Monday, April 5, 2010

Bel far niente - the beauty of doing nothing.

For Rome, I think I'll take a different approach. But only because Rome approached me so differently than I'd ever imagined.

Day 1...
Traveling alone to Rome didn't make me anxious until everybody started mentioning the movie Taken. Everyone made sure to tell me not to share a taxi with anyone, don't look lost even if you are, don't walk around aimlessly, look determined while you walk, and all the other common sense tips one could handle. I was a little worried (but not really). So, the trip starts off with a bus from Limerick to Dublin at 1 am, which is about a 4 hour trek. I was seated and ready to fall asleep....until about 8 loud, rambunctious and possibly drunk boys decided to sit all around me. Great. No sleeping till the plane I guess. Then we stopped about 3 minutes into our journey because the luggage door had fallen off the bus. We had to switch to another bus - fine with me, I won't have to sit by the obnoxious boys. Wrong again. They were surrounding me yet again. I put my earbuds in and put my head against the window, signaling that I didn't care for any form of small talk or any partake in their antics. I guess that wasn't clear either. About 10 minutes in, I got a tap on the shoulder. For the next 4 hours, they were yelling, "Texas!" and I shared an ear bud with the boy who reeked of booze. He didn't like my "Texas music." Go figure that's what I kept putting it on so he'd leave me alone. Whatever. Finally got to the airport. The plane ride was fine. I got to chat with a young mom from Rome and told me that even on your own, Rome is an amazing city. Her daughter had the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen! Just sayin. I got on a bus to town and then in a taxi and headed for the Ivanhoe Hostel. This cab driver must either be a nube or his inner compass was a little directionally challenged. He dropped me about a mile away from the hostel (keep in mind that the bus station is less than that) and Dad's advice came in handy within my first few minutes of being in Rome. It's hard to not look lost when you're dragging around a suitcase and holding a map. Do whatcha gotta do. I finally found the place and all I wanted to do was sleep! Wrong again. The hostel is closed from 11 to 4 for cleaning and it was only 12:30. Yes, I walked around for about 30 minutes looking for the place. So, I put my bags away and headed out to the city without a clue of where I was going or what I would do until 4. It's Rome though, so I figured I'd find something. First thing, find an ATM. I'm walking around and looked down at my map to see where the X was for the ATM. Not here. So I looked up to find a street name. Not here...but the Coliseum is right in front of me. Wow. It definitely took me a second. I feel like I had to peel the glaze off my eyes to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I headed straight for it. In my head I was thinking, "I need money. Don't care. I need food....so hungry. Don't care. I need to take a nap. Don't care." I walked close enough to see the entire thing then decided that I did care if I was hungry and went to go eat. I won't go into much detail about how annoying the service was that day. Sometimes in Italy they just DO NOT desire to serve you. And they make it clear enough for even a stupid American to understand. Good thing I'm stubborn and sat there until they made eye contact. I got plenty of time, I could have played their game all night. Back to the Coliseum. It was such a beautiful day I decided to sit my back against a pole and rest my feet up on the side of the stairs and read a book. It was the quietest I'd been all day. All the frustrations of flying, all the anxiety about getting where I need to go, all the desire in my body to just lay my head down and sleep suddenly disappeared. I was sitting in front of this amazing work of art, the sun shining on my face, with nothing to do. That is absolutely my favorite part of traveling. Getting to soak up history just by reveling in the fact that it's there. Getting to bask in the sun and relax. Day one, you treated me very well. I finally made it back to the hostel and took a nap till about 8 o'clock when I was abruptly awoken by Erin jumping on my bed. "You almost made me pee my pants!" Too much? Dinner, more reading, sleep, for tomorrow we will see the Vatican.

Day 2...
Rise and shine. Wasn't expecting the wake up call at 4:30 am! Our noisy Italian neighbors in the hostel must have had a great night because they definitely wanted us to hear about it. I could have killed someone. 3 hours later, the real wake up call came. Time to go to the Vatican! I was so excited I could hardly handle it. We took the subway there and waited in line for about 2 hours. This was to be expected, of course, after all it was Good Friday. We made our way through the museum which was ok, but not that great. Then we FINALLY got into the Sistine Chapel. It was so amazing... everything about it. The walk through the rest of the museum was totally worth the prize at the end. I said it kind of reminded me of walking through Ikea. And yes, I realize I just compared the Vatican museum to Ikea. After that we had lunch (no meat though!) and headed off to St. Peter's Basilica. Wow. The line was already long and they weren't letting anybody in. We asked a few different people what the deal was and from what THEY told us, we couldn't get in unless we had a ticket and there was a Good Friday Celebration going on inside at 5. It will be on the big screens outside though. So, we decided to fart around till 5 to watch. When will we ever be in Rome on Good Friday again? After all that waiting we watched the ceremony which was in Latin. It was very different but it really made me do some thinking. Like always when I'm in another country and hear people praying or go to a church service in a different language, it reminds me how big God is. It doesn't matter what language you're speaking, he authored those tongues and knows them perfectly. Also, we went through the story of the last hours of Jesus' life and the crucifixion with our group. As Kerry said, "It's story time!" Now for our walk home. We kept running into amazing architecture that we had no idea even existed. Everything about that city is beautiful. Yes, even the frantic style of driving and littered streets of Rome I find very beautiful. Dinner was amazing that night. I read about tonnarelli cacio e pepe in the book "Eat Pray Love" and decided to give it a shot. It was amazing. Simple, just pasta, parmesan cheese and pepper. Just what I needed after a long day.

Day 3...
Oh day 3, we are not very happy to greet you so early this morning. We got a late start but finally made our way to the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, and The Forum. It was pretty much...magnificent. We waited in line again for about an hour and a half but it was (and always is) well worth it. Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient places in Rome. It's just a huge park with ruins and old buildings and a GREAT view. I could have sat there all day, but of course I was pushed along to the next attraction. And I stole a rock from there for Aunt Robin. Shh don't tell. Next was the Forum aka a playground for my imagination. Everyone else was ready to get to the Coliseum to get this day going and get some food. Not me. I was wondering around like a baby who just discovered they could walk. I kept seeing things that caught my eye and kept imagining what on earth went on there! I may or may not have visioned all the tourists in white robes and sandals. The Coliseum was pretty cool. It's hard to imagine it they way it used to be. I almost like it better as a backdrop for my reading than walking around on the inside. Either way, it was intense. It made me want to fight a tiger or something. After that we met up with Shae's friend who is studying in Rome. We ate a nice, big, slow paced lunch. Ps, if you visit Italy, it's rude to wait for everyone at the table to get their food. They love their food and want you to love it too and eat it while it's hot. So eat! After that we made our way to the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain. Apparently the Pantheon is only cool when it's raining because there's a giant hole in the top. So, it wasn't that cool when we were there. The Trevi Fountain was cool and I'd like to believe is cool year round no matter what the weather. It was the most (having trouble finding the best word to describe it) breathtaking thing I've seen in a long time. If there wasn't a massive herd of people surrounding it, it would have been even better. Definitely can't kick back and relax in front of that historic monument. We finally fought the crowd down to the edge and threw our pennies in (the wrong way of course... it's right hand over the left shoulder, standing backwards.) We just made an executive decision that it's over the right shoulder. (When we found out I said, "Guess I won't be coming back to Rome because that's what I wished for... and I'm repeating it again now.") After that, nap time. Dinner again was fabulous. Carbs, carbs, carbs, gelato, gelato, gelato. No wonder people always gain weight when they move to Italy. It's totally worth it though. When you think about it, are there any skinny Italians you can trust? Probably not.

Day 4...
Time to hit the road. I didn't want to leave. I kept pestering Erin about how badly I wanted to live there. I fell in love with the city, the country. The people are slightly pushy, but not terribly unfriendly. That's a stereotype I wasn't really expecting but I guess doesn't really surprise me. I feel like I learned a lot about myself just being there for a couple days. Oh, and Dad, to answer your question. If I move back to Europe or if I could do this again, I'd definitely move to Italy. I talked to Shae's friend and she said she hadn't made any Italian friends. For a little bit I was jealous of her because I wished I had picked Rome, but when I heard that, I wouldn't trade the friendships I made in Ireland for pretty weather and beautiful buildings. But, I will be making my way back one of these days!

"The world is meant to be traveled and people are meant to be loved..."

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