The long weekend is the holy grail of weekends while studying abroad in Florence for the summer. Instead of three days for traveling, you have SIX and we traveled to the Eternal City:
Around one week prior to our Roman experience, we decided we should try to find tickets to attend the Papal audience on the Wednesday morning. The Tuesday afternoon we were blessed with the opportunity to attend the Audience with the assistance of the Costa Rican Catholic Church Ambassador. After a stressful time planning exactly where to stay for the Tuesday night and where to pick up the tickets, we booked our train tickets fifteen minutes before the train and busted a mission over to the train station. Please note that we bought our tickets fifteen minutes before the train, that should help indicate how stressed out we were about organizing the Papal Audience tickets we forgot to buy the train tickets. We had a hotel booked for Wednesday through Friday, but had to book a hostel for Tuesday night.
We stayed at Camping Roma and by far it was the furtherest from camping at what is called a "camp ground". There was a pool, bar, dance club, full restaurant, club house restrooms, a grocery store, and a play ground. The tents were the only part that made it classify as camping.
There were only two negatives from this experience:
1. It was really really really cold in the tent and we didn't have enough blankets
2. It was far from the center of Rome.
but for 10 euros a night, how can you really complain about that....
Wednesday started off bright and early with a bunch of errands to run before we attend the Papal Audience.
After checking out of our hostel for the night, we took a cab to the hotel we would be staying at for the remainder of the trip to drop our luggage off. On our way to the hotel our taxi got into a car crash!! In the words of Paolo from The Lizzie McQuire movie: "no one in Rome really knows how to drive". I guess he was right.
Once we were settled at the hotel, we headed out to see the Pope.
I highly recommend that if you are visiting Rome on a Wednesday to attempt to see the Pope. Tickets are free but must be reserved and picked up in advance. This is the second summer in a row that I have attended a Papal audience with Pope Francis and each time it is an incredible experience. There was thousands of people who gather to come see the Pope each week and to receive his blessing. It is customary to bring religious symbols for the Pope to bless. This year I brought two bags full of Rosaries and crosses for the Pope to bless to deliver back to my friends and family at home.
At the beginning of the audience (it is not a complete mass because there is no communion), the Pope drives around St. Peter's Square and kisses babies, shakes people's hands, and creates mass pandemonium of excitement throughout Vatican City. This year I was lucky enough to have a Go-Pro (and a selfie stick!- Thank You Maria!) so I could fill myself and the Pope as he drove past us. As the Pope turned our corner the Go-Pro decided it was a great idea to freeze and not turn on. Disappointed, I resorted to using my canon camera to fill a shot of the Pope as he drove past. Luckily for us, the Pope stopped directly in front of where we were seated for a solid three minutes (that's a lot for Pope time). After he passed, I fixed the Go-Pro to film the rest of the blessing. Two minutes later, unexpectedly the Pope came by AGAIN! and this time I was able to use the Go-Pro to film it. It was such an incredible experience only being feet away from the Pope, not once but twice!
After the Papal Audience, we went to Villa Borghese, a famous park in Rome, where we relaxed in the sun. That night we fell asleep early and prepared for the busy day ahead on Thursday.
Thursday morning we were up once again bright and early to take a tour of the Colosseum. The tourist center across from the Colosseum offers a great deal for a guided tour of the Colosseum and the Forum, where you skip all of the lines (that's big deal because there is always a long line).
When we arrived at the tourist center, the first tour available was not until 1pm, so we purchased our tour tickets and set out to explore Rome by foot.
The Colosseum is a classical tourist location in Rome and definitely a Roman Must-Do. In order to kill some time before our tour and to see more on our Rome Must Do list, we visited the Trevi Fountain! Unfortunatel, it was closed for renovation and we could not sit directly on the fountain. BUT! we could chuck our coins over the fence and still make our wish!
After the Trevi Fountain, our next adventure was food (yay my favorite!) and a walk back to the Colosseum to see our tour.
While in Rome you can walk basically everywhere and if not theres a taxi or a bus to get you there safely. I only recommend taking other means of transportation if you are walking to the Vatican from the Colosseum.
The tour was fabulous because we got to see and hear everything there is to know about the Colosseum and the Forum in a short four hour walking tour (it's not as bad as it sounds!).
After the tour, we went back to our hotel and took a nice long nap before dinner.
DINNER WAS INCREDIBLE!
My dad treated us to a wonderful, true Italian dinner and restaurant out of the city. It was so remote, that the menu was not in standard Italian, but the Roman dialect. The menu was created that day and the restaurant had a butcher in the back with fresh meat from that day and hand spun pasta. The food was delicious and the meat was so fresh that a small slash of the knife cut directly through the meat. I can not even describe how wonderful the food was! (thank you again for the millionth time dad for a wonderful dinner.)
Friday rolled around and my dad and I met up with some Italian family members that lived in Rome. We had a private tour with one of their Italian tour guide friends and visited various locations throughout Rome that you would not think of doing. It was an incredible experience to not only see the back side of Rome but also visit with our Italian family. We ate lunch again at a customary Italian "locals only" restaurant and I was told my pasta rolling technique around my fork was "better than most Italians". So that was definitely a win for the day.
That night my dad and I attended dinner with a family friend who is a priest at the Vatican and caught up on stories with him.
Saturday rolled around and my dad and I took a trip out to Castel Gondolfo, also known as the Pope's Gardens. Castel Gondolfo is where the Pope has his summer home and large, perfectly landscaped gardens. We took a tour of Castel Gondolfo and walked where many Pope's have pondered important religious decisions before. It was an amazing experience as the gardens had just recently opened to the public for the first time in history.
Unfortunately, once we returned to Rome it was time to head back to Florence and my dad was off to catch a flight back to America. We said our goodbyes and he waved us off as the train departed. I am so grateful that he came and visited me for the week and a half in Italy and I was able to explore Republica di San Marino and Rome with him.
The long weekend came to a close with our last day in Florence by sleeping and recuperating from the hours of walking and sore feet. It was a wonderful weekend with so many sites and adventures, and of course great company!