Coming back from having not posted for so many months to wanting to share Italy stories with you has left me with the fortunate problem of…what to tell of first?
Do I start with Florence, my favorite spot we visited outside of Rome? Or maybe I tell you about the city which failed to impress us. Then, there is the food. We all know this is a topic deserving an entire post, or several posts, in itself.
Rogers and Hammerstein taught me well:
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. -The Sound of Music
That brings us to the eternal city, Roma.
I’m going to be straight up with you. Despite my love for Italy, I barely knew anything about Rome before this year. Outside of its position as the capital of Italy and location surrounding Vatican City, Rome was a place I barely considered. When I imagined planning an Italian vacation, it was at the bottom of the list, a ‘swing by’ spot, one I would schedule in two days at most in order to hit the main attractions.
And while this is certainly a completely fine approach, especially when you are trying to see as much of Italy as possible, I am so happy my path led towards being able to spend so much time in Rome.
My flight landed early, bringing me to Rome at 9:00 am Central European Summer Time, 3:00 am Eastern Standard Time. Despite purchasing extra leg room and choosing an end seat, somehow, I managed to barely sleep on the flight*. Upon landing, I was charged up with adrenaline from the last twelve hours, and trusted it to help me get through the day. The plan from the start had been to go, go, go all day so that the adjustment to the new time zone wouldn’t wear on me the first week of the trip.
*I think I got around three hours total. It made me think of the time I flew to Paris with Gram. Only then, I got so little sleep because Gram wanted to watch every in-flight movie with me.
Not bad looking after only three hours of sleep!
After a detailed tour of my brother and sister-in-law’s apartment, we headed out for my first Italian meal.
Now, do not judge me…
I have no pictures.
Being only a few hours in, I was adjusting to processing the fact that I was actually in Italy, this place which for so long had been a dream to me.
Joel was very excited to introduce me to the lunch prix fixe menu which is popular throughout Rome. In America, most prix fixe menus appear during restaurant weeks, on holidays, or at restaurants in a theater district wanting to help their guests get in and out in order to make it for showtime. It is not, in my mind, anywhere near comparison to what I experienced in Rome.
Prix fixe (which translates to fixed price) is often offered during the lunch hour in addition to the regular menu. For €10, we enjoyed a primi and secondi with drinks included. Upon Joel’s recommendation I went for the gnocchi in red sauce as my primi, then sausage with fried potatoes as my secondi.
And lunch in America will forever be ruined for me.
Joel and Mallory live in a less touristy area of Rome which means that most of the people working in the bars (aka coffeeshop), gelaterias, and stores nearby spoke only Italian*. This was a nice immediate immersion for me. For the past six months, I have been making a larger-than-my-daily-Duolingo-lessons effort to learn Italian. In addition to attending language classes, I have been surrounding myself with the language as best I can by watching movies in Italian, listening to Italian music, and constantly drilling flashcards.
*Closer to the center of Rome, I found practically everyone spoke English.
I’ll share more on the unrealistic expectations I had in learning a new language later. But the bottom line right now is, I’m still a work in progress.
Acting like I’m totally okay with filling my water bottle with public drinking water
That’s more like it! (At Fontana della Barcaccia)
Joel made it his mission to keep me moving, so long as I wasn’t nodding over while standing. We visited their local park, where I was introduced to the art of drinking from the many public water fountains in Rome*. We stopped into their equivalent of a Barnes and Noble**, and since at this point I was still wide-eyed and raring to go, we headed for Piazza di Spagna.
*On one hand, the water is free and as a human being who needs water all day long, this is a perk. On the other hand, the water is free and as a general consumer I raise my eyebrow to the cleanliness of public drinking water.
**Where I proceeded to buy a stack of Italian CDs, DVDs, and books to take home with me**.
**In the beginning days of my trip, I did not allow myself to consider the fact that I would somehow need to get all my purchases back home. More on this later.
Piazza di Spagna is the place in Rome where I could probably spend every single day and be completely content. There’s shopping, famous architecture, and food. What more could a girl want?
Then we rounded a corner and I found myself completely stunned by the sight of the Trevi Fountain. I felt the way Joel looked the first time I took him to New York City. We stepped out of the train station and he stopped, his head leaning as far back as it would go while he stared up at the line of skyscrapers and whispered, “Wow”.
Any image I had seen before of the Trevi Fountain did not do it justice. It was so much more massive and commanding of my attention than expected. I stammered and reached for the words to express my awe as we stood before this immense masterpiece.
Of course, I didn’t bring my camera. This was a keep-you-on-your-feet-so-you-don’t-fall-asleep kind of day, after all. With a promise to return, we went to dinner.
It wasn’t until we were on a bus around 10 pm, heading back home, that I began nodding out. Mallory said the bus we were on would pass the Colosseum, and it was between blinks of my beckoning sleep that I saw it as we sped past.
How we hit the hot spots of Rome in one day…