Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rome part 2

Back to Rome...
Landed in Rome at around 8:00 pm and was surprised at the airport that you exit the plane with stairs outside, then take a bus into the airport where you grab your luggage. Sammie was safe and sound :) The flight was not too bad, there was a smelly man next to me, but luckily I was so exhausted I fell asleep before we even took off and woke up about 20 minutes before landing. I asked a lady at information if she spoke English and she smiled and jokingly said in English, " Not today, try tomorrow," and I realized I was back in the comfort of my favorite people.  I decided to take a taxi to my hotel because Sammie's big ass and my tired self was too much to handle to save some bucks and take a bus in. 55€ and a relaxing cool taxi ride in a Fiat later & I was at my hotel, the Hotel Forum. It is a 2 min walk from the Coliseum and the Piazza Venezia. Prime location because that also means it is a 2 min walk from the metro station. There was a bellman clothed in the best of "European" bellman fashion and I was thanking the lord I had enough small euros to give tips, quickly realizing that this was that kind of hotel.  That's what I get for being impatient and picking the first hotel that I found on Expedia.  I bought Internet and the bellman took me to my room, having to take an elevator to the second floor, traveling down a hallway to take another elevator or lift down to the first floor and finally to my room. Double bed, shower, towels, mini shampoo and the best part...a/c. I asked the bellman (was too tired to even be polite enough to ask his name) if the restaurant was dressy and if I should change out of my acropolis smelly dress before grabbing some food. He assured me it was, "very casual," and I looked great. I grasped my bearings and put on some more perfume or eau de toliette, as I know of it as now, and went upstairs. I think Mr. bellman was playing a sick joke, because the restaurant on the 5th floor was actually the roof with a beautiful view of Piazza Venezia and “casual” was actually pretty dressy.  As in people wearing tuxes and prom dresses dressy.  I had already been spotted by the Maître d’, so I couldn't back out now.  He set me at a lovely table with candlelight where I sat with my iPhone, journaling about my Contiki trip and reading my Europe travel book. The chef recommendation was a risotto with smoked cheese and champagne. Um, yes please.  Cheese and champagne AND Carbs???  I also got a bottle of still water, and because I was drinking water so fast, he had to pretty much stand next to my table to keep refilling it.  Contiki was dehydrating. The meal was amazing especially since they brought out the pan it was made in, on a wheeled table, stirred it up for me and finally put it on a beautiful plate on my silver plate charger. I finished off my meal and water, and then got some great advice from the maître d about where I should go on my short stay in Roma.  He insisted that since I liked art so much, I needed to go to the Galleria Borghese.  I decided to put off going back to the Vatican till Monday because I didn't want to wake up too early the next day if I didn't need to and I figured Sundays would be crazy there.  I had made my itinerary…

Saturday - GalleriaBorghese and walking around/shopping
Sunday - train ride into Florence
Monday - Vatican and dinner with Jess
Tuesday- whatever I didn't see before I fly out.

Itinerary set. I tipped him well for all his help and headed downstairs to use the Internet. The connection was not so good in my room. No complaints though :) I called my parents who were at St. Pete beach for a wedding and I managed to get out that I was applying for my UK visa because I loved it so much in Europe. Mom was on with it and Dad said, “Well we are at the beach, have fun and stay safe.” Played in Facebook for a little before retiring to my room for a shower and sleep. 

Galleria Borghese
I woke up around 8:30am and it felt amazing!  I decided to take my time getting ready to head out.  I asked the bellman directions to Borghese and he was overly helpful. I had no complications and did a good enough, "fake it till I make it," time that I even got asked things in Italian in regards to direction and trains!  Score!  Got to the Spanish steps with ease and took the tunnel to Borghese as instructed.  I got a little lost when trying to find the actual Galleria but it was all good because I got to see a merry go round and a little more of the gardens. I found my way and bought a ticket for a 1:00 pm time slot. Being it was about 11:15 I decided to grab the Galleria info book, grab a sandwich and paid the extra 3€ to sit down in the ac and read.  Paying to sit inside will never cease to amaze me.  I finished the book, eager to see all the pieces I had just educated myself on so much.  I had to check my bags but made sure to keep my passport and phone on me.  The 2 hour time block just didn't seem like enough time, but not being able to take pictures inside made everyone move a bit faster, so it was easy to see all the pieces, especially when I feel the majority of people in the Galleria did not give a damn about art.  I had always known Bernini as a great artist but was blown away by his 3 sculptures in there. The “David,” is by far my favorite out there. The facial expression was incredible. His “Pluto and Proserpina,” with her tears flowing was really the first time I feel I looked at a sculpture as art.  I found Raphael's “Lady with a Unicorn,” and felt like I was looking at a picture of me!...well in my dreams at least.  Such an incredible gallery.  I left there, following the tunnel back to the Spanish steps in effort to find yet another maxi dress for the Vatican, since the Corfu Village had failed to actually cleaned the laundry I paid them to clean.  It was hot as balls...have I mentioned that yet?  I went in a few higher end stores but decided in my sweaty state it was not the look I wanted Dolce and Gabana to have of me.  I found a store, Mango that was a perfect match for me!  Everything was relatively inexpensive and the clothes fit perfect.  I found the perfect maxi dress that is just short enough for me (I wouldn’t have to hold it up or safety pin it!), a cute navy zip up dress and a simple white and navy dress. It's a good thing too because I am OUT of clean clothes and it would cost just as much to get clothes laundered at the hotel (no facilities to do it myself).  I had enough detergent to wash my underroos though. As I headed back toward the hotel, I found myself on the same walking tour Zac had taken us on a week ago. I miss Contiki. I went back to the Trevi fountain, took another picture of myself but opted out of throwing a coin in because there were so many people an at this point my face was almost completely melted off. I headed to find something to eat. I found a great little place that called out to me. I sat down inside and there was a lovely Filipino guy who waited on me. After telling him I was not that hungry, he assured me the pizza was “not so big,” so I got another quattro formagi pizza (I WAS OBSESSED), glass of wine and bottle of water. I wrote in my iJournal and relaxed in the ac. The pizza was huge. Like huge, huge. But delicious. The waiter was very nice and let me stay there almost 2 hours, while talking with me about the different trains to take into Florence and how he came over to Roma. He even offered to take me to the metro station, which I politely declined, thinking I could just walk it and also that I didn't want him to think I wanted him. I met a girl who is studying at Oxford and came into Italy for a little.  She's from Texas and was there alone as well. She had kind of the same idea I did as far as itineraries go, but I was too tired/hot/needy to realize it. Plus the wounds were still too new and I couldn't just pick up and travel with anyone new after I had lost all my travel buddies 24 hours beforehand.  I'm so dramatic.  I headed home and caught a random bus that would take me to Piazza Venezia. I didn't get charged for the trip, I thought it was because the driver liked me, but I didn't happen to see anyone else paying either.... Hmm.  I had a lovely stroll back to the hotel at sunset and realized something… People in Italy seem much more in love than anywhere I have seen. Like PDA is a necessary part of city ordinances, like a house needing to so many feet from the curb and stuff. I have never wanted to vomit yet be in love so much. Mer.  Walked right past my hotel and had to back track a bit but found it and a place to buy water, got the train schedule from the bellman and headed to my room for a long awaited shower and re organizing of Sammie.  Somehow in Athens she was 29 kilos and the Alitalia girl told me to be careful because 32 kilos is the limit for international flights. FML. She told me if I buy anything else, to just buy another suitcase. Ha, on top of the one I already bought in England that's waiting at Lauren's and Diego's, already filled? I made the decision to take out the things I absolutely did not need. I had made the decision to try and send things home.  I took out my American travel hair dryer but kept my European one, knowing I will get more use out of it (it was one of those A-ha moments, guess you had to be there). I wrote in my iJournal some more, took a shower and went to bed.  

Crazy lady that was bathing in the fountain



Plato and Proserphina

Lady and a Unicorn

Trevi Fountain part 2, with my contiki map getting me around.

My walk home to my hotel...Perfection.

I woke up at 7:15 to take the train into Florence at 8:45. I showered and got ready, putting on my new navy dress and headed out. The train cost me 43€ but I figured it was cheaper than a flight and hotel there, like I had originally planned to do. There was a nice guy that helped with the ticket on the machine really quickly (not that I couldn't have figured it out, but I appreciated how quickly he did it) and I tipped him a euro for it.  The train was super nice and there was relatively no one on it.  Nice little 1 ½ hour ride, writing in my iJournal and listening to my iPhone...& it finally happened while listening to Cyndi Thompson’s song, "I'll be seeing you." I broke down a bit with tears, weeping quietly to myself.   Luckily the song isn't too long and there was no one around.  I pulled myself together just in time for my second arrival in Florence!  Washroom, food, art, shopping. That was the plan.  I found a great little place near the Duomo on a road the guide had previously said had the best pizza in town (is pizza in Italy ever really bad though?) and even at 10:26 am, the manager assured me, " it is never too early for wine!" I drank Chianti Classico while the bells from the Duomo bell tower rang. (insert "such an Italian" moment here). After eating gnocchi, a second glass of wine, all my water and chatting with the waitress who was from Ethiopia (who I felt was hitting on me) I heard the bells ring for a third time. Was it really noon? Time flies when your drinking wine!  I headed out toward the Uffizi museum and just like the guide had said, the cue was super long, so I went into the Palazzo Vecchio, with the hopes that the line would die down a bit.  This place was the town hall and also where Michelangelo lived along with a few other great artist of the time. It was quite impressive and I loved that the Medici’s commissioned art for whatever the artist wanted to paint, not necessarily always of religion aka Christ being born or killed. There were a lot of Roman mythology pieces I truly enjoyed. No go on the Uffizi being a shorter line, so I decided to take the guides advice and go back around 3:00 or 4:00 when the line supposedly isn't there. I headed over to the Leonardo’s leather place to find some gifts.  I let them know I had been there previously and at the time had not had my credit card, and they offered me the same 10% discount they give to Contiki day of! One the employees, Kim, let me know she did Contiki for 6 years, with the most recent one being at the Venice campsite and we laughed together about the damn amnesia drinks. Then another Contiki manager came up and I felt like the universe was sending me a sign, like "buy that bag and this is all yours." I spent way too much time trying to narrow down what I wanted to get everyone, so I was politely asked to leave until after siesta, which was 3:00 pm. I headed over to Ponte Vecchio to look at items and maybe find a pretty piece of Florentine gold for my list of gifts I was buying for people.  I found a shop with a really lovely and helpful girl who showed me some crosses I was thinking about for grandma, but went with a beautiful diamond cut fler d leis charm, the symbol of Florence in the key craftsmanship of Florence. I found a beautiful ring that was not too expensive that I absolutely fell in love with and convinced myself that it would be the first family air loam I would have for my daughter one day. Charge it! She explained the tax-free process for the airport so I was hoping I didn’t mess that up too much because I will have to pay quite a deal back for taxes. I walked back by Uffizi, still a long as line, then finally to Leonardo's I got a messenger bag, Lauren a simple black purse that zips, Diego a blue leather bound journal and a few other presents for people...I got my discount and tax free lecture again.  I got all the items engraved as well. Shopping done. Headed over to Uffizi at 4:00 pm and it was over an hour wait.  There was a girl in line that said something about the last train being at 6:00 pm back to Rome, due to the soccer game, Spain vs. Italy…causing me to freak and head back to the train station. I got lost a bit and now being I had at least 10 extra pounds of Florence treasures, it was not as fun as the first time I had gotten lost at night.  Bought my ticket on the 4:45pm train and was back to Rome.  The train back was not as lovely as the trip there especially since the train back was 63€, but I didn’t have any other options for the 4:45 train.  I got into Roma around 6:30pm and got back to my hotel, gifts in tow. I was so exhausted I just went to my room and laid down, but only after facebooking one of my fellow Contikians, Jess, who was also staying in Rome.   I got up around 8:15pm and took a much-needed shower.  Around the time I came out, Jess had messaged me back and wanted to go out and get drinks. The Eurocup was on with Italy vs. Spain, and I hadn't eaten since the morning so I jumped at the chance. I met her outside Cavour station and we walked until we found a restaurant with a TV and available setting. We ended up at a place right next to my hotel and sat down for some Chianti, pizza and soccer. Without our knowledge, it was also where all the Spanish people were hanging out. Spain beat the Italians 4-0, which I was happy and sad for… sad Italy lost but I was exhausted and happy I could go home without feeling I needed to take in the moment and celebrate. I walked Jess to the metro station then finally back to my hotel.

 Piotr Tomaszewski, the guitarist outside Uffizi gallery, I'm completely obsessed with.

The Vatican
Woke up at 7:30 to shower and get ready for my “School of Athens,” day! My feet were a bit blistered in weird places from my shoes, but I put on a ton of Band-Aids and was all-good.  I had struggled with the decision to take my things that needed to be sent home with me, because the FedEx place was right next to the metro station, but kept thinking, “it is really early & they are probably not open.” Against my better judgment I figured to try my luck. I was right. The place doesn't open till 9:00am so I was stuck waiting for 30 minutes for it to open.  Was not the worst thing in the world, I got to creep on the people that were all heading off to work, but I realized I had also left half of the items I needed to send home at the hotel…I realized when I was putting all the things into a box.  Oh well, I will just come back the next day.  I arrived in the Vatican area around 9:30 am and after seeing the longer than long line, I opted to take Zac’s advice and grab one of the tour guides, and pay 45€ to skip the line in the raging heat. Plus it was a 2-½ hour tour so I was pretty excited. The guy who sold me the tour was an Aussie named Simon and surprise, surprise, he had done a Contiki and knew a few guides by name.  I was excited to have found the company by accident that I had been researching for the "skip the line," deal. The guide, David, was an older gentleman from San Francisco and was absolutely incredible. He was so knowledgeable, yet funny! He talked for about 30 minutes about the Sistine chapel and what to expect inside, & what Michelangelo’s reasoning behind his work in different areas was...I felt I was doing myself a great injustice by not following him out of the Sistine chapel into St. Peters, however, I had to see the Raphael rooms. Absolutely had to, there was no question about it and unfortunately the way the Vatican is set up, if you leave the Sistine Chapel into St. Peters, you can not come back into the Vatican museum, where my Raphael was. I gave David back the headphones after a good 2-hour tour and headed back on the long track back to the beginning. It hit me now, that not only would I be seeing the “School of Athens,” for the first time in the flesh, which has been a dream of mine since my freshman Humanities course at UCF, but would be seeing the Sistine Chapel for the 3rd time. How lucky and blessed am I to see this beautiful masterpiece, not once but 3 times! I decided then and there I would find a nice seat in the chapel, not being rushed this time, and really take it in.  I was in complete tunnel vision until I got to the “School of Athens,” as small-minded as it sounds. When I got there, I could not believe how large it was.  It was huge.  Absolutely incredible and colorful and everything I wanted from it. There was a certain group of people, known to be pushy and annoying with their pictures, that were in there, so I didn't get to the level of mentality I wanted to while studying it from the corner, but understood that maybe some of the other people were just as big of fans as I and maybe this was their dream as well. That brought me to a level right above wanting to assassinate everyone, and I was calm again. I said my peace with my darling Raphael, thanking him for inspiring me to study art and give me purpose before heading back to the chapel. I got a great seat in the chapel, away from the line of people and the guards quietly shouting, "no picture or video!" and,"SHHHHH!" (It’s a holy space and you are not supposed to talk). I sat in the chapel (and ac) for around 45 minutes, finally being able to study the art without people bumping into me, remembering all I had learned, David had said, and the guide on my first trip had taught. I departed there, going through the same passage I did when seeking the Raphael rooms and wound up at the Vatican post office. I sent beautiful postcards to my families (Palmers and Blaneys) and to my beautiful nephew, Jude. I also bought him and Christina rosaries that smelled like roses. I decided to head home, by only after finding a little cafe that I THOUGHT looked legit. Here's a word of advice, if Italians are not eating at an Italian cafe, it ain't that good! Worst wine and food I had had this trip so far. It was even worse than American Italian food. I caught the metro back into town and arrived around 6 after stopping briefly to grab some last minute souvenirs for my family and friends.  I messaged Jess, to try and meet up and we agreed to relax a bit and when she wanted to head out, to let me know. 9:50pm I wake up.  The Vatican must have really taken it out of me! I quickly messaged Jess but she was also in for the night, guessing I was taking a "nanny nap," or grandma nap. She had an early flight so lunch or breakfast was not possible, but I promised to kit! Packing Sammie up and sleep.

 Rapheal... mi amore.

 Guard dogs of Rome. 

Inspiration of Michelangelo's Adam depiction on the "Last Judgement." 

 A giant bath.

Constintine's daughter's resting place, made out of purple marble.

I've waited my whole life for this moment...

Up around 7:45 and deciding I needed to FedEx the rest of my things home and pick one more site to see. I wanted to see the catacombs, but after speaking with the bellman and he telling me that it wasn't even on my Contiki map, I decided to go back into Piazza Novena to have one last great lunch and maybe pick up some artwork. I took a metro to station and walked from memory and by map there. It was the first time I had made all the right turns and knew abouts where I was going! The S.P.Q.R. Restaurant I had gone to with my group that made fresh pasta and had wonderful service was the obvious choice for my lunch. I walked around the Piazza until my place was opened, eating a little gelato and after searching through the many artists, purchasing a painting of Toscana from an artist with a Bowtie that kept saying he wanted to paint me. Compliments will get you everywhere, my friend. I headed over to S.P.Q.R. and Thank ZEUS!, they were open.  I had the same waiter and ordered the exact same meal, although I wish I hadn't eating that little gelato, because it made it impossible to get through even half of my meal with my wine. Again he assured me, as all Italians do, that it was never too early for wine. I sat at a table that was inches from where the cars and people walked, and love it. Men complimenting me and ladies exchanging smiles with me, even vouching for the restaurant after a half glass of wine.  My perfect Italian moment…great food, wine, art in tow and the harmonious Italian language all around me. Blast! It was already almost 12:00 and my taxi was coming at 12:30 to the hotel to steal me away from this incredible dreamworld which I so wish to belong…Ok so remember how literally minutes ago I was saying how I found my way around Rome with no problems... Yea, that was a fluke. Trying to find the 571 bus to the coliseum, I got lost for about 20 minutes before putting my semi tipsy self into a 5€ cab to the hotel.  Got there with enough time to try calling my family again (they had facebooked, emailed and skyped me the night before) which of course they didn't answer, get to my room, finish stuffing Sammie and check out. I appreciated so much the bellman that had kept helping me, but he ran away do quickly after putting my bags in the taxi, I didn't get a chance to tip him! My driver, Antonio, sped away pretty quickly and didn't speak a luck of English, but tried hard to have a conversation with me, pointing out a few landmarks like Piazza St. Paolo and telling me I was Bella. Sigh, I don't want to leave…. So I am currently waiting in the long term parking area where Antonio had assured me, just one minute. He has left me in a car with the engine running. Pro: the ac is on. Con: anyone could just hop in the car and drive away with Sammie and I....whoa he is already back so I think I'm safe again!  I didn't have to pay any overage fees on Sammie, probably because I sent 160€ worth of stuff some, but it was still nice. I had a bit of a wait at the gate, especially since the customs place where you claim items for tax free was closed due to a union meeting. I guess I’ll try in my Londontown. I bought Diego some cheeses and lemoncello, even though he said he didn't want anything. On the plane I found out that there were 3 middle school groups from Italy traveling to London...yay for me.

So sad it is my last day in Europe...

My last meal in Roma... :(

 My last picture in Roma..

I love that the airport even sells cheese...

Until next time, Rome...Arriverderci!