As I set off to Wien Mitte to catch the S-Bahn to the airport early in the morning, I hugged Phil goodbye & was on my way. While I was waiting for the S-Bahn, a friendly American accent asked me if I spoke English. Of course! I ended up making sure he boarded the right train to the airport with me & I could tell he was relieved to have someone tell him that he was going the right way. We ended up chatting all the way to the airport and found out we were both headed to Rome on the same flyniki flight! It was cool showing someone around the airport that I knew like the back of my own hand and we chatted up until we boarded the plane. Marlin from Reading, Pennsylvania (I have only met one person from there in my life: Katie Keene!) told me all about Amish country and his travels through Austria. Once in Rome, we were able to navigate with a great buddy system, checked into the same hostel & explored the famous sites of Rome. This took a lot of pressure off of me since I always go through the initial judgment of a city and take time to adjust. We navigated to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Roman ruins, Parliament and some parks. It was really neat to see the sights I have heard about in real life form… And let me tell you they were larger than life and super impressive. I must have stared at each structure for at least five minutes a pop. After a long day of walking, I was very pleased to go back to my ice cold room at the Yellow and relax after top notch lasagna, bruschetta & a glass of prosecco.
Since the California girl in the top bunk above me & I chatted the night before, we discovered that we were both in Army JROTC in high school, members of the Raiders Adventure Training team and wanted to go to the Vatican Museum. After walking outside the hostel room, I spotted a familiar face. Was this possible? It was! Ursula, from Lima was traveling for a few days in Rome and we just happened to be there at the same time in the same hostel! Talk about a small world. Since we did not get to say goodbye to each other in Vienna, I was really excited to see her. We all grabbed “the Italian Job” breakfast downstairs & headed out to the Vatican. We walked through San Pietro Square and back around to join the queue for the Vatican Museum. After a while, we were finally in & our five hour journey began. Normally, I am not the museum type person, but I really enjoyed this one. With an audio guide, a plan to follow and a buildup to the Sistine Chapel, it was totally worth it. It’s crazy that it took Michaelangelo four years just to finish the artwork on the ceiling! After the museum, we wandered past the Castle, Piazza Navona & to the Vatican Archives Museum. They took 100 documents from the secret safes & put them out for the public to view. Just to name a few: letters from Abraham Lincoln, the leader of the Confederate Army, etc. I did not actually go in but I heard it was awesome! Instead I ventured to Piazza Venezia where a beautiful flag of Italy was made with flowers and then to the Roman Forum and ruins. I spent probably 3 hours there at least and was so impressed and did not want to leave- except they were closing! I then navigated to my street and got a bite to eat: authentic Penne ala Vodka. YUM. Then it was off to relax and let my feet finally breathe!
Since I also made friends with 4 Aussies that wanted to go see the Pope with me, we went. It was really cool to see how many people gather to see him on Wednesdays and Sundays-so many schools, churches and pilgrims were recognized for their attendance. Some sang songs, some chanted and some just cheered at the top of their lungs. It was cool & at the end of the papal audience, the Pope blessed us! It was incredible. After we parted ways and I headed to Saint Peter’s Basilica to look around, go through the Tomb of the Popes & climb the Cupola (dome). It was a massive 500+ steps to climb but so worth the view at the top. I decided to write my family a postcard and send it from the Vatican post office. After spending half the day in the Vatican City yet again, I was ready to hit the streets and find some pizza. About 2 hours later, I finally ended up in front of the Pantheon and then made a long walk back to the Yellow Hostel with chocolate & strawberry gelato in hand. SO SPECTACULAR !!! I rested as soon as I got back, walked to Roma Termini to buy my train tickets to Pisa & Florence for the next day and then I just hung out and ate pizza with my roommates. Great day but early rising!
Rise & shine at 6am to catch my 6:57am train to Pisa. As I sat in the train, I was rocked to sleep on and off for the next 2.5 hours which was great for me! Toward the end of the train ride, I met an Aussie girl that was headed to Pisa and talked to her for a bit. I was glad to hear that my plan to just see the Leaning Tower was approved by her (she had already been a few days ago & was going back to stay in a hostel that she really liked to make day trips to Siena & Cinque Terre). I have to explain because if you have ever been to the town of Pisa you will know what I mean. She pointed me in the right direction as soon as we were off the train & I decided to walk. After 20 minutes, I was finally there & found out it really is a tilting building! Very cool & even cooler was the hilarious pose that everyone was doing in their picture. And no, I did not do that in my picture. Gator chomp I did though!
Once I had walked back to the Pisa Centrale train station I was ready to board my train to Firenze (Florence). Good thing I had a cappuccino & salami panini in hand because our platform changed 3 times. Luckily the train was only a 40 minute ride & we were in Firenze in no time at all. Upon arrival, I got a map and had the tourist info people give me a doable route for the day. I tweaked it a little bit but I ended up climbing the Duomo (surreal beauty & vastness with an incredible view), wandering through the streets, going to the Palazzo Vecchio, visiting the world famous Uffizi Gallery, walked across the iconic Ponte Vecchio, seeing the Palazzo Pitti, wandering to grab some food and then walking through the shopping streets back to the train station. Recap on the food: I got the lamest slice of pizza but the sausage atop was mouthwatering so that made up for it I suppose. I spotted this one place after called Gilli and grabbed a fruit tart and then talked to the bartender and he ended making a “Jade Cocktail” for me. Little did I know that with my cocktail I got unlimited access to the Antipasti bar. Double score! Once aboard the train, I relaxed as much as I could all the way to Rome.
My last day spent in Rome was perfect and so relaxing. Eliza, Nick & I went to breakfast across the street from the Yellow that was fantastic. We then ventured off to Villa Bhorghese, Rome’s largest park that spans for miles. It was as simple as just walking around, chatting, snapping some pictures and relaxing on the park benches. We strolled past a fairy tale castle with a gorgeous lake, a former outdoor race track and several beautiful fountains. Taking the last day of my Italia adventure off away from the loud buzzing city, crowded monuments & all of the touristy must sees could have not been better. After spending about 3 hours at Villa Bhorghese, Eliza & I found our way back to the Yellow perfectly sans map! We decided to grab some pizza at our favorite dig on the corner & sit outside at the Yellow’s great outdoor area. We ended up making more friends from Australia (after I embarrassingly said that I could flawlessly discern the difference in accents between the English & the Aussies & yet thought they were both from England). We also made friends with people from Tennessee and New Zealand. We all ended up getting some mimosas before I had to take off for the airport and it was just enough time to enjoy a break before my hectic journey back to Wien. Getting to the airport on the steamy Leonardo Express was no problem & picking up my boarding pass was quick but the delay of my flight for 2 hours was anything but fun. I prepared to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of time & I ended up chilling there for 4 long hours. At least I had some freshly prepared asparagus risotto! Once our flight was pushed back again and our gate then changed, I figured it would be awhile. Finally we began boarding soon after, shuttled by bus to our plane, sat on the plane for another half hour, got our departure place reassigned then finally we were off! Ciao bella Roma!
At a late arrival of 11:30pm
in Wien, I walked quickly through the redesigned airport to meet Phil at the arrivals area and I was so happy to see him. With a family emergency & loss of a loved one, I was more than happy to be there for him. It had been a hard week for him as well as his family and words cannot express my condolences. All in all, with another rock thrown our way that we were able to overcome, I feel like we can weather many more storms to come.
I am glad that I decided to take a solo trip to Italy and fend for myself. You develop a different part of you that was never there before. I didn’t always feel comfortable but it definitely improved on this trip. If you tell yourself that you can handle anything, pay attention and keep your wits about you, knock on wood that you will be FINE. There were times that I just wish Phil, my family or friends were there holding my hand the whole time but you have to be your own person who makes their own decisions and creates their own personal happiness and growth. I did it & enjoyed it…leaps and bounds of improvement if you remember or revert back to my Venezia post earlier in February!
To all of those out there who are afraid to travel alone, I was you and still am you but I still do things that scare me. If you are always just comfortable, then who are you? Live life, get out there and make your own adventure…I promise you that you will never forget it or regret it.