Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Viva Roma! (Rome, Day III.)

On Sunday, for our last day in Rome, we (fittingly) decided to spend the day exploring the Vatican, seeing St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and trekking up to Castel Sant’ Angelo. We took the Metro to the Vatican (since it was a bit too far to walk) and arrived at the world’s smallest country at around 10A. For anyone that’s unaware, the Vatican is its own sovereign entity, separate from Rome; they can print their own money, they have their own post offices and the Swiss Guard patrols instead of the Roman police.


Fortunately for us, the line to get into the Vatican was incredibly minimal. We waited for about 10 minutes (as compared with stories of waiting in lines of 2+ hours!) before we made it inside.


Pictures can’t really capture how astounding the cathedral is. Not only is it huge, it’s incrediby ornate: amazing statues, gold fixtures... plus being that I’m Catholic (by association)  it carries such an amazing history that it was pretty breathtaking to actually be inside. Legend (and some historical evidence) hold that St. Peter is actually buried under the altar of the basilica. For this reason, a number of popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since early days. I, of course, grabbed some goodies for my grandma from the Vatican shop once we were done gazing — wish she could have been there to see it first hand!

After checking out St. Peter’s Basilica, we decided to head to the Musei Vaticani to check out the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately (take note), the Sistine Chapel and the museums are closed on Sundays. If you’re planning on hitting up the Vatican and it’s important for you to see these things, make sure you go any other day! Although we were slightly disappointed, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed up to Castel Sant’ Angelo.

[Another tip: Do not eat in Vatican City. It is ridiculously overpriced — head to the outskirts to grab lunch. We paid 10 euros for a mini pizza that we shared… in any other world it would have cost about 3 euros.]

In any case, we made it to Castel Sant’Angelo in about ten minutes and the view from the Castle was absolutely breathtaking!

Castel Sant’Angelo (below) was apparently built as Hadrian’s tomb in AD 170 or so, but has been reconstructed a number of times. It’s absolutely gorgeous and it sits right on the bank of the Tiber. The bridge in front is lined with a number of Bernini’s statues:

Afterwards, we crossed the bridge and spent some time in the city, finishing our day off with some gelato at the famed Giolitti. After a delicious break in the day, we began our trek home. After a ride on the Metro, a quick jaunt on the bus, a walk down to the station, a two-and-a-half hour plane ride, and a 60 minute Tube ride, we were back in London.

Arrivederci, Roma! It’s been real. I was able to scratch Rome off my list of places to see before I die, but I could definitely see myself making Rome a destination trip. Gotta go back again and drag the fam!

Lots of love,

When in Rome… (Rome, Day II.)

After our fun-filled and relatively stress-free first day in Rome, we had a solid plan of attack for Day 2 of our Roman Holiday: a trip to Santa Maria Maggiore (which we could see from our room), a stop at the nearby (and famed) Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and a bit of shopping followed by an evening pub crawl at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore sat right down the street from our hotel. So close, in fact, that we overlooked in on day one. Although it’s clearly an amazing structure, we had no idea that it was such an old and holy site. The inside is said to date back to roughly the 400s and the Borghese tomb sits on the premises.


After our quick stop here, we started our journey to the Trevi Fountain, about 20 minutes walking from our hotel. Although I hadn’t really known what to anticipate, I have to say that the Trevi Fountain was one of my all-time favorite parts of the trip. The structure is absolutely breathtaking — pictures really can’t do it justice. It’s massive (85 feet high and 65 feet wide)!

It is said that if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, your return to Rome will be a swift one:


There are loads of touristy stores around the fountain, so I was able to snag some super cool gifts for my family nearby [if you guys are reading this, expect some cool Roman gifts for the holidays!] After hitting up the Trevi, we headed north to the Spanish Steps. Although neither of us really knew what to expect from the famed steps, we discovered an interesting mix of art — not at all what I had expected!


Apparently they’re dubbed the Spanish Steps because they’re near the Spanish Embassy. All seems to make sense now! After, we enjoyed loads of delicious sangria and pizza and people-watched before heading home for a quick nap before our evening outing.

That evening (after a much-needed power nap), we jumped on the Metro to the Spanish Steps to meet up with a pub crawl group. Unfortunately, the pub crawl was 25 Euros (more than we really wanted to spend) and seemed to be plagued by legal-by-European-standards-18-year-olds from the US. In lieu, we cabbed it to nearby Campo di Fiore, a little piazza that houses a number of fun pubs and restaurants. We decided upon a placed called Magnolia and ended up spending hours there munching on bruschetta and focaccia and talking with a 91-year-old Roman that we referred to as nona (grandma). She had been living in the area for all of her 91 years and had been dining at Magnolia every day for lunch and dinner!

All in all, we had a fun-filled, relaxed day and saved our energy for our trip to Vatican city, Castel Sant’Angelo and the streets of Rome on Sunday. Stay tuned to see pictures of the Vatican and some of Michaelangelo’s amazingness!


Meglio del Sesso! (Rome, Day I.)

Pizza. Wine. Gelato. Bruschetta. Crostini. Caprese Salad. Sangria.

I’m back in London taking a break in between classes after three delicious and action-packed days in Roma. First, let me say that Rome has got to be one of the most amazing cities in the world – so much to see in a relatively small area, amazingly friendly people, and delicious eateries. From start to finish, our trip was stress-free. Despite having to wake up at 345A on Friday morning to grab our 445A cab to Paddington Station, I was pumped and ready to go for Friday’s action-packed day in Rome.  We arrived in Italy at about 11A (Roman time) and got settled into our super cute hotel, Hotel D’Este, by 1P. The hotels was perfect — we had a huge room and a decent-sized bathroom, plus pretty amazing views of Santa Maria Maggiore church.

Day one, we decided to do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour (€19) to familiarize ourselves with the area and see as much as possible in a single afternoon. Our first stop? The Colosseum!

Colosseum
Colosseum
Inside the ColosseumThe Colosseum was breathtaking! We had to pay to get inside (€16 including audio guide), but the views were worth every euro. Check out these views of the surrounding area from the top:

Roman ArchI know this arch is a big deal… Arch of Constantine, perhaps? Beautiful.

Rome

After leaving the Colosseum, we hopped on the bus to head over to Piazza Navona for lunch and gelato!

RomeOn the way, we saw this amazingness, Palatine Hill – the place where Romulus and Remus were taken in by the She Wolf, according to legend. Pretty awesome sight!

ItalyWe also caught a glimpse of this amazing building. I’m not 100% sure what it is, although I’m sure the audio guide told us! The backside has a staircase that was designed by Michaelangelo!

Piazza NavonaWe ended up in Piazza Navona for lunch with an incredible view of this fountain that was sculpted by Bernini. His work is incredible! After our jaunt in Piazza Navona, we headed back to get ready for the evening, dinner in Trastevere and meeting the locals. We had a brilliant time practicing/learning Italian while we were there and the people were so amazing.

Stay tuned for Day 2, where we got to see the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and enjoy liters of sangria. Mmmm!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

To check out the rest of the pictures, see my album on facebook here. I have about 150 loaded!

.leaving on a jet plane.

Trevi

Trevi Fountain -- near our hotel!

Ahhh, yes. I have just finished three article outlines, readings for an essay and nearly completed a second essay. Despite being holed up in my room all day (literally have not stepped foot outside), the day has been rather productive by most standards. And, fortunately, I still have a few hours of productivity in me before I get to sleep so I can wake up at 415A to head to the airport! Normally being up at such an ungodly hour would be unacceptable, but when one has to arise for the reason of heading to Italy, it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

So, being that our flight leaves at 730A, Lindsay and I agreed that getting to the airport a bit before 6A would probably be ideal. We’re leaving from Heathrow, a busier airport considering the big time international flights, so cutting it close is not on the agenda. Due to the fact that we live so close to Holborn station (home of the Piccadilly line), we had planned on tubing it directly from the station to Heathrow until we realized that the tube doesn’t open until 530A and doesn’t hit Holborn until 542A, which means getting to Heathrow before 6A would be impossible. Although there’s a pretty decent chance we would still make our flights, it wasn’t worth the headache. In lieu, we have reserved a cab at 4:45A to take us to Paddington Station where we can jump on the Heathrow Express (which starts outbound journeys at 510A) for 15 or so pounds. Although it’s a bit more expensive than tubing, our options were rather limited and missing our Roman holiday would have been a huge disappointment.

Also, we’re flying British Airways which works out well. Instead of the discount airlines (EasyJet, Ryan Air, etc.) where you are limited to one piece of hold luggage, we are allowed one checked bag, a carry-on and a personal item. Although we’ll likely forgo the checked bag, the carry-on + personal item bit is pretty nice. I’ll be able to take my laptop to upload pics and stay connected to the world!

All in all, I cannot wait to cross Rome off of my list of places to see! It hasn’t fully hit me yet, since I’ve been so engulfed in getting work done, but I know that I’ll feel that kid-in-Disneyland sensation when my alarm wakes me up in the morning! This time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in a ristorante near the Trevi Fountain practicing my Italian, eating authentic Italian food and drinking Italian coffee. Meglio del sesso. That’s what I have to say about that.

Ciao,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Also, if I didn’t mention: through Expedia’s UK site, we were able to snag round-trip tickets and two nights in a 3* hotel for 215 pounds each including all taxes! Pretty sweet deal, and we’re flying with a legit airline!

Viva Roma!

RomeFor as long as I can remember, I have created my mental ‘European Dream Destination’ checklists and Italy and Greece have always graced the top of the list. I have been dying to see the Colosseum and the Pantheon, eat authentic bruschetta and sip wine (or maybe bellinis, since I’m not the hugest of wine fans) in front of the Trevi fountain.

As luck would have it, my flatmate was also interested in hitting up Florence or Rome at some point this year, so we decided to put our money where are mouths were and booked our Roman excursion for November! We’re making it a fun-filled three-day weekend (early Friday morning through Sunday evening), loaded with sight-seeing.

We’ve booked a room at a place called Hotel d’Este in the Historic Center near the Trevi Fountain. It’s near loads of historic sights and in a really cute area! We snagged the entire trip including roundtrip airfare and two nights of accommodation for £215 each, courtesy of Expedia! Another thing that makes this great? We leave from Heathrow instead of Gatwick and thus can catch the Tube from Holborn (5 minutes from our flat) all the way to Heathrow Terminal 5 — no bus booking or Dot2Dot service required! To make things even better, I still have around 50 euros from my German trip that will be perfect for a few meals in Roma.

I can’t wait! Only 17 days away!

Does anyone know of any places that we should be checking out when in Rome?

Signature Stamp - Shannon