Monday 7/22 – Monday morning we left Florence and trained southward to our final destination on the Italian peninsula, Rome. Our train pulled up to Termini Station in the early afternoon and from there we walked to Hotel Independienza. Definitely a 1-2 star max “hotel” (I don’t understand why they can brand themselves as hotels if they are really more like hostels in nearly every aspect…), Hotel Independienza welcomed us with a nice receptionist and showed us to a seemingly nice, private 4-bed room and bathroom. Whilst taking a quick siesta, we quickly came to the realization that when their website had said: “AC units available upon request,” in reality that meant the ancient fan on top of the dresser was available. I think it was approximately 85 degrees in our room, so that was fun to get ready in those conditions. Try putting on makeup when you can’t stop sweating.
Later that evening, we walked to the lively Campo Fiori area and got drinks at the Drunken Ship. It was a really fun bar and there we met up with Bri’s program friend J.B. But, the highlight of the night by far was getting to meet up with Tom and his little sister, Jeannie at the Drunken Ship; it was so good to see Tom after two years since meeting him on Alex’s roof in Barcelona. He recently graduated Stanford Business School and was traveling in Europe for a bit before his new job starts in San Francisco. The girls loved meeting him and it was so great to catch up in person.
Tuesday 7/23 – We woke up and went straight down the street to Bar Fondi in order to cash in on our included breakfast, which amounted to a croissant and a coffee. Fed and ready to roll, we set out on a day of Roman sightseeing: first the Roman Forum, followed by the Coliseum, then lunch behind the Pantheon at Miscellanea, another Rick Steves’ recommended restaurant. Although I was a bit disappointed with my salad there, they did give us each a cup of watermelon on the house! After lunch we entered the Pantheon – who knew it is a church! I don’t know why I was thinking it was it was something else entirely, perhaps I was getting it mixed up with the Augusteum. On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the famous and crowded Trevi Fountain; of course we each threw a coin in and made a wish.
It is around this time that I counted and realized I was up to 19 bug bites. Fml. My left leg looked like it had been the main course at an insect buffet. Hence, we stopped by a pharmacy to pick up some anti-itch gel. Once we got back to the hotel, we napped and then went to get Chinese take out down the block. We didn’t know that was the precise time when every other person in Rome would want Chinese food from this particular restaurant as well (just picture hordes of people). We ate our 2.50-Euro chicken fried rice on the lobby floor of the hotel building (the coolest spot available). Eventually we got ready and, upon the advice of the receptionist, took the H64 bus “to Travestere” … we ended up making an hour long loop back to Termini, as that bus never even got close to Travestere. All dressed up with nowhere to go yet again.
Weds 7/24 – After accepting defeat for the evening, we called it a night and were just going to go to bed so we would be ready to take on the Vatican in the morning. However, just after midnight Bri announced that she felt like bugs were biting her too… Considering the fact that we had been keeping the window closed the whole time, we knew it couldn’t be mosquitos and so we finally deduced that indeed the worst was true: bed bugs. After pitifully trying to subdue 4 panic attacks, we promptly set out to move hotels (the lack of AC proved to be fertile breeding ground for the bed bugs). A few hours later, we ended up moving to Best Western’s Hotel President, got two rooms, and hand-washed the entirety of our belongings, bags, etc. We went to sleep around 6 am. My hands have never been more raw and I know none of us will ever forget that experience.
Not able to afford to miss the bomb buffet breakfast, we woke up, ate, and then went back to Hotel Independenzia and got a 200-Euro refund. After necessary naps, Tay and Cass headed to Vatican City while Bri and I laid in bed all-day – it was glorious. I was not in the mood for crowds, heat, or paying more money, nor was I dying to see another cathedral. Plus my bites needed a lot of TLC. Later Tay and Cass came back, and Bri and I finally got out of bed to have our “last Italian dinner;” we went to some hole in the wall place and had tortellini and gelato.
Thursday 7/25 – We had to get up around 5 am to pack up all of our still damn clothes, re-pack our backpacks, and say our goodbyes to Tay, as she was flying back to the states that day. It was definitely sad to see her go. We took the metro to Termini Station, and then hopped on the shuttle bus to Rome’s Ciampino airport. We were flying RyanAir from Rome to Madrid that morning and there were crazy long “bag drop/ visa check” lines in our terminal. Once we had finally gotten to the check-in tables, Bri ended up having to pay 100 Euro extra to check her bag from the airport, which was of course a total rip off. After all the hoops we had had to jump through on our travels, this was the only one that made Bri cry. I was angry for her too though, RyanAir is such a shitty discount airline. In the end, we made our flight to Madrid and were all very excited about being back on Spanish soil!