When in Rome…

A retelling of my trip to Roma

The trip started out from the rainy and cold Köln Germany with a flight to the 38˚C Rome that awaited us. My little sister, Amina, and I were beyond excited to visit my cousin that was currently interning at the Food and Agriculture Organization in the heart of Rome. Upon arrival we found my cousin and took the metro back to her place. By then we were wet with sweat and sat down to prevent any extra movement in the heat. My friends, Jana and Tommaso, met up with us at my cousin’s place, having arrived in Rome earlier that morning. Before we could go see the city or do anything, I got sick and everyone else napped. I was furious, refusing to spend the next five days sick while in Rome. After napping we all felt better (myself included) and left the house at 7pm after eating aperitivo (the Italian appetizers/cocktail hour). We walked along the Tiber, ate gelato (oh my goodness that stuff is amazing) and looked at all the vendors and booths. There were people playing music, foosball tables, restaurants and plenty of people milling around. By 11pm we decided it was time for dinner- having quickly immersed ourselves in the Italian culture of late night dinners. We ate at a Mediterranean café along the Tiber and enjoyed a hookah along with it.

The next morning we woke up late which complicated our Coliseum plans but on our way to FAO to eat lunch with my cousin we stopped and bought tickets to visit the Coliseum the next day. The FAO building was large, had a great view, and most amazing of all-air conditioned. Lunch was cheap but delicious (my cup of tea) and leaving my cousin to get back to work, we headed off to the Vatican City. We opted for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and believe it or not, waited in no line! It was incredible and we were all very thankful. The museums were amazing and our necks hurt afterwards from looking up at all the amazing and detailed art. The Sistine Chapel was of course, surreal. I couldn’t believe I was seeing with my own eyes what I had only ever seen in pictures and in textbooks. After the two hours or more of getting lost in art, we headed back to the apartment to rest our feet. When my cousin got off work, we left to go walk the streets. This was one of my favorite activities, just walking though the little alleyways, looking at all the vendors and enjoying the beautiful sound of Italian being spoken, or more like sung. For dinner we ate pizza (again, absolutely amazing) but unfortunately sat next to three, very obnoxious American girls. Having grown up in Egypt and experienced both the German and Hispanic culture, I don’t consider myself a typical American. Sitting with my German cousin, Jana who is from Palestine and Tommaso who is Italian, it was quite easy to make fun yet at the same time try not to yell at them to quiet down and be considerate of others. That’s a stereotype of Americans I am afraid is most often true, loud and unaware of people around them who might not actually care about what roommates they had last semester. We finished off the night with gelato (it was a daily occurrence) and got back to the apartment at around midnight, out typical bed time while in Rome.

The following morning Amina and I woke up early to go see the Coliseum before the line became 3 miles long. We had said our goodbyes to Jana and Tommaso the night before, as they were traveling back to Tommaso’s city the next morning. Fortunately, Amina and I waited in line for maybe 20 minutes; we were having all sorts of luck with the lines. I was totally blown away by the size of the Coliseum, to think, they built this all before machines were invented! We walked all the way around it and on the lower levels as well, it was simply incredible. Next stop was the Roman Forum, but due to the intensity of the heat we didn’t walk around as much as I would have like, nonetheless all that we did see was very cool. After a quick lunch we headed back to the apartment to escape the heat for a bit and rest our feet. Yet again I found myself unable to nap because, why would you waste time sleeping in a wonderful city like Rome?! My younger sister thought differently as she slept steadily for two hours. Finally ready to go again, we headed out to St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ve never felt so small before, the church was massive! There was also lots of detail in the architecture, absolutely breathtaking. We sat down for a while to enjoy all the detailed work of the church, as well as the slightly cooler air. Our trip to the top of the dome took place shortly after, we started out with positively thinking that 551 steps couldn’t be that bad. The staircases were almost always winding up, sometimes tiny, sometimes sideways, and one was so tiny there was a rope hanging down the middle to hang onto because railings didn’t fit. But my goodness was the view worth it. You could hear similar gasps of awe from behind as people filed out of the tiny staircase to the grand view. We walked all the way around the dome then headed back down. Down all those stairs was really painful, our legs were shaking as soon as we stopped walking. Amina found energy to go down all those stairs by just yelling “gelato!” as that was our next plan. The gelato revived us and soon after my cousin got off work and we met up with her. She showed us the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (under construction, boo) and the Pantheon. Near the Pantheon there was a well-known gelato store that offered 150 different flavors (150!) Needless to say we stood there for a while. We walked around with our gelato for a bit and found ourselves in a plaza full of musicians, artists and vendors. While watching some awesome street dancers, I was approached by a man who asked for my pinky finger. Hesitant and confused I finally allowed it after he promised he wasn’t going to hurt me. He used it to start making a bracelet, meanwhile asking where we were from and how many boyfriends I had. He did the same to my younger sister who swept away by his endless compliments, but I knew it was part of his spiel. Sure enough, he asked for money when he was done. I didn’t have any more small coins so I told him I could give it back, but he just frowned and left. Amina and I high-hived each other, free bracelets! And they were the color of the Italian flag, although they didn’t look like they would last 5 days.

Our next day in Rome happened to be a Saturday, so my cousin didn’t have work and we started off going to the catacombs early in the morning. That was really cool (also literally), kind of creepy, and very deep down in the Earth. Our tour guide was excellent, providing us with both rich history and humor. I learned that the tours couldn’t be longer than 30 minutes because of the amount of sulfur underground, it wasn’t healthy to breathe it very long. Afterwards we ate cold noodle salad at the apartment and then packed for the beach. The journey there was very lengthy (metro to train to bus) but well worth it. The beach was packed and I was surprised to find that even the water was warm yet still beautiful. My cousin’s co-worker met up with us there and we beach bummed for a while. At one point you either had to be in the water or you were sitting in the sand sweating, but when the sun started sinking it cooled off nicely. It was crazy to see all the vendors on the beach as well, dragging big carts of clothes, swim suits and floats behind them. Others were selling coconuts and grilled corn, the guys selling coconuts walked past as we were getting ready to take a photo and stopped to take one with us. It was a very vibrant atmosphere at the beach, and I loved it. By 8pm we started our long journey back to the city. On the train ride back a group of very high men kept eyeing me down and one of them told me I was beautiful in Spanish, which was an interesting and slightly humorous experience. Dinner was eaten at an all-time new record, 11:30pm, but still tasted like heaven. We said goodbye to my cousin’s co-worker then set out toward home. Realizing we had no more money for the metro and that the bus didn’t come for another hour, we laughed and set out on the 45 minute walk back to the apartment.

The next morning consisted of unwillingly packing as our flight was in the early afternoon. Breakfast cheered us up though; my cousin took us to a spectacular tiramisu restaurant where I decided that tiramisu for breakfast should become a new habit of mine. Then we said our goodbyes, jumped on the bus to the airport and too soon we were flying over Rome and back home. However we did do a little celebratory dance as we arrived in Germany to rain (so cold and fresh!). That was the end of another exciting, wonderful and enriching adventure. It was another trip and country that continues to fuel my love of traveling and discovering new places.

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