Bonjour from Paris!
How has everyone been?! It has been far too long since I’ve written a blog post – I apologize! Ever since my study abroad program started in late June, it’s been difficult finding time to blog, especially with the dodgy internet in the apartment I was staying in back in Rome. As I’m writing this, it’s my last night in Paris (look out for all of my Italy travels + Barcelona post to come soon!), and I’m immensely sad. But 3/5 of my family is coming up to see me tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited! That’s for another time though – onto my first week in Rome!
My friend Julia (whom you should be quite familiar with by now) and I left Athens at the end of June and flew to Rome. We flew Alitalia and had to check our bags because they were too heavy (boo!), and it ended up costing 40 euros for each checked bag. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. When we got to the Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we met up with another girl on our study abroad program, Maddie, and took the cab to Campo de Fiori! We checked in with our program and got our keys to our apartment and really just settled in.
As soon as you enter the city, it’s all cobblestone and winding alleys with towering orange and yellow buildings; it’s absolutely beautiful. We were all pretty hungry and it was already 4pm, so we picked a random pasta place and went inside. In Italy, people utilize siesta, which is the time between 1-4pm where the shops close and people take naps because it’s just so hot. Another tip: water costs money at restaurants, fizzy or not.
The next day was our first day of classes! The general structure of the program was to have class from 8:30am-12:30pm, Monday through Thursday. Since our classroom building is located right next to a piazza (English translation: square), there were tons of places to eat. During our class break, we all went to the nearest forno (bakery) and grabbed sandwiches. It was really fun getting to know everyone on that first day.
Later that day, our program had a scheduled walking tour, where we got to see Piazza Navona, which is probably my favorite piazza. It was so lively and the fountains and sculptures are absolutely stunning. Next, we made our way to the Pantheon (not to be confused with Greece’s Parthenon!). There was a lot of people but the inside is super cool – there’s a hole at the top of the oculus, so if it rains really hard in Rome, a literal downpour goes through the ceiling! I wish I was able to see it. Additionally, they also dump rose petals through the oculus in celebration of Pentecost in June every year.
After the Pantheon, we went to my favorite – the Trevi fountain! You guys, it’s really so beautiful. It was mid-day when we visited, so there was a massive crowd; I couldn’t even make my way to the front to get a good picture or throw a coin in/make a wish. I made a mental note to myself that day that I would come back later during the program when there would be less people.
Following the fountain, we walked to the Spanish steps, which wasn’t really too memorable for me/didn’t make a strong impression. While walking toward the steps, we passed a ton of designer shops. And of course, there was a ton of people out and about.
After the walking tour, we got a bit of a break, and then it was time for our first group dinner! These group dinners consist of every student (~20) on the program, our director, and our two professors. It was super fun and fancy – the food was never-ending and just kept coming, course after course! Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant L We were all stuffed by the time the dinner was over though. The waiters were weirdly flirty, but still really cool, especially when Julia accidentally knocked (and shattered) a wine glass. It was fantastic bonding time and I remember just being buzzed on life.
The next day, we crossed the Tiber River to Trastevere, a cute, expensive neighborhood known to have great nightlife. We all walked to Vatican City and went into the Vatican Museum as a program. We had a tour guide with little headsets and all, but our tour guide had a very strong Italian accent so it was pretty pointless. I have to say that Roman frescoes are things I’ll never get tired of though, I’m always so amazed by its intricacy! My favorite part of this Vatican visit is definitely entering St. Peter’s Basilica. To be honest, it’s my favorite church ever. It’s towering and made of lots of marble with more frescoes; it’s so incredible. We climbed the 500 steps to get to the top, too (which is not free)! It got really claustrophobic on the way but the view is so, so worth it.
After the visit, the program separated and I went to The Mirror in Trastevere with some girls on the program for some pizza. Pizza in Rome truly is more delicious, y’all. I can’t say I necessarily recommend The Mirror, but I can recommend Old Bear instead – they serve delicious pasta, which is where I went for dinner that night.
During our first weekend in Rome, we all headed to a beach in Anzio. It was about an hour train-ride from Rome (for the record, book all your Italian train tickets on Trenitalia!). The beach itself was wonderful; I was pretty beached-out from Greece but it was still fun to swim and sunbathe. Some of us came back with sunburns but I came back with even tanner skin, ha!
On Sunday, we headed back out to Vatican City to see the Pope speak at 10am. Fun fact: this is a weekly thing! He speaks from his apartment window and there are screens projecting his face, but of course, we couldn’t understand a single Italian word he was saying. It was still really cool though!
I can’t remember which night it was during the first week, but on one of the first couple of nights, I had to do my laundry because I had a ton of dirty clothes from Greece. Our apartment had its own laundry machine in our room, so I got started on it. Seconds later, our power goes out. Turns out, when in Rome, you can’t do laundry and have the AC on at the same time because it uses way too much power. We had to call our program director and figure out how to use the generator to turn the lights back on. It was hilarious!
That’s the end of week one – I hope you enjoyed! Look out for my next Italy post, where we went to the Amalfi Coast!