During our first week here in Sorrento, I spontaneously asked two of my new friends, Jill and Morgan, to come to Rome with me. I knew that it was somewhere that I desperately wanted to go–the history the permeates the city is overwhelming. Despite having only three days to discover all that we could of the ancient city of Roma, it feels as though we truly lived as much as humanly possible while there.
On the train from Napoli to Roma (following a false start when the ferry wasn’t running due to bad weather and an unplanned ride on the circumvesuvian train from Sorrento to Napoli) Morgan commented that she needed to call her parents, because she’d forgotten to tell anyone that she was going to Rome. I realized later that day that the same was true of me, as my mom commented on my pictures, saying she didn’t know that I had gone. Morgan made a comment that resonated with me: “We’re such big girls.” It’s bizarre to think that I’ve reached an age in which I can go to a foreign city with my friends for the weekend–not to sound childish, but–all by myself.
Once in Roma, things went pretty smoothly as we found our B&B and headed towards the Vatican city. The owner of the Bed and Breakfast gave us directions and told us it would take about 20 minutes to reach. He obviously hadn’t counted on the number of pictures we were going to take or the awestruck ten full minute gazes over the entirety of the city, so it took us more like two hours. Roma is unbelievable. Nothing gets leveled and rebuilt; they rebuild directly on, above, or around the old structures, which creates a beautiful, confusing hodge podge of the new and old blended into a city that represents the people of today while honoring those of the past. Unfortunately, the spell was broken when we stopped at the top of one of the hills for a cappuccino and they were blasting Ke$ha; not exactly the soundtrack I had imagined on my first trip to Roma.
I’m going to be honest: when we got to the Vatican, we all kind of freaked out. Can you blame us? We were IN THE VATICAN CITY. It was crowded and loud, like the rest of Roma, but nonetheless and indescribable experience. We tried, for the first of two times on our short trip, to go to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (Musei Vaticani e Capello Sistine) but it was closed both times. We walked back along the Tiber river, exhausted from our full day of travel, and got a little lost before finding a nice little restaurant where we stuffed ourselves with pasta and went home for an early night.
The next morning, we had breakfast at a cute little bar across the street from our B&B. This is the moment where I’m going to start to obsess over the food. When you think Italy, your mind goes immediately to dinner–pasta, pizza, gnocchi, and calzones. But in reality, breakfast might be my favorite meal in Italy. First of all, the coffee is just fantastic everywhere you go. There are little coffeeshops everywhere (it’s called a “bar” because they serve coffee during the day and alcohol at night) that all make excellent coffee. I’ve yet to have a bad cup while I’ve been here. The only people in our group who have been disappointed are those who don’t like espresso and order an “americano,” where they pour hot water into a shot of espresso because drip coffee isn’t common here. I keep telling them to embrace it and order and cappuccino, and most everyone is coming around to the Italian coffee. Aside from the coffee, the pastries here are out of this world. It’s totally normal to have un cappuccino e un cornetto per la colazione in Italy. The croissants (Cornetti) come con zucchero (plain with sugar on top), con crema (with a delicious cream filling), con cioccolata (with chocolate, of course), and my favorite con marmellatta (with marmalade), among many others. I look forward to the next time I can have one literally every day.
After breakfast, we had a full day, as we headed to il Colosseo (the coleseum), il Foro Romano (the Roman Forum), the Pantheon, la Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps), and finally, as the sun was setting, la Fontana di Trevi (the Trevi Fountain). The Colosseo, like many things in Italy, literally took our breath away. All three of us stopped and gasped as we saw it around the corner. It was so amazing to be able to see, to touch, to experience something that was so ancient and so rich in history that I’d dreamed of for so long. The Foro Romano was equally impressive, and we all felt the need to stop and just soak it all in. While it’s incredibly important to understand the history of a place and see the ruins for what they are, the feeling that you get from them is a wise tranquility, and we all wanted to experience that for what it was.
We continued up to the Pantheon. I’m running out of words to describe my experiences of all of these places that I’ve known only in books and dreams, so suffice it to say the Pantheon was beautiful, though that is a vast understatement. After that, it was a short walk through one of the world’s most expensive shopping districts (yes, we were tempted by the Prada; no we did not succumb to that temptation) to the Piazza di Spagna. The steps were grand and magnificent, but not nearly so much as the church at the top. It was silent inside–perhaps the first place we’d been to that was–and we sat for fifteen minutes, admiring the enormous, lavish decorations while reflecting on how we couldn’t even begin to process all of the wonder we’d seen that day.
After a quick couple of photos at the top of the steps, we meandered toward the Fontana di Trevi, which I have to say was my favorite part of the day. Maybe this is because I watched the Lizzie McGuire movie a few too many times as a pre-teen, but I’d always wanted to cast my coin into the fountain to ensure my return to Roma and make my wish. Was all took turns throwing in our coins, and then admired the fountain all lit up at night. It’s something that no picture can really explain.
As evening set in, we walked back to Trasteverre, where our B&B was located, and for the first time I didn’t need my map. We’d walked everywhere thus far, and I’d been our unceasing navigator, but this time I was able to look up and enjoy the simple beauty in every cobblestone. After yet another delicious meal, we drug our tired feet to our beds and readied for the next day’s adventures.
Sunday was sunny and beautiful, and it was the only day when we got really lost. We attempted to head towards the catacombs, but I mistook a street sign and made us get off the bus 2400 meters from our actual stop (oops). After yet another lengthy trek, we arrived to find the catacombs closed. Unfazed, we hopped on another bus and all was well until a sweet british couple informed us that we were going to the wrong way (yes, that was a reference to “Planes, Trains, and Automoblies,” and yes, that is what Sunday felt like). We got off the train in a sketchy area on the edge of Roma, sang some songs while waiting for a bus, garnering us some rather strange looks from the locals, found the right stop, got on the metro, and made our way all the way across the city to the Vatican once again. Unfortunately, the museum was already closed, so we took one last stroll down the Tiber and headed towards the train station.
All was well on the journey back, until the train station in Napoli. Being a blonde in Italy certainly has its benefits; I get compliments nearly every day on “I miei belli capelli” (my beautiful hair). However, it also has it’s downsides, namely acting as a giant yellow target screaming “AMERICAN! THERE’S A NAIIVE AMERICAN GIRL OVER HERE!” In the train station, you constantly have to be on your guard. People teach there tiny children how to scam foreigners, so as heartbreaking as it is, you can’t help any child that comes up to you. Some men in the station tried this scheme on us, sending a six year old boy over to beg for money, but we sent him away. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. As we were getting on the train, a man grabbed for my backpack. Luckily my friend Jill managed to push him away, and as he tried to nab hers, she jumped on the train. This was our first real experience with petty crime, and we got lucky, but it definitely made us all even more aware of how easy it is for someone to take advantage of inattentiveness.
As we returned to our apartment, we commented on how happy we were to be home, and I realized just how nice that is. It’s a wonderful feeling to unconsciously know that Sorrento is one of my homes now.