Find out about all of our great adventures in Rome, Italy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day Five

We had another early morning this morning, aka 5am wake up call. We were on the bus or 6:30 and headed on our way to Assisi a small city in the Tuscan region of Italy. The city, built using pink and white bricks and perched on a hilltop is absolutely beautiful. Once we arrived in Assisi we met up with our tour guide we took us through the Basilica of St. Francis. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of any of Giotto's beautiful paintings inside. One of the most interesting aspects of the church was that it was built in three levels at three different times with the bottom level being the burial place of St. Francis. After the tour, we were given some free time to explore. As I walked through the narrow streets, I was reminded of the spiraling narrow streets of Toledo, Spain.

We then hopped back on the tour bus and made out way to a Wine Estate. The Villa was absolutely beautiful, but the ride of there was not fun. There were a lot of bumps and curves that didn't sit well with our empty stomachs and some very sharp turns for our big bus. Once at the top, we were able to look out on the acres an acres of grape plants. The estate itself was exactly how I would picture a Tuscan Villa.

We then went in for the wine tasting. There were two tables set up with finger foods such as bread, proschuto and cheese, and a third table with the three different kinds of wines for the tasting. I didn't have any of the wine, but I heard from others that it was very good. After the tasting, we went down to the caves, and they were literal caves from the Etruscans, where the wine is stored to be aged and turned. We also saw the wine cellars where it is brewed. The owner told us that the process, from vine to shipment, could take up to 12 years.

After some people bought a bottle or two of the wine that we had tasted, we took the bus back down the winding roads and up again to another hilltop city called Orvieto. Here we had an hour to walk around and see all of the small shops.

Once we got back to Rome, a group of eight of us wanted to go and have a nice sit down dinner. We decided to go to Tema, a restaurant that President Leary and a few others had eaten at the night before and highly recommended. It was a ten minute walk from the hotel and we only had to ask for directions once. I had a list of foods that I wanted to try and I still hadn't had lasagna so I decided that I would get that tonight. While most of us just ordered our past and maybe a side, Sara Montesdeoca, Amy Lodovico and Kim Fejes ordered the four course menu.

We go a surprise when our waiter came out with a plate of toast and bruschetta for each of us an said it was on the hose. The bruschetta was fresh and delicious and is definitely the best I've ever had. When the meals came out we expected those who had the four courses to have smaller portions and were surprised to find that the Lasagnas were all huge. The food was amazing and definitely worth it. The lasagna was nothing like what we make in the US but it was very yummy. Since Sara, Amy and Kim had so much to eat, we all shared the desserts that they got. Each one was different and was good it its own way.

One thing that is very different about Italian restaurants, is how leisurely and slow paced the meal is. In the US we are so used to being "go go go" but her they take their time and enjoy the atmosphere. We ended up spending three hours at the restaurant which was great for us, but we may have been a little too loud for the couple sitting near us. At the end of our meal we got another complimentary surprise in the form of Limon Cella (an alcoholic drink) for the whole table.

Today was fun, but I feel like we spent more time on the bus than we did in the actually cities and I wish we had been able to have more time to explore. Dinner was great and it was nice to get to know some of the people on the trip that I didn't really know before.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Four

We went to the Colosseum!!

I can't even begin to explain to you how amazing the Colosseum is. It is truly massive and so amazingly beautiful. It is so amazing to imagine what it would have looked like back when it was actually being used. The tour guide that took us through was great and told us the entire history of the Colosseum and helped us to imagine what it used to look like. Noel took several different group pictures of the entire group in the Colosseum, and even Fiona got her picture taken. The Colosseum is one of the things that I wanted to see most and I'm so glad that we got to spend so much time exploring and just taking it all in.

We also took a tour through the Roman Forum. This was also amazing and hard to imagine what it must have been like before it was buried and then excavated. I was amazed to hear that over a thousand years, the structures were buried in like ten feet of sand and they began to build on top of it before they realized that there was practically a whole city underneath. In fact almost all of modern Rome was built on top of the old buildings that were buried.

After the tour, we had free time for the rest of the afternoon. A few of us had heard of a "Pub Crawl" for St. Patrick's Day and decided to check it out. Starting at noon, a bunch of people were going from pub to pub each hour to do a free shot at each one. The whole thing was organized and you only had to pay 15 euros and you could get a t-shirt and follow the group to 12 different pubs that were marked on the map. We joined at the fifth pub and those who were drinking had their Green Frog Shot. It was a lot of fun because there were about eighty people in the Crawl and so we would walk down the street as a huge group all wearing green shirts and giant hats. A lot of people honked their horns at us and a few took our pictures as our procession moved down the street. Eventually, after the third pub, we all got hungry so we made our way back towards the hotel and found a nice little place to get pizza and gelato. A few of us decided to call it a night while the others went out to meet back up with the Crawlers at Pub #9.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day Three.

Today was another really long day. We got a 5:10 wake up call because we had to be at breakfast for six so that we could leave the hotel at 6:30. The reason for our very early start was because we went to spend that day in Florence and it is a four hour bus ride. Needless to say, most everyone napped on the bus. Once we arrived in Florence we met our tour guide Laura who took us into the Galleria dell' Academia which is the museum that holds all of Michelangelo's statues including the David! The David is absolutely amazing. It is 15 feet tall and awe inspiring. The tour guide led us around to see the David at all different angles to see how different features of the statue are highlighted at each angle. Unfortunately I can't post a picture, because for some reason you are not allowed to take pictures in this gallery.
After that we walked over to the Duomo. This was also beautiful and amazingly huge. You can climb the 463 steps to the top and from down below they looked tiny.

From the Duomo, we walked out to see the Gates of Paradise. Each one of the panels in the door was hand molded. But we found out that the door that we saw was not the original because at one point someone tried to break down the door by ramming into it and ended up breaking three of the panels.

After that we ended our tour and were given a few hours to explore and do some shopping. The first thing we did was head to the Ponte Vecchio which is a bridge that is lined with gold shops. All of the jewelery sold in these shops is hand made and absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately the price tags were a bit high.

After the Ponte Vecchio we headed back into the city to find a quick lunch and check out the flea markets. In the flea markets there were a lot of scarves, leather bags and jackets and morono glass items. It seems that most people found some scarves and a few pieces of jewelery that they liked.

After some free time a group of us took a walk to the Santa Croce. Unfortunately you had to pay to enter and there was a very long line to get in. So we decided against it and found some Gelato instead.

After that it was a long bus ride home during which we mostly all slept again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day Two!

Since we were all so exhausted from yesterday we were glad for the chance to sleep in a little, aka our wake up call was at nine. After showering and getting ready, we headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. There was a nice spread f toast, fruit and pastries. There was also a cool machine that made coffee, espresso, cappachinos and hot chocolate. Jess Toner, Ali Stein, and Amy Lodovico agreed that the cappachinos were good with a few packets of sugar. I had the hot cocoa, which was thicker than what we drink in the US but not as thick as the Spanish Chocolat.

We were scheduled to tour the Vatican today, but we didn't have to leave until eleven. So Jess, Sam Hahn and I headed out with Professor Burns to find the Ecstasy of St. Therese statue. We went to three churches in thirty minutes but did not find the statue.

So then Robbi took us to the Vatican where we met up with the tour guide Susan. At the Vatican, they have these cool radios where the tour guide can talk into a mouth piece and we can all hear her through headphones. After walking through the Vatican museum, we went to the Sistine Chapel and saw Michelangelo's beautiful frescoes. At one point, Jess and I were seated next to two art students who were making sketches of the frescoes. The drawings were amazing and they did them so quickly.

Unfortunately my camera battery died during the visit to the Vatican so I am not able to upload any of today's pictures and will have to rely on other's pictures later on.

After the Sistine Chapel, we went into St. Peter's Basilica. Jess had special directions from her friend who studied in Rome. One of the directions told us to stand under the arches to see how one of the arches is twisted and therefore off center and is an optical illusion.

We decided to walk back to our hotel instead of take the bus so that we could see some more of the city. Once again I was surprised at how close things are. From the Vatican to our hotel is only an hours walk. The walk back to the hotel was a lot of fun. We made our way to the Piazza Narvona where we got some very very yummy Gelato, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps. We also made several stops to do some souvenir shopping. Overall, the walk took us three hours, but it was a ton of fun and well worth the tired feet.

Even though we have only been in Rome for two days I feel like we have seen so much and gone so many place that it feels a whole lot longer. I am excited that we still have four more full days of exploration.

Tomorrow we are getting up super early, 5:30 wake up call, and have to leave the hotel at 6:30 so that we can get to Florence early. I am excited for Florence and from what I hear there is some good shopping there in the markets! :)


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day One

So we finally got to go to our hotel rooms! It has been one very long day. We left Bay Path a little before eleven am on Saturday to drive down to Newark. We arrived at the airport and the two groups, because we were on two different flights, split up to go to our separate terminals. The group I was with flew with Alitalia Airline and we were watched over by Professor Burns (affectionately known as Burnsie). The other group was watched over by President and Noel Leary and they flew with Continental Airlines. We quickly found something to eat since we hadn't had anything since on the bus when we ate the doughnuts that Mr. Burns and gotten us. After getting some sandwiches and salads at a little cafe, we found seats at our terminal and settled in for the two and a half hour wait till out flight boarded. As we waited, we watched through the windows as the weather outside got worse and worse. At one point, the fog was so thick that we couldn't see anything out of the windows. Due to the rain, fog and wind, many of the flights were being canceled and our flight was delayed. We ended up spending an extra hour sitting in the terminal and another hour sitting in the plane waiting till we could take off. Finally the weather cleared enough and we were able to get into the air. After that is was8 1/2 hours till Rome. I have flown to Europe once before on an overnight trip and like on that last flight I had trouble sleeping in the small airplane seats. No matter howI positioned myself a spot that stayed comfortable for long. In the end I didn't get very much sleep which had been my plan since we were scheduled to arrive at 9:30 in the morning and we had a long day ahead of us

Once we were off the plane, and boy was I glad to get off that plane, Burnsie led us to baggage claim and then we went out to meet President Leary and our Tour Guide Robbi. When we met up with them, President Leary said that the other plane had landed an hour before ours and that the other group was already on the bus. Robbi then took us on a quick scenic tour of the city and pointed out a few of the major sites that we would be visiting including the Santa Maria Maggiore, an ancient wall that used to surround the city and several of the Piazzas. We ended our tour by coming to our hotel: The Hotel Nord Nuova Roma. When we arrived, only a few of the rooms were ready, so we dropped all of our stuff off in one of the rooms and most of us decided to take a walk to find something to eat and then head up to the Trevi Fountain. Just a few minutes away from our hotel we found a nice little Ristorante Pizzaria and twenty-eight of us our fist experience with authentic Italian food. The pizza that I had was absolutely amazing and nothing like what we would consider good pizza in the US.
After our lunch, Burnsie led the way to the Trevi Fountain. I was surprised to learn that it only took about 20 minutes to walk there. In fact, many of the major sites of Rome are within 20-30 mines waking distance from our hotel. This was really surprising to me because when I went to Paris we had to stay outside of the city ad therefore had to take the Metro to get anywhere.

The Trevi Fountain is truly magnificent. It is tucked away on a back street that looks like it would lead to no where, but as you turn the corner you suddenly come upon a giantfountain that looks as though it has been sculpted into the back of a building. There was a huge crowd all around the fountain and everyone was talking and taking pictures. We made our way down to the front of the fountain and all took turns tossing a coin in and making a wish. The fountain was the first monument that we saw and it was definitely a good one to start with.

After many many pictures at the Trevi Fountain, we finally made out way back to the hotel hopping that our rooms would be ready so that we could est and get in some showers. After a brief rest and a much needed shower, President Leary took a group of us to the cathedral Santa Maria Maggiore to watch mass. I have never been to a Catholic Mass before and it was all in a mix of Latin and Italian so I didn't really understand, but it was beautiful in the cathedral and it was fun to see and hear the mass in such a significant place.
After that we net up with the rest of the group for a traditional Italian five course meal. We stated with a cold anti-pasta salad of grilled vegetables, then two different pasta dishes, spinach and veal dish and finally a tiramisu-like dessert. The food was great, except for the spinach and veal which were not to my liking but others seemed to enjoy.

So far, my experience in Rome has been amazing. As exhausted as I am, I have been having so much fun and I am truly thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be here. I can't wait for the next week and all of adventures to come.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention Fiona. Burnsie was giving the task of taking Fiona, the Registrar's office mascot, and bringing her along to all of the sites. I volunteered to take her along and so she and I bonded as we cuddled on the plane. Unfortunately Fiona didn't make it to the Trevi Fountain, but I am sure that we will go back again and she can make a wish of her own.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Still not Packed

Tomorrow at 11am I will officially be on my way to ROME! There's just one problem, I haven't packed yet. I have to be ready to get on a bus in about 19 hours and I still have an empty suitcase.
No worries though I will be spending all afternoon packing everything up. :)
So for those of you who don't know, my name is Laurel Fortier and I am an Elementary Education Major at Bay Path College. I am a junior and I am extremely fortunate to be going on this Capital of the Worlds trip for free. I am a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship for Bay Path and a part of the Scholarship is that I am able to go on this trip my junior year free of charge. I am so thankful and so very very excited!
Well, I better get back to packing, but I will be updating at least once a day so check back here to find out about all of our great adventures in Italy.