Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roamin' Roman Last Week in Roma

It feels like forever since I’ve written, which is partly true. I apologize to my readers—I have fallen behind in my postings. I just got back from my trip from Greece and moved to Florence. Don’t worry I should have more current postings very shortly. Although I am dying to write about how amazing Greece was, I have to conclude my stay in Rome. Which is extremely important because I saved the best for last!
With only a week left in Rome it was time for me to do some serious sightseeing. I had walked past the Coliseum and Vatican many times but was always in a rush to see something or someone else. I had yet to go to the Trevi Fountain. It would have been a crime to have not gone to either one of them. Seriously!
First on the list was Trevi Fountain. I went with some friends who were also in my program. On our way there we went out to dinner. I hate saying it, but after eating pounds of pasta and pizza I was ready for a change. By the Trevi Fountain there is a Chinese restaurant; I couldn’t resist. This probably was the biggest mistake. Bottom line you get what you pay for. It was inexpensive and the food was……….. that says it all. I was craving sweet and sour pork. When I got it, it tasted neither sweet nor sour. It had no taste. I am sure there are better Chinese restaurants out there. This place is not one. I don’t even bother to remember the name. All I can recommend is that if you are by the Trevi Fountain and see a Chinese restaurant—keep on going!

The Trevi Fountain was beyond words. (I feel like I say that all the time… but in all fairness it really is true.) I highly recommend you go at night.  Although it will be crowded, it is totally worth it. And yes, I threw a coin over my shoulders into the fountain and made a wish. There was so much going on it can be overwhelming. I almost got lost in the moment. Of course everyone wants to get their photos taken in front of the fountain, and I can guarantee that on a weekend night a guy is going to propose to his girlfriend and get down on one knee and the entire crowd will cheer him on. But that’s the magic of the fountain. We’re all a bunch of tourist looking at the same thing but experiencing it in different ways.

Did you know that Trevi Fountain receives 3,000 Euros a day!!!! That’s pretty impressive! I am glad to have read that the money is donated to various charities. 

With the Trevi Fountain conquered, it was time to visit the next sight. Originally my roommates and I had intended to see the Van Gough exhibit. Right after class we took the bus to the museum, walked up to the ticket booth, fully prepared to spend some money to see the exhibit and… we were a day early. We walked up the steps, through the door, and past security guards, only to discover that the next day was the opening. As the saying goes, when you are given lemons make lemonade.

Five minutes later I found myself standing in front of the Coliseum. That’s the beauty of Rome. There is always something to do and see! So this is what I’ve learned about going to the Coliseum and hope this helps you.
1.     I promise you there will be private tour guides out in front trying to sell you their tour. DON’T DO IT! They’ll claim the line takes over two hours and they can get you in within 10 minutes for an extra six dollars. Do not let the line intimidate you. In actuality, it only took us 15 minutes to get in. Don’t be afraid to walk up to the front of the line and ask the cashiers how long of a wait there really is.
2.     Students don’t get discounts! I know for a fact if you are an Italian citizen you get a discount, and if you’re a EU citizen. The cashier will ask to see your passport if you “think” you qualify for the discount, we tried, and failed to pass off as a EU citizen. Bottom line is, if you’re American, you’re paying full price!
3.     Do yourself a favor and go to the top, find a spot and sit down for at least 20 minutes after you’re done reading and exploring the place. Life seems to slow down within those 20 minutes. I was really able to take in what I saw. Plus, I got to hear everyone’s reactions. I didn’t even have to speak the same language to understand what they were saying.
Too perfect for words

Another site that should not be missed is the Borghese Gallery, also known as the Galleria Borghese. It is an art collection in Rome that has paintings and sculptures. Talk about art! I wish I could have taken photos, but everyone has to check their bags and cameras are not permitted. The artwork belonged to Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who started the collection. And today the collection fills rooms and rooms! When you purchase a ticket, I strongly recommend you make reservations a head of time. Once you make reservations you are allowed a two hour block of time to explore the collection. So don’t be late! This is definitely worth your time. The only thing I regret is not getting the audio tour.
Outside of the Borghese Gallery

On the second to last stay in Rome I finally went to the Vatican. If you love art, this is the place to go! Everywhere you look and step are sculptures and paintings.Of course I was excited. I’ll try and organize my thoughts and knowledge I gained through this experience. But most importantly photos!
Vatican court yard
The ceilings were my favorite! Every inch full of art
1. The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world with the smallest population.
2. The Vatican has its own Post Office and even has its own stamps. At the end you can go to the Post Office and purchase postcards and stamps to send out as a “souvenir.” Many Romans use the Vatican mail system because it’s a lot faster than the Italian mail service.
3.  The Sistine Chapel is incredible. Don’t expect to take any photos, as it is not allowed inside. However, I did witness people take photos and within a matter of seconds those people got a serious tongue lashing from the guards. You’re supposed to be quiet, but in all honestly people are really noisy and it makes the guards MAD. They shushed everyone in the room and it would go quiet for a second and then pick up again. It really was kind of sad to know that people couldn’t be quiet for 5 minutes in their life. No need to be talking when you’re looking at the work of Michael Angelo. 
4.  For all you food loving people, if you’re hungry or thirsty think twice before you purchase anything. It’s extremely expensive. My friend ordered a sandwich and after purchasing it he found there was no mustard or any condiments on the sandwich. If you want condiments you’re going to have to pay extra! As for me, I was stupid enough not to ask how much a small glass of juice would be before ordering. Let me tell you it was 3 Euros! But if that’s my biggest complaint then I really don’t have anything to complain about.
More art from the ceiling. Make sure you look up if you ever go.
The last week I discovered an amazing bakery shop by apartment in Trastevere. I guess it’s a good thing I found it on the last week, because I probably would have gone every day and depleted my entire bank account. I love how they wrap your goodies; it’s like opening up a Christmas present. I got to know one of the servers really well, her name is Sonia. Every time I came in she smiled and instantly walked over to the pastry section, she just knew the kind of gal I was. The hot chocolate was good as well however; I couldn’t justify spending 2.50 for a cup. I can’t wait to go back when I return for Christmas.
What could this be?
I will miss Rome, but I’ll be back for Christmas and this time I’ll be with my sister, and I am ecstatic to show her everything. I have a feeling it’s going to be better than the first time. Life keeps on getting better!
Dessert makes any day better!

Roamin’ Roman

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roamin' Roman goes to Napoli!

My roommates and I at Sorrento
Although I am very excited to be living in Roma, I had this urge to get out of town and explore! As crazy as it sounds, I felt claustrophobic and needed a small vacation. With that mindset my roommates and I went to Napoli!!!

Napoli is roughly a two-hour train ride from Roma. It’s not too pricey if you travel with Trenitalia. We were traveling during the peek hours and it was 17 Euros. However, depending on the time departing it may be more or less expensive. Right after I got off the train I learned my first lesson. Listen to your instincts!!! I was traveling with three other girls and four other guys from the program. Before the trip I had mapped out everything of how to get to our hostel. Instead of going with my gut feeling I followed the guys because I did not want to split from the group. (I hate agreeing with the stereotype, but men never ask for directions and would rather walk miles out of the way instead of admitting they are lost.) We ended up in a shady street and came across the homeless ghettos that smelled of…I’ll just spare you, but it was completely and utterly gross! This was my introduction of Napoli and I thought if this was the city, then I wanted to go back to Roma.  Finally from the peer pressure of another (female) roommate, we turned around and found the metro that took us to Portici. Portici is sandwiched between Napoli and Pompeii and is a 15-minute metro ride outside of Napoli. We stayed at the Fabric Hostel. I strongly recommend this hostel for anyone staying in Portici.

I instantly found some differences between Roma and Napoli. Napoli men are extremely vocal and aggressive. The first night my girlfriends were walking to dinner and two men on a moped followed us for blocks, ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. They were driving into oncoming traffic, but it didn’t seem to faze them.  We did what everyone had told us to do… ignore them! However, they were persistent. They asked us what language we spoke, English or Italian. Still they kept on trying to get us to speak. My roommate had enough and said we spoke Japanese. If you could only see what my roommate looks like. She is tall, blonde and extremely beautiful, far from looking Japanese. But nonetheless, it gave me a laugh and finally they gave up.

Our first night we ate at this amazing restaurant that was a 10-minute walk from the hostel. I’m so sorry, but I don’t remember the name nor can I find it online. Next time I’ll do better! It was completely necessary to order pizza. I didn’t care if I was hungry or not, it would be a sin if I had ordered anything else. I ordered the caprese pizza and instead I misprounced the name. Bottom line I ordered “ a tantrum pizza.” The waiter looked at me and knew I had made a mistake but took the opportunity to make fun of me. I am sure I’m not the only one who has made this mistake.

 After dinner we found a gelateria and to my surprise it had tons of desserts as well.  Maybe I’m wrong when I say this, but the food and gelato seem to be richer in Napoli than it is in Roma.
By the time we got home it was midnight and we needed to rest up because the next morning we were going to Pompeii. This was the place I read about when I was in third grade and now I was going to visit the site. We took the train to Pompeii for a small fee of 1.20 Euro. In my opinion, you can’t beat the price. From Portici it’s a 20-minute ride. From the train station it is only a 5-minute walk to the site and only 11 Euros to get in. (Sorry no student discount.) It is incredible, and to this day I have yet to find words that describe what I saw. So I’ve got tons of photos for you to see. In Pompeii they have a vineyard and they sell the wine.
At the vineyard 

Houses at Pompeii
From Pompeii hopped on the train to Sorrento. If you’re going to visit Pompeii than you might as well continue to Sorrento for dinner! Sorrento is a small town in Campania that is the southeastern end of the Cicumvesuivina rail line. The town is probably the most beautiful place I have been! (I’m sure I’ll find more amazing places to visit.) While in Sorrento I visited the beach.

 Did you know that you have to pay to go to the beach? Although there are free beaches, they are not anything special! So we snuck into the private beach. No one seemed to mind… or rather we didn’t get caught. But the owner finally discovered what we had done, and invited us to the pier. They’re really friendly people if you are friendly in return. After watching the sunset we ended up at dinner.
 (I promise next time I’ll write down the places we eat at. My deepest apologies.) The food was amazing. I ordered the raviolis. Each time I order something on this trip, I can’t go wrong. Food tastes so much better here! (Good thing I brought my stretchy pants.) One of my roommates is very friendly and we got tons of food for free! Such the charmer she is…. Thank you! After dinner we went back to our hostel. So if you think about it, a person can really accomplish a lot in one day. I didn’t even feel rushed.
On Sunday we went to visit Napoli for pizza! A traveler’s tip for all you backpackers. In most train stations you can leave your backpacks in the check in for a small fee. It was only four Euros and completely worth it!

Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! PIZZA! That’s all I’ve been thinking about since I’ve arrived in Italy (in addition to desserts). I’ve tried Pizza in Roma. It tasted 20 times better than it does in the states. When I went to Napoli, it made me realize Napoli really knows how to get the job done!

We had a mission to go to the restaurant that was mentioned in the book, Eat, Prey Love. It is called Pizzeria da Michele. My roommates and I spent 45 minutes trying to find this place, and after asking many, many, many people, we discovered it was closed! Seriously! I was disappointed to say the least, but that’s what I get for waiting until the last day. Instead we went to another pizzeria that was close by. (This time I did write down the name.) Trianon. Highly recommend. You enter from the street and take the stairs up and there are tons of tables. It isn’t that expensive and the quality was beyond my expectation and the pizzas were HUGE! I got the lasagna pizza.  I seriously can’t believe I ate the entire thing. I was stuffed when I was ¾’s done but I couldn’t stop. When will I ever have pizza like this again? I miss it already. After the pizza we slowly made our way back and hopped on the train to return to Roma.

My mini vacation was over and it was a huge success! I hope one day I’ll be able to return and eat more pizza. Hopefully I’ll plan better and eat at Pizzeria da Michele!

Yours truly,
Roamin’ Roman