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Travelling in Italy: Slow Down and Enjoy the Surprises

Over the long weekend my friends and I planned a trip to Rome. It was my first time, and as my host mom said “Finally! You are going to Rome!” It seems a little silly to have saved the trip to arguably the most important city in Italy for the last available weekend, but I am so happy with how it worked out.

Rome was chaos. Exciting, fast-paced, overwhelming. My friends and I had to be on top of our traveling game, but all of our previous trips in Italy to Bologna, Venice, Florence, Napoli, and Sorrento prepared us for Rome. By now we have perfected our system of making the most of our time in any given city.

As soon as I stepped off the train I purchase a map. I needed it to navigate to the Airbnb where I was staying for the weekend, and it is also nice to visualize the layout of the city. After checking in at the apartment, we sat down and prioritized what sights we wanted to see. We left our bags at the apartment, which is a simple thing, but it is great to be able to drop your stuff off early in the day. It is much nicer than having to walk around the city with everything you own in your bag (something I have done more than once). Then we were off to experience Rome!

In three and a half days we fit quite a lot in. On Friday evening we explored the city and its shops and then we happened to walk into the Colosseum lit up in the night.

Saturday morning we got up early, and skipped the line at the Vatican Museum because we had made a reservation. We spent the day looking at the Renaissance art we had talked about in our art history classes and saw the Sistine Chapel. On Sunday we rode the metro with crowds of Italians. We joined the masses of people making their way to St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s blessing. I saw Pope Francis himself. The excitement in the crowd was unreal. I understood a good portion of Pope Francis’s blessing thanks to our intensive italian class. After the conclusion of the speech, we milled about outside the Vatican and went to do some shopping at a market on the street. Later that day I toured the Colosseum, and it was free because we went on the first Sunday of the month. On Monday we made a visit to the Galleria Borghese with our tickets that we reserved online before the trip. The marble statues by Bernini were unbelievable and my favorite part of the gallery. We fast-walked across the city to get to the Pantheon before it closed. I admired the elaborate interior and looked up through the oculus.

It was lovely to be in Rome in December. The weather was still warm in comparison to the winters that I am used to, and the city looked so festive. Christmas lights are strung down the streets, and all the monuments are complimented with beautiful Christmas trees. Around noon we made our way to the Spanish steps. The plan was to get some gelato, sit down, and people-watch for awhile.

However when we arrived in the area we encountered what seemed to be the entire population of Rome crowded in the streets. Unbeknownst to us, Monday was the day of the tree-lighting ceremony and it was only until we asked around did we realize that the Pope was coming. It was such a fun, unexpected thing to be a part of.

The moral of the story is this: traveling in Italy is incredible. Reading up on the place you are visiting, making reservations in advance, and prioritizing the places you want to visit within the city are all important. But equally important for a fantastic trip is being able to slow down, pay attention to the small moments, and above all, enjoy the surprises.

Hannah Delphine Ayers - Liberal Arts - Fall Semester 2014