Paris…

The trip I had been waiting for was finally here.

My roommate Ashley and I flew out on Thursday evening and landed in Paris a bit before 10. We had to find our hostel which turned out to be not be as difficult as we first thought. We made our way over to the bus stop which dropped us off at a metro stop and got on the metro to Gare du Nord train station which was right near our hostel. Our hostel was so nice, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. Gabby was there waiting for us when we got there and I was so happy to see her. The first thing she said to me was “have you always been this short?” What a great friend I have. My friend Madison had already checked in to the hostel and was up in the room waiting for our arrival. The room was small, but cozy and we had our own bathroom so there was nothing to complain about. I couldn’t wait to catch up with Gabby, but we were all so exhausted.

Friday

We woke up mid morning and set up a game plan for the day. We headed over to Notre Dame and were able to get inside and take a look around without a problem. I had heard that sometimes the line is very long, but to my pleasant surprise it wasn’t. The church is amazing both on the inside and the outside and it photographs very well. After our visit, we decided to walk around to the back of the church and on the way we stopped to get some crepes. I had one with Nutella on the inside, while the others got the classic butter and sugar. We found a bridge with ‘love locks’ on it and we were a bit confused because we all had read that the love lock bridge was removed a few months before, but there are a bunch of these bridges all around Paris. We crossed the Seine and headed up the other side of the river towards the museums and the Eiffel Tower. Madison wanted to go into the Musee d’ Orsay and so did the rest of us, but we were too excited to see the Eiffel Tower so she went into the museum and the three of us headed over there (and I’m very glad we did). I’ve only ever seen the tower in pictures and movies so seeing it in person is such a surreal thing. It looks exactly the same and was a bit bigger than I imagined. It had been cloudy all day but as we got to the tower the sky cleared and there was nothing but blue skies above us. A photoshoot commenced and I took some pretty good pictures. Gabby and I would switch off every so often as her photography skills are better than mine.There was a group of Asian tourists that all of the sudden surrounded us and and wanted to take a picture with us. So right now there is a funny picture of the three of us with some tourists floating around on someones Faceboook. After we took enough touristy pictures, we headed back over to the museum to catch up with Madison. Admission to the museum is free for students which is really nice considering almost none of the museums in Rome have deals for students. The museum was really cool and was full of famous artwork. Gabby was in heaven! After we headed over to the Louvre which has free admission on Fridays after 5:30, but we would have gotten in free anyway with our passports and student visas. I saw the Mona Lisa in person and can now say that I went to one of the world’s most visited tourist sites in the world. I like museums and art, but we had seen so much that afternoon that my head was spinning. We decided to leave and grab some dinner. All of the restaurants around the Louvre are pretty expensive which is expected because they are meant to catch the hungry tourists. After settling on a restaurant, we were seated and devoured our meals. I suggested that we go over and see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, but we were all pretty tired and cold so we decided to head back to the hostel (which was another good decision).

That’s when our weekend was unexpectedly changed….. We got back to our hostel around 10:20 and the TV in the lobby was showing pictures of police vehicles and chaotic scenes. Since it was in French we didn’t fully understand what was going on, but a few of the guests in the hostel were translating things for everyone. Soon our phones were going crazy with people trying to get in contact with us to make sure we were safe. Madison brought her computer down from the room and started to look at news sites and get more information. Info started to trickle in and we began to realize the severity of the situation.It was all so overwhelming and we had no idea what to do with ourselves or what to do to help the situation. The hostel was put on a semi- lock down and they only let people with key cards in. I have to give them a lot of credit because they handled a dangerous situation very well. Time passed very quickly and before we knew it, it was 3am and we were all in shock from the evening’s events. After I finished getting in contact with my friends and family I headed to bed, not knowing what Saturday would bring.

Saturday

Since we had no idea what to expect, we slept in and then tried to piece together what happened the night before. We discovered that we were only a mile and a half from the shooting at the Bataclan concert hall and the reason why we kept hearing sirens all night was because out hostel was very close to a hospital. Unsure of what to do, we left the hostel to find the Chipotle and get some fresh air. The streets were pretty bare and we were all a bit one edge, but we didn’t want to stay in the hostel all day. After wandering around for a bit we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe. It was really cool to see it in person.After snapping a few photos, we continued walking and were able to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from afar. There were many tourists out enjoying the day which put some of my anxiety at bay. The Champs Elysee was also on the list of places we wanted to see and it wasn’t too far from where we were. We had heard that there was a Starbucks over that way so naturally we found it and sat down for a bit before we headed back to our hostel. Before we went back to our hostel we made a stop at The Sacre-Coeur Basilica. It is such a beautiful church both on the inside and out. As soon as we walked in, all of the emotions from the past 24 hours hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t help but cry, and Gabby joined me (true friends). After the cry fest, we grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hostel for some much needed rest.

Sunday

Ashley woke up at 3am to head to the airport for her flight. I was sad to see her go, but I knew I would be back with her on Monday. Gabby, Madison, and I woke up and headed to a really nice bakery right down the road from our hostel. Each of us got a pastry and then walked over to a park to sit and chow down. It was such a beautiful day and the temperature was perfect. Since Madison had to head to the airport around 2, we decided to walk around the Montemartre neighborhood. There were a bunch of cute stores that we walked in and out of and just enjoyed looking around. Madison then headed to the airport and Gabby and I decided to hop on the metro and go to a park on the outskirts of the city. There were so many people enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of the park. It had some modern statuary on display and to our surprise there was a canal running right through the middle of the park! Many people were out on boats and Gabby and I picked a spot of the edge of the canal and sat down and reflected on the weekend. The sun soon set and we headed back into the city and got dinner at a restaurant that a friend recommended. We both ordered steak and fries which is supposedly a French favorite. It was really good and it was nice not having a bowl of pasta for once. Knowing that one of the attacks had happened in a restaurant Gabby and I were a little on edge. After all the walking, we headed back to the hostel, but knowing I had to be up at 3 to get the the airport, I didn’t get much sleep.

Monday

Up and at em at 3am!! I walked over to where the airport bus stop was and got on and to the airport without a problem. I made it in plenty of time for my flight and made it back to Rome safely… But my day was just beginning. As I have previously mentioned, to get back to my apartment from the airport I have to get on the train and then the tram. It was about 9:00 by the time I got on the tram and rush hour was in full effect. I was exhausted and had my huge backpack with me. I pushed my way on the tram and hung on for the ride. At one of the stops, two men pushed on and then got off at the same stop. I thought that there was no possible way they were going to fit and I was preoccupied with moving myself and my backpack out the way to make room for them. And that’s when it happened… An older Italian man caught my attention and asked me, in Italian, if I had my phone. I looked down at my bag and it was open and my phone was nowhere to be found. The two men that had pushed their way on to the tram had stolen my phone right out of my bag. I don’t think I have ever been that angry in my entire life. I was two stops away from getting off and this HAD to happen. I lost all of the pictures I had taken on my phone that weekend, but lucky for me I carried my camera around with me and Gabby had a bunch of pictures too, so not all hope was lost. Being without a phone was difficult, but it was kind of nice not being attached to something constantly. It was just so crazy to know that someone stolen something that meant so much to me. Now I’m not saying that I was attached to my phone, but a phone is such a personal thing. I paid for it by myself, it had a case on it, many pictures, and messages between my friends and I. The men probably sold my phone for a nice bit of cash and it is now in the hands of someone in Europe I’m sure…

NEST STOP: LONDON & EDINBURGH

XOXO

Maryrome

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Corleone, Cannoli & Mt Etna

I feel so bad for not posting in about a month. My life has been crazy and this is the first time in weeks that I’ve had to time to just sit down and semi-relax.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Taormina, Sicily to visit my friend Emily. I landed in Sicily on Thursday evening and had to take a one hour bus ride to Taormina from Catania. Sicily is soooo different from the mainland. I found the people to be much nicer and in general everything moved much slower and no one was in a rush to get anywhere. Emily met me at the airport and then we hopped on the bus. After searching around for my hostel, we finally found it. It was a really cute place and it was super cheap too!

On Friday morning I woke up and sat out on the terrace that was connected to the hostel. It had great views of Taormina, the ocean, and Mt.Etna. Taormina is breathtaking. It sits on pretty much a cliff face so the views can’t be beat. Around 1:00, I went down into town to meet Emily for lunch after her class. I met her friend Leslie who was studying at Babilonia with her and it turns out she knows someone at Marywood. Small world! After lunch, we walked around and she showed me all of her favorite places. A few weeks earlier I showed her around Rome, so it was nice to be a “tourist”. Taormina is very small, but it is very quaint and I felt right at home. We stopped at the public gardens and then met up with Leslie for granitas. I got a chocolate and strawberry one and it was so good. Emily’s host mom, Emanuela, invited me over for dinner. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal and be forced to speak only Italian. She made spaghetti and sliced up some nice bread for us. I thought that this experience would allow me to speak more Italian on a daily basis, but I am around other American students all day and when people find out I speak English there is no turning back. She asked me a bunch of questions about my study abroad experience and about life in general. After dinner we hung out in the living room and watched Italy’s version of Deal or No Deal. Instead of models, the had a person from every region of Italy holding a box. I like this version much more. It was so cool to be in an Italian household and see how they live. If I could do one thing about this experience over again, it would be to live with a host family.

Mt. Etna!!!

Saturday was the day!! The day Emily and I were to scale Mt. Etna. Well… not exactly scale it, but you know what I mean. We hopped in a van and headed 90 minutes north to the park where we could access the mountain. Emily’s professors were our mountain guides and they only spoke to us in Italian and once again I was thrilled. We hiked up a “hill”, which was more of a very steep incline. We had a great view of everything below us, but unfortunately it was very overcast that day so we didn’t have a great view of the rest of the island and the ocean liked I had hoped. We were able to look into craters and learn about the its previous volcanic eruptions. I kept saying “what? are we on the moon?” IT honestly felt like we were and I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. We headed back down the mountain and as we were walking downhill I slipped on some rocks (not my most flattering moment). We had lunch and then took a 15 minute drive to one of the lava grottos. I had no idea what to expect and when we got there I was very surprised. It was an underground cave that was made by a lava flow thousands of years ago. Hiking helmets and flashlights were provided and after we suited up, we headed into the cave. Each of us had to lower ourselves into the opening. All but three of the members in the group were over the age of 40 and I thought they would struggle a bit, but the other ladies powered through! The ceiling was very low, so I understood why we needed the goofy looking helmets. A year ago if you told me I was going to be walking through a lava grotto and climbing Mt. Etna, I wouldn’t have believed you. After the long day, we went to get dinner. The city of Catania and the surrounding area is known for a dish called Pasta alla Norma. It is topped with baked ricotta cheese, which is only available in Sicily. It is in the running for the best pasta dish I’ve had so far in Italy. And that’s saying something because I eat some form of pasta almost every other day. Emily then took me to a place called C&G which is a pastry/gelato/cake shop. We split a chocolate truffle bomb and as usual it was delicious.

On Sunday morning I checked out of the hostel and Emily wanted to take me up to a church called Madonna della Rocca. The climb up was a bit difficult. Very steep steps and a higher altitude doesn’t mix well, but it was so worth it. The view was spectacular and I got some great pictures of Mt. Etna from afar.The church was small, but perfect to sit down in and reflect on things. Being up there made me realize how amazing my semester has been and how lucky I am to be able to experience some of it with my best friend.

XOXO

Maryrome

NEXT STOP: Paris!!

 

Food, food, and more food! Oh and some catacombs

So much has happened over the past few weeks and I haven’t had anytime to write! Ugh!

A few weeks back a few of my friends and I went to a food truck festival in the Testaccio neighborhood. Testaccio is a neighborhood that has sort of remained untouched by tourists and has many great places to eat and a huge market to explore (more on that later). One 10 minute bus ride later and we were at the festival. We got to the food fest and there were trucks parked all around the perimeter of this field. I should mention that the Roman slaughter houses used to be in Testaccio, so a food festival was fitting for this location. The buildings have now been renovated and are beautiful on the inside, but I haven’t had the chance to go in them yet. As we walked onto the field the DJ was playing “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash so I felt right at home. After making a loop around to see what was being offered, we all decided on what we were going to eat. There was everything from burgers, to meatballs, to fish, to pastries. I decided to go with a classic pulled pork sandwich (very Italian, I know). Pulled pork is one of my favorites so I had high expectations for this sandwich and it didn’t disappoint. We picked a table to sit down at and we all dug in. All of us had noticed a truck called Poff Cakes and really wanted to try it out. Poff Cakes turned out to be mini pancakes with a variety of toppings of your choosing. I got them with Nutella and whipped cream and they were one of the best things I have ever had. After, we headed back to our apartments to take a much needed nap.

On Sunday Rebecca, Maddie, and I went to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. I couldn’t spend 4 months in Rome and not visit them. There are so many different catacombs in Rome that you could never see them all. Once again we took a bus there and then walked on the Appia Antica to get there. The Appia Antica is the oldest road in Rome so it was pretty cool to walk on it. The park that the catacombs are located in is beautiful and we got there just as the sun was setting so I was able to get some great pictures on my camera. We got there just in time for the last tour of the day and our tour guide was great. We obviously went on the English tour so there were a bunch of people from the states and England on the tour, so it was a nice mix of people. The catacombs were really cool and I hope to be able to go back someday. 

The next weekend, I went on and Eating Italy food tour. The tour took place in the Testaccio neighborhood which is very close to my apartment and known for it’s delicious food. Our tour guide Emma was from Edinburgh and she was as sweet as could be. I started the tour off with a cappuccino and it was my first Italian coffee experience while in Italy. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I had to try one before I left. We then went to a little bakery where we were given a sample of tiramisu which was in a small tea cup made out of chocolate and a cornetto filled with cream. Next stop was the maccelleria next door where we tried some Parma ham and pecorino cheese. We then turned the corner and stopped at a Pizzeria and then made out way over to the Testaccio Market. They sell everything there, from food to boots. Ther market was really nice and it’s on my list of things to do again before I leave Rome in just four short weeks. At one of the stands we tried buffalo mozzarella and then had bruschetta that one of the vendors made from the tomatoes she was selling. Our final stop was at a very famous gelato place in Testaccio. They make all of the gelato in house and I found out that I have been eating a lot of fake gelato over the past few months. If the gelato looks too good to be true, it probably is. Gelato that looks very fluffy and is in piles in the trays is not authentic. If it is flat, you’re good to go. I also learned that by law you are allowed two scoops of gelato and whipped cream if you want it, but that’s only a law in Rome. As you can tell, I learned a lot on this tour haha

XOXO Maryrome

Next stop: SICILY

2 months… ALREADY?

It’s crazy for me to say it, but I’ve been living in Rome for over two months! The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” has never been more true. I can distinctly remember boarding the plane at JFK and wondering if I was actually ready to go on such a huge adventure. As much as I don’t want this to end, I can’t wait to get back home and share my experience with my family and friends. I have seen and done so many things in the past 2 months that at times it’s hard to keep track of when I went where and with who, but thankfully this blog is helping me remember all of those details. I can’t wait to look back on this in the years to come and be very glad that I forced myself to write even though I didn’t always feel like it. I still have 3 more trips next month so I have a lot to look forward to!

I would like to say though that not every day is full of sunshine and unicorns. Lately, I’ve found myself to be more stressed out than I ever have been at Marywood. Sure, there were times back at home when I stressed about an approaching deadline or an exam, but here in Rome I also have to deal with travel plans, expenses and making sure I get as much as I can out of this experience on top of going to class and doing my work. I am not one who can slack off, because sooner or later that little voice in the back of my head will remind me that I have work to do. Some of this stress is self-inflicted though because I am trying to get ahead before I get behind, so to speak. I have two 10-page papers due before the end of the semester and 3 more trips planned in that exact same time frame. Sicily, Paris, London, and Edinburgh are looming on the horizon and so are these papers.If I wasn’t going somewhere every weekend, this would be a much different story. I guess it’s not great to say, but I didn’t think I’d be doing this much work during my time abroad. And yes, I understand that I am here for an education and that I have to do some work to earn the credits, but at the same time I am in Europe and in a few weeks I don’t want to be staring at the Eiffel Tower thinking about that Art History paper I have to write. I am doing everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen by the way because I will not be a happy camper. My ONLY complaint about John Cabot is that I wish they had a curriculum specifically designed for the study abroad students. My classes are a mix between degree-seekers and study abroad students AKA people who will be in Europe for 4 years and can travel in that time and people who are trying to see as much of Europe as they can in 3 1/2 months. I am in no way hating on the degree-seekers, but I am kind of jealous that they have a bunch of time to explore Rome, Italy, and the rest of Europe. I feel awful for complaining because I am lucky enough to spend 3 1/2 months in a beautiful place, but my feelings are still valid even though I’m in Italy.

With that being said, I love it here and am so lucky to be in such an historical city that gives me the opportunity to see something new everyday. I’m going to make the most out of my last month here and try not to stress too much! Because when I look back on this experience, do I want to remember all the hours I spent in the library or the time I spent exploring Europe? (I will more than likely remember the hours I spent in the library and laugh at myself in a few months…) Oh well…

Next stop: SICILY!

XOXO

Maryrome

Two of my favorite things!

EMILY NESI & CHOCOLATE

I had been waiting for this weekend for some time now. A friendship that began in Italian class 6 years ago all came down to this one weekend. Emily’s arrival in Rome.

Emily and I have been friends for 6 years now. It all started in Signora Altherr’s Italian class at NVOT. Our friendship blossomed from there and this weekend we traveled together in Italy. No matter how much time passes between seeing each other, we pick up right where we left off. The last time we saw each other was in August when we were hanging out by the pool in her neighbor’s backyard reminiscing and talking about how crazy it was that we’d be in Italy together. I can’t say it enough, but this whole thing feels like a dream. I can distinctly remember us wishing we could go to Italy together and at the time we had no idea we would both be studying abroad and in Italy nonetheless.

She arrived on Thursday evening and I walked over to the Trevi Fountain to meet her. The fountain is currently closed for repairs and it looks so depressing. There is glass about 7 feet high surrounding the whole thing and you can’t even get close to it. And I found out this weekend that the Spanish Steps are also closed for repairs until next spring! I haven’t gone over there yet and I thought I would have time, but I guess I don’t now. My dream of eating gelato on the steps like Audrey Hepburn faded away very quickly. I will still go over there to see them, but it just won’t be the same. Emily got a little lost on her way to the fountain, but after a bit she suddenly appeared and we couldn’t have been happier to see each other. We made our way over to a restaurant named Baccano which was super nice and delicious, as has everything I have eaten in Italy so far has been delicious. We sat there for hours enjoying the food, the wine, and each other’s company. Before we knew it we were closing the restaurant! We then walked over to the Pantheon and then we walked back to her hotel. I was going to make the walk back to my apartment, but it was late and it would have taken me about 40 minutes so I took a cab. Better safe than sorry!!

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Saturday we both slept in and around 1:00 I walked over to Palazzo Montecitorio to meet her. It took a little while for me to find her because there was something going on in that area that day, but I finally found her! We decided we were going to explore the Borghese Garden and we did just that! The Borghese Garden is a little slice of paradise in the middle of Rome. As I have said in previous blog posts, I really miss seeing grass so whenever I see it, it’s always nice. We sat on a bench to take a break from all the walking and we noticed a bunch of people riding two- person bikes. The friendship Emily and I have is more of a laid back one and we don’t take many chances, but when we do they usually turn out pretty well. With that being said, we found ourselves walking up to the stand to rent one of the bikes. There was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning. The bike had two sets of pedals and two steering wheels, but only one person could pedal at a time and the second steering wheel wasn’t even connected to anything. We had a lovely ride around the gardens and saw most of it even though we went in the same loop about four times. For 10 euros, it was worth it! Around 5:00 we decided we were hungry so we ventured over to Via Veneto and found a place to eat. Via Veneto is a very upscale road/area in Rome where all of the fancy hotels and restaurants are, so the prices for everything are a bit high in order to trap the tourists. If we were closer to my neighborhood I could think of about 10 different, cheap, but delicious restaurants we could have eaten at, but we had a delicious meal regardless. After dinner we walked back to my apartment to pick up my stuff so I could stay the night at the hotel with her. It was nice to be able to show her the place I have called home for the past 2 months. On the way to her hotel, we walked past St. Peter’s, Castel Sant Angelo, and Piazza Navona which are always really pretty at night.

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On Saturday we were up bright and early to catch a train to Perugia. Waking up at 7:00 was a little difficult considering we were up until 4:00 catching up and talking about nothing in particular. Train tickets were purchased and we hopped on the train. I slept most of the ride and before I knew it we had to switch trains and get on the local one that went to Perugia. The region of Umbria is so beautiful and on the ride we got to see Assisi through the window. All of the villages are nestled into the hills and each is different. We passed Assisi and were able to see the huge chapel dedicated to St. Francis. Soon the train pulled into Perugia and we jumped on a small trolley called the MiniMetro and headed up the side of the hill to the center of town. We followed the crowd, which ended up being a mistake. The crowd we were following went into a church which wasn’t bad, but it was not exactly where we wanted to be. So, we turned around and soon enough we were in the right place. We were both hungry so we decided to eat at a restaurant that was underground. After lunch we headed back above ground to begin our chocolate adventure! To say it was crowded was an understatement. I usually have a lot of patience for people, but it was getting close to 2 pm and I still hadn’t had any chocolate yet, so my patience was running thin. In the distance, we saw the main attraction, the Guinness World record holding CHOCOLATE MUSTACHE. Of course we got a picture with it….

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With the ‘stache

After the photo-op we began to walk around the festival. We purchased chococards which we had to bring to certain stands in order to get a free piece of chocolate or some other sweet treat. As we were walking around I spotted a sign that said “PANORAMIC VIEW THIS WAY”. My curiosity took over and Emily and I followed the signs to one of the most beautiful views I have seen here in Italy. The views on the Amalfi Coast and in Perugia cannot be compared because they are in two different parts of the country.

What a view!
What a view!

After taking in the view we began to visit the stands on our chococards. One of the stands called “Ciobar” gave out what tasted like pudding, but it was hot and in liquid form. Other stops included Lindt, Riccola, Pernigotti, and a few other Italy exclusive companies. We had such an amazing day chocolate-filled day that by the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. Around 8:30 we headed down to the hotel restaurant to get something to eat. Once again, the restaurant was a little fancy, but we just went along with it and enjoyed eating higher quality food. The dessert of the weekend was tiramisu considering we ate it every night so we were hoping the restaurant would have it, but they were out so we got a slice of blueberry pie to split. It wasn’t nearly as good as tiramisu, but we were satisfied. After dinner, we headed back up to the room and facetimed with her mom for a bit before we headed to bed. I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life. Once my head hit the pillow, I was out.

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We woke up early again on Sunday because Emily had a plane to catch and I had to get back to real life. It was hard to say goodbye, but I’ll see her again in a few weeks in Sicily. The whole weekend seemed like a dream and a week later it still seems like it didn’t happen. I can’t wait to get to Sicily and climb Mount Etna and experience all it has to offer! But, first I have an essay to write…

Next stop: WHO KNOWS?

XOXO

Maryrome

Cheers!
Cheers!
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Chocolate covered waffle
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Early morning train selfie…

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Familiar Faces in Firenze…

Sorry for the radio silence recently! I’ve been busy with traveling and midterms, but I’m done with the stress of midterms (for now) so I finally have a chance to sit down and write!!

Last weekend, I made the trip up to Firenze to see the Marywood architecture students that are studying there. I hopped in a cab to Termini, then on a Frecciarossa train, and in a mere hour and fifteen minutes I was in Firenze! I had rented an AirBnB for the weekend, which was super nice and not too far from the center of the city. I think AirBnBs are the way to go now. They are usually much cheaper than hotels and sometimes the same price as a hostel and they are much nicer. Around 5:00 I met my friend Ben in front of Santa Maria Novella Church and it was so nice to see a familiar face for the first time in 6 weeks. Making new friends has been great (and challenging), but there is such a comfort in seeing someone who you haven’t just met and has known you for more than a month. He showed me around and I’m still amazed at how different Rome and Florence are. I saw all of the major sites in one evening and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. I’ve been in Rome for a month and there a still places I have yet to see. We were wandering around and then all of the sudden the Duomo appeared out of nowhere! I gasped and said “wow” out loud when I saw it. One minute we were walking down a side street and the next, we turned the corner and it was right there! 12132403_10208020886499927_9207472339885722992_o Ben mentioned to me how you can pretty much see the dome from anywhere in Florence. The details on the outside of the Duomo are simply amazing. It might be one of my favorite buildings I’ve seen so far, besides the Vatican. We got dinner and headed back to his apartment to visit with the other guys. It was so odd to see them all together in a different country. I’m so used to seeing them on campus or doing work in the architecture building so they seem out of place, but it was so nice to see them all. Unfortunately it rained all day Saturday so I didn’t get to see much of the city because, as I have learned, Italians do not go out when it rains. I was able to get some studying done and they got some of their architecture stuff done so it wasn’t like the day was totally wasted. Around 4:00, I met up with Ben, Matt, and Joe to grab sandwiches at Al’ Antico Vinaio. They have all been raving about this place and now I see why. The sandwiches are huge and only 5 euro! It took me a while to finish mine. It had ham, ricotta cheese, zucchini, and artichokes on it and it was delicious. We went to a pub in the evening and then walked over to Il Porcellino. Il Porcellino is the bronze boar statue and the legend is if you rub its nose and put a euro in it’s mouth, and the euro falls into the grate below, you will return to Florence. Well my euro didn’t fall into the grate, so I guess I’ll never go back! 😦 I hope that doesn’t happen though because I LOVED it there. I felt more at home there than I do in Rome.

Il Duomo at night
Il Duomo at night
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The ceiling of the Duomo
The view from our seats
The view from our seats

On Sunday I went to mass at the Duomo with my friend Joe. I couldn’t go to Florence without seeing the inside of it, so what better way to see it then mass! The mass was said in Latin and as usual it was beautiful. We sat very close to the altar and was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Yet another thing I can check off my bucket list! I was sad to leave them, but I had a great weekend. Ben was a great tour guide and it was so nice to see them all. I can’t wait until they come to Rome so I can show them around!

Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
Ben & I
Ben & I

Next stop: EMILY COMES TO TOWN & PERUGIA FOR THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL!

XOXO

Maryrome

You never know…

My roommates went off to Barcelona for the weekend and I was left with the apartment all to myself! It was nice on Thursday, but the whole building was very lonely on Friday because it seemed like everyone had travel plans for the weekend. I stayed in on Friday because it rained for most of the day and Italians don’t leave their houses when it rains. I decided to FaceTime my friend Gabby who is currently studying abroad in London and we talked for about 3 hours! It’s so weird that we are both in Europe, but not in the same place like we always are. We planned out two trips; one to Paris and one to Brussels for Thanksgiving and I couldn’t be more excited. How many people get to travel with their best friend?!

On Saturday I decided to go to mass at the Pantheon, because once again how many people get the chance to do that!? I walked over there around 4:00 and it was packed with tourists so I sat down on one of the benches and waited for the mass to begin. Probably 10 minutes before it started two men from China sat down next to me and one asked to take a selfie with me, so I cautiously said yes and now there is a picture of me and some random guy on his phone and probably some social media outlet. The Pantheon closes to visitors for an hour while mass is being said. You can stay of course if you want to participate in the mass, but to cut down on noise and foot traffic they usher everyone else out. The mass was said in both Italian and English which was really nice.

High altar
High altar
The oculus
The oculus

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Outside of the Pantheon
Outside of the Pantheon

After mass I decided to wander around a bit. I wouldn’t say I got lost, but on my way back I stumbled upon Piazza Navona, which I had been to before, but never in the daylight. There were a bunch of street performers there and as always people trying to sell you selfie sticks. DSC_0747After taking a few pictures of the beautiful fountains I decided it was time to find something to eat and then head back to the apartment. All I needed to do was find the river and I could figure out my way from there. Well I found the river but I was a little further down than I thought and ended up crossing the one that leads to the Vatican. Seeing as I had no plans for the evening I decided to walk over there and see if I could get some more shots of St. Peter’s at night. I think that might be my favorite place in Rome. As I was walking down Via della Conciliazione I saw a crowd in the distance in the square and could hear singing. I figured the Pope wasn’t there because it was a Saturday and he makes his appearances on Wednesdays and Sundays, but I was wrong. I walked up to the barricade and on the screen was the Pope! At first I thought it was a vigil mass, but as it turns out it was a prayer service for the synod of bishops that was to meet the next day. There were Vatican Police standing at one of the entrances and I wasn’t sure if I needed a ticket to walk onto the square, but I didn’t and found a good spot and just watched. It was an amazing experience and if I didn’t end up further down the river, I wouldn’t have walked over to the Vatican. As I always say, everything happens for a reason…

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Not a good picture but the white blob is Francis!
Not a good picture but the white blob is Francis!

Next stop: FIRENZE!

XOXO

Maryrome