Monday, April 9, 2012

when in rome

Rome is an incredible city. Every single street feels like a movie was shot on it. It's rustic, historic, beautiful. Filled with history and natural beauty. I feel like I could spend months here just walking down random streets and buy lots and lots and lots of gelato. 

Me, Stephanie, Kelsey, GA, and LA are all staying with my friends from University of Iowa that visited me in Greece a month or so ago. The girls and I are all staying with Matt Schueller and the boys are staying at Andy Cherry's. Taylor Tannebaum lives at the Fort Knox of student housing and is not allowed to have visitors stay the night at her place so she joins us ever day for sight seeing and adventuring. Jenna Goode, my 10-year-anniversary-friend-from-camp-foster joins us at night for dinner and drinking. We are all so fortunate to have such amazing tour guides and to not have to pay for hostels. Matt and Andy are my LIFESAVERS. They are both such gracious hosts and matt keeps cooking us food and doing every little possible thing to enhance our comfort and happiness- he's incredible. Andy is QUITE the tour guide. He's a huge history buff so he rattles off fact after fact that has us all enthralled and extraordinarily impressed. Taylor is a doll to have and keeps the energy of the group up and it's always good to have another girl in the group to even out the testosterone. Jenna BRIGHTENS up my world when she joins us. I love having her around me. Anytime, anywhere.

So, Rome. We landed in Rome two days ago. The first day was filled with getting gelato and food and going out at night. We arrived around 4 in the afternoon and we all were famished. We went straight out to get food and then we bought 20 bottles of wine (we needed to stock up on Italian wine for fear of liquor stores being closed for easter weekend). So we went back to Matt's and dropped off the alcohol and went out to a delicious dinner of gnocchi at Tony's. Andy is good friend with "Tony" the owner of a local restaurant here in Rome. The dinner was great and we were the last people in the restaurant-- sitting and drinking until 12:30. We left Tony's and went to On the Rocks and Top Five.  They were pretty cool bars but were on the low-key side of life. We met a couple other Americans and they joined us on our night out. The guy was from the Jersey shore and was like the stereotypical fist-pumper kind of guy. The girl was a sweetheart english major studying in Florence. I liked her quite a bit. We bonded over Toni Morrison's novels and all. At Top Five we went on stage where there was a couch and a sign saying "Only Girls Allowed on Stage." There was actually a bouncer on the stage to keep the guys off. The minute we got on stage a club-photographer hopped on stage and started snapping a million photos of us. Kinda awkward, kinda whatever. I got behind the DJ booth and the DJ let me play with the buttons so I was a happy camper. I love buttons! I was exhausted though and I had to go outside with Shoo once to do a quick jog to work up some energy. After a bit of dancing and a lot of laughing we headed home around 4:30.

with Tony at Tony's!
Ladies only!
with the DJ
The next day, we woke up and went to meet they guys at where Caesar died (aka the cat sanctuary). Of course, the boys were 45 minutes late. Typical, typical. But when they finally arrived we were frustrated but excited to finally get to see Rome! We went to the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps), the Piazza del Popolo, and the Borghese Gardens. It was a day JAM PACKED of amazing sites and amazing things. The Pantheon was breathtaking. It's stunning, it's everything, it's.. indescribable. Everyone can picture a lot of the aforementioned sites due to photographs they've seen and blurbs they've read in history or art classes. But the thing is, photos do not do justice to a single site I've seen. The columns are huge the colors are brighter the awe that is induced is immense. I suppose that is the closest word I can find that gently nudges up on the Roman sites I've seen: immense. Everything is just so much greater than you can picture or you can imagine. 

Make a wish!
Trevi Fountain 
these are steps. and they're spanish.
meeting up with another group of Americans from ACT
Firstly, I loved the cat sanctuary. A place for little kitties to sit in the sun and hang out. Every city should have a little designated area for cats to chill. The Pantheon was perfect, more incredible than I can grasp or word. The Trevi Fountain was a dream with it's aquamarine waters and large marble statues. I made a wish and loved the weight such a wish at such a fountain carries. The Spanish steps was the ultimate hang out spot. We chilled there for an hour just enjoying the sunshine and enjoying taking candid pics. 

We went to the Wedding Cake building and took some cool photos up top of it and in front of it.

The Borghese gardens was lush and green and we rented little row-boats and enjoyed a romantic afternoon on the water with ducks and flowers and leaves falling from the trees above.

Everyone was exhausted after the gardens and it was beginning to rain so everyone went back to Matt's to nap and Matt, Taylor, and I all went out for an espresso. Matt and Taylor always brag about how they get coffee two days a week, every Tuesday and Thursday after their class together and they chat and talk about life and make me super jealous. I am so envious that they get to spend so much time together but I'm happy for them too. But it was so great to see the coffee shop they always go to. I loved sitting where they sit and seeing the place where it all goes down. It was great to chit-chat just the three of us too. They are such wonderful people. I went back to Taylors for 10 minutes and checked out her place and ate some popcorn. Matt and I walked back and had some quality 1-on-1 time where we caught up on all that needed be caught up on. It was perfect.

Rome is Rome. It's all it's cracked up to be and more.

At night, we went out to dinner and I ordered Gnochhi with oysters unknowingly. I almost died. Thank goodness for Shoo. Shoo was a dear and traded me dishes so I ate his lasagna. Ok, so here's the thing. I never realized what people really meant by mediocre versus good versus incredible pasta. I know if I'm eating under cooked or over cooked pasta. But I never understood the different degrees of quality of pasta. Now I know. The lasagna literally melted in my mouth. There was no chewing necessary. It was buttery and soft and tantalizing. I took one bite of it and said: Oh, I understand now. 

We were asked to leave when the restaurant closed past midnight. We eat like the Greeks do, late and long. I loved it. Andy's friend Megan joined us for dinner and she was a riot. I sat next to her and really enjoyed her company and her sense of humor. We were being cheap-college students and only ordered 2 liters of wine, one red and one white. We brought bottles of wine from home and refilled the jugs on the table with our own wine. All of our glasses would be filled to the brim and the wine jug would be full too. Magic? Yes. 

Kelsey, Steph, and I were all exhausted so we went straight home after dinner. Shoo once again proved his hosting skills, and went home early with us. We crashed and got 10 hours of sleep. Thank goodness. 

Oh, fun fact. I sprained if not fractured my toe. Lovely. It's the second toe on my right foot. It's swollen and tender and not-so-fun to walk on. Fortunately, it doesn't hurt too badly so I'm able to suck it up until the end of the day when it kills. I can't wear flip flops because it forces my toes to move too much. So I'm stuck in my boots which makes me nervous because when I walked too much in my in Istanbul my bursa started killing me and I was forced to wear flip flops for a month due to the tenderness of my bursa (near the achilles tendon on the back of the foot). Why am I so prone to foot injury? What is wrong with me? The is incredibly, incredibly frustrating. I need to learn a lesson and bring 10 different pairs of shoes on every trip. I only brought boots and flip flops on this trip and only boots to Istanbul and only 4 pairs of shoes from home to Greece. Shame. On. Lily.

Easter Monday was a casual day of wandering. We were never in a rush and never stressing over a schedule. We all walked around all day and saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Piazza Venezia, and The Basilica di santa maria in Trastevere. We got Panini's for lunch and gelato for a snack. I have yet to mention this but Gelato in Rome is nothing like the Gelato in the states. I used to think I understood what Gelato meant by being thicker, creamier, and heavier. But no, it's nothing like that. It's like gold. It's like gold. A golden food. It's real. It deserves that capital "G" I've given it. It's Gelato with a capital "G." So far I've tried a bunch of flavors because we get Gelato a couple times a day, and it's customary to get 2 flavors together and because everyone is such good sharers. My favorite flavor combo so far is either chocolate and strawberry or bacio and stratigella (aka chocolate with nuts & whipped vanilla with chocolate chips). Delicious. 

The Colosseum is W-O-W. I kept saying, "This is the Colosseum. Do you see that? That's the colosseum." It blew my mind. It's colossal. It lives up to it's name. It's massive. We took a bunch of artsy and fabulous photographs out in front of it. We took an I-O-W-A picture and we hope to get on the University of Iowa homepage or some University of Iowa publication. Game on.

Something interesting about Rome is the diversity of the people here. Yes, it is Easter weekend and there are a billion and a half tourists because where else would you want to be on Easter but in R-O-M-E?! But I still feel as if there is a much more diverse population here than in Thessaloniki. I always here multiple languages on the bus and I see hoards of tourists from all over the world. Rome is more architecturally consistent with lots of tall, ornate, roman-styled buildings with columns and intricate friezes and triangular pediments (thank you art history classes!). I definitely prefer the architecture of Rome to the architecture of Rome to Thessaloniki because it's classier and more consistent, more ornate and detailed and more traditional. I love it. On the other hand, I prefer the people of Greece to the people of Rome. The Roman men are attractive but boy are they starers! They don't just look at you or just check you out but they gawk. I had a guy in the metro hard-core stare at me and not move his eyes one centimeter from my face for the entire ride. It was unsettling and uncomfortable and way over the top. How can that be acceptable in society? Taylor told me that it's totally typical for Italian guys to do that, to stare nonstop past the point of being creepy straight to being a freak-of-nature. I don't like it one bit. They guys at the bars are all very forward too and obsessed with Americans. They don't take subtle hints either to "get away from me" or to "stop staring at me now." I am an expert with making awkward faces when I catch men staring at me whose attention I don't want. Usually they get the hint. Not the guys here. I just have to deal with the staring or when they talk to me I just walk away and don't even talk. I see no reason to take part in their American-Girl flirtation. No thanks.
Tonight is going to be a rage rage night and tomorrow we're going to take it easy because our flights in 6:50 am so an easy night is called for.

So, we had one hell of a night. We went out for a "big family dinner" before hand and I ordered gnocchi again. It was delicious. I love gnocchi and Italian gnocchi is where it's at! So, after dinner we went to this book store that also was a chocolate bar! We took chocolate shots in tiny chocolate cups that you eat! They were delicious but kind of a mouth-full since you have to take the entire shot, cup and all. After chocolate shots, we went to a bar that was across from the chocolate shot bar/book store. We took Harry Potter shots there which deal with strong alcohol and fire. The fire was intense and there was a fire burning down all of our throats after we took the shots, see the faces-picture below that I made on photoshop which accurately displays our disgust and intolerance for such strong alcohol. I took a Harry Potter shot and a Voldemort shot but LA and GA were both set on drinking the entire cast, so they tried them all: Hermonie, Hagrid, Ron, Dumbledore along with our Harry Potter and Vodemort shots. I have no idea how they handled those so well.

After our Harry Potter shot experience we decided to go to a couple bars to drink, chill, and enjoy the night-life of Rome. It was fun and relaxing and nothing too extreme. I'd say the Harry Potter shots was the most intense part of the night in regards to raging. So, around 1 a.m. we decided we wanted to see the sites at night. It was beautiful and breathtaking and we had almost the entire "super duper famous site to ourselves." It was incredible. All lit up and gorgeous and having it selfishly to ourselves...

We sat at the Trevi fountain for around an hour just basking in it's glory. It was magical, simply magical. We chased each other around the fountain in front of the Pantheon and LA went up and hugged one of it's column. We got an intimate experience with some of the most incredible historical sites in the world. Oh how lucky we are.

The next day, Tuesday, Matt, Taylor, and Andy all had classes so we were on our own for the day. Shoo still woke up early and made us crepes and espressos though, he's the greatest. We went to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's basilica. 

It's a bummer that I can't accurately capture the majesty and glory of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. I was in awe walking through the chapel. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was the jaw-dropping, this isn't real life kind of awe. The beauty. The glory. Kelsey cried as she walked though the chapel because it was simply so beautiful. It was beyond beauty. It was beyond words.

We walked back to downtown slowly, shopping and picking up food along the way. We got more gelato, of course. And we went out for dinner and sat there for 3 hours. Andy, Matt, and Taylor met us after an hour and we all enjoyed a large dinner. Kelsey and I sat across from each other and had a wonderful bonding conversation. She's wonderful. We all walked back to Shoo's place exhausted. We stayed up until 2 am though just talking and enjoying each other's company. I know it will be so difficult to not see Shoo or Andy for months until school starts. Oh how I adore them. So we went to bed at 2 am and woke up at 4:30 am to catch our 6:30 am flight to Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam here we come.

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