When In Rome...

Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Apr 28, 2008

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Monday, February 25, 2008

This past weekend I went to Rome with Jessie Huffman, a daughter of old family friends, and my friend Courtney, who I used to live next to freshman year in the dorms.  It was quite the weekend...
I had class until 12:30, so after that we all met up at the train station, and had some lunch while we waited for our train at 3:15.  We decided to take the slow, regional train because it was only 15 Euros each way as opposed to the fast train that would have been 38 Euros each way.  The train ride took about 4 hours, but we were patient and didn't mind all the stops it made because we were able to see the countryside and all the smaller towns along the way.
Friday night, we checked into our hostel which was only about a 5-10 min. walk from the train station.  We booked a 3 person room, so it was nice to have the room to ourselves and do what we wanted!  We went out for dinner at a place the receptionist people recommended.  It was very authentic Italian food, and the people who owned and operated it where all family.  There was an old man who would serve the food, and the older woman would cook it.  I'm guessing it was their son who was the waiter to take orders.  The food was really good and we had a good time there.
We decided to get up fairly early Saturday morning and start our long day of sight seeing!  We took the underground metro to the Colosseum and were there by 8:30.  There was hardly anyone there so we were able to walk around and take pictures and really enjoy it before it was filled with people.  At 9:45 we started our tour of the Colosseum and that was nice to be able to get some additional information about it.  It was really an amazing place and I was so happy to finally get to see something that I had always wanted to go and visit!
After that, we went across the street to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.  We wondered around there for a couple hours and still probably didn't see everything there.  It's such a big area.  I wish we would have taken a tour there so that we could have learned more about everything there, but it was interesting enough just looking around and going up to Palatine Hill and seeing the views from up there!
Next, we walked over to the Pantheon.  We grabbed some lunch nearby and then went back and went inside the Pantheon.  It was cool because the top of the dome is open and the light shining in made it really pretty.  Inside is the tomb of Vittorio Emmanule, who was the first King of Italy.  It's not a very big place, but it's worth seeing.
We walked over to the Trevi Fountain.  Here, you are supposed to make a wish and throw a coin into the fountain to ensure that you will return to Rome someday!  The Trevi Fountain was unbelievable and was my favorite part about Rome.  Everyone around there is in good moods and excited about throwing their coin in the water and it was just nice to sit on the steps and people watch while looking at this amazing fountain!
The Spanish Steps were our next stop.  It was really warm out that day...sunny and about 70...so we were starting to crave some gelato!  We got our gelato and went over to the Spanish Steps to just sit in the sun and relax a little bit.  There was some construction going on, so we couldn't really see what it would have looked like at the top, but it was still fun to get to go there and sit with tons of other people.
Finally, around 3 that afternoon we started to walk towards Vatican City.  We had to cross the Tiber River and along the way we saw the Sant'Angelo Castle.  Then just past there you could start to see St. Peter's Basilica.  It was cool because the street was very long and open so you could see it from very far away so walking up to it you could feel the excitement build.  We walked around the square for awhile and then got in line to go inside St. Peter's. 
St. Peter's was amazing.  My jaw literally dropped when I went inside.  It was huge, there was sparkling gold everywhere, and it was just very interesting.  We walked around and saw different statues and the altar over St. Peter's tomb where the church was built around.  The sun was shining through the windows and seeing the rays coming in made it look even better.  At the very front was St. Peter's throne.  It's hard to explain all of these things because they are all so beautiful and detailed, but it was a great experience to get to see everything!
The sun was starting to set, and we decided it was time for dinner.  We wondered around the streets outside of Vatican City, and eventually decided to eat at a Chinese restaurant.  We are all a little tired of the pasta, bread, and pizza type dishes at the Italian restaurants, so we decided to get something else!  It was good to get some other flavors for once!
After dinner, we went took the underground metro back towards the Trevi Fountain so we could see it all lit up at night.  We walked around for awhile to get there and then just hung out there again.  People were still having a great time.  We saw a couple get engaged and another group of people seeing a "happy song"...or at least that's what the poster said it was.  I couldn't read the language it was in!
We went back to our room around 9 and totally crashed.  After about 12 hours of walking around and sight seeing in the sun, we were ready to just take it easy and go to bed.
Sunday we decided to get up even earlier because we planned to go back to Vatican City so that we could go to the Vatican Museum.  On Sundays the entrance fee if free, so we had to get in line really early so that we wouldn't have to wait in line long.  We got there around 7:40 and had to wait until it opened at 8:30 and then had to wait for only another 40 minutes to get in.  We thought we weren't close to the front until we turned around and the line behind us was sooo long we couldn't even see the end of it. 
Inside the Vatican Museum there is a ton of artwork and artifacts.  I didn't realize how big of a place it was and it was really interesting inside.  They had an Egyptian room, and my favorite part about that was getting to see a mummy all wrapped up except for their feet, hands, and part of their head was unwrapped.  There are signs that lead you to the Sistine Chapel and you have to walk for a long time, winding through different corridors and rooms filled with painting, tapestries, statues, and other artwork to get there.  Finally, we got to the Sistine Chapel and of course saw the famous painting on the ceiling.  It was very cool inside and I couldn't believe that someone was able to paint everything inside given how high the ceilings were. 
After going through the museum, we walked outside to go back around to the Vatican City square.  We had to walk past the time to get into the museum, and it was at least a mile long, if not more.  We got to the square around 11:30 and found a good spot to sit and wait until Noon because that was when the Pope was going to be making his blessing to the crowd. 
There were so many people gathered around to see Pope Benedetto XVI.  Groups of people had huge flags, and some were even making their own parade with costumes, banners, instruments, and everything!  All of a sudden, everyone started clapping and we looked over and up in a window the Pope was sitting and waving.  There was a flag hanging down from the window that he was in so that you could see him better.  He started to say his blessing in Latin and Italian.  There was a big screen that had part of it written on so that you could follow, but I couldn't because I had no idea what he was saying.  It was very cool to hear him talk and to see such a powerful figure.  At one point he said the same thing in Italian, French, English, German, and Polish about different places he was going to be.  I had no idea that he was able to speak so many languages, so well.  His blessing lasted for about 20 minutes and then after more waving, cheering, and clapping, he was gone and the window was back to normal!  Once again, the atmosphere around us was filled with excitement and happiness!  We had been planning to go to a mass in St. Peter's but after noon, there aren't any more, so we headed back towards our hostel.
Our legs were killing us from all of the walking the last couple of days, so sitting down for lunch and getting some water was really nice.  We finally went and got our bags and hopped onto the train home.  The ride home felt so much longer because we didn't want to leave Rome.  I couldn't believe what a great city Rome is.  There wasn't one thing that I didn't like about it, and I can't wait to go back now.  I didn't get to see everything there is to see, obviously, but we did get to see a lot of the major and important places that Rome has to offer!  The trip was so successful and was by far my favorite weekend trip so far!  I still can't stop smiling thinking about what a great time it was and how amazing Rome is!
I have some quizzes this week in class, and have more student council meetings to keep my busy.  Thursday night we are leaving for Prague, so I'll have to rest up and get ready for what I'm sure will be another great weekend trip!
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