Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rome, Italy

Bonjourno! I am currently in my room back on the ship in Naples, Italy! Me and Lee just got in a little over an hour ago from spending the night in a Holiday Inn in Naples. It has been a very non-stop action, very busy past 5 days. I hope yall are all doing just splendidly; me and Lee have been a little homesick the past couple of days, so just know that we miss everyone!!

ALSO: This picture is of me in front of the ancient Roman ruins, if you click on it I think it can become bigger! Let me know if it didn't upload though!

Day 1: On June 29 (Tuesday), the MV Explorer pulled into port in Civitavecchia, Italy, which is pronounced Chivita-veckya. It’s a small town on the coast of Italy, about an hour and a half train away from Rome. We were in this little fishing town by 9 AM, so we just walked to the train station there and bought our tickets to Rome! I stupidly bought two 24-hour train tickets because I couldn’t understand the Italian lady working the ticket booth and obviously she couldn’t understand me either, since I ended up with two tickets! But it was fine. We got on the train with our group of eight: Lee, Matt, Erik, Bryant, Julianne, and two girls whose names have escaped me! The train didn’t have air conditioning and half of us were on the top part of the train so it was getting a little steamy in there. Me and Lee sat across from these two Italian people, a guy and a girl, and we were practically listening in to their foreign conversation the whole time. It was fun. After 1.5 hours, we were in Rome! It was about 11 or so, and we were starving, so we were instantly on the lookout for a place to eat. We found one pretty soon down a side street about 15 min. away from the train station. It was a pizzeria – a “Trattoria” pizzeria! We were told by a guy from Italy on the ship to look out for restaurants that had “Trattoria” by them, because that means that the place is family-owned, and thus, BETTER ☺ THE FOOD WAS AMAZZZING! We were all so famished and thirsty, and he brought us the best bread and olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette. I ordered my own margherita pizza, and let me tell ya, you can’t go wrong with ANY pizza over here in Italy. I ate the entire thing. It equals out to about 6 or 7 pieces, at LEAST. Their pizza is so so so different than the pizza in America; for one thing, it was much thinner in Rome than at home. Also, none of that grease is present! They also go easy on the sauce. On the second day, Lee ordered a 4-cheese pizza (formaggio (sp?), mmm!) and it had NO sauce on it at all. Also, I haven’t seen any pepperoni pizzas here. On the second day in Rome, I had another individual pizza, and the owner of the place called it the “Hawaii” pizza: it had really thinly sliced ham and pineapple on it, my favorite! Oh my gosh, I hope the Lord lets us eat that in heaven haha ☺ It was sooo good. Ate the whole thing, once again. Okay, I’m getting off track talking about their delicious food. Back to what we did on our first day in Rome!

        After getting away from the awesome trattoria, me, Lee, Bryant, Erik, and Julianne ventured to this beautiful park called Villa Borghese. All of us 5 were signed up for different field trips through SAS that were going to take us on a tour to all the major sites in Rome, so we wanted to explore the city more on our own terms, and see the places that we knew we wouldn’t have time to see the next two days. So to the park we went! It was HUMONGOUS. And super old. We had to climb a ton of steps up to get into the park, and once you were up there, you had a great view of part of the city. We saw so much on the way to the park, including a few stolen obelisks from Egypt, which was pretty sweet! We just walked through the park leisurely. There were tons of gelato stands and drink stands, and so many families with strollers and little kids running around. We were definitely not in a touristy place anymore, which was awesome! After walking for awhile, we came upon this man-made pond. We sat on the edge and stuck our feet in and just enjoyed being in the middle of a park in Rome with our feet in the most refreshing (and random) pond. Did I mention yet how hot it is there?! STINKIN HOT. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than Waco in August, but it can. Anyway, after that, we kept walking the small paths and found an amazingly large statue of a man on a horse. I’m sure it had a very significant meaning, but I don’t know what it was. It was an awesome statue though. On the other side was a SCARY woman in a long cloak, and when you sit right under it, she is staring down at you (as is the horse). It was pretty cool. Bryant and Erik fell asleep for a few minutes while me and Julianne and Lee just rested and listened to a distant band playing a Jimmy Buffett song somewhere further away! It was a very pleasant afternoon! Later on in the day, we took the metro to the area where the Trevi Fountain is– which is very very large and deserves to be as famous as it is. It was really crowded, so after getting closer to it and taking a few pictures, AND throwing a coin in (the wrong way), we got our first gelato in Italy! It was a shop right next to the Fountain, and I had Chocolate Nutella gelato…  scrumptious!!!! The rest of the day was a blur; we went shopping down the side streets for postcards and small souvenirs, and we also walked along the Tiber River, no big deal. ☺

        That night, our group of 5 met up with Matt and his gal pals and Lindsey and her new friends- it was so much fun! We had dinner at another pizzeria near the Trevi Fountain, called Gli Sfizi di Pizza Roma! It was amazing; I had some great pasta with tomato sauce…I know talking about the food is probably getting old already but it really is so different than it is back home. We could totally eat this food forever. The only thing I don’t like is that they only serve still water from the bottle, so it’s pretty expensive, instead of being FREE like back in the states. So, in a nutshell, Day one in Rome was GREAT. The city is awesome – busy, hot, but so much to see. Every street has a story behind it.

Day Two: Lee and I signed up for a field trip through SAS called, “Rome, The Eternal City”…it was an overnight trip in Rome. On the first day, me and Lee met the bus down at the gangplank and it was about an hour and fifteen minute bus ride to Rome. We walked down a few streets until we got to the Roman Coliseum. I absolutely LOVED touring the Coliseum, it was mind-blowing trying to imagine how old it was and that the Romans were really there and thrived there in Rome. The floor where the gladiators fought and people were killed, etc, didn’t last, but you can see underneath it completely where they kept all the lions and other animals/ their cages! It was so cool! You can walk around the whole thing and imagine all the seats and all the people who used to fit inside of the Coliseum. After a couple of hours there, our group walked to the Roman Forum – amazinggg! This is a really large segment of Roman Ruins that have been excavated, you can walk all around and through it. You walk the same streets that the ancient Romans walked, and you see parts of all these buildings they built (that their slaves built). Tons of the columns and statues that used to be there were taken to the Vatican for decoration! I think that the Roman Forum and the Coliseum were my favorite parts of Rome… I loved trying to imagine how ancient it all was, and trying to imagine the city how they saw it. Also, there were several Roman walls STILL STANDING around the city in all these random places – that was coool! It’s amazing how their buildings have lasted so long. But aaanyway, our tour guide gave us all five hours of free time after that, so we left in search of some lunch. This is when I had that Hawaii pizza that I raved about earlier. During our free time, we roamed the streets and spent time in the Piazza Navona and visited the PANTHEON! In the Piazza Navona, me and Lee both bought a piece of art from a street vendor – there were so many art vendors selling their work around this square. My painting is of one of the streets we walked down, and it’s just a classic portrayal of the Italian alleyways with all the flowers and cafes. Lee’s is three smaller pictures of the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, and something else I don’t know. Haha. Both are pretty and only cost 20 euro each! That night, we ate at a really charming restaurant that had live music and was outside (just like ever place to eat here). We had dinner with our new friends from the trip, Shea and Meredith, who are both from TEXAS! It is so nice to meet people from the South here. ☺ Shea goes to UT and Meredith goes to Texas Tech, so we had lots to talk about! After dinner, our tour guide took us all on a night tour of Rome – we walked to the Trevi Fountain (beautiful at night; me and Lee threw one coin in the CORRECT way: in right hand, over left shoulder. Backwards for me but whatever, it’s supposedly for good luck! Two coins = come back to Rome with the love of your life ;) I didn’t want to waste two coins just for that though! Haha) We also visited the Spanish Steps and took lots of pictures. We were exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel – a Best Western (with no air conditioning, once again.)

Day 3: This day was a little crazy! After waking up in the hotel and getting breakfast there (sliced pineapple and an abundance of bread/croissants and some chocolate cereal) the group headed straight for the Vatican. We didn’t have to wait in the LOOONG line, thank goodness! We had to go through security and everything – just like if you were entering any other city! The Vatican was the most overwhelming thing ever. Our tour guide took us out first onto this deck that overlooks the private grounds that only the Pope can walk – he has all these nice, private gardens all to himself. From the deck, you could see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked through several rooms of Roman sculptures, tons of Raphael’s paintings, Pope “stuff”. ;) I don’t even remember all that I saw, it was so enormously overwhelming. Our tour guide told us to stay close, because where we were, the Vatican Museums, there are thousands (THOUSANDS!) of other rooms where it is easy to get lost in! Yikes. So I stayed close. Our guide led us right to the Sistine Chapel – which, if you somehow haven’t ever heard of, is this beautiful chapel that Michelangelo painted – it was sooo cool! He had tons of frescos (sp?) of Jesus’ life and Moses’ life, and the famous painting, “The Creation of Man” where God’s finger is reaching out to touch man’s finger. We spent time in there just being quiet and trying to see everything. The wall you enter into is covered with the scene of judgment day, which was cool, too! Ok, I am trying to remember everything to tell you, but this day was so overwhelming, because we saw SO MUCH SO FAST. Immediately after the Sistine Chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, which was sooo awesome. The biggest church in the world. It was beautiful. Right in the middle is the apostle Peter’s tomb. You have to take a few steps to see it, and it was blocked off, but they have a huge marble monument over it. It was very elaborate…as was the entire church. So many monuments dedicated to all the popes and religious figures…me and Julianne and Lee were talking about this earlier: we think it was so overwhelming because we can’t imagine how honoring all these religious figures is very “Christian”, or right. I can’t really explain it, but it was like making these popes equivalent to mini-gods! I didn’t like that too much. The Jesus that we know isn’t that way! So, yeah – that was overwhelming. (That’s the only word I can think of to express how I felt!)
The rest of the day was at our leisure – until 5:30 PM. Me, Lee, Shea, Meredith, Julianne, and Alison spent the day walking around and revisiting the Pantheon, eating lunch, shopping, getting gelato again, etc. Lee and I and my roommate for the trip, Kelsey, had to all get our bags from the bus at 5:30 because we weren’t going back to Civitavecchia that night – we had decided to find our own way to Naples and meet our ship in Naples! Now, THIS was an experience, let me tell ya! Actually, I’m not going to tell you right now because I am utterly exhausted, and Lee is sleeping on her bed, and it’s making me really jealous, so I’m going to join her. (On my own bed, NOT in hers, just to clarify!) But I can’t wait to ‘blog’ about our journey to Naples later!

Gratzie for reading and keeping in touch, it means so much to me!!! I have been with Semester at Sea for 18 days, but I feel like I’ve been gone for a month or more! It’s crazy. We have 48 days left until we get back to Virginia! Please keep praying for me and Lee, and also pray for the protection of the other students in SAS – I forgot to tell you after Barcelona, but 3 students have already gone home. One was sent home for conduct reasons and the other two for personal health problems….61 people were pick-pocketed/purse snatched in Spain! They say that Rome is known to be more dangerous than Barcelona with things like that, too, so God has really been protecting me and Lee!!! Ciao!

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