Don't know what the country's comin' to, but in Rome do as the Romans do...

Lots of Lizzie McGuire Movie vibes over here as I title this post with a line from a song from the movie.  Bonus points if you can recognize which one.  Or was I the only one who bought the soundtrack before I saw the movie in fourth grade and listened to it incessantly?  
Probably was, because Why Not?

I've been wanting to write three different posts about the three different countries I traveled to this past summer. I think rather than giving you a boring day-by-day recount of the trip, I might as well give you the highlights.  The interesting things and the funny bits.  And of course, the most visually stunning of photos I could find!  Short stories interspersed with pics from the trip seems like the best way to create a memorable post worth reading?  But let's face it, the only person I'm probably entertaining here is my mother, sigh.

My other reason for writing this is because I know people have asked me about my trip, but I feel like there was so much to tell that I've left a lot of things out each time I told the story.  If I have blog posts about the trip, it'll be a lot easier to remember my own trip well enough to tell it to other people.  Or there's always the option of just making them read it themselves.

So welcome to my first ever travel post!  Midwest Mermaid and the Best of Italy!

The reason I paired this with such an Italian-infused title is because my study abroad trip began with four Evenings in Roma.

I couldn't sleep for at least two weeks before this trip because I thought I was either going to pack completely wrong or that the plane was going to crash into the ocean on the way over.  Seriously, these were real fears.  I developed a stress eye twitch, it was embarrassing!  Once we got on the plane though, I actually realized that it was the most at peace I had felt in ages.  I'm completely serious.  College stressed me out in a major way and I don't think I stopped stressing for 4 years straight.  I'm sure my friends would second that, as I was a complete spaz at times.  On that plane I was like, "Well, right now I have to just hope things go right because we're up in the sky and I have no control."  It was the first time in a very long time that I didn't feel guilty for spending 8 hours reading books and watching movies.  On land, I had always felt like there was something more constructive I should be doing.  Being up in the air/above the deep blue sea for that long of a time was a very eye-opening experience for me.  Since that little epiphany, I've been trying to change some things (like dedicating at least one full day per week completely to myself), or I realize that the eye twitching will most likely commence once again.

Side note:  We had a layover in Amsterdam and the cashier at a gift shop tried to guess where I was from and she said Italy *hair flip* I must have looked more worldly than I am.  I was like, "Nah man, America."  She excitedly said, "Oh, United States!" and at that point looked at me like she had me all figured out.  Or else I am looking way too far into this.

Onto Rome...

Below is a photo of me on the rooftop of our hotel, Casa religiosa di Ospitalita "San Giuseppe," which I cannot rave enough about.  It has a wildly long name, but was SUPER CLEAN which was my very favorite part.  Franco, one of the 2 staff members I saw throughout our stay, was a super nice guy.  He spoke zero English yet still managed to become friends with our whole group and even arranged a karaoke sesh on our last night on this very rooftop.

Sorry about the poorly edited snapchat photo (bottom), but this gelato was amazing.  Actual whipped cream flavored gelato (also topped with real whipped cream).  Sounds weird but I promise it's good.  Trust.  Then I always get some kind of berry too.

"You will get to experience the delights of la città eterna!  Rome...Eternal city...did no one read the info packets?" Again with the Lizzie McGuire Movie, I'm sorry, but it was a formative part of my childhood.  But actually, that movie is pretty much where I got all my information about Rome.  Aside from some helpful and some not so helpful tidbits from other people before the trip, I had pretty much settled that in our first city of the trip, I would be flinging coins into the Trevi Fountain, meeting an Italian popstar, and riding around on said popstar's moped.

...Until I attended my first pre-travel class when they told us that it's against the rules to ride on a stranger's moped and that a girl actually did it once, years before.  She almost got sent home.  Also a sad moment when my friends and I took the metro to Barberini and realized that the Trevi Fountain was covered in scaffolding (much like many other monuments of Europe) and that there would be no Lizzie McGuire coin flinging.  I didn't even get to see it. As if I needed one more reason to go back to Italy ;D

Nonetheless, I still loved everything about this country.  Besides the fact that I feel like the locals in our neighborhood didn't like us very much.  Or else they were just in momentary shock? I can get over it.  Where we were staying just wasn't a very touristy part of Rome, as far as I could tell.  We were definitely loud Americans wearing the occasional crop top...

It was the first leg of our trip, so I felt like I was there forever.  Or like we still had SO much more to see, which we did.  After the 8-hour flight, we were forced to stay awake and visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, all before we were even able to stop at our hotel.  I was a hot mess, emphasis on the mess.

What annoyed me the most about that was 1) I was not at my most photogenic one hour post-plane ride, and I wanted to be photogenic in front of the Colosseum.  and 2) Our tour guide was the most boring human on Earth.  Way too smart for his own good and just as long-winded.  Needless to say, by the end of that day we were all pretty hangry.  

So obviously, the answer was THIS:

Oh, $5 you say?  Sure, $5 for a slice of pizza sounded reasonable.  It turned out to be $5 for a whole pizza.  Even more reasonable!  And this ain't no Little Caesar's.  The wine turned out to be around $7 per pitcher.  We liked the sound of that after a long 2ish days of traveling/walking.

I couldn't get enough of the next city we traveled to:  Florence.  While Rome is really metropolitan and...graffiti covered, Florence is exactly what I had been picturing Italy to be.  Everything about it was so incredibly picturesque.  Even the ground was pretty (and cobblestoned af).

The hostess beckoned us into this restaurant with, "We have free wifi!" which we thought was hilarious, but actually ended up being a major trend over the next few weeks.

Florence gift shops were my first taste of Being a Shopaholic While Abroad.  And I would have been totally content staying there for the duration of our time in Italy, aside from one minor mishap.

When someone that you trust tells you, "Don't take gifts from anyone on the street who offers them to you in Europe," LISTEN TO THEM.  If no one has ever given you that advice, here's me telling you now, DON'T DO IT!  I don't care how much they beg, whine, or try to convince you it's for free.  It really never is.  

My friends and I learned this the hard way, from a Jamaican man with small wooden turtles.  We walked out of a little gift shop and Turtle Man spotted us and went in for the kill.  He was telling us all about himself, praying for us, as friendly as can be.  He handed out bracelets and little red wooden knick-knacks in the shape of animals.  Having been warned of the tricks of these mischievous street people, we flat out told him we couldn't accept his gifts because we were not carrying cash.  To which he kept insisting the gifts were free.  We were like, "Wow, everyone was wrong.  Some people are just nice!"  After a few minutes, we decided to say our goodbyes in order to get going.  That was when Turtle Man decided that the gifts were no longer free.  As we shoved the gifts back at him (as apologetically as possible) he started begging for money to send to his mother back home.  Visibly freaked and uncomfortable, we turned around in the other direction and power-walked off to The Duomo.  Or The David.  I don't remember.  But dang, people aren't just "nice."

Scratch that, there were two mishaps.

The other was a quickie in the train station in Florence.  Random shirtless woman decided to bare it all and run into unsuspecting tourists (me) yelling, "Do you have a problem with this?!?!?!" pointing towards the nippular area.  All I could think of was, "Wow lady, you'd be arrested for indecent exposure so quickly elsewhere.  But I agree, free the nipple."  I didn't say that, of course, I just acted as if seeing shirtless women in train stations was commonplace in the United States and hurried my way through the crowd.

But that was Florence in a nutshell.  If only we could have spent more time there...

Oh, and we went out this night in Rome, with our $3 bottles of wine in hand.  It's legal to drink in the street there, who woulda thought?!

The next day was Vatican City!  Greetings Francis, I have arrived.

The first time I fell asleep in school was in 6th grade, watching a documentary on the Vatican!  Awesome memories to be lived out.

While the former Catholic School Girl inside of me was excited to see where the Pope chills, the rest of me knew that it meant another day with the most boring tour guide on the planet.  He actually had us stand around a bathtub at the Vatican Museum for a good 30 minutes while he talked at us.  It was like he had no knowledge that the Sistine Chapel closed at 4:oo.  He actually said that if we didn't make it there in time, we could stand outside of it and he could just tell us about what's inside.  Huh.  Even the professors were growing tired of his antics, so at the next chance, they hurried away from him (consequently, also away from us) and quickly disappeared into the crowd of thousands of people.  Turns out they were hoping we would follow and leave him behind, but we didn't get the memo.  Good plan in theory but poorly executed, whoops.

Vatican City was also home to the WORST gelato I had the whole trip.  I asked for coffee flavored, eyeing up the new tub of it that I saw right in front of my eyes.  Of course, the actual gelato server decided it would be best if he scooped me a cone out of the freezer-burnt tub of coffee gelato behind the one that I was looking at.  Seeing as he spoke minimal English, I felt like my chances of insisting on a new cone full of the fresh gelato would not only reflect badly on me, but also on my country.  You're welcome for not.  
It's in my hand in the picture above, and it was truly bad.

Aside from those two negative stories I shared, I actually quite liked Vatican City!  Only once did I have to be asked to, "Please cover your shoulders, Miss."  
Some people are born too scandalous for the Vatican, I guess.

The last day of our trip was my favorite, partly because there was no structure to the day.  We could do whatever we wanted.  We slept in a tiny little bit and then hung out with the espresso machine on the roof of our hotel for a few hours.  Franco silently judged me with his signature smile as I returned to the machine for a fifth cup.

While breakfasting on the roof, we were interrupted by an Italian man (staying at the hotel) who asked where we were from.  We told him Wisconsin and he immediately was like, "Packers!  Cheese!"  We were so excited that someone who lived this far away knew about the two most important characteristics of our home state.  That was until he broke his fake Italian accent and started speaking English.  He was a retired professor in New Jersey who was born in Italy.  He was staying at our hotel with his two older brothers, and they were only taking the trip in honor of their other brother who had died of cancer a couple years earlier.

The Scafaria bro's told us TONS of stories about their lives in Italy and then in the United States where they met their wives and had their kids.  They told stories of their adventures during their teenage years and emphasized which kinds of guys we should avoid.  It was nice to be able to talk to people who knew a lot about Italy, but also spoke English.  Not to mention their niece was the screenwriter of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist!  They were all very proud of her and repeated this fact several times, showed us her Instagram, and insisted we watch her new movie on Netflix.  Haha.  

They were actually to thank for giving us the directions on getting back to the Colosseum area!  We didn't think we had enough time to look around there on our first day in Italy (we were practically incoherent after that day of traveling).  

So off we went!

Band pic below.  Album drops next week.

I think that this was the day that we actually got to sit down and appreciate Rome.  Literally, I don't think we had a chance to sit down since we had been on the plane on the way over.  Being able to explore and look at the city at our own pace was necessary to be able to really enjoy it.  This was also the day we tried to find a good view of the Trevi Fountain - fail.  

But during our walk around the city, we met some hilarious waiters at a restaurant (who told us the restroom was outside), some Canadians who helped us when we were lost-ish, and accidentally split up our little group of 8 even though we were just shopping across the street from each other...

At the end of the day, we met up at the hotel for our final Italian group dinner, where we ended up being the loudest ones at the party.  The restaurant was called "Joseph" and I'm pretty sure "Joseph" himself was the guy who came over to our huge group of tables and asked us to please calm it tf down.  Well how bout it sucks when you're trying to split up a check between 26 people and the ATM only spits out large bills?

Even writing this, I really miss Italy!  Not only that, but I miss being on our trip right at the beginning because there was so much to look forward to.  It only solidifies the fact that I would love to go back, although there are plenty of other places in Italy (Capri and Positano, to name a couple) that I would love to travel to.  And I promise I will!

If this did anything for you, stay tuned for Greece and Turkey!

(and here's the link to my full trip video, if you haven't seen it already!)

1 comment

  1. The flower baskets on the bridge took my breath away! Thank you for taking me with you on this dreamy voyage, I enjoy and pour over every gorgeous photo.transportation tours in alberta