January 24, 2012 – Time: 1:41 AM
These past few days have really been amazing. I’ve been doing so much, it’s been hard to actually sit down and write my journal. Anyway, I guess I should get started writing, shouldn’t I?
Thursday, January 19: I woke up at 9:30 AM to take my shower and get ready to go – it was time to visit the Colosseum! Honestly, even with the Vatican and the Forum and all of the other sights to see in Rome, this was the one thing I was really, really looking forward to. Coming up from the subway station and seeing the massive structure is still my favorite memory from my Freshman Passport Program trip two years ago, and even today it had that emotional power. I went with the members of my class, like I had the day before, and this time we found our professor quickly – he was standing right outside the subway station’s exit.
Touring the Colosseum is almost a surreal experience. It looks massive enough from the outside, but seeing it from the inside is a completely mind-blowing moment. To think that something this amazing was built so long ago… I could spend days talking about how much I love the Colosseum. Unfortunately, we only spent an hour or so inside before going up the nearby hill to a church where we were allowed to go into the gardens in the back. We got the most amazing view of the Colosseum from there, and we made sure to take a half dozen pictures each before leaving.
That night we ate in again, making polenta and minestrone soup (the polenta we pan fried with garlic and some herbs), and those of us who could eat gluten (sorry Elena!) had bread with it. Simple food, but very tasty and very good, and it’s all very cheap too. Knowing we had to get up by 9 AM the next morning, we all went to bed early.
Friday, January 20: So I woke up a little late… 9:15. I honestly forgot just how urgent it was to be ready at 9:30, so I took my time and was ready at 9:35. As I left my room I met with Elena, Caroline, and Frank – Rebekah had taken too long and Kristin had gone to Tuscany for the weekend. Oh, right… we were supposed to be going to the Vatican at 9:30, and the rest of the group had already left.
It had rained earlier in the morning and so we had to walk as quickly as possible over the slippery cobblestones, trying to catch up to the rest of the St. John’s students that had gone ahead. We only managed to catch up at the Vatican, which was perfect timing, since they were about to lead us through the ticket collector and we didn’t want to have to pay 5 euro to get in.
Let me start off by saying, I never got to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica the last time I was here. I had wanted to, but I think I overslept? Either way, I was glad I didn’t miss it again, or at least… until we started climbing. 500+ steps doesn’t sound like too many when you just think of it in abstract numbers, but actually trying to climb them is ridiculously hard. I wasn’t the only one who had to stop and take a breather – we all did (even Frank, who goes jogging every morning). The walls get tighter as you get closer to the top, and the stairs get skinnier too. At one point, the walls even start to tilt, which made the experience feel like some crazy mix between a fun house and a torturous exercise regimen.
I almost didn’t care about the view from the top once we got there – I was just happy I kept pace. We went back down after maybe twenty minutes, and while the others looked around the Basilica I went outside to buy a bottle of water (I saw the Basilica last time, and my legs were shaking too much anyway). St. John’s also paid for gelato for everyone who went, from a small gelateria outside the Vatican (don’t worry, the coordinates are at the end of the post). After that, we went back to our rooms and napped.
When I woke up, I found out that the rest of the group had gone food shopping without me, and bought a frozen pizza and more minestrone soup for dinner. Just like the night before, the food was simple but good (even the frozen pizza) and I went to sleep happy and full.
Saturday, January 21: We all woke up around 10:15 today, and decided it was time to go shopping. There are really only two or three times a year where you can get sales in Italy, and these few weeks is one of those times. So why not walk down to Spagna (the area around the Spanish Steps) and see what they have? Well, they have everything there, from a Nike store to Lacoste, Prada, Gucci, and every other high-fashion brand you can think of. Frank and I went into the Lacoste store while the girls checked out Sephora, and I ended up buying a long sleeve polo and a sweater (both about 40 euro off because of the sales).
The rest of the early afternoon was spent walking through the high class stores, with price tags so high I was surprised they even let the peons inside. After that nice trip, we went to Café Vero for lunch and I got a nice sandwich, can’t remember exactly what was on it though. Dinner was fresh made pizza (that Frank cooked – did I mention he’s an amazing cook?) and more minestrone, which we all love. Our meal tickets have gone a long way – from Tuesday until today, we’ve only used maybe half of the ones we were given. With nothing planned for afterward, the five of us just went to bed.
Sunday, January 22: Started off the day going to the supermarket with Frank, getting some snack foods and another frozen pizza for lunch. We made the pizza and did a load of laundry each, then napped for a little until 7. Since the playoff games started at 9, Frank and I wanted to do dinner fairly early, and we went out with the girls at about 7:45. We had wanted to go to Taberna de’ Gracchi, but they were closed so we walked around to find someplace else.
We ended up at Grotta Azzurra, a nice restaurant across the street from a 4-star hotel. We figured it would probably be pretty good, and we weren’t let down. For the first time this trip we got a bottle of wine with dinner, the house red wine – it came out warm, but it was still really good. We got the bread appetizer for 1.50 euro per person (even though Elena couldn’t eat it) and each of us got a Caprese salad appetizer as well. For dinner, I got the spaghetti with mussels and mushrooms which was really good, but I couldn’t finish it. Frank got the tuna steak (that was really nice), Caroline and Rebekah both got gnocchi (different types) and Elena got a seafood risotto. All in all, the food was amazing.
It wasn’t just the food, the service was great too. The waiter complimented our Italian and was (by all accounts) genuine about it; he was friendly and constantly joking around (when he was collecting our plates, he jokingly started counting the number of gnocchi Caroline had left on her plate). They even brought out limoncello for all of us, which was really strong (but also not bad). The overall cost of dinner was about 20 euro per person again, but this time included the caprese salad and house wine, so overall a great deal for the quality, quantity and atmosphere of the restaurant. We’ll definitely be back.
By the time we got back and I had the laptop set up to stream the football game, it was almost halftime in the Pats/Ravens. The common room got very full for the end of that game and the entirety of the Giants game (even though it only ended at 4 AM). Totally worth it, though. Let’s go Giants!
Monday, January 23: Classes? I completely forgot about them until this morning. Oh well, I guess I am technically here for school. Nothing special happened today, aced another Moral Theology quiz, managed to stay awake the whole class… overall a success.
Dinner was omelettes and rice tonight, which were masterfully cooked by Frank (so glad he came). We have some leftovers, so we’ll make fried rice with that tomorrow, along with salmon. I’m looking forward to it at least (and I don’t even like seafood). Well, that’s it for me today. I don’t have any class until 5, but I’ll be getting up around 10 to go food shopping and stuff with Frank.
St. Peter’s Basilica: 41.902429,12.453248
Old Bridge Gelateria: 41.906419,12.456343
Grotta Azzurra: 41.907797,12.468391