When in Rome…

Colosseum Image 1

To put it simply, Rome was amazing. It’s also a city that you can see the majority of it/the hotspots in just a weekend which worked perfectly in my favor. We departed Barcelona at 4:30 am by a bus which brought us to the airport and from here we began our quick journey to Rome. I was pleased to get my passport looked at this time around! We checked into our hotel in Rome in the morning and were free to explore all day on our own until the optional bus tour in the afternoon, which honestly should’ve been mandatory because it was so good. 

Unlike your typical bus tour where you sit inside of a bus with uncomfortable chairs for an hour or so, we actually got out at several spots and got to see some of Rome’s most notable sites. Our first stop was St. Peter’s Basilica and it was gorgeous. To enter, our bags were checked and we went through a metal detector. The plaza was enormous and filled with people, although we weren’t able to get super close to the Basilica itself. I went back on Sunday and had a much more lively, special experience so I will touch upon that more in a few paragraphs! 

From the Basilica, we continued on to an area with a bunch of stores and more gelato shops than I have ever seen before. Abruptly, we were at the Trevi Fountain! I say abruptly because it is not in a big open area at all, like I had originally expected it to be for some reason. We were walking down small alleyways and suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, we were there. The fountain was so grand and held beautiful turquoise water. We were advised to have coins ready before we even made it to the fountain because as you can imagine, this is a hot spot for pick-pocketers. Getting to the base of the fountain was almost as bad as trying to get into the metro at rush hour – nearly impossible and everyone was packed like sardines. Eventually though, I got to make my wish! The only part about this stop that wasn’t so good was the amount of people. It was expected, but it definitely takes away from the experience. Regardless, it was so beautiful to see and there is definitely nothing like it. I also had another abrupt encounter with Trevi which I will also get to later!

From here, we continued down another alleyway which lead to a plaza that was home of the Pantheon. The entryway was intimidating with its thick, massive columns. I entered into a room completely taken over by shades of brown, bronze, and gold. Statues lined the circular walls and there was also an alter for praying. Inside, it was very dark with the main source of light being the large hole in the center of the dome. This hole is not covered by glass, it is actually completely open to the outdoors. Yes, this means that when it rains or snows, it all comes through the ceiling and floods the Pantheon. The floor is slightly slanted so when this happens, the water all moves towards the drains. Tiny holes are also punctured into the ground to help with draining. We were hoping for rainstorms on Sunday so that we could come back and see just a cylinder of water pouring in, but that never happened. 

By the time the bus tour was over it was time for a much needed dinner. I went with my friends to a place called Hosteria de Moro and ate more at once than I ever have in my life. They had a special going on for 20 euro per person that basically promised a lifetime supply of food and never-ending courses. A few of us got this and decided to split it, each paying only 13 euro for what was probably 300 euro worth of food. I was full after the third appetizer but of course had to “try” (completely consume) everything. It was super yummy, which is why we came back the next night to do the exact same thing!

The next morning I had a delicious breakfast provided by the hotel and then hopped on a bus to go to the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine! We had such a good tour guide who was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and learning about the Colosseum was one of my favorite parts of my trip to Rome. One thing about the Colosseum/Rome in general that I probably annoyed everyone by saying a million times is that I don’t understand how everything was built without the use of cranes, electrical tools, etc. The Colosseum was built around 80 A.D. and I can’t comprehend how people could move such massive and heavy stones, bricks, and columns let alone stack them on top of each other. There was a display that depicted how they probably did this, using their versions of scaffolding and elevators. It truly amazed me to walk through this site and many others. The base of the Colosseum, where gladiator fights were held, is completely gone and instead, what is visible now is what was below this base. It looks like a maze and was originally underground. Walking through the Colosseum, we all kept thinking about how crazy it was that we were at the site of events that took place thousands of years ago. People fighting against each other to kill one another or animals versus humans; all of it seems bizarre that people considered this entertainment! All in all, it was a very interesting and informative experience.

From here, our tour guide walked us a bit further down the road to one of the biggest areas of ruins. It looked like it was out of a movie scene and the way that structures were broken, destroyed, or crumbled seemed like they were done so in a perfect way. I was so interested to know what this area had looked like before all of the destruction, especially since it was so beautiful. I can’t even imagine what it would’ve looked like roughly 2,000 years ago.

After the tours, about 10 of us went for lunch at a restaurant that lined the edge of a huge plaza. Right as we sat down, a huge parade began. Everyone was in medieval costumes and there were bands playing and confetti being thrown everywhere. Waiting for my food to come had never been so enjoyable!

Later into the night, I went to a club with my friends and unlike Barcelona, there aren’t cabs everywhere you turn so we decided to walk about a half hour back to our hotel, which we were all complaining about. We had our destination pulled up on our phone, leading us down small quiet streets and alley ways. Once again, I managed to abruptly stumble upon the Trevi Fountain! We were all so stunned, not only because who can say they “accidentally” found the Trevi Fountain, but also because aside from 6 other people, we were the only ones there. It was spectacular to say the least. How different it looked without being swarmed by hundreds of people! The water was the same turquoise blue, only this time lit up by underwater lights. The fountain itself was glowing too. It was so beautiful and all of the complaining we had done about walking home turned into, “I’m so glad we couldn’t find a cab!”

On Sunday, our last day in Rome, my friends and I walked to Vatican City and saw the Pope speak at noon. I’m not good at estimating amounts of people, but I’d say there were over 10,000 people in this one area. Prior to coming and hearing him speak, I always knew seeing the Pope was something I “had to do” in Rome but I honestly never knew why and it didn’t seem interesting to me (ignorant, I know). But right as I entered Vatican City and somehow got a great viewing spot in the plaza, the atmosphere completely changed my original viewpoint. I even found myself anxiously counting down the minutes until 12:00 which is when the Pope’s tiny head would appear in the window above me. I felt like I was at a concert waiting for Taylor Swift to come out on stage and sing her latest hit single. When he showed up, the crowd went wild. People had signs praising him, balloons in their hands, and flags being proudly waved in honor of their native country. Everything surrounding me made me so happy, including  seeing people from all around the world come together for the same reason. The speech was short, only about 25 minutes, and once it concluded, hundreds of green balloons were released into the sky. Trying to get out of Vatican City wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought since the street was so wide, but it still took a while. There were homeless people begging for money all along the exit ways, many with lost or distorted limbs which was really sad to see. 

Just like in Interlaken, I loved the trip (this one more so) but was so excited to get back to Barcelona. One of my favorite things about Rome aside from the sight seeing was just how beautiful the city was. It’s so interesting because you can literally feel the age of this old city. I’m not sure how, but I felt like I was dropped in the past because the “ancientness” of it all seemed to linger in the air. The architecture was also much different than Barcelona but still just so unique and pretty. Before coming abroad, people always mentioned the architecture of different places and how beautiful it was and I never really thought I’d notice it or have an interest but it is actually one of the things that stands out the most to me when I visit a new city. Rome is also known for having the best water in the world and on every street, there are small faucets that run all day and every day that people often use to fill up their water bottles. I’m not sure why they are constantly running but so much water would be saved if they would turn these off when they weren’t in use. I’m excited to be spending the next two weekends in Barcelona and after that, I’ll be headed to Seville, Spain!! There are tons of pictures from this trip so I hope you get a feel for what I have described! I’m loving it more and more every day and I am so excited to be able to share my experiences with you!

Love, Jackie

Jackie Dziadosz is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a guest API Student Blogger. Jackie is studying abroad with API in Barcelona, Spain

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