#DidYouKnow… you can register for the vegetarian meal online with your airline. It’s almost always an Indian dish with rice and 99% of the time they will bring it to you before serving anyone else. Not only are you being animal-friendly, but you get a better tasting meal than whatever Chef Boyardee pasta and meatball plate everyone else is eating. Most veg people already know this, but for anyone else looking for another option… now you have it.
After getting sufficiently lost trying to get from Circus Maximus to the Baths of Caracalla, I was ready to call it quits on my solo adventures in Rome and take things slow until meeting up with Roberto. Mr. Muolo and I both went to Monmouth U, but met on the beach in Long Branch after he fell into a newly-purchased styrofoam cooler and smashed it to pieces trying to reach my friend for a cheers. His nonchalantness about the entire thing made me laugh for hours and we’ve been friends since.
Roberto was born in Italy and “has connects” so it’s not too crazy that we’d end up in Rome on the same day. Despite his jet lag and sleepless plane ride, he came to meet me Tuesday afternoon with his cousin Massimo and Massimo’s wife Cristina in tow. Massimo and Cristina live in Rome and are the most ideal people you’d want to meet if you were to be spending time with locals in the city. We walked about 3 hours around the city, visiting the President’s home, stopping for coffee and seeing the Trevi fountain at night. Roberto and I didn’t have plans for the next day, so Cristina mentioned she was going to the Vatican with her dad and we could come. Since my first attempt didn’t go so well, I gladly accepted the invitation. Maybe the Romans know something about getting in that I don’t. Maybe the fact that I kept getting shit on by birds and Roberto cleaned it out of my hair was a sign of good things to come.
The next morning I took the metro out to Massimo and Cristina’s house where Cristina’s dad (I can’t remember his name, but let’s call him Papa) picked us up and drove us all through the city. I only understand very basic Italian, but from what I could gather, Papa is important. Like, aristocrat important. And apparently he has what can only be described in English as a Gentleman’s Club card for the Vatican. Wow. I woke up thinking we were just going sight-seeing with Papa.
When we arrived at the Vatican entryway, Papa flashed his special ID card and we were allowed to drive onto the grounds and park the car. Papa is the most refined, sharp, well-dressed man, and following him throughout the gardens I kept looking at him and wondering how I ended up in the right place at the right time, in Rome and with his family on this exact day, walking through the private entrance of Vatican City when just two days earlier I looked at the line and didn’t even bother.
Everywhere we walked I couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a single other tourist, just Roberto and I sneaking photos we weren’t supposed to be taking. I wasn’t sure where we were going when we followed Papa into a back door of a building, but when we stepped foot into St. Peter’s Basilica and saw the crowds and I realized where we were, I couldn’t even look around, I just stopped in my tracks and looked to Roberto like “Is this really happening?” As a guest of Papa we walked into a private area with special access to certain displays. I was so completely overwhelmed by it all. I’m a dopey kid from New Jersey, what am I doing behind the velvet rope at the Vatican?
When we left the Vatican, I literally didn’t have the words to express my gratitude to Papa, because he doesn’t speak English. “Grazie. Grazie.” I shook his hand. “Ciao.”
Roberto and I were starving by this point so we were dropped off by the river and went to look for pizza. It should be pretty easy to find pizza in Rome, especially when your GPS looks like this.
Despite the 800 GPS pizzas, we couldn’t find any for close to an hour. The wait was worth it though because we stumbled upon Pizzeria Florida where we ordered every possible slice imaginable. At this point all I’d eaten for days was peanut butter sandwiches. I heard the food in Italy was good, but this experience was euphoric. I didn’t find god in the Vatican, but I did find him in my fresh mozz slice with extra pomodoro. Lord have mercy.
After all that pizza we still hadn’t had enough, so we went on our self-proclaimed “Tour di Pizza” and ate some more. A little gelato and some grappa and call it a day.
Over the past summer at the beach, Roberto and I pinky promised each other we’d go to Italy together. Our plans ended up being quite different but we both followed through, and our day and a half that overlapped in Rome was worth the hype. See you in Jersey, mi amico.
I miss things like:
My cozy bed
Clothes dryers! And washing machines that don’t fade the crap out of my clothes
Being in control of the thermostat
Computer keyboards meant for the English language
Sinks that don’t splash everywhere when I try to wash my face
Having a phone with a data plan
Ordering things in English
The US dollar
A warm bath towel
Showers that stay hot longer than 5 minutes
The random days off work between Christmas and New Years
Not being paranoid about pick-pocketing
5 nights left. You got this Megan.
Going to Rome is a bit like going to Disney World. Everyone goes and everyone takes the same pictures. Still, it doesn’t mean that anyone would want to skip these places or avoid the sights. After wandering off the beaten path a bit in Vienna, I came to Rome to be a tried and true tourist, ready to strap on my proverbial fanny pack and brave the crowds.
On my first day I wanted to get up super early to shower and head out, but unless I have a flight to catch or somewhere to be, I really can’t get out of bed before the sun is fully up and at 7am it still wasn’t. I finally got rolling a little late at 10am and decided to go straight to the Vatican because I heard so much about the lines and because it was one of the farthest places away. As soon as I got there, all I saw were herds of people in some form of a line and couldn’t make out an entrance, so I forgave the idea of going in and just wandered off.
Walking Rome aimlessly is easy because the free maps are detailed and have huge pictures, so I would mostly just walk in any given direction and find myself on the map later. I walked from San Pietro to Castel San Angelo, crossed the Tevere to Piazza Navina to the Pantheon. It was here that I realized just how many of the sights in Rome are free. Generally on this trip the things I’ve done have been so inexpensive compared to the States. Besides hanging in a park or going on the Staten Island Ferry, what can you really do in New York that is under $10? This is why I never do anything at home at all.
From the Pantheon it’s just a short walk to the Trevi Fountain and Piazza di Spagna. Clearly I don’t know enough about Roman history because I don’t really get these sites. It’s a fountain. And some stairs. Didn’t I see this in Las Vegas? Whatever, I still took pictures of them. Disney World.
From Piazza Spagna I was far away from anything I wanted to see, so when I saw a sign for the metro I just jumped on it and went to the Colosseum. It’s a pretty interesting structure, but I didn’t connect with it so much just because it is SO old and over the past 2000 years it has both fallen apart and undergone renovations. I just don’t know how much of what I’m looking at is original. I like to see ruins because they’re… ruined. Not because someone fixed them. That’s just me though. Maybe I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. Regardless, it’s still absolutely beautiful and I repeatedly thought “holy shit” to myself every time I walked past it over the four days I was here.
By this point I’d been walking 7 hours and my feet could not fathom seeing another sight, so I found the nearest bodega equivalent and went to stock up on some PB&J supplies instead. 20 minutes and 16€ in basic food staples later, I asked the bodega cashier if they carried any plastic knives I could have. He was about to ring me up and charge me for one when I just pretended it was free, put the knife in my bag, said “grazie, thank you so much,” and walked home.