Rome(ing) without a guide or a pope to hold our hands (Part Uno)

With the addition of separate European countries to my living situation, I am not unsure how to filter through my 928104 photos that no one wants to see. So I’m going to write separate posts for separate countries! (Yes, yes, I know the Vatican is not Italian, but it’s pretty damn close inside so let’s just count it as one thinamajig)

So in case no one noticed, I went to Rome this past weekend!! And it was pretty ridiculous, for the following reasons:

  1. Because I purchased a roundtrip ticket over the weekend to go for exactly 48 hours. IMG_4080
  2. And when I got to the place where I was staying, having booked two beds for me and Sabina (who went allllll the way to Florence and was like, Stef’s in Rome?? Let me go to Rome!!), I was confronted by this elevator/stairway contraption and was immensely intimidated by how Italian everything was (this is what I think Italian living is like) IMG_4103
  3. Italians drive cars like this. They don’t just use them for bumper cars. They drive them and call it vehicles for transporting human bodies that are still alive.IMG_4084
  4. Rome has beautiful food inside and out (of my tummy). Here is some gelatoIMG_4149

And some beautiful pasta and company for one

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And my first Italian pizza!

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(yes, I absolutely ate pistachio and hazlenut gelato prior to even getting any pasta and pizza for myself, by myself, with myself, as my first meal in Italy)

5. Rome is gorgeous and insanely unwalkable after five minutes in flats on cobblestone

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Day Uno: One day all of Europe will speak one language and hopefully that language will be French because that will be convenient for me.

The beginning to a great adventure always begins with misadventure. That’s a lie. I’m just trying to make the fact that I missed the bus I told Tabong to be on to get to the airport and then had to take a later one. The good news is my newfound time between the buses allowed me to buy an entire baguette which I devoured with an avocado, the bad news is, well, there is no bad news, because then we went to Rome! When we got there, we went our separate ways to our respective AirBnBs and when I finally finished my hour-long journey to find 14 Viale Glorioso, in Trastevere, I was delighted to find myself in the most friendly, truely-hipster, amazing community home. This unused bicycle is a lovely exhibition of what I mean.

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The living space is a great place to just sit around and bum (but not on the couch that I think I may or may not have broken by completely collapsing into it after a day of walking 19.52 kilometres)

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For those of you studying abroad and thinking of going to Rome, Together is the best place to go! It’s started by Ernesto who isn’t even making any money off of it but wanted to find a place to foster a sense of community by bringing people together, and enjoying each other’s company, and the money you pay only pays for the rent. Here’s a chalkboard with all the love in the apartment/mansion complex.

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And the kitchen where we had breakfast in the mornings and cooked dinner last night!

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I then took to exploring the city a little bit by foot, before Sabina arrived, and before I could find any friends to go hang out with. Trastevere is on the quieter side of the city, across the water from many of the main piazzas and the Coliseum, but on the side of the Vatican.

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Now that you think Rome is ugly and mundane, here are some silly basilicas I found next to a supermarket on my street

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One of the most exciting reasons why I wanted to visit Rome eventually was because one of my favorite people and mentors is a large-scale fan of Rome and gave me a list of big and small things to do here, which included this lovely Piazza Navona, where I ate some ice cream

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went in to visit the church of Saint Agnese

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and found myself in another beautiful basilica where a service was going on

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But my favorite part about the entire weekend was the fact that there were all these other people there. Yes. I know. Stefani what is wrong with you, do you think the world revolves around you? Do you go to Harvard?! (Sorry Kristy and Jade and my very kind and smart friends) But the best thing about exploring a new place is the chance to meet all these incredible and probably weird new people. Exhibit A: Man who asked if he could take me to his church. I know it sounds malicious, but what actually happened was I was looking at a paper map (Yes, I live in the 90’s and I love it) and trying to figure out how to cross the river to go back home and lie down and be old for a second, when he came up to me and asked if I was trying to go to Trastevere, and I was suspicious but he looked very kind and said he was going to a church to meet his wife who sing in a gospel choir. Wife. Gospel Choir. Check and check. Must be a good person. Plus, then he explained to me, both in Italian and Spanish (because after I asked where he was from (Colombia) I stupidly said I understand Spanish better than Italian, and although it is true, relativity is not fluency) all the things about where I should be more careful in Rome, how the view is beautiful at night, and took a picture of me in front of St. Peter’s at night!

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He then took me around to see a restaurant he said is cheap and really nice for dinner with friends and the church that he goes to on Sundays that I could visit and where I could have lunch with him, the church, and his wife afterwards. A part of me really wishes I did see him again. He made sure I knew where I was going, and then kissed me goodbye in the most Colombian way imaginable and then disappeared into the church. I don’t think I’ve smiled so much on the street.

AND THEN SABINA ARRIVED! And it was like I remember what friendship felt like. Just kidding, I had lots of friends. Sabina is just cool and I missed her.

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We went to grab some more food and wine, and Tabong found us, and we ended up going to another basilica (really Italy?) and sat outside on the steps in the middle of the piazza and sipped on some whiskey and tried to caption all the statues we did not understand.

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Our night was filled with fun discoveries, such as the fact that porn is apparently made of spicy chocolate vodka

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Or that Italians like beer pong?

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But we also made some really cool new friends, from Italian actresses with large mysterious bags to other tourists as well; this was primarily as a result of hearing some Americans say “fuck the police” and deciding, we should befriend these people, along with a British couple at the table nearby. We all got two rounds of shots (because someone decided that would be a great idea) and if I remember correctly, Sabina and I did not pay a dime before we left, so either someone was gracious enough to pay, or we completely forgot and dashed.

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we also ate some really good 3 am pizza before realizing everything was beginning to close around the area, so we probably needed to head to bed

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Day Due: Tourism is what makes the Roman economy rock (or cobblestone) and roll 

Saturday was our only full day in Rome, and I woke up at 8 am naturally due to my silly internal clock that was going, “WAKE UP WAKE UP TIME FOR SOME FRENCH SCHOOL” except I wasn’t in France so that was incredibly useless and costed me my sanity throughout the day, on four hours of sleep. but by 10 am, Sabi had slowly rolled out of bed, and Alex and Michael, our roommates, were both rolling into the kitchen with coffee, tea, and breakfast. Coincidentally, Michael was also looking to go to the Vatican on Saturday, and since we were all such experienced Romans, we decided we needed to add some tourism into our blood, and went together. Now, the Vatican is actually on our side of the river, but is really a 45 minute walk away, and it was beautiful along the river, so we actually popped into the castle first, which was build by an emperor way long ago, and used at points to house the Pope when he was in hiding. Here’s the castle from the view across one of the more beautifully sculpted bridges

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And a view from the actual bridge

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And here are some horrifyingly stupid and disrespectful tourists taking photos on the top of the castle

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And here is me wearing the Vatican like a hat with Michael. Meet Michael! One of the best travel companions I’ve ever met and one of the best things that happened to me and Sabina on this trip, because

  1. we got to make a new friend from Copenhagen (!) who happened to be our roommate as well
  2. we found a free tour guide who could put up with our complaints
  3. if you continue reading into the next part of this ordeal, he managed to a) wake up before either of us b) make us breakfast and c) go back to the Vatican and the Coliseum with us because he’s just such a nice person

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Remember the bridge I mentioned? NO? Scroll back. Now do you remember? Now here’s the bridge from within the castle

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What actually occured before we got into the castle was that the lady at the counter we were at was a complete buttface about letting us into the castle, and charged both me and Michael 10.50 euros instead of the 7 euro discount for anyone under 26 or a student in Europe because 1) Michael turned 26 last week, and 2) I didn’t have my passport and couldn’t prove my nationality or age. But HELLO? Last summer was the first time I was asked if my 15 year old younger sister was older than me. So either she’s 26, or I’m a child. It is most likely the latter. Anyway, Sabina sat this one out, and waited for us instead to go to the Vatican.

So the Vatican is kind of a place you have to visit when in Rome, and so we took the inevitable task of lining up in the blazing heat to see the Pope. Just kidding, the Pope is in America. If any of you see him, please ask him why there is no shade at the Vatican.

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Or where I can find Michaelangelo and Benini to congratulate them on a stunning piece of art and architecture

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Climbing up the basilica cost 7 euros with the elevator and 5 with the stairs, and being the younglings that we are, we decided we had enough power to power through (or more like, not enough money to justify the elevator route). And we ended up hiking. (yes hiking) Six. Hundred. Twenty. Four. Steps. Yes. You are correct. We died.

But it was for this basilica

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And the incredulous mosaic on the walls

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And this view from the cupola

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Where you can look down at the entirety of the Vatican’s forefront

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Where of course we had to take an obligatory selfie that made us look like prisoners (or more like just me because I just shaved my head this weekend and forgot to bring contact solution so couldn’t wear sunglasses and am squinting like a criminal)

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This

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and this

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and this (St. Peter’s tomb)

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and this incredible view from which the Pope stands every week twice a week to speak

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are reasons to visit the Vatican, despite the crowds and in spite of the fact that I am not necessarily religious. Sometimes you step into physical spaces and the things that bring people together, like religion, make a little lot more sense.

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Now I need to take a nap before I can continue talking about the Vatican because just talking about it is bringing back the physical memory of walking through that damn city of a museum. To be continued.

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