Rome and the Vatican City in 30 hours? Possible.

Ciao ciao!

I’m trying to catch up on my blog posts, so that is why I am suddenly posting multiple blog posts in one week. I have several trips to talk about, so many that I struggled with deciding which one to talk about. November is quickly approaching, and I am extremely excited that I will be leaving for London in a week and half (I have always been obsessed with England)! Expect an extra long blog about that. So for that reason I am trying to write as much as I can about Italy before venturing into other countries. As my roommates say, why does this have to be a study abroad program? Can’t it just be an abroad? But seriously, I swear I do actually go to school here!

This past month has flown by, and I’ve already been to La Spezia (near Cinque Terre), Rimini (a beach city), Ravenna (near Rimini), San Marino (the oldest country in the world..but still geographically in Italy. I also must include that this was one of my favorite places so far! It was gorgeous, and there were several castles that you could climb to the top of. Picture below). I’ve also been to the city 15 minutes away called Parma (yes like the cheese), and recently visited a Ferrari museum in Maranello (an hour away by bus). 

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The country of San Marino

All these places had their own thing to offer, but honestly I feel there was not as much to see or talk about in comparison to Rome and Milan (my most recent trips).

Day 1: Vatican City

Two friends and I left for Rome for the weekend at 8 am and arrived at 1 pm by train. It is possible to get there in two and half hours, I believe, but I took the regional train instead of the high-speed train for about half the price. We had decided to spend the first day in the Vatican City, which is an independent city geographically located in Rome. This is the home of the pope, the Vatican museum, St. Peter’s Basilica (which closed too early for us to see), the Sistine chapel, and the gardens.

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Inside Vatican City..the dome is St. Peter’s Basilica.

I would now like to set a small part of this blog aside to explain Megan’s first experience with pushy tourism:

Before actually entering Vatican City and the museum, there were two lines and a large group of well-dressed men with lanyards standing in front of it. We stood at the end of the lines confused for a second trying to figure out which line to take (since we hadn’t bought tickets yet). The one man heard us speaking and yells at the other “English!!”. The other man (that apparently spoke fluent English) runs over and starts asking us what sights we wanted to see in the Vatican. We explained we wanted to go into the museum, and he starts telling us “oh, well the line will take about an hour. Then you will want to go to St. Peter’s Basilica which will take even more time..you will need a pass to line jump”. He pulls out a map and draws all over it, telling us all the possible ways we could go through the city. For the next…oh, maybe 5 minutes (but it felt like 20), he goes on and on about these packages that we needed to buy. “Oh, there is an audio tour you must have for 20 euros more”… Every few minutes he would look at us and say “you look confused, let me explain again”. Long story short: we finally realized this guy had zero authority, and was literally pretending we couldn’t pass him without purchasing his pass. The sad thing is I believed him at first! Lesson learned: Rome is no Reggio Emilia. People are not the same.

Once inside, I went into the museums, which were filled with art and sculptures. I am in no way an art connoisseur, but if I see the artist is Leonardo Da Vinci…I know this place must be pretty special.

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Vatican Museum

After walking around the museums with a huge backpack for a few hours, I sat in the Vatican garden with this view. Luckily, the weather was beautiful that day.

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We ended the day with a trip to the Sistine chapel. The walking to get to the chapel took us about a half hour because you walked through several museums. When we finally arrived, the chapel was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people all just staring at the ceiling. No photos allowed, but it was pretty amazing looking (though I highly considered taking a stealthy picture with my phone– it did take 54 months to paint).

I ended my day with nothing other than…prosciutto pizza (prosciutto is a kind of thinly sliced Italian ham that is EVERYWHERE here).

Day 2: Rome

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9 AM: Roman Colosseum.

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Warning: I was not awake in this photo.

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A little surreal to be staring at the Roman Colosseum..

Right next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine. Before we left later that night Rome, we sat, ate, and people watched. It was pretty interesting to see couples, families, groups of teenagers on school trips, or actual Italians there. The perfect place to play “guess what country that person is from”.

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Next to that is…many many Roman ruins. I have to be honest and say it was gorgeous and all, but unless you know a lot about history then it can be a little mundane to spend a lot of time on. See below for much Roman ruins.

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I then saw the Pantheon, which was built by the Romans in 126 AD. It’s famous for the dome on the inside, which you can see in the second photo below. It was also gorgeous on the inside, not to mention free entry with no line!

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This photo looks like a painting to me..

More observations about tourism: In front of every famous structure there are people that are selling (correction: shoving in your face) all of these scarves, souvenirs, and the most famous object of their desire…selfie sticks. It gets to be very repetitive when you’re trying to simply take a picture and they decide to walk into it. This happened in Milan as well. I understand that this how they make their living, but they actually followed me with their selfie stick. Especially because this will happen again 2 minutes later. No, I do not want your selfie stick. Nor yours. Nor yours. Not even yours. Perhaps I’m just not used to big cities…but I am proud to say I am a professional tourist scam spotter at this point.

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Palatine hill. We walked so much to get to this..

I was a little disappointed that we walked to the Trevi Fountain only to find it was under construction, as were the Spanish steps. However, I did go to a gelateria with over 100 flavors.

By the end of this weekend, I was so exhausted. End it all with a 5 hour train ride, arriving back at my apartment at 11 pm, and collapsing in my bed..I would say it was a successful Roman adventure.

Italy’s most popular city? Check.

Ciao!

MEO

First Experiences with Hostels

Ciao again!

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It’s been quite awhile since I’ve last written, but I have been so busy here. That’s actually a slight lie, I’m just a procrastinator. Last weekend I went to Rome, and I just came home today from Milan (I’m pretty sure I walked about 30 miles this weekend alone..).  I will write about these two cities later (if I remember..), but to sum up my weekend: Milan was crazy busy. Basically, Milan was much more modernized, filled with businesses, had amazing shopping, and contained mass amounts of people. Not to mention the World Expo was going on. I had heard several times that Milan was nothing special, but I think I could easily live there. There was so much happening in that city, and I loved all of the energy and life in one place (more about Milan later). Besides for the fact that I still have a lot to learn about traveling, I feel the need to share my novice tips with the world.

What does every young traveler experience while traveling on a budget? Hostels.

Starting with the basics: A hostel is an establishment which provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travelers (thank you Google). You can stay in expensive hostels with a private room and breakfast provided, or you can totally cheap out and book the cheapest one you can find on Hostelworld. I usually do the latter, so if you’re looking to read about staying in a luxury hostel then this is not the place.

I have compiled a list of some observations I have made about my first experiences with staying in hostels:

  1.  You will question if the girls sleeping below your bunk are even speaking a language, because it sounds like the strangest combination of sounds you have heard in your life. You will then hear two other languages being spoken at the same time and begin to wish you could understand someone. Luckily, it seems that most everyone knows basic English. This makes life much easier.
  2. You will lather yourself up with hand-sanitizer and wash your hands at every chance you get. The hostels I’ve been in have mostly been clean, but nobody wants to get sick while traveling.
  3. You will slightly wonder if that blanket put on your bed is washed every night, but tell yourself it has in order to fall asleep. Am I the only one who worries about this?!
  4. When it is 3 AM and someone is snoring so loudly that it feels like it’s shaking your bed, and you have to use every restraint in your body to not hit them with your pillow.
  5. On a more positive note, you will meet people from all around the world who are in that city for different reasons.
  6. I have never used an eye-mask or ear plugs before in my life until I stayed in hostels. I don’t consider myself a light-sleeper, but I need my sleep.
  7. I was very pleasantly surprised with the amount of general respect people have for other people. There’s always exceptions, but most people will try not to wake you up, or take a long 20 minute shower in your shared bathroom. I had no idea what to expect, but this was definitely a good surprise.
  8. You will being to realize you don’t actually need a TV, your own bathroom, your laptop, or lots of space after all. Even…wait for it…Wifi. Yes, you can live without Wifi. I do not enjoy it, but I can do it! Aren’t you proud of me mom?
  9. I’m happy to say that the hostels I’ve stayed in have all been in decent locations and have felt safe to me. As long as you lock up your valuables, you will be totally safe (this is a given). Everyone is just there to travel, not murder you.
  10. My only complaint is just people making noise. Obviously people come and go at different times, so this unavoidable. Noise isn’t a huge deal anyway when I think about how hostels are allowing me to see a new city (or eventually country) on a college budget.

Well, I hope I wasn’t too sassy in this post (since I’m still tired from all the running around in Milan)! Hostels aren’t the most fascinating subject to write about, but they were definitely something new to me. They are much more popular in Europe, so it is another bit of Italy I have had to adjust to.

All in all, I still feel incredibly blessed to be here and have the opportunity to travel, and if I have to deal with snoring and smelly bathrooms, then I will survive. 🙂

Ciao!

MEO