What a crazy last few weeks in Rome. Even more so than at any other point in the semester, I kicked it into overdrive during my last weeks abroad, trying to make sure that I didn’t let any time go to waste. All semester myself and a group of others had been saying that we really wanted to wake up early and go see the sunrise over the Colosseum, but hadn’t had the motivation to wake up that early. On one of our last days of classes we decided it was now or never, and myself, my roommate Fran, Bethany, Kristin, Mary, and Sarah got up super early and began our walk. We realized we hadn’t really thought out the logistics of the whole thing, and decided on a whim to try and go up to the balcony on the Victor Emmanuel Monument and watch it from there. As the sky was getting a little brighter we ran up the many steps of the monument only to find the gates locked. Since the sun clearly wasn’t going to wait on us to get our acts together so it could rise we rushed around trying to find another good location.
Long story short, we never got to the perfect spot, but it didn’t ruin the experience. I couldn’t help but enjoy the chance to be with a group of my closest friends from the trip, taking in the crisp, cool morning watching our city come alive. The streets of Rome are never really completely still, but we saw them going from the calm of the night to the hustle and bustle of morning while the sky was changing all of its beautiful colors. It was lovely.
My final days in Roma included many trips to Via del Corso, one of the most famous streets in the city. We had been anxiously awaiting the day when they would illuminate all of the Christmas lights that had been hung the full length of the street and when they finally did, it was absolutely incredible. Gorgeous red, white, and green, Italian flag inspired lights went all the way down the super long street, with Piazza Venezia and the Victor Emmanuel Monument at one end and Piazza del Popolo at the other. All along Via del Corso and down each of the side streets, big and small, were the most beautiful lights, trees, and decorations. From the top of the Spanish Steps were some of the greatest views of the lights, especially down Via Condotti. The super ritzy street that houses all of the high end stores was lined with gorgeous glittering chandeliers of lights. Roma certainly knows how to do Christmas right.
One day after an afternoon of souvenir shopping, I found myself in a very unique and exciting situation. Bethany, Kaitlyn, and I wandered right into a protest. It wasn’t a massive protest by any means, but there were quite a few people, all gathered with flags in front of the Pantheon. Channeling our inner hippies, and maybe needing a little more excitement in our day, we joined. A couple of old men gave us some flags, and we made the joint decision that we needed to take them as souvenirs … luckily the old men ended up agreeing to it so we didn’t have to worry about being sneaky. None of us knew what we were protesting because we couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but as one person told us they thought it was a communist thing we quickly lowered our flags and realized, peaceful as the protest was, it was time to head back to the hotel. So we took our flags and left. We ended up finding out it was actually something about higher education for adults, and art and music education or something along those lines, so that was good. Regardless of what it was for, I’ve always wanted to be in a protest and it was pretty cool to have my first protest be in Italy, in front of the Pantheon.
On my last day in Rome I was able to revisit all of my favorite places, as well as managing to see new things as well. They say you could spend years in Rome and never stop seeing new things, and I absolutely agree with that. I started the morning with my typical breakfast at Pascucci’s, the delicous frutti di bosco cornetto and a cappuccino, finished up some souvenir shopping, and then met up with Bethany and Kaitlyn for a walk. We walked to Campo de Fiori, then down a little side street which lead us up to the Tiber River. We took our time strolling, stopping for photos, and just trying to soak up every precious moment. I’m so glad I studied abroad for the fall semester because I feel like everything is at it’s most beautiful in fall. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the trees lining the river with their fall leaves looked so pretty. I wish I had a way to capture every detail of the day and hold onto it forever, even the way the breeze felt and all of the sounds. Luckily my friends took some videos and that will have to suffice I suppose. We visited the mysterious island in the middle of the river, which is apparently a hospital? I was, and still am a little confused by the concept of a random hospital on the island in the middle of the Tiber, so we moved on quickly. After this I finally made it to see the Bocca della Verita, or the Mouth of Truth. Yes!! It was one of the only things left on my Roman Holiday bucket list, and I’m so glad I finally made it to see it. I waited my turn in line, and just like Audrey, approached it to see if it would bite my hand off or not. Luckily I escaped with all of my limbs in tact, and we began the short walk back to our home the Hotel Tiziano for our Christmas Banquet.
Our banquet was really nice, a wonderful way to finish our time at the Tiziano. They served us multiple courses of absolutely amazing food, the tables were all decorated for Christmas, and at the end we had a chance to say goodbye to our awesome professors. Afterwards we headed off to make the most of our last hours in Rome and our first stop was Piazza Navona, with it’s adorable Christmas market. I’d spent so much time in this area, it was important to see it and take it all in one last time. Then it was back to Campo de Fiori so Kristin could buy copious amounts of parmesan cheese to take back to the U.S., and then it was onward to the Trevi Fountain. I’d visited Trevi many times over the semester, and each time it blew my mind. With it’s massive size, and the booming sound of the rushing water it has such a presence, you can’t help but just stand in awe of it. We bumped into a group of friends from our program here and got a chance to say our goodbye’s (although we would end up running into them again later) since almost everyone was heading back the U.S. the next morning. We threw our coins into the fountain, making the famous wish to come back to Rome in the future, and headed on to our next stop.
The walk from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps took us down some once again incredibly gorgeous lit up streets. When we reached Piazza di Spagna our group split up, each of us going off to do our own thing. It was actually perfect that it happened that way. While it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite place in the city, the Spanish Steps are definitely either in the top spot, or very close for me. They were the first place I visited in Rome where I truly felt, this is Rome, and from then on I absolutely loved them. I spent a lot of time there, and it was important to me to have some time alone there, one last time, to sit and think and take it all in. The view from the Spanish Steps is always, I think, one of the best in the city. But that last night, with all of the Christmas lights sparkling and lighting up the streets, the view was exceptionally beautiful. After a little while I was rejoined one by one by the rest of my group at the top of the steps, and we decided we’d better get walking to our final destination, the Vatican and Old Bridge for some yummy gelato.
St. Peter’s never ceases to amaze me. I love when you can see the dome in the distance from different places throughout the city, but standing in St. Peter’s Square in front of the basilica is just incredible. At this point it was getting pretty late and many of us, myself included, still had to finish packing, so we continued past the Vatican to Old Bridge, one of the best places to get gelato in all of Rome, and believe me we tried a lot. You can get three scoops of delicious gelato, and whipped cream for two euro … awesome! We got our gelato and at that point we’d all kind of hit the wall. In one day we’d crossed all over the city, said some hard goodbyes, and attended a wonderful banquet, and still had a decent walk back to the hotel to pack up our rooms. As we headed down our street, it was so strange to think that it was the last time I’d be walking home to the hotel. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect last day. That night I stood in my room looking out my window at the dome of the Pantheon, and the hustle and bustle of the streets below. Each morning of the semester, or at least once a day, I would stand in that window and take it all in. No matter how many times I did it, I could never get over how incredibly lucky I was to be living in a four star hotel in the heart of Rome, with a view like that. Early the next morning we made our final trip to Pascucci’s for breakfast then headed to the airport and said goodbye to beautiful Roma.