We flew into Rome from Paris over one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. As our plane glided over the Alps, I began experiencing the butterfly feeling our tour director explained: “You know when you really like a guy and get that butterfly feeling? Well, I get that when I travel to certain places. The only two countries I’ve ever gotten that feeling in so far are Italy and Spain.” I had never been to Italy, but thought of her metaphor as we headed toward the city I was most looking forward to seeing.
While Rome was my favorite city, I cannot write that statement without saying that the myth behind the Trevi fountain is no joke! On our first day in Rome, our tour director informed us that the fountain is under construction so we would be unable to throw coins in the fountain for good luck. Our only glimpse of the landmark was a series of metal gates. After we walked by the fountain without throwing coins in, several unlucky moments followed.
Rome is a beautiful city, but keep your bags close! One girl in our group had her tablet pick pocketed by gypsies. As they inched their way toward our group, one woman grabbed the tablet, as another unsuccessfully grasped another friend’s iPhone. They then hopped onto the nearest bus. Later in the day, we walked by another heartbreaking site. A middle-aged woman was hysterically sobbing as she frantically searched through her purse. Her husband tried to console her. Evidently, she too had been pick-pocketed.
Even on the subway, we all grasped onto our purses as a gypsy child with puppy dog eyes looked up at us while she played a small piano. “Aww, how adorable!” one friend in our group said. “No, she’s not adorable! Look behind you.” Her mother lurked in the background, trying to reach for our purses, as her daughter tried to distract us. I remember Bill Bryson, the well known travel writer, commented that while he was aggravated he got his belongings stolen in Italy, he was impressed by how quick these gypsies are. It is impressive.
Another girl, who had fallen ill several days earlier, nearly fainted on our walk. She had to go back to our hotel in a cab and pay nearly $300 Euros for a Roman doctor to come see her. He informed her that she had the stomach flu, and unfortunately, the flu was airborne. Later in the trip, two other girls caught the flu.
Finally, my friend who is allergic to nuts had a terrible allergic reaction after having some gelato that must have touched nuts. Her friend was disappointed she did not want to use her EpiPen, as before this incident he continually commented on how he wished EpiPens came in bow and arrow format, so when she needed help he could rescue her from over a hundred feet away. To his dismay, she was okay after taking some Benadryl.
Yes, we were an unlucky bunch on that first day, but everyone was okay, and regardless, we still had a great time in Rome. As someone who is fascinated by the Italian language and took about four years of it (my high school didn’t offer Italian, so I took a brief break between middle school and college), I had a blast speaking Italian to every person we encountered and greeting everyone each day with an obnoxiously exaggerated “Ciao bella/o!”
Below is a list of some of the bucket list-esque activities we pursued while in the city:
1). Fly over the Alps. As I mentioned, this view is breathtaking. I am envious of the pilots who get to take this journey multiple times.
2). Visit the coliseum: And pose obnoxiously in front of it. Our Italian tour guide was adorable. It was clear that she loved her job: “And to your lefta, you will seea the Roman forum!” There is something special about seeing such a historical site and having a tour guide who is from the city you’re traveling in.
3). Visit the Roman Forum: Similar to the coliseum, seeing such a historical meeting place was exciting.
4). Have drinks in front of the pantheon: When I sent my dad these photos, complete with the new fedora I purchased for five Euros, he asked if my friend and I were discussing our next novel. Well, I was contemplating the best strawberry daiquiri I’ve ever had, complete with its own separate dish of strawberries.
5). Go to an authentic, four course opera dinner with unlimited wine: While “opera dinner” may sound brutal at first, the dinner was actually a comedy. Several of the performers came up to the tables and interacted with us. For instance, one woman seductively wrapped a scarf around the only male at our table, while another middle aged man was ushered up front to be “shaved” by an opera singing barber. Can’t beat authentic Italian cuisine and a show!
6). Tour the Vatican: Not only did we get to cross between two countries in one day, but seeing one of the most famous, holiest places in the world was an experience. There’s something special about walking through such a holy place.
Two friends from our party looking thrilled, just wanting to explore the Vatican already!
7). Visit the Sistine Chapel: As part of our tour of the Vatican, we walked through this landmark as well. Although guests are asked to be silent, they may need to find another solution to the “Sssshhhes” and announcements to “Please remain silent!” Nevertheless, the chapel was absolutely beautiful.
8) Visit St. Peter’s Basilica: As the last part of our tour of the Vatican, we were able to see the famous church where Pope John XIII’s body lies, the third pope to be given this honor.
9). Have dinner and drinks at actual Italian restaurants: On the second night, as well as the last night, we were able to enjoy some Italian cuisine. On the first night I got lasagna, along with the best wine I have ever had. It was so good that at one point, I (accidentally) poured another girl’s bottle of champagne on my bread, thinking it was vinegar. On our last night, we had another four-course meal during a lovely fair well dinner.
10). Go to the beach in Santa, Marinella Italy. While I live about 20 minutes away from various beaches, this day was still one of my favorite days of our trip. The resort was beautiful. Their idea of a personal pizza for lunch was one gigantic pizza that could serve multiple people. We also swam in the Mediterranean. Later that day, we got gelato at a place down the block, where a charming Italian woman screamed at me in Italian after I gave her 10 Euros for ice cream that only cost 2 and already ate the gelato before she got a chance to explain she had no change. Luckily, all was well after some more of my silent apologies and her extreme gesturing. I even threw a “Ciao bella!” in there.
During our last night in Rome, we all hung out at the hotel bar before saying our goodbyes, as most of us had to leave the hotel at 6 a.m. Our 12 day trip to London, Paris, and Rome was over. But as Johnny Depp commented “The whole of Europe have a great culture and an amazing history. Most important thing though is that people there know how to live!”
The JFK group on our first day together at the airport and our last day together in Rome.
Has anyone else been to Rome or anywhere else in Europe before? I’d love to hear about your experiences!