Hey, everyone! This week is my sister’s Spring Break from school, and my family and I are taking a vacation to Rome. Now, it’s not the first time we’ve traveled together (we’ve been to 11 countries, including Italy, France, Scotland, Japan, England, Spain, and many others). However, it has been a few years since we’ve taken an international trip like this, and I am so excited to experience it and share it with you all!
I love to travel, having started at a very young age in life. I love the concept that there are other cultures around me, filled with people living their own lives in a totally different geographical location, which I don’t get to see every day. When I travel, I notice differences between myself and those in the area I visit, but I also notice the similarities, because it is in these similarities that I can see how interconnected the human race can be. We may have language, cultural, religious, or political barriers, but when it boils down to it, we are humans living our lives, pursuing dreams, and growing up together on separate ends of the world.
That being said, I want to share with you all what I see and experience “when in Rome,” seeing all the vermilion to violet aspects of this Italian city’s culture.
Before I actually landed in Rome, I of course had to take an airplane to get there. I have a love hate relationship with planes. I love that a plane can travel so much faster than a car, a train, or by walking. In half a day, I can move from one side of the world to another, all by simply sitting in a cramped seat. It’s hard to imagine what life before plane travel was like. Now, the world is so much more accessible. Not to be cliché, but planes truly bring to life the idea of the “world at your fingertips.” Of course, 8 hours on a plane isn’t exactly enjoyable, and feels like eternity when you have to sit in an uncomfortable seat surrounded by strangers nonstop, but when you put it into perspective, it’s pretty amazing that 8 hours can take you from one country to another, one time zone to another, and one culture to another.
So what’s the hate part of the plane ride? Let me share the few things that never fail to get to me:
- The seats are never big enough.
When we are forced to sit in a tiny one-person seat in economy, it’s uncomfortable and cramped to say the least. My personal pecking order? Aisle seats are the best. You can sometimes get away with stretching out your legs, and don’t have to climb over anyone to go to the bathroom. Next are window seats. At least you get a view, even though you’re trapped with a wall on one side and a person on the other. Middle seats are hands down the absolute worst. No view, no easy bathroom access, and limited armrest space. Hello, claustrophobia!
- The blankets are never warm enough.
Ah, plane blankets. Also known as “pieces of cotton with no insulation at all.” Planes are cold. Always. And being cold is awful.
- Loathe to the people who lean their seats back. Not cool, man.
If it weren’t bad enough that you get such a small space to live in for the next 8 hours, for some reason, people still seem to think that it’s okay to lean their seats all the way back, giving you even less space than before. Please, no. Just no.
- Sleep (for me) just doesn’t happen
I have never been able to sleep on planes. Some people (like my dad) have conked out before the wheels ever leave the tarmac. Me, on the other hand? I read, I draw, I watch movie marathons, and I don’t sleep. The upside is I get to catch up on my favorite movies, but the downside is, of course, that travel is exhausting.
Despite the trials and tribulations involved in actually getting to Rome, I finally arrived! Albeit I was dog tired, but the most important thing is that I was there. Finally! Just stepping onto Italian ground gave me an adrenaline rush, triggering my innate love of exploration.
It was a short drive from the airport to the apartment we rented for the week, but quite exciting. Then again, “exciting” might not be the correct word. “White –knuckle” may better describe it. The driver who brought us to the apartment never slowed down past 80 mph, and navigated hairpin turns and beyond-narrow streets like a Nascar driver. I may or may not have held in little screams as we hurtled towards our destination. This trip, of course, included a brief stop on the side of the highway to cool down the smoking engine. One thing I did learn while clutching my armrests in the back of the car? Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way here. It’s more of an “every man for himself” approach.
However, I am happy to say that we eventually arrived safely at 16 Via dell Orso, our home for the next week.
Right then though, it was crash time. That was one well-needed nap, after a sleepless flight.
Nap time being over, we decided to walk around the streets near our apartment in search of a small café and some strong coffee. The streets here are completely cobblestoned, antique, and incredible. Fountains can be found all around, with fresh, clean, drinkable water flowing out of them at all times. Tiny shops dot the streets, selling everything from pastries to jewelry to leather purses. Many of the stores are high end designer labels as recognizable as Hermés, Longchamp, and Bulgari.
We eventually meandered to the brightly lit Spanish Steps, a huge flight of white marble stairs.
From there, we headed to the Piazza Navona, one of the most famous Piazzas (or “plazas”) in Rome. Think giant outside courtyard with restaurants along the circumference, vendors and street performers in the center, and many many people. There are three fountains in the Piazza, as well as one Egyptian Obelisk. The largest fountain, created by Bernini, is called Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Rocks support the four River Gods who stand for the four major rivers of the continents that Popes ruled: the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges, and the Río de la Plata. The obelisk in the center, adorned with a dove to represent the Papal power, signified the Pope’s power over all four continents combined. After admiring the gorgeous figures in the Piazza, we took a break for that coffee we had been looking for, and sat on a bench people watching.
Around dinnertime, we walked down several side streets looking for somewhere appetizing. We found it, at a very small café. The tables were draped with quaint red and white checkered tablecloths, and small tea lights flickered next to baskets of flowers and spices. It was a perfect end to a tiring but exciting day. Much more to come, and I’ll keep you all updated as I travel throughout Rome, Italy!