It is possible that I just had one of the best weeks of my life…
Shayla, a friend I met here in Greece, and I decided to take a week long trip to Rome & Florence to meet up with my best friend Kristen who is currently studying abroad in Copenhagen!
Overall, the traveling days were the most difficult. There is a lot more that goes into hopping from country to country than what I expected. Shayla and I woke up early on Friday the 30th and headed to the ferry (carrying our luggage across cobblestone streets made us realize that perhaps we packed too heavy, and had not even left Paros yet!) We bought our tickets and got on the ferry which was 4 hours to Athens. Once in Athens we got a taxi to the airport, checked our bags, and off to Roma we went! When we were landing every time someone said “Welcome to Rome!” we screamed a little bit.
By the time we got into Rome, it was already dark and we were exhausted but still had a ways to go.. Finding the hostel was bound to be the most difficult part since the only directions I had were brief and on my iphone. We had to take a shuttle into downtown Rome and it was on our way to getting on it that Shayla’s handle of her luggage completely broke off! As if it wasn’t hard enough to get around an unknown city flooded with tourists, now she had to get creative and use straps, and other foreign objects to lug her bag through the streets of Rome. I felt so bad for her since at this point all we wanted was to not get pickpocketed and to just find our hostel. Eventually we came across it when we saw a bunch of young people hanging out at the bar outside next to the hostel and we then had to carry our bags up ENDLESS AMOUNTS of stairs just to get to our room!
Turns out, our hostel was already occupied and from the remains we found on the 2 bottom beds of the bunks that were already claimed.. these were 2 guys! We wondered just how safe it was to fall asleep with all of our stuff in the room with unknown guys living beneath us but we were so tired that after we ran to get a quick bite we passed out anyways. (SIDENOTE: at our first dinner in Rome we were surprised and found it hilarious that every time we asked our waiter for something he would take it off the table of people that were 2 inches away from us. Water? …took it from the table. Olive oil & Vinegar? took it from the table beside us.. I began to wonder if we should just scoot our tables together and join them!) When we woke up in the morning with the strange boys on the bottom bunks beneath us, getting down from the rickety beds was hilarious because we made a ridiculous amount of noise and clearly woke them both up before we left.
(**NOTE FROM ATHENA: This was not an Athena sanctioned field trip, thus the accommodations were not set up by Athena Study Abroad.)
In the morning after somehow getting our bags all the way down the stairs (how did we do that…seriously?) we walked to Termini train station in hopes we would meet up with Kristen, but this place was SO huge that we figured we would just hop the train and hopefully find her in Florence! A guy who we thought was sweet and nice and trying to be helpful when we bought our train tickets electronically really just asked for a euro which reminded us that we need to be careful who we talk to around here. We took the long train to save us some money and after getting into Florence and yet again walking far distances, we came across our hostel to find TONS of people sitting outside looking miserable. They weren’t letting anyone check in yet! We felt so dirty after the hostel and the train that we were dying for a shower so the people at the front desk of the hostel were so sweet and got us towels, shampoo, and body wash and let us use the downstairs showers which were in the POOL area! As I searched for plugs all over the hostel to blow dry my hair I realized that this was going to be an adventure and you just have to go with the flow.. which as 2 high maintenance girls, we really did a good job of 🙂
We then got our map and ventured out into Florence to the Pizza de Repubblica to meet Kristen and her friend Hannah for lunch. After getting lost SO many times and trying to navigate the busy streets, finding this restaurant and spotting my redheaded friend was like finding a treasure chest. I was overjoyed to sit down and finally breathe in Florence and realize that I was sitting, eating pizza with great friends in ITALY.
After lunch we spent the rest of the day exploring the town and walking through all of the little shops that smelled of leather and enjoying the beauty of Florence! I found myself to prefer Florence over Rome because of the beautiful architecture and atmosphere.
The next morning in Florence we stood in line to see Michelangelo’s “David” statue, which was well worth it. It was so glorious and seemed like a dream to actually be admiring such a classic piece of work. We sat on the benches and gazed up at him for awhile just letting it sink in. We also were not allowed to take pictures as we found out when Hannah was yelled at for just holding her camera in her hands, but we sneakily took iPhone pictures anyway! We couldn’t resist…
Our last day in Florence we had planned on climbing the Duomo but it turns out that it was closed so we had to make do with the bell tower instead (which turned out to be even better because we got to photograph the Duomo from the top!) The stairwells were extremely narrow and so flooded with tourists that at some points I had to just close my eyes and keep on climbing or I knew I would have an attack of claustrophobia! When we finally reached the top after what seemed like an endless climb of stairs, we were rewarded with an incredible view of Florence that made ending the trip here perfection.
Back to Rome we went! We took the faster train this time and arrived at our hostel after briefly getting lost (always) and were pleasantly surprised! We stayed at Hotel Cervia, a nice little hostel that was in a great location near restaurants and cafes, and just minutes from Termini station and the metro. All 4 of us had one room with beds lined up next to eachother: it was hilarious being in this type of setting after living on my own for so long but it was like a big sleepover every night and I really enjoyed it! Again, we faced floors and floors of stairs but after climbing the bell tower in Florence we decided we were pretty much professional stair climbers at this point, so the hostel stairs seemed less daunting. (Although much more daunting late at night after dinner and wine!) An added bonus was every morning we went down to the cafe inside the hostel and got a complimentary cappuccino and croissant. I never wanted to leave.
The rest of our days in Rome were a whirlwind of excitement, history, pasta, pizza, gelato, and euphoria! Rome is an incredible place and I am soo happy to have gotten to share it with the friends that I did. Seriously an unreal experience.
New generation of Gladiators!
Beautiful Dali exhibit at the Art Museum
St. Peter’s Basillica
Only picture of the Sistine Chapel… photos inside NOT ALLOWED (and they made sure of it).
What more could you wish for in Rome with great friends?
The Spanish Steps
Pizza in the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps!)
So many wonderful cafes in Rome.
My favorite Piazza, filled with artists and musicians!
Tartufo: Quite possibly the best thing I ate in Rome!
The water fountains in Rome
What an incredible week that I will never forget. I asked my cab driver on the final night if he had ever been to Locarno, Italy where my ancestors originated, and his response was a burst of laughter. Everyone in the car started laughing too because we did not expect this reaction from the Italian man who barely spoke english: “Locarno is a very, very, funny, funny, funny, place.” I asked him what he meant by that and he said “The people in Locarno are wild and free spirits…very, very, funny.” We all laughed together in complete agreement that this is where I came from. I’ll be back for you one day, Italy.