Posted by: londontravels | November 5, 2009

58-63: Rome and back home

(I apologize for taking so long to post my travels to Rome. I had a few papers due today so I was putting those together since I got back…I know you all have been waiting with bated (spelling?) breath…sike.

Wow, what an amazing week. Started off in Dublin, toured the Wicklow mountains in Ireland, flew back to London for about 8 hours than off to Rome…whew, I am beat. I don’t even know where to begin with Rome. Considering I have only been a few places, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the most fascinating city in the world. It is basically a city, built on a city, built on a city, built on a city. If you go to the highest point, you are able to see how the buildings dating back to the Roman Empire sit far below the buildings built during Mussolini’s reign…pretty amazing stuff. The fascinating thing is that there are cities that are buried even farther below the old Roman City that haven’t been discovered yet! The city is a huge recycling bin.

We arrived at Ciampino Airport in Rome around 12:30 PM and caught a bus to Termini (a giant train station in the center of Rome that has trains from all over Europe running through it) and then headed to our hostel. We figured it wouldn’t be too difficult, considering the hostel’s website had a YouTube video of how to get to the hostel from Termini…perfect right? Well, about an hour and a half later, Hostel Alessandro’s Palace was nowhere to be found. I was hot (extremely warm when the sun starts to go down in Rome), I was jet lagged and I was sleep deprived (pulled an all nighter with that Phils game going on that morning). All I wanted to do was hop back on that bus and back to Ciampino to find the next return flight to London. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, or the heat, or maybe the fact that I have the hand writing of a 3 fingered 4th grader, but for some reason I thought our hostel was on Via Vienza. Well, it wasn’t. It was on Via Vicenza (damn you letter ‘C’!). A hop, skip and a jump later we were at the massive front doors  (as all doors are humongous in Rome) of Hostel Alessandro’s Palace.

After checking in and getting our room keys (Chris and I slept in different rooms), we headed back down to the front desk to find out if anything was going on for the night. The stick-like, earthy, yoga-doing, tan skinned man suggested catching the subway (mastered that bitch by the end of the week) to Spagna and going up the Spanish Steps to Piazza del Popolo (by far my favorite name for a building, especially when you say it in an Italian accent…go ahead, say it…isn’t it fun?) and then up to this ledge called the Pincio to check out the sun set. So, that is what we did. However, as we were about to leave the front desk, the man turned around and signed in to TU Mail (Temple University’s e-mail website). Chris and I were completely drawn back and asked the man if he went to Temple. Obviously, he said he did and it turns out that he is in his last year as well at Temple and trying to complete his last 9 credits by staying in Rome (Temple has a Rome campus) and not going back to North Broad Street (yeah, good luck with that). Small world right?

Well, Chris and I headed up to Piazza del Popolo (go ahead, say it one more time…this time with a little more Italian inflection in your voice) and he was definitely right that it was a great view. Unfortunately we missed the sun set, but you are able to see pretty much all of the buildings of Rome from one view…very beautiful. Oh yeah, I am sure everyone has heard of the Spanish Steps right? Kind of underwhelming…actually, I didn’t even realize I was walking up them while en route to Piazza del Popolo (I can totally picture everyone saying it aloud in a really lame Italian accent ha ha).

Well, after the flight, 0 hours of sleep, and a solid trek to the Pincio, all I wanted was an ice-cold, frosty one. And what a better place to have one than… my hostel’s bar…that’s right, my hostel had a bar in it. Speaking of the hostel, it was by far the nicest one I have stayed in yet. Very clean, very modern and the people who worked there were very nice. Anyway, after downing an ice-cold Italian beer (not too bad) I hit the hay, for I had a 4 and a half hour walking tour of Rome in the morning.

Bright and early on Saturday, the hostel conducted a walking tour for its patrons that covered pretty much all of the main attractions in Rome. And guess who our tour guide was? That’s right, the dude at the front desk that goes to Temple ha. To make things even crazier, his girlfriend came along on the tour, who also goes to Temple and after meeting her, I realized that she has been in a few of my classes. Also, a few kids on the tour were from West Chester! VERY small world. Anyway, the tour took us to Santa Maria Magglore, San Pietro in Vincoli, the Colosseum (although we didn’t go in…more on that soon), the Roman City, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II and a few other places. All beautiful structures, all old as dirt. The most fascinating thing that I learned was that the Pantheon is the oldest standing structure in Rome and it dates back to 25 BC…WHAT!? That’s right, do the math…the Pantheon, which is still in immaculate shape, which has thousands of people walk through it every day, is 2035 years old. And to make it even cooler, there is a giant hole in the center of the ceiling that is never closed. Which means when it rains, the Pantheon has a beautiful shower in the center of it…wild.

After our very long tour, we hit up a local pizza joint (phu-nomenal) and then for some gelato of course. The gelato place we went to served over 200 flavors of gelato…it was a dream come true (Mom, we all know you enjoy your ice cream, but you NEED to try gelato). Later that night, we hit up the hostel bar again and did some mingling (wasn’t really in the mood to mingle on day 1…I just wanted to slug my beer and go to bed). One thing that is so cool about traveling and staying in hostels, is that everyone there is doing the same thing you are. No one is in Rome for a weekend and then back to their hometown. They are there as a part of a lengthy trip from place to place for an extended period of time. Especially those Australians man…those bastards have the luxury of  taking off  for a year and traveling! Apparently in Australia you are able to leave school, or your job for a year, come back and still have your job! So lucky! Oh yeah, I didn’t even realize Saturday was Halloween until a few numb nuts from our hostel thought it be clever to go out in toga’s for a pub crawl (get it…toga’s…Rome…yeah, totally unoriginal).

Sunday was another fascinating day because we checked out the Colosseum and the Roman City (we went in this time). I am pretty sure the entire time my mouth was opened and my eyes were wide. Both amazing pieces of history, both so unbelievable. It blows my mind how these things are still standing! And if it weren’t for a really dumb governmental decision to rip off a large chunk of the Colosseum to recycle it for another building, the Colosseum’s exterior would be fully intact. As for the Roman City, you are free to roam throughout, sit on parts of what is left of the buildings and lounge in there like it is a park…SO cool. That night, Chris and I went out to a local Italian restaurant to get our fix of authentic Italian food. After a plate of some banging ass noodles (forget the name of them) and vodka sauce that had chunks of bacon, onion and cheese in it and a bottle of wine, our experience of Rome was just about complete. We headed back to our hostel to hang out in the bar (again…who needs to go out when you have a bar in your house ha) and meet some fresh faces.

**Oh yes, I forgot to mention earlier that I roomed with three Brazilian people; a woman named Luana, a girl named Michelle and a man named Uraio (so hard to say). Luana and Uraio were sister and brother and Michelle and Uraio were a couple. An extremely kind group of people, I really got to know them through out our time there. It turns out the Luana is a freelance television producer (she produced THE DUEL, the MTV Real World Road Rules challenge in Brazil) and Michelle is a film distributor in Brazil. Of course I told them my interests and career aspirations and we ended up exchanging e-mail addresses. It turns out that they are planning a trip to London in the near future and were hoping that I’d be able to show them around (feels cool to be able to show people around a place that is foreign to you too 🙂 ).

Anyway, as I was saying…our trip to Rome was just about complete. WAIT! How could I go to Rome without visiting the Vatican City?! Of course, of course… I would be kicking myself if I didn’t do that before I left, so on Monday morning before we caught our flight, Chris and I checked out St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. An extremely interesting area of Rome, the Vatican has walls all around it and serves as basically its own little city. It is so independent that it has its own post office within the city and its own currency! I honestly do not have words to explain what I saw. The second I turned the corner once getting into the gates of the city, I saw St Peter’s Basilica and immediately got chills…truly stunning. The inside of St. Peter’s was even more beautiful with giant porcelain sculptures draped around the structure and a massive, elaborate altar at the far end, about 100 yards away. A mass was going on and the sound of the choir’s monotone voices was an astonishing experience in itself. The Sistine Chapel was quite cool too. I think Chris got more out of if than I did because he is a huge art buff. Pretty much all I know about the Sistine Chapel is that Michelangelo painted the entire building (fun fact: did you know that Michelangelo was widely known for his sculpting before he was forced to paint the Sistine Chapel?).

Now, my trip to Rome was complete. I saw some of the oldest structures in the world, I ate some awesome Italian food and I met some amazing people. There is nothing cooler than being in a foreign land with a bunch of strangers who are all there for the same reasons you are. You learn some fascinating stories from people who you won’t see ever again in your life. Whether it be for a few hours or a few days, you develop relationships with people who you won’t ever see again in your life. And 20, 30, 40 years down the road, the only way you will be able to relive those moments will be through a simple snapshot in your memory…truly a beautiful experience.

With Love,

Zac

Quick Notes:

Andrew Rubin– the one Australian girl I met is a huge Summer Heights High fan and she sounds exactly like Ja’mie…I couldn’t stop laughing when she talked…I think she was offended.

The first video is of the Pantheon and the second video is of the Colosseum. Enjoy.

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