Hello from Roma! The flight went well and we landed with ample time to explore the city. Our hostel is located only a few blocks from Ancient Rome (colosseum, palatine, forum, etc) so we took a nice stroll in the evening to get a first glimpse. After, we toured our neighborhood and found a very quaint cafe to have our first Roman dining experience. I had (of course) gnochetti ai formaggi, or mini-gnochis with cheese... it was to die for. Seriously, amazing. I'm going to have a hard time keeping pasta/pizza/gelato to a minimum here, for sure. It's all ridiculously good.
We saw the Colosseum, Palatine and Forum up close today. The entrance fee was 12 euros, but that got us into all of Ancient Rome, so it wasn't so bad. The stairs and hills are starting to get to my hips, which are feeling the strain. They were pretty good in Athens, except when we couldn't find a taxi to take us down the biggest hill in the city.. at which point I had to walk, which of course set in motion a terrible turn of events for the poor hips. Nonetheless, I'm pushing through. I did make it for 7 hours today without stopping.. whew.
I also checked out Vittorio Emmanuelle, which had an interesting flea market with a crazy assortment of items. It was a bit too overwhelming. The metro here is also super old and not so nice, though it does help with the travel. However, Rome is deceivingly small.. you could walk most places in less than 30min. If only my hips didn't mind so much.
Planning on having our first true nightlife experience tonight! Aiming to find an interesting bar/club to hit up with several of our hostel-mates. I'm sure it'll be quite the change from Oxford's toned down nightlife.. for instance, they don't even THINK of going out here until midnight. At Oxford, the night's half gone by then. Better gear up for a long one. A nap may be in order.
Update: went out with a bunch of friends to a basement club and it was a BLAST. Seriously good time.
Went roaming about Rome (no pun intended) and saw a lot of quintessential sites. Experienced the '5th avenue of Rome' in front of the Spanish steps, the Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. The Pantheon was absolutely beautiful and services are still held there, which is pretty cool. Piazza Navona was very Christmasy.. lots of Christmas shops, crepes, cotton candy, etc. It was like a cute Ohio state fair, except in the middle of a giant piazza in Rome! The Spanish steps and upscale shopping area were totally packed, so I didn't stay too long there and instead trekked to find the beautiful Trevi fountain. The fountain was also packed but well worth it. I give huge amounts of credit to sculptors; Rome makes you really appreciate art.
Our hostel proprietor made us a cocktail last night for free. It was SO FUNNY. We walked into our main corridor and there he is with a giant bowl, mixing champagne, lemon vodka and grapefruit juice for all of the residents. It was really too funny. He also doesn't speak a word of English, so miming is a common practice for all of us. But, hey... free cocktails, what a win! They also took us out to a bar, and then we roamed about the city for a good three hours (which was sadly not on purpose... couldn't find any good clubs!)
Made my way to Trastevere today, which was a good long walk from our hostel. My hips weren't too pleased with me. However, the biggest flea market I've ever SEEN was there in Porta Portese and I got a great pair of ankle boots for 10 euro... win!
I might also be obsessed with canoli's, sicilian style. Had a huge one yesterday with pistachio topping.. I think I might've died a little inside (from happiness, of course). I'm going to have to seriously readapt to British food, yipes. I also might start cooking more at Oxford.. we will see!
I do miss working out, but Rome is doing a number on my hips. I've walked for a consistent 7 hours each day and my joints/tendons/muscles are very angry with me. I'm sure they would've been even more angry if I hadn't had surgery in June, so I'm at least greatful for not having THAT kind of excruciating pain. I'm dealing (with copious amounts of ibuprofen) and at least everything is beautiful, so that makes it better.
VATICAN! We took the metro over to the Vatican and went into St. Peter's Basilica, which was absolutely breathtaking. While I'm not a religious person, I can absolutely appreciate the architecture, art and sense of community that is facilitated by this giant structure. It was beautiful. The square was also quite nice and not crowded, so I got a good picture of it in its entirety. The inside of the basilica is definitely humbling and makes you appreciate how much effort a lot of individuals put into it (oh, and money... hmm, where do we get all that money, eh?)
Next was the Vatican museum and Sistine chapel. We didn't spend too much time going through the museum carefully because it was SO LARGE, and because I was obsessed with finding the Sistine as soon as possible. The Sistine was life changing.. seriously, I can't imagine what Michaelangelo must've gone through in those tiresome years creating the ceiling and walls. Absolutely incredible. The colors were still vibrant and everything was so lifelike. I can't imagine that someone has a gift so great that can last for eternity. It was a great experience. I also snuck a picture of it even though the guards were watching for cameras... I'll be sure to post it when I get all the pictures uploaded at the end.
Now just relaxing after our last full day in Rome. Going to our favorite cafe here (which we ate the first night) and having our last official Roman meal.. full of wine, bread and pasta. Perfect. Tomorrow our plane doesn't leave until late but the journey to the airport always lasts a bit, so we'll have only the early afternoon to hang out in Rome. Then, to Barcelona! We'll be getting in to Barcelona at 11:30pm, so it's a good thing that it's a nightlife city. Our hostel is renowned for catering to youth, so we'll have a splendid time at night.