Sunday, June 17, 2012

"When in Rome, Y'all"

The Spanish Steps 

It seems hard to imagine that in just eight days we’ll be arriving in Oxford after four weeks of travel, but it’s true. The past two days have been a whirlwind of bus travel, driving through Italy (all the way from Rome), then Switzerland (where we stayed a night in quaint Lucerne), France (where we stopped for lunch in Strasbourg), Luxembourg (where we took a twenty minute bathroom and snack break), and now here we are in Belgium.

This stretch of Europe is markedly different from the Italy we experienced for the past ten days. Yesterday we drove through the Swiss Alps and I’m sure I’ve never seen anything so foreign yet so beautiful. It was remarkable. And the weather here is obviously different, too. Gone are the 85+ degree days and unrelenting, dry heat. France and Belgium (so far, at least) have been grey and overcast, but to tell the truth it’s actually a nice relief.

Of course I’m getting ahead of myself because I’ve yet to talk about the final leg of our Italian journey in Rome. It’s really no wonder Rome is called the Eternal City because I feel like I could live there forever and still uncover new and exciting things about it (what is it about Italy that seems this way?). I wasn’t sure that any city could surpass my experience in Florence, but Rome came pretty close. It’s far more active and tourist-filled, but I loved it almost as much. There’s so much to do and see!

Our first day we explored ancient Rome, from Capitoline Hill to the ancient ruins to the Colosseum. I’m really fascinated by these antiquated structures. The Colosseum was really special—it’s absolutely massive!

The second day we took a three-hour tour of the Vatican. And when I say three hours, I mean three hours. Our tour guide made sure every precious minute was spent detailing some facet of the Roman Catholic Church’s headquarters. I was looking forward to the Vatican tour, and I really enjoyed it, but in ways I didn’t expect. We toured the Vatican Museums, and there is so much interesting art there. The Raphael rooms (where his masterpiece School of Athens is displayed) and the Sistine Chapel were my favorite. I was really in awe of Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings—I became emotional just looking at “The Creation of Adam.” The only downside is how many people there are there. It’s obviously worse in the summer months, but I wasn’t expecting the swarms upon swarms of bodies. I even saw one girl faint in the Sistine Chapel (I’m guessing from the sheer amount of people in the room, but then again you never know).
 Raphael's "The School of Athens"

On our last day in Rome we saw the rest of the customary Roman sights. They may be touristy, but they became that way for a reason. The Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Fountain of the Four Rivers, and the Pantheon are all incredible and beautiful.
 The Trevi Fountain: throw three coins in and you'll return to Rome!

I really can’t get over just how much there is to do in Rome. No one was more surprised than I was at how much I enjoyed our visit to the Villa Borghese, a museum of primarily sculptures that houses some phenomenal sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. To see them up close and notice the details was incredible. If this trip has taught me anything about art it’s to really appreciate it and the craft and skill that goes into making these masterpieces.
 At the Pantheon: the open dome projects a large circle of light that moves quickly around the interior

On our last night in Rome, we all wanted to enjoy a really good Italian meal. Luckily, our hotel was (again) in a residential area and I had spotted a homey-looking restaurant literally right around the corner. Seven of us girls ventured for a late dinner and ended up staying for over two hours. We talked and lingered, and were graciously served by the hostess, whose family owns the small, rustic restaurant. I ordered a delicious pasta dish: large shells with roasted cherry tomatoes and eggplant, buffalo mozzarella (but with a texture more akin to fresh ricotta), and basil. For dessert, I opted for the “apple pie,” although it was more like a crostata, with spiced roasted apples and raisins atop a crisp pastry crust. It was a heavenly meal, easily the best I’ve enjoyed on this trip, both for the food and the company.

We departed Italy yesterday morning, and, like I said before, have been mostly confined to the bus. I’ve been doing lots of Sudoku and napping, with the occasional movie or studying thrown in during the long lulls.

We are in Belgium the next few days, where we’ll take day trips to Brussels and Brugges via Ghent, where our hotel is. I can’t say I’m one for Belgian beer, but I’d go for some moules frites and wafels any day!

P.S. The title of this post is something I actually said. I've said "y'all" more times on this trip than I have in my entire life. Don't ask me to explain.

[Update: I wrote this on the bus Friday. After two days in Belgium I can confirm that 1. it's cold here, 2. I'm definitely not one for Belgian beer, 3. I definitely am one for wafels. Holy yum.]


  1. ...reading this on a sunday how your writing closes the long distance between us. take hold of the y'all...revel in your southern heritage. that makes me smile for sure! xxoo - m.

  2. have been looking forward to you checking in-you're helping me add to my bucket list of "must do's".