How did they build this? How did they conserve that? How is this so opulent? How is the food so damn good? Rome was a city of wonder.
That night, we watched the Lizzy McGuire movie while drinking wine and laughing as we exclaimed “We were just there!” every five minutes. When the movie ended, we decided to hit up The Yellow Bar for round two, but this time I was too tired to stay out long, so I ended up coming back to my room early in the night and falling asleep.
The next day we found out that much to our disappointment, Paul had mixed up the dates when getting our tickets for the Vatican, so we had to come back later. Somehow we ended up stumbling into this delicious Latin restaurant in Rome. Although the food was absolute fire, I think something in the ceviche caused an allergic reaction because as we were making our way back to the Vatican I felt my lunch coming back up. I managed to find a bathroom before it was too late, and we gave up hope on making it to the Vatican. Paul waved us down a cab and even brought me Benadryl. I spent my last day in Rome in bed watching Netflix and feeling miserable. When I told my mom what happened, she said optimistically, “Well, now you have an excuse to come back!”
Paul still had another day left, but as for me this was it. On my last morning in Rome, we did something very touristy and ate McDonald’s. The chicken nuggets felt like a taste of America, but Paul’s Swiss and prosciutto omelet was definitely a miss. We joked about how I never did find my Italian dream man, and we both agreed that we had eaten way too much in Italy. With a sigh and heavy heart, I said, “I can’t believe this is really it.” I knew that the next day I would be flying back to America, and that made saying goodbye to Italy even harder. In 48 hours I would be back in Atlanta and absolutely no part of me was ready to leave behind all of the beautiful places and people I had fallen in love with… Ciao Roma, ciao Italia.