La Dolce Vita: Rome, Day 1

Goodbye Connecticut, hello Rome! Today I’m finally heading to the airport to go on my trip to Italy, and don’t get me wrong, but I am totally freaking out as this will be the first time I’m flying by myself, to another country. I will be in Italy for 12 days and I am planning on eating gelato at least 3 times a day because when in Rome!!!

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Heading to JFK airport and you can faintly see the NYC skyline in the background

I made it to the airport with my parents and I said goodbye to them as I went to wait in line for the baggage scanners, and everything went smoothly until I realized that I only had 30 minutes to spare before I boarded as they pushed up my departure time. Anxiety set it as I rushed through the check-in process and fortunately made it in time to board.

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On the plane I was relieved to find out I was sitting next to a girl around my age with her mother sitting in the seat behind her and we had a pleasant conversation and we realized we are both going on tours and hitting the same locations! What a coincidence! The flight took about 8 hours and I realized how under dressed I was as we headed closer to Iceland, even when I changed into a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a blanket scarf, and fuzzy socks. Luckily I had an eye mask so I was able to sleep through most of the flight so it was a breeze, with no  turbulence, thank god!

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In the cab on the way to the hotel

At this point, I got off the plane and I could not find the taxi service that was supposed to pick me up. I spent a good 2-3 hours at the airport, 1 hour spent waiting forever at baggage claim (and my bag was also opened and resealed by TSA all because I brought wine in my luggage ugh!). Another couple of hours were spent nearly in tears looking for my taxi and being somewhat harassed by other available taxi drivers trying to get me to go in their cab, no thanks! So eventually I paid 40 euros to go in a large cab with other Americans riding in it so at least I felt a little safer, and it was one of the cheaper fares as some other taxi cabs were charging 60 euros! My nerves were calmed as I talked to a couple from Minnesota in the cab ride, but that moment was fleeing as I learned that the taxi drivers like to drive FAST on the highway, like it felt as though we were going 120 mph! A pleasant surprised that I noticed was that it was surprisingly tropical in Rome; there were palm trees everywhere!

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The Polo Hotel, Rome

I arrived in Rome around 7am, and because of all the complications at the airport, I didn’t get to my hotel until around 12pm. About 45 minutes later, I arrived at the hotel and realized I packed way too much, as I was huffing and puffing just to get one large suitcase and one carry-on bag up the stairs at the hotel. I had a couple hours to kill until I had a meeting around 4pm with the other tour members so I ended up taking a nap, and it was probably one of the best naps of my life, hands down.

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La Gattabuia Restaurant

After the meeting, we then headed out to dinner in Rome at a restaurant called La Gattabuia. First, we had some antipasta, which consisted of meat, cheese, and bread, and then our table ordered a white wine which we finished very quickly! Then our main course came out and it was a traditional pasta meal, but they included little bits of bacon on it, yum!! For dessert we ended up having a typical vanilla gelato with some chocolate sauce on top. The experience was definitely worth it as it was a nice transition from American food to Italian food. Then we headed back to the hotel and I slept like a baby again until we had to wake up at 6am to get ready for a day traveling to Pompeii 🙂 Stay tuned for day 2!

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“Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night” – Eila Hiltunen

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Upcoming Italy Trip!

Here’s a little snippet of the places I will be traveling to on an upcoming 2 week trip to Italy with Contiki

Rome

  • Quick stop to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Visit the Colosseum and Piaza Venezia
    • Take a short walk to see Pantheon and Piazza Navona
  • Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!)
  • Hang out on the Spanish Steps and eat a slice of pizza and people watch
  • Snack: gelato (yum!)
  • Drink: Cappucino (NEVER drink a cappuccino after 11am it is frowned upon in Italy, and everyone will give you weird looks)

italy1Sorrento

  • Scenic drive along the coast
  • See Mt. Vesuvius
  • Watch how to make pizza Italian style from the locals
  • Pompeii guided walking tour

italy2Capri

  • Day trip by boat to the isle of Capri
  • Capri cruise to the world famous Blue Grotto
  • Villa Communale Park (views of Mt. Vesuvius)
  • Drink: Limoncello (It is a sweet lemon liqueur- and quite possibly my favorite part about this trip since I love to eat lemons)

italy3Florence

  • Scenic drive around Apennine mountains
  • Stop over in Tuscany
    • Guided tour of a 16th century Tuscan winery while enjoying a meal of antipasto
  • Drink: Chianti wine (famous drink in Tuscany)
  • Walk along the River Arno
  • Guided walking tour of Michelangelo’s art work in Florence
  • See the Duomo, Basilica Santa Croce, Giotto’s bell tower, the Baptistry, and Piazza della Signoria
  • Leather craft demonstration
  • Night on the town: Space Disco

italy4Venice

  • Quick stop to Verona to see the Roman arena, and Juliet’s balcony
  • Private boat through the canals and islands of Venice
  • See the limestone Bridge of Sighs, the gothic arches of Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square (the pigeons probably outnumber the people there!)
  • Venice walking tour
  • Gondola ride

italy5Milan

  • Visit the lake town of Sirmione (complete with vine-covered villas, Roman ruins, and a castle)
  • Lake cruise to see the Dolomite mountain range
  • See the massive Duomo cathederal, the elegant shopping mall of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the world famous La Scala Opera house
  • See Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” located at Santa Maria delle Grazie (make sure to book a couple of months in advance!)

italy6La Spezia

  • Visit Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of colorful coastal villages
  • Visit the towns of Monterosso and Portovenere
  • Walk along the legendary Via dell’amore (lovers lane) for amazing sea views
  • Cruise along the scenic coast
  • Food: grab a table by the beach and try the pesto with locally baked focaccia bread

italy7Vatican City

  • See the home of the Pope (FYI Vatican City is the smallest city in the world!)
  • Locally guided tour of the Sistine chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, & the art of the Vatican museums
  • Tour of the Roman forum and Colosseum
  • Dinner: Take advantage of the authentic Italian restuarants, complete with an opera singer, live music and lots and lots of pasta

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“Maybe the best moment of your life will be on your next big adventure” – Siya Zarrabi