I’ve made it outside of Florence twice technically with school trips since arriving a few weeks ago, but planning a trip by ourselves with a big group was all the more satisfying (I’m such a world traveler, I know).
But in Rome we were able to see as many of the main sights as possible within the 48-hour window we were working with. On Friday, we were able to see all of Vatican City and its museum which ended up at the Sistine Chapel. And having already seen the chapel before in my life, I was amazed with how much it was still able to take my breath away. There was a strict no photo policy, but it’s safe to say that Pat was still able to sneak in a selfie with the ceiling in the background anyway.
On Saturday we took a huge walking tour that they offered right out of our hostel. It really seemed like it hit every monument and cool spot in the city that you would want to see, but our tour guide Lucas may have been the best part of the whole thing. Born in Brazil, fluent in five languages, and now working at a Roman hostel definitely made his perspective on some things very interesting, and his historical knowledge was one that may just rival that of my brother Ralph's. (Just kidding, Ralph.)
But what made our weekend in Rome so unforgettable were the two nights we had as a group when the sun went down. My spaghetti carbonara at Da Tony's in Rome's Trastevere district was one of the best meals I've had since getting to Italy. The whole atmosphere of the restaurant and area just felt so purely a part of the city, and it was a nice added bonus that the owner seemed so happy to have a big group that he brought out more and more wine bottles as soon as our glasses were half empty.
The Roman nightlife was a blast too as every big piazza and street was beaming with life from the start of dinner until all the late night stops closed down. The first bar we stopped at Saturday night, a classic gathering spot for visitors called The Drunken Ship, was packed with people drinking, dancing, and even playing beer pong in the corner (a nice American throwback). Within five minutes of arriving, Kevin, Pat, and I were splitting a pitcher of Sex on the Beach...it just seemed like the appropriate "When in Rome" kind of thing to do.
Our walk back to our hostel from the bars on Saturday night was easily the best highlight of the weekend though. Pat and I headed out first and were looking for some of the main spots that we had seen earlier in the day when we came across a guitar player in Piazza Navona. When we recognized some of the songs he was playing we started dancing and singing along with him, and what made it even better was that the guitar player seemed to be loving it even more than we were. If he started playing a song that we didn't recognize, he would immediately apologize and start playing another one.
But after our fun in Piazza Navona we continued on throughout the city to keep finding as many of the spots we remembered from walking around. Finding the Trevi Fountain again, which strangely had no other visitors around it for the majority of the time we were there, was the best though. Sitting on the steps and taking in the fountain and the surrounding area just by ourselves in the middle of the night nears the top of the list of most surreal moments I've had so far this semester.
It has now been about two and a half weeks since I arrived in Florence for my semester abroad, and it is now finally just starting to sink in that I am not really just a tourist vacationing in a new country. Yes, I can still get picked out as an American from a mile away, but it has definitely become more of a reality that the next three months of my life will be spent exploring and taking in as many aspects of a different culture as I can.
And on the eve of our weekend trip to Rome, I was looking at my calendar of events for the next few months and decided to do a quick count. As of last Thursday, I had exactly 100 days left in my young study abroad journey. Knowing that might not really change anything, but it does put my time here in another perspective.
I have 100 days to see as many cities and countries and try as many new things across Europe. And at the same time, I'm still here in my new city working to immerse myself into Florentine life as much as I can.
I’m beyond excited to continue on with these adventures, and I can't wait to keep sharing them in turn with as many people as I can.