Monday, 24 February 2014

Roma, Italia

So I'm apparently the worst blogger in the world. I just haven't been in a very "bloggy" mood lately but before my mother and sisters decide to virtually throw something at me I'll post!
The last that you all heard was that I was flying into Rome and going to spend the weekend there. Let me just say that Rome is an amazing and beautiful city full of friendly people (a nice change to London)  and that I will without a doubt be returning to it someday. After all I threw coins into the Trevi Fountain and now its my destiny to return to the eternal city ;). Getting to Rome was definitely a bumpy experience. Everything from having our car to take us to the airport be 45 minutes late, to one of our friends having her entire suitcase searched at Heathrow security, and then finally not speaking any Italian to explain how to get to our hotel to a cab driver, we made it!

On the plane from London!

However, I will say that we did get a ride to the hotel from a sketchy shuttle driver outside the airport (maybe not our best decision ever and if you're my mother then I'm lying and that didn't happen...) but no worries, we made it and the grace of God abounds even as far as Rome, Italy! Once we finally got to the hotel we had to hunt down someone to let us in the door and then we got to settle in for just a little bit. We all decided that when in Rome one cannot sit in a hotel room! So we went out to explore the city a little bit and see if we could find some genuine Italian food. We are 4 American girls trying not to get lost in the middle of Rome so naturally we stuck out like a cat in a tutu but after a few wrong turns, kind strangers, and almost giving up we found where we were supposed to be to pick up a ticket for the next few days adventures to be less expensive and let us cut the lines. Victory! Dinner was at a small restaurant and on the first night in Rome you bet your left foot I got spaghetti!

These are my lovely traveling companions! (from left to right: Ally, Lanna, and Jacey)

I am so grateful for these women who God so perfectly placed in my life for this semester, whether its a hug when I miss my mom or a huge laugh, they always know what I need. After dinner (which was crazy expensive, the exchange rate to Euros is terrible plus I am so tired of paying for water) we headed back to our hotel, Casa Di Fiori, and got directions to a few key touristy places in Rome. We headed out with a map (or 3) in hand and confidence that we would not let Italian master us anymore! Lanna had given up on leading us places so Jacey and I took over and got us safely around that night and back home in one piece, score! We went to Pizza Narvona, the Pantheon, and the Fontana Di Trevi all in one night. I'm telling you, we were bound and determined to make the most of our very short time in Italy. There was a moment out on the streets that night that I knew I could handle being an adult. It may sound silly as I am 21, almost 22, and living in a foreign country currently but it was dark, Italian, and a little sketchy but I knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there. I literally said out loud to Jacey "I can do this! I can survive in an unknown place and figure it out! I can read a map!" See adults, my generation really can survive without GPS and Siri, I have a brain and I used it. Score! The rest of the night was spent just being in awe of the city, as it looks so very different in the daylight, and getting gelato. 
Full Day 1:
The day started out with an open bus tour and we decided to get off and explore THE COLISEUM.
Yes, I have been there and yes, I freaked out when I first saw it. It was off in the distance but I knew what it was and I stood up on the bus and practically shrieked! When we first got off the bus it took everything in me not to run and just touch it, I had waited so long to see this place and here I was, this really is what dreams are made of! (That was a Lizzie McGuire Movie reference, for those of you who got it: props, for those who didn't: carry on, I won't judge.) 

So in all honesty there isn't a whole lot to do at the coliseum, its really just the experience of being there with your own two feet and being a part of history. People have been standing where I was standing for thousands of years, crazy! The coliseum was the first stone amphitheater of its kind and was built from 70-80 AD and was used as one of the main forms of entertainment for ancient Romans. They would hold fights between animals of all kinds many of them were imported form Asia and Africa, gladiator competitions, and it could even be flooded to hold naval battles. It was really amazing to be there and to just imagine all of the things that had taken place in this open air building. While we were there I said that I never wanted to leave! Except for its stairs that are practically at 85% angles and the no roof part I could just live there and bask in its glory. 

"Guys, I'm touching it!!!"
Thank you iPhone for panoramic mode!! 

I told you I was crazy excited!

Once my group practically dragged me out of the coliseum we headed over to the forum. Basically just a lot of ancient ruins, suh-weet! We hung around for a little while, looked at ruins of the temple of Saturn, the arch of Septimius Severus, the temple of Titus and you guessed it... more old rocks! Needless to say I preferred the coliseum to the forum but it was still pretty cool. We left and met up with another group of our students from London who had also come to Rome for the weekend and all went to see the Trevi Fountain in the daylight! 

Sitting on some Roman ruins at the forum with my girlies! (Chloe, Ally, Me, Jacey)

We didn't want to pay for tours so I had a nifty book and would just read about whatever we were looking at and would answer questions as they arose, haha! I spent much of our time in Rome like this.

When we got to the Trevi, via open top bus again, we all got gelato and just spent a little time people watching and of course made wishes! There is a legend that any foreigner who throws a coin into the Trevi with their back facing it over their shoulder is destined to come back to the Eternal City! Being at the Trevi was one of my favorite things to do while in Rome, I passed by it about 5 times in our 2 1/2 short days but I loved every time I got to see the beauty of it. On valentine's day we even saw a proposal there! What a special place to be asked that question! 

So apparently my wishing face is really dumb. Enjoy, while I go bask in shame.
Fontana Di Trevi!

The day ended with Ally and I going off to do a little bit of shopping and a quick pit stop inside the pantheon. Its not a far walk from the fountain so we moseyed on over, making a few pit stops on the way and enjoyed our time together. Once we saw the pantheon in the day time I was awestruck! It is, like the coliseum, huge and pictures will never and I mean never do it justice. 

The inscription reads: "Marcius Agrippa, son of Lucius, third time consul, made this temple." It was originally built in 27-25 BC and was dedicated to Mars, Venus, and the Divine Julius. However, what we see today dates from the early years of Hadrian's reign, between 118 and 125 AD. 

The rest of the day was very slow and we ended up getting pizza somewhere and taking things slow, we were all so tired after this day!
Full Day 2:
The morning began with a beautiful Italian breakfast at our hotel and typical confusion as to what bus to take to get to the Vatican. Once we figured out how to get there and got inside, holding our purses tight I might add, we began a very long traipse through the smallest country on earth. I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty bored and unimpressed with the whole shindig but tried to make the best of it! The whole time I was there I just kept thinking of my great grandmother, the sweetest, sassiest, most precious woman that anyone could ever have had the privilege of loving. She was a devout Catholic and I know that she would have loved every minute of being there but because heaven has taken my hero, I will tell her all about it someday. 

We had such perfect weather all weekend! Time to break out the shorts and sandals (well almost). 

My favorite thing that we did while at the Vatican was meet the Pope! Juuuust kidding. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. I had heard so much about it my whole life, about Michelangelo timing his painting on fresco perfectly and about his contemporaries hoping he would fail because he was primarily a sculptor. To see The Last Judgement and the famous paintings of God reaching for Adam and Adam and Eve, among so many others I was literally awestruck. I stood there for a good 15 minutes with my eyes glued to the ceiling, my mouth probably hanging open, and my heart so engulfed in the images that they became engraved in me. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the chapel and honestly I'm glad. I think knowing that I couldn't pick up my camera and look at it through a lens made me appreciate it more. All I had was my eyes and whatever my heart could carry. Once we had finally escaped the maze that is the Vatican we opted not to climb up St. Peter's Basilica (the huge dome building) or "The Greatest Church in Christendom", well I don't know about that...have you seen Tallowood's stain glass and new sanctuary?! ;) But decided that we would rather go to St. Peter's prison. Too bad that it took us the better part of 2 hours to find and then when we did find it, it was a one room cell that may or may not have been where they kept Peter one time in Rome. Cool beans. I guess? Although, anonymous travel buddy: "Why is everything named Peter? Who is he anyways?" Everyone else: "Ummmm. You know like the disciple..." ATB: "Ohhhhh, I knew that!" Uh huh, sure you did. It was a hilarious moment for all of us who go to small Baptist colleges in Texas! After our small let down of the prison we began a new quest: The Spanish Steps. We found them! and with not nearly as much trouble as the prison. They were ya know...stairs that were covered in people. Cool. I can see that at the mall in the US, haha. But really, they were pretty neat and if I knew the significance of them I'd tell you but I have no clue so here's to doing research! We met up with everyone from London and just hung around the pantheon like no big deal right?! I happened to have great wifi signal and got to FaceTime my dad and make him super jealous so that's a plus! The rest of the day was spent eating more carbs (seriously how do these people survive?!) and packing for our journey back to London. Our flight was set to leave Rome at 6:20 am which meant that we were being picked up to go to the airport at 4 am...Lanna and I just ended up pulling an all-nighter for fear of not waking up at all. Perks of freakishly early flights though:
Sunrise over Rome, God really does have the whole world in his hands.

My girls and I at the coliseum. <3 
The past week or so in London has been uneventful although full of homework and writing papers, but I cannot believe how blessed I am to be here and to be having this experience. More blogging to come later but this has taken me almost 3 hours! 
Missing you all,

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