I recently got back from an epic two-week backpacking trip through part of central/eastern Europe with my best friend. I would have written sooner, but I returned and immediately had to participate in ~assessment week~ therefore I have been otherwise occupied. I have a lot to write home about so it might take a while to share my experiences but I wanted to share something and what better place to start with than Rome?
Very important travel-related information: I have officially bought my plane ticket home and I will be leaving Malta on May 19.
Rome (Italy) – 2 nights
Florence (Italy) – 2 nights
Venice (Italy) – 1 night
Vienna (Austria) – 1 night
Budapest (Hungary) – 3 nights
Zagreb (Croatia) -2 nights
Malta – 2 nights (plus many more for me)
First stop- Rome
I met my BFFL (best friend for life) Matt in Rome on the first day of our adventure. We did a lot of planning ahead of time and we realized that we were not in any one place for that long because we wanted to see a lot while we had the opportunity. This was both good and bad. I’ll start off now by saying that Rome was one of my least favorite places we went. This could be because it was the very first stop, so we didn’t have anything else to compare to it yet. We were also tired from travel (you know those 90 minutes flights are just excruciating). Rome was very crowded, it was hot, and it was actually kind of dirty. But it’s Rome and it would be wrong to dismiss it without giving it a chance.
I started off my trip well with a very large coffee (grad school + general lack of sleep + very early morning trips to the airport) and no food, meaning that my short flight was actually quite uncomfortable due to the caffeine failing to wake me up but succeeding in making me extremely jittery. Well that’s mostly because RyanAir. If you’ve never flown RyanAir, you obviously have never lived in Europe. It’s the reason I’ve been able to travel so much with 30euro flights to top-notch destinations. Just remember that cheap does not always equal good.
Upon arriving in Rome, I quickly made a new friend before even leaving the airport. Her name is Laiza and she is from Brazil but also currently lives in Malta. We started talking while waiting in line to buy a bus ticket to the city center, and then we hung out for a few hours until we were able to leave. We have plans to hang out in Malta later, and that encounter confirmed for me not only why I love travel so much- because you never know when you’ll meet somebody awesome- but because sometimes traveling by yourself leads to events that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s cool to take risks. Being by yourself doesn’t mean you have to be lonely and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have an awesome time. As much as I believe that, that was the only time I was by myself, for the next two weeks, meaning that Matt and I got quite a bit of concentrated time together. We made it out alive though, despite ridiculous amounts of sass, attitude, and fighting (like loving siblings of course).
We met in our hostel in Rome and our reunion pretty much went like, “oh you’re here,” “yeah finally,” “okay cool let’s go.” And off we went. Our first stop was finding some quality Roman pizza obviously. We then walked in a huge loop around the Roman forum and ruins, ending up by the Colosseum right around dusk, which was a wonderful time to go for optimal lighting conditions and minimal tourists present. Because we were so tired, we went to bed pretty early. We’d also walked about 20,000 steps (10 miles) that day using Matt’s FitBit, which at the time seemed like a lot, but we quickly found out that was only the beginning.
Day 2 in Rome started out much like Day 1 ended, with up-close and personal views of the Colosseum. We had bought tickets ahead of time (very highly recommended) and went inside. We both agreed that it was nearly identical to being in Lane Stadium, which is obviously the greatest arena we will ever visit, and therefore felt quite at home. It was pretty awesome to be able to stand inside and consider the immense history behind the building and the events that took place inside. The arena inside was actually smaller than I had anticipated, considering the sheer size of the stands. I think the coolest part was the hypogeum, the underground that was exposed but initially was covered up by the arena floor. It was a maze of walls and tunnels that were used to keep animals and slaves and imagining how it would have looked during its prime was a bit eerie.
We hopped over to the Trevi fountain where we ate lunch and I had the best fettuccine alfredo of my life. The fountain itself was incredible because of its huge size. The crowds were also incredibly huge and it was difficult to be able to enjoy the scene because everyone was trying to have their own enjoyment.
We took the metro to the Vatican and walked through the Holy Door on Palm Sunday, which was pretty incredible. St. Peter’s Basilica was amazing and we saw a Cardinal leading a small service, which was a unique opportunity to witness.
It was here in Vatican City when Matt decided to commemorate his time in Europe by taking pictures of birds in front of major landscapes or buildings. So of course when we were in the Vatican, he was photographing pigeons. You just can’t take some people anywhere. I will admit though that it was a major source of entertainment for me throughout our journey to observe his newly discovered passion for wildlife photography.
We ended the day with some classic Italian gelato from Gelateria la Romana (definitely recommend) and a night-time visit to get our last glimpses of the Colosseum.
We didn’t have a lot of time in Rome, but we saw everything we wanted to see and it was time to move on. As is life on the road.
Because we’re travelers on a budget (at least I am), most of our activities and entertainment were free. The exceptions were going into the Colosseum and taking a lift (7euro) up to the Il Vittoriano to get some amazing panoramic views of the city. Otherwise the things we did, such as seeing the Trevi Fountain, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, walking through Piazza del Campidoglio, and finding lovely and artistic photo opportunities throughout the city were free of charge and perfect for anyone who needs ideas of things to do while traveling.
Lessons Learned in Rome:
- Rome is a large city that requires careful planning for getting around/transportation
- Sometimes it takes a while to get used to traveling with someone you haven’t traveled with before
- Check the event schedule to find out when you might have the chance to see the Pope leading a parade, or other religious ceremony