June 28, 2016

Rome 2016

Our tour of Italy ended with the Eternal City--Rome! We spent four days exploring the city and all it has to offer...including the amazing food! Amrita and I didn't really explore too many museums or traditional cultural sites that a lot of people plan and buy tickets for months in advance, preferring to take our time wandering the city instead. Of course, in Rome you cannot not visit at least some of the popular sites like the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Vatican City....the list goes on and on.
On our first day in Rome, A and I had signed up for a free Rome walking tour. It was the best thing we could've done, as there is absolutely no way to cover all the history of the city by yourself! I highly recommend this tour, the New Rome Free Walking Tour, next time you visit Rome. The tour includes local guides that pass along their tidbits and wisdom of How To Be A Roman. Our guide even stopped and had us learn the proper way to drink out of a Roman water fountain--plug the spout with two fingers and the water will shoot out of a small hole in the top of the spigot. Bend over and drink! You will get your clothes, hair, face, and belongings wet but you have to try it at least once.
Amrita and I found during our stay that instead of the Colosseum, as we had assumed, the Trevi Fountain is instead the center of Rome--or at least of the Rome that we traveled through. And, of course, the Trevi Fountain should be a major must see when you're in Rome. A and I found ourselves there everyday of our time in Rome, lots of time more than once a day.
As the huge architecture nerd that I am, the architecture of Rome fascinated me. As the even bigger Egyptian history nerd, I was so excited to see all the Roman landmarks that had been standing since Cleopatra walked the streets...thousands and thousands of years ago. Walking the same streets as she did (potentially...I mean there are thousands of side streets in Rome) gave me goosebumps. History literally seeps out of these streets.
The Trevi fountain was the center of our trip to Rome (btw there's a fantastic gelato shop just behind the left side of the fountain, huge counter, get a cone!) so, of course, we had to throw a coin into the fountain. To do it right and give your wish the best chance it has of coming true, stand with your back to the fountain, hold the coin in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder. Don't forget to wish! Of course, legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi fountain you are destined to return to Rome (this grows from the story of how the soldiers leaving Rome for war that threw a coin into the fountain would return safely)
You really have to stay in the center of Rome until the last subway (last train at 11:30 pm Sunday thru Thursday, 1:30 am Friday and Saturday) at least one night of your trip. The entire city glows as the sun sets, and taking a walk down Via del Corso -- a major shopping street (intersecting with Via dei Condotti, the Fashion Capital of Rome, think Burberry and Dior) that is full of street artists flash-painting with spray paint, dancers doing impromptu performances, buskers with pianos and guitars, sidewalk chalk artists you name it. It's a fun street to take a stroll down at dusk, make sure you have some coins handy to drop in guitar cases/hats/jars. 
On our last day in Rome, A and I headed to Trastevere. Trastevere is known as a younger area of Rome, across the river from the main center of the city. This area is beautiful and quiet, and offers the cheapest yet yummiest food that we had throughout our stay! If you find yourself in Trastevere, check out the Almost Corner Bookstore. You can find towering stacks of books within the shelves, on all sorts of topics.

Also while we were in Trastevere, Amrita and I decided to do something that would ensure that we would never forget our trip to Rome. We got tattoos! (You would know this and see more behind-the-scenes snippets of our trip if you follow me on Snapchat at madlock445! Add me, we'll be friends!) We got these first tattoos at Urban Tattoo and Piercing Parlor in Trastevere--highly recommend them. It's clean, small, and he speaks English fluently. Amrita got flowers behind her ear and I got a crescent moon on my foot.

Our time in Rome was the longest time we spent in one place during our time in Italy...and it was all too short! I can't wait for our next trip to Rome. After all, we tossed coins into the Trevi fountain!

June 19, 2016

24 Hours in Florence

A and I's tour of Italy included only one night in Florence! A real shame because the city is really gorgeous and chock full of art history, including the most famous statue in the world Michelangelo's David. Despite our whirlwind time in Florence, we experienced a lot of culture, ate some really really delicious food, and met so many wonderful people along the way!
Our gorgeous, sun-drenched apartment doors overlooking the veranda. Fun fact about this house and the neighborhood: they all used to be part of an abbey! You can definitely tell from the gates, shutters, and the rounded doorways. 
The garden was full of roses and happy butterflies flittering around

When we first got to Florence, after being graciously picked up by our Airbnb hosts at the train terminal and given a tour of our breathtaking apartment, A and I hopped on the bus and headed into the center of Florence. Our original plan was to go see David on our first day in the city, but the line was so long (as it always is--seriously, book your tickets in advance!) that we decided to see the city instead and return for David the next morning before our train to Rome.
After we ditched the line for David, we headed to a local restaurant where we gorgeously indulged in a salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and cherry tomatoes (mine) and a pizza with smoked salmon (hers, although technically we share everything anyway). 

We spent the rest of our day wandering through the city.
After a bit of wandering aimlessly through the beautiful streets, A and I found a corner gelato shop that caught our attention with its huge case of gelato flavors.
The owner of the shop who has a personality as big as a city block, and is twice as friendly!
Mine: mint chocolate chip gelato and chocolate chip cookies gelato

The owner of the shop is so unbelievably friendly, he walks around with a smile on his face all the time. He spotted my camera and immediately swooped over to take pictures of A and I before he jumped in and took a selfie with us.

After our gelato, when we promised him that we'd be back before we left Florence the next day.
We wandered some more after gelato--honestly with all the walking we're doing throughout each of the cities we're in we've worked off all of the carbs and gelato we've been eating, I'm sure it all balances out. At least, that's what I tell myself so I can continue indulging in my pizza, pasta, and gelato in peace.
We do a lot of step-sitting in every city we're in...a great foot reliever and people-watching opportunity 

In a square under the shadow of a big church there was a lovely artist selling his gorgeous watercolor paintings of Florence. After I purchased one, he pointed us down a street full to bursting with a street market. People everywhere were selling leather purses, jackets, random Italy souvenirs, and some very racy aprons. Halfway through this market was the entrance to the second-floor of an under-restoration building that housed a food market. We decided to check it out.
 We were glad we followed his suggestion as in the food court-like setting upstairs, at least 200 people were all watching Italy versus Sweden in the EuroCup soccer match. We quickly sat down and became eager spectators, feeling our own hearts and hopes rise and fall with those of the actual Italians watching their team around us. (PS: Italy won!!)
We did some more stair sitting after the match was over, just outside the building housing the food market. After a while sitting and people watching, we decided to walk some more...before heading back to our gelato spot from earlier.
I had more mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie while Amrita tried her first frozen margarita--being legal here really has its perks!

Before we left Florence that night, we made sure to photograph the gorgeous sun setting on the gorgeous buildings.
We slept soundly in our gorgeous nunnery apartment and headed back to the city early the next morning, long before our 2 pm train.

The line was already obscenely long to see David, so we decided to take a roaming tour guide up on his offer and joined a guided tour that got us in the door so much faster than standing in line ourselves and offered a knowledgeable guide to lead us around the museum. At around 11 am...we finally saw him. David.
David really is as magnificent in real life as people promise. The statue is awe-inspiring, truly, and the realistic details like the veins in his arm and outlines of his bones and muscles. It's true what they say--whenever you're in Florence you have to visit David.

Our time in Florence was far too short but now we're in Rome and I can't wait to share all of our adventures with you! If you have any recommendations for what to do in Rome, please let me know in a comment!