Five years ago, I went on a student trip with my Latin class from Walsh Jesuit to see Rome, Florence, and Lake Garda. In Rome, all of us threw coins over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, which meant some day we would come back to Rome. I had a great experience in Rome; I loved the food, people, culture, and history so I always wanted to walk its streets once more in my lifetime but sometimes life gets in the way of those plans. As I planned out my European adventure, I did not have Rome in the itinerary because I never expected to get this deep into Italy and figured I should see other cities. Low and behold, I actually got the opportunity to spend some time in one of my favorite cities in the world. Before journeying to Siena for Il Palio, I decided to make a side trip to Roma. I remember always saying that if someone paid me to take an airplane to go to Rome, stay there for just an hour to have a pizza and gelato, then fly back (while dealing with all the layovers and whatnot) I would do it each and every time. After getting a couple sfogliatella for breakfast from a shop nearby (the sugary heaven of Attanasio is closed on Mondays :,( ), I sat at the train station waiting for my train to arrive. On the train I got in some much needed napping before arriving in Rome. My main plan was to go to Giolittli’s for the best gelato know to man, woman, and child. Until I could get there I had to check into my hostel, which claims to be a B&B but seems too shady to pull that off but I’ve gotten to used to the abnormal and unusual at this point in the game. After dumping off my bag, I walked through the streets of Rome to see the main sights and churches along the way to Giolitti’s. I honestly felt like a kid on the night before Christmas. The churches in Rome are beyond incredible; they are basically free museums with their famous architecture, massive mosaics, gold paneling, and unbelievable paintings that would be gladly accepted into the Louvre. Even some of the churches that are not on a tourists itinerary are stunning. The man power, intelligence, and genuine creativity to build these holistic buildings continue to baffle me. I stood before the Coliseum and had a “pinch me” kind of moment. I must have sounded like a nut that escaped from an asylum since I was talking to myself, saying “how am I here; is this real life?” Rome and I seem to never have separated; we were just having a long distance relationship. The vibe of the city and the emotions I felt brought me back to five years ago when I first cast my eyes on Rome. I got someone walking by to take a picture of me and ended up talking to this Italian girl and her Italian friend for a little while. They told me about the major differences in all the cities of Italy in terms of culture, food, and way of life. Some cities rivals after being separate republics long ago, such as Florence and Siena. As I travel, I am starting to notice those differences. Since I can never get enough pictures, I asked an Australian girl to take my picture. She, her friend, and I ended up talking for quite a while about our travels and gave suggestions for future cities to see. Even though traveling by myself can be lonely at times, I have met so many fun, interesting, and friendly people along the way that I never would have if I had been with others. I continued on and passed some sights that I had seen on my last trip such as the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, government buildings, churches, Piazza Navona, and finally, the Pantheon. For the student trip, my Latin teacher, the infamous Mr. Storad, had our group memorize a song so that we would never forget how to get to Giolitti’s. I am sure most people forgot the tune but I kept humming it all the way to the Pantheon, because here was the starting point of the song. I even gave directions with this song (without the singing obviously) to people I met at the hostel as to how to get there and they were able to find it easily. When I saw the bright green lights of Giolitti’s, I got giddy like a little kid on Christmas setting his eyes on the presents that lay under the tree. For some reason, some confusion set in with ordering my gelato, which my teacher would be greatly disappointed in since he practically drilled the whole process into our heads. After getting my ticket, I strode up to the counter where all my dreams laid. I got heaping scoops of fragola (strawberry), visciole (sour cherry), and fruiti di bosca (fruit of the forest) onto a cone with a dollop of crema on top. That first lick of gelato sent me to a magical place. Some people need to go to Colorado or Amsterdam for their high, mine rests in the center of Rome. Since I could not get enough gelato, I went back for another (if you had the gelato you would understand the easy decision I made). I’m pretty sure the cashier gave me a weird look but I gleefully ordered again anyways. I got lampone (raspberry), pistachio, and visciole without the crema since I didn’t want to overindulge. After leaving Giolitti’s with a huge smile on my face, I walked through Piazza Navona towards Circus Maximus. The Circus Maximus has definitely lost much of its glory since it is now just an open dirt and grass field but on the hillside (maybe where stands once stood) I had a great view of the Roman Forum. I sat on a bench watching the sun set with this view before me; not a bad way to end my first day in Rome. After getting back to the hostel, I talked to my Canadian roommates about our travels and they gave me some pointers on Cinque Terre. After all the walking around by myself and occasionally striking up conversations with people on the street, it’s nice to be connect with people at the hostels since it can be lonely at times. Anyways, I planned out my day tomorrow and the days after that. I booked a reservation for the Sistine Chapel and for a hostel in Cinque Terre. Also, I made a rough sketch plan for going to Il Palio the following day. I would have no hostel to stay at since most were booked well in advance or I would have had to pay for a private double in the outskirts of town at a ridiculous price. My plan was to get into the Piazza early and camp out for the race that would start later that evening after the parade and whatnot. A train for Cinque Terre wouldn’t leave until 5 am the following morning so I figured I could just sleep in the train station. The only roadblock that I could not seem to find an answer for was what to do with my luggage, since the Siena train station had no luggage storage. Oh well I guess I’ll make that decision tomorrow.
Day 35: The Trevi Fountain Never Lies