The morning of the tenth, we wake up and have breakfast which is the standard bread, cereal, yogurt, fruit combo you would expect at a breakfast buffet. We scavenge some fruit for the train ride later as well.
We arrive in Rome in just a few hours and walk out of the station into one of the most unique looking cities I’ve ever seen. It’s such a funny combination of tall old buildings with modern signs above the door and bright modern decor inside. Everything by the train station (including the train cars themselves) are completely covered in graffiti. It is strange to see graffiti on buildings that are probably older than my home country. I initially feel almost offended, as if some sacred historical artifact has been defaced by jaded teenagers. I am surprised that no one has cared enough to clean it up. Then again when you live in ROME, a few hundred year old buildings don’t mean very much.
Though we pass our first turn a couple times, getting to the hostel from the train station is pretty easy. We stop off at a pizzeria and have some pizza and I have a glass of wine.
Our server makes many misguided attempts at humor including spilling water all over my lap and continuously patting an already grumpy Caroline on the head. She finally asks him to stop and he apologizes after we pay.
Basically dinner was weird.
Our hostel is a “party hostel” and proud of it. They have an attached restaurant that serves food and alcohol 24-7, they host a different event every night, and a super hip staff. Our room is divided into two different areas for only €9 and our roommates consist of an overly affectionate Brazilian couple, a whole lotta random foreign dudes (surprise surprise), an Australian chef, and a girl student studying religion from Holland. It is already dark when we get settled into the hostel. I am supposed to leave for Tuscany tomorrow, but I realize that I will miss all of Rome if I do so. This will not do. I email my host Leonardo and let him know I will be arriving a day later than planned. Hoping that is going to be okay, I take a shower and get cute. (At least as cute as one can when most of their clothes are for gardening)
I want to go out. It has been since Paris that either of us have danced. I’m in Rome! It’s too late to see anything historical…I want to dance dammit!
Caroline does not. (Not really.) She moves at a glacial pace getting ready. She moans and groans and complains about how old she is and how she doesn’t enjoy this sort of thing anymore. (Though she sure didn’t mind it in Montmarte at 4am a mere month ago.) The thing about Caroline is…once she is there not only will she enjoy herself, she will actually become the life of the party singing or dancing like she’s the paid entertainment or something.
*** P.S. I know you’re reading this Caroline. & I know you know it’s true. ***
So, we decide to go to the hostel bar because it’s convenient. Admittedly the crowd does look young, and most of them are too drunk which isn’t fun. An old dude claiming to be giving some “important clients” a night out asks if we know where to get any drugs. Okay No.
The beer we drink is good.
(It’s actually really good. I don’t know it at the time, but it is also really strong.)
Caroline sips her beer and acts generally unimpressed with everything which is really annoying for me because I was just trying to make the best of our first night in Rome. Just when it’s starting to look like a bust, she asks where the dance floor is. We are directed to a set of stairs and when we descend it is as if we are in a whole other place. It’s like a stone underground cellar with ancient round archways converted into a club-like setting with pink and purple wall lights, a bar, a foosball table, and a DJ booth. The energetic DJ is playing some Latino hits and most of the crowd seems to be Latino or Italian. We stand at a table and drink our beers watching the dancers. We are both instantly in better moods. Now this looks fun. A couple of Hispanic guys from California come and talk to us. They are really nice and we end up dancing with them. At some point Caroline plays foosball and we have another round of drinks. I had only three beers within four or five hours, but as Caroline and I cram ourselves into the tiny hostel lift we are both pretty tipsy.
Cut to the next day..
We definitely don’t wake up as early as planned.
We split a breakfast plate and catch a subway to the coliseum.
I can’t believe that I am going to the coliseum. I actually can’t wrap my mind around it.
No, literally, I feel weird and I don’t like it.
It could be a mild hangover. The coliseum is pretty busy but it doesn’t take long to get in. I’m actually really glad we decided to backpack Europe in off season. Our ticket covers three different historical areas, but we will not have time to see them all. Caroline says she isn’t interested in Roman history at all really. I am. But mostly because my parents are fanatically interested so I hear them talk about it all the time. I do not know very much about Rome but I am interested in learning more. Of course the coliseum was absolutely incredible. Besides the building itself, it also contained well preserved stone writings of the Romans.
Seeing something so impressive and so impossibly ancient was definitely an unmatchable life experience. I am glad I did not leave for my next volunteer job as early as planned.
After the coliseum Caroline takes a mini nap on the sidewalk. Then we get back on the subway. We exit and walk to the Pantheon which is huge and set very high up in the city. It is really pristine and beautiful.
From the “second floor” balcony area you can literally see all of Rome. There is even a map that points out all the important landmarks’ roofs. The view in absolutely incredible and absolutely impossible to capture with my stupid iPhone camera.
We are pretty hungry by this point. After all the pizza and gelato, I could really go for a salad.. and maybe some pasta. Actually, I feel awful and dizzy. At first I thought I might have been suffering from a mild hangover, but now I am thinking that this is a blood sugar issue. We walk back towards the subway and stop at a restaurant and I order Ravioli and a mixed salad and something carbonated. We sit in the sidewalk dining area and talk about whether or not we could live in Rome. Caroline says yes. I cannot decide.
After we eat, we decide to get gelato from a place near the Trevino fountain which Caroline has researched to be the best gelato in Rome (or something like that). She has talked about getting **Ferrera Roche gelato since before we left the country. Just the thought of this rich chocolate gelato is liable to bring her to tears.
(..a couple times)
So we are both determined to find it. She’s my best friend after all. I just want to witness her dreams come to fruition. Obviously.
We never find the gelato place, but in searching for it we do accidentally find the Spanish steps which is cool. We walk around aimlessly for awhile as it quickly gets dark and make borderline inappropriate comments about how ridiculously attractive Italian men ((& women)) are. It doesn’t make sense that a whole country could be so attractive… And all have really nice butts.
See I told you it got mildly inappropriate really quickly.
Then we decide to go back to the hostel for a nap. Caroline wants to go back out tonight, but now I am not in the mood/too tired. Oh how the tables have turned.. I agree to go out with her initially, but plan to leave early. Well, that was the plan. Until I woke up from my nap at 2AM. Oops. Caroline ended up passing out for the night super early as well. I never thought that travel and sightseeing would be so exhausting. But it is really impossible to stay caught up on sleep for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with all the constant time changes.
The next day I plan on leaving early. Caroline and I walk to a nearby restaurant and eat their “All American Breakfast” because it sounded really good and really large so we could split it. It was neither of these things so we walk back to the hostel restaurant (which actually has really good and affordable food) and order BLTs. We meet an American girl there and have a nice conversation with her before deciding that we really need to plan our trains. I realize that mine runs every hour, so I really relax. Caroline has to wait for the ferry company she is using to get to Spain to email her back so we both decide to quickly see the Vatican..
The Vatican is enclosed by extremely high cement walls. It’s a little foreboding actually, and every other person we walked past tried to sell us a tour.
Italy travel tip #2:
“No Inglese. No Italiano.”
That simple phrase is truly the key to ending this kind of harassment.
When we go inside the Vatican there are a fair amount of tourists (mostly in tour groups) and a long museum that ends at the Sistine Chapel. We walk through the i n t e n s l y ornate museum under endless beautiful ceilings, past incredible hand woven tapestries, and also past a fair amount of head only statues.
When we finally reach the Sistine Chapel its is dark and packed wall to wall. The ceiling and walls themselves are filled with (oddly well preserved) images I’ve seen my whole life in countless school and art books. Some of the images looked so three dimensional that I actually thought they might be statues, but the walls are completely flat. It was truly remarkable.
After the Sistine Chapel we run to the loo, which I only mention because when I leave I realize I do not have my phone in my pocket anymore.
My heart drops. It’s not necessarily the phone itself. (Though I did pay about $700 for that tiny chunk of technology!)
But the fact that I hadn’t backed it up recently and therefore all my photos and notes and new contacts would be gone. It’s weird. Rationally I know that I experienced those things first hand and shouldn’t need anything palpable to remember my time in Italy (or wherever), but it felt like I lost more than pictures. It felt like someone took a whole part of my trip with them. Just like that.
Not to mention.. that phone is my computer. It is the way I contact workaway hosts, Air BNB hosts, book hostels, check train times.
It’s my Italian/French/Spanish dictionary. It’s how I Skype-call my mom once a month. It has my debit card info on it.
Oh my god.
Everything about the way I travel will have to change now.
Actually, now that I’m thinking about it..
It has way too much importance. I should not be this dependent on one object. Seriously.
I vow to become a changed woman.
A woman with a flip phone.
I will make a photobucket for my photos, take my debit card off my iCloud wallet thing, buy an actual map, wear a watch, utilize internet cafés..
Wait..Internet cafés! (Duh!)
Caroline and I get directions to a nearby Internet café. Which the woman directing us informed us “Does not serve coffee. Just Internet.”
So, we get to the Internet point and for one measly little euro I google how to utilize my lost-iPhone-tracking-device-app.. Then I google translate the text from Italian into English. I am still confused so I just email my tech-savvy bff back in the States and hope for the best.
It has been an hour so we decide to check back at the Vatican lost and found once more before I head to Certaldo and Caroline heads to Spain. The large Italian man behind the lost and found desk speaks quickly on the phone and looks at me gravely shaking his head from side to side.
Caroline gives me a sad look and I try not to tear up again.
We start to walk away and he yells after us
“Wait! It iz here!”
Last time I checked:
Side to side meant no. Up and down meant yes. This man really needs to work on his body language.
They have my phone!
Which is good because I was about to full out cry for the first time in a long time. I actually teared up a couple times on the way to the Internet café.
(Though I was determined not cry over an object damnit!)
One small police report sheet later and I have my lifeline safely back in my grasp.
I do not become a changed woman as quickly and boldly as I had imagined, but I will become less dependent on my phone!
We grab our bags and head to the hostel where we have left our luggage. Caroline still has to work out her ferry, and I have to leave.
We have a quick goodbye and I head to the train station. My host hasn’t responded to my last two emails and I am kinda of nervous.
At 15:30 I leave Rome and board a train to Certaldo. Hope someone is there waiting for me at the last stop!
Ciao for now.