Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rome If You Want To

I first visited Rome in December 2004 right before Christmas. I had just finished 4 months of studying abroad in Barcelona and my parents came from California to visit. They met me in Spain and then we traveled together to the famous Italian capitol. My parents were last in Italy in the 70’s when they briefly stopped there while travelling around Europe. Dad kept very detailed notes about the places they visited, including all the restaurants they ate at. It was his goal to return to those same spots. Unfortunately Mom came down with a cold so she spent the majority of our time in Rome in the hotel room. Dad and I were left to our own devices in one of the world’s foodiest cities. Surprisingly we found most of the restaurants that Dad recorded; whether or not they had the same owners/chefs was a different question. We had delicious 4 course meals for lunch and dinner, which might explain why I was at least 10 pounds heavier when I returned to Santa Barbara for the second half my junior year. While we toured the Coliseum, Vatican, Saint Peters, and the like,but what really stood out for me was all the delicious food.

In front of the Spanish Steps in August 2012

One of my favorite fountains in Piazza della Rotonda
The next time I went to Rome was in August 2012 by accident really. I had been living in Europe for just over 3 months and decided to take a solo trip to the Almafi Coast. I was a little unclear about the specifics of the Italian rail system so I just planned to get off my flight at the Rome airport (which is about 30 minutes outside the city) and figure it out from there. On the flight I began to chat with the Italian woman sitting next to me. I told her my plans and she warned that I would have to travel through Naples at night since it was already mid-afternoon and that was definitely a risky move considering I was traveling by myself. She suggested that I spend the night in Rome and take the train from Termini (Rome’s main train station) the next morning. That sounded reasonable as I had heard terrible things about Naples so I assured her that I would follow her instructions. The flight landed at the Rome airport and she accompanied me to the train that would take us into Rome proper. “Do you have a hotel in Rome?” she inquired. I said I had booked a hotel room for the trip back near the train station. She also said this was a bad idea and that the area around Termini was unsafe after dark. Yet another plan blown to pieces. I said goodbye to this too helpful Italian once we arrived at the train station and spent the next hour wandering around Termini trying to find an Internet cafe or wifi hot-zone in order to research a new hotel for the night. Unfortunately I came up empty handed.  I remembered from the last time I was in Rome that the area around the Spanish Steps was nice so I hopped in a cab and asked the driver to take me there. I walked up and down a few streets looking for a decent hotel and I finally decided on one. They had space available so I booked it. After all this ordeal I no longer felt like trying to take on this endeavor alone so I spent the next 4 days wandering around Rome, walking into every church I came across and eating more pizza and gelato than one person should probably consume alone.
Capitoline Hill at night
Chiesa del Gesu
Interior of another chapel in Rome

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