Italy: Part III

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ok - let's wrap this sucker up with a rundown of our marathon two days in Rome.

DAY 7: Thursday, July 4
We were able to sleep in (relatively speaking) our last morning in Florence, as our train for Rome didn't leave until around 10:30am. After our final breakfast with Donatella, we made our final trek through the streets of Florence (with all of our luggage) and made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare. Here's a stressful little component of the train station, you have to wait until your train is assigned a track so everyone stands there staring at the timetable waiting for it to be assigned. This is all fine and dandy, until the train is due to leave in 5 minutes and there is still no track assigned. That was fun!

Once we arrived in Rome, we hiked (HIKED) the 1.5 miles to our hotel with our luggage. None of us had eaten since breakfast, it was hot, and the streets were packed with tourists. That was my least favorite moment of the whole trip - I was thisclose to losing it. When we finally made it to the hotel, we dropped off our bags and went to the first restaurant we could find - which was conveniently across the street. Matricianella was one of the best lunches we had the whole trip! I got a spicy pasta (yum), but was pretty envious of everyone's gnocchi dishes they got - especially Kelsey's. It was worth the hike!

Acqua Panna/San Pellegrino is a big Share Our Strength sponsor, and our local rep was super pumped I took this for her! Look - I'm even working when I'm on vacation.

Now that we had all eaten more than enough (of course), we decided to do a little bit of sightseeing - after all, we're finally in Rome! First stop was the Pantheon - a big old temple built in 126 AD, so casual.(Fun fact: Adam and I watched Angels and Demons shortly after getting home and when the clue was the burial place of Raphael, GUESS who knew the answer? THIS GIRL. By the way, it was the Pantheon, but in true movie twist I guess his body had since been moved, yada yada yada.)

The dome of the Pantheon is actually open. There are drains down in the floor for when it rains, but I still think it's impossible that this building has weathered all that for so long... Hmm...

I can't take him anywhere.

After resting on the steps of the Pantheon for a quick minute (I don't think anyone fell asleep this time), we headed to the Mausoleum of Augustus, which was built before Jesus was born. Crazy!

Nothing screams tourists like three guys with backpacks looking at a map! Adam's ridiculous shirt didn't help the cause, either.

After the Mausoleum, we were all complaining of sore legs and feet for the first time on the trip. I think it's because we walked so far with our heavy luggage earlier in the morning! We retired for a nap, and agreed to meet in the lobby at 7pm for dinner. We finally had a chance to settle into our room at Hotel Fontanella Borghese, and I was in love with cute, old timey key we got. 

Adam and I decided to wake up from our nap earlier than the others and go down to the cafe next door to have a drink before dinner. It was so nice to grab some alone time with that cute hubs of mine.

Miami Vice meets Rome. (He got that fancy new jacket on our way to the Pantheon earlier in the day.)

Once everyone else came down, we headed to THE BEST DINNER EXPERIENCE, EVER. My number one restaurant pick has to be Ristorante Lagana in Rome. Although I wasn't in love with everything we were served, it was the best experience we had the whole trip. They didn't even give us menus, they just kept bringing out food after food after wine after food. It was heavenly and so much fun. (Side note: That was the only time our entire trip the sky was cloudy and we saw rain.)

Cute Kels.

Dave finally got his limoncello!

After dinner, we had to get some gelato (duh), and we stumbled upon this massive gelato store with a huge (but quick moving) line. We decided we had to try it. Giolitti had more gelato flavors than I even thought possible, and they encouraged you to mix them. I decided on Champagne and Bailey's. Wowzers, was it strong!

We were told we had to see the Trevi Fountain at night, and it did not disappoint. It was still super crowded at 10pm, so I can't even imagine what it's like in the day time.

Being cheesy and touristy - making a wish!

Love this kid.

As we were walking away from the Trevi Fountain, I saw a couple trying to take a selfie so I offered to take it for them. After I took the picture, the woman grabbed my arm and said "He just proposed and you just took our first picture as fiances! Thank you!" I have to say, that was a highlight of my trip. How special!

We made our final stop of the night at the Spanish Steps, and after taking in the views from the top and the bottom, we headed back.

DAY 8: Friday, July 5
We kicked off the day with a brisk walk through Rome to meet our tour guide, Serge, for the start of our marathon day of touristy sightseeing. (Come on, we're in Rome! We had to.) 

First up, was the Colosseum - which was my favorite part! It's crazy that a massive structure like that, that holds so much history, is still very much standing. 

Tour time!

Next up was The Forum - a quick walk across the street from the Colosseum. The Forum served as the center of the city/government/royalty/everything in Ancient Rome, and it was neat to walk through all of those ruins. We also saw Pierce Brosnan! Well, I saw the back of him.

It was around this time that we started getting tired and hot... and we weren't even halfway done!

After The Forum, we grabbed a couple taxis and headed over to Vatican City. We had an hour break, so we just sat down in the closest cafe to the Vatican (coincidentally, Caffe Vaticano) and had the worst meal of the whole trip. Serge warned us that the food would be bad, but expensive - and boy was he right. I ate the worst piece of pizza I had in my whole life, not just Italy. Good news - they had Red Bull, which was so necessary at that point!

After lunch, we met up with Serge and the rest of our group to begin our four hour tour of Vatican City. After waving to all of the people in line, we headed to the Vatican Museum - home to a lot of art that I have no appreciation for (don't kill me, Art History majors!). While some of it was cool to look at, I certainly didn't need to hear the meaning of 2.5 hours worth of pieces.

Like this... THIS was cool.

Serge took us outside to the Gardens to learn about Michelangelo's process in creating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was pretty neat, too! Kelsey was really into it.

We couldn't take our cameras into the Sistine Chapel, but that was a sight to see. It's incredible how bright all of the colors are even 600 years later. I also loved the Vatican Police in the Sistine Chapel. Their one job is to say "Shhhhhhh!" every 20 seconds or so. I wonder if that job is a punishment for doing something wrong?

Last stop - St. Peter's Basilica! Again, an absurdly beautiful piece of work.

Time to cover up those shoulders! Turns out shoulders and knees are super sexy.

The Papal Throne was set up, which means they're expecting the Pope soon. Serge asked a guard, and it turns out he was doing Mass two days later, on Sunday.

This is where the Pope greets his "people" shortly after being crowned. (Crowned? That can't be the right word.)

View of St. Peter's Square from the Basilica.

Adam harassing the Swiss Guard (the Pope's guards). These guys were not nearly as strict as the Buckingham Palace guys - one of them was biting his nails!

After our tearful goodbyes with Serge (get real, it was more like a sympathetic "sorry you had to put up with us"), we were officially done with the longest day of my life. I think that day may still be going on in an alternate universe! But really, we loved the tour and learning about all of those amazing things I'd only seen in movies. 

Thanks for ruining our picture, girl with the silly pose on the right.

At this point, we were all delirious. We thought it was a great idea to spell out PAPA, for Papa Francesco! (Also, we couldn't stop giggling that they called the Pope, Papa Francesco. So mature.)

Here are my key takeaways from our tour.

  • For starters, always take a tour guide when you go to these places. We didn't wait in any lines - just waltzed right in. However, don't ever be a tour guide. Serge literally talked the whole time and I felt so bad by the end of the day when everyone was struggling to stand up/pay attention/not wander off. He's basically in charge of herding cats.
  • In the Colosseum, Emperors really did thumbs up or down to either kill or spare a gladiator. 
  • The word "salary" comes from salt - which was such a hot commodity it was basically their monetary system.
  • Bread in Tuscany doesn't have salt in it because of a disagreement with Rome forever ago.
  • Romans stole a lot of cultures and took all the credit for it. For example, noodles came from China and tomatoes came from America - yet they take credit for spaghetti.
  • Michelangelo was a really busy guy. What with creating the Statue of David and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? And I'm sure he did a few other projects here and there (Sorry again, Art History majors.)
  • You have to cover your knees and shoulders in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, but not on the other areas of the Vatican. (Hence all of our long skirts. I felt like a Duggar.)
  • You can get married in St. Peter's Basilica for FREE! You just have to make a small donation of atleast $25,000. Pocket change. 

After the tour, we were all mentally and physically exhausted, so it was time to relax. Adam bought a bottle of wine and the two of us spent a good hour lounging in the hotel watching YouTube videos. We all freshened up and then headed out for our final meal in Italy (so sad!). The food was good, but the waitstaff hated us. I assume because we were Americans, but give us a break! Post-dinner was our final gelato stop and then we stopped at a cute bar near our hotel called Vitti. Our final cheers, and then it was back to the hotel to finish packing to head back home the next morning. (Good news - we took a cab to the airport this time!)

We've now been home longer than we were in Italy, which is the saddest thing ever. It was the most amazing trip, and I cannot even think of something that will remotely thank the world's best in-laws for taking us! Any ideas are welcome.

The good news is the nail polish I wore on my toes during the trip (OPI's Italian Love Affair, of course!) is still going strong. It's my last tie to the trip and I refuse to take it off.

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