SIKE! I wish it was still summertime! Unfortunately, the trees have dropped their leaves and winter is almost upon us. We put the Christmas tree is up in my boyfriend’s (B) condo over the weekend, so that must mean that Christmas is REALLY coming.
If you live in New England, you know how harsh the winters can be. Snow? Rain? Sleet? Frozen temps? We get them all, and usually within a 24 hour period.
In an attempt to not think about the impending weather, I keep thinking about summer. And when I think about this past summer, I think of the amazing trip that I took to Europe!
B and I took a 2 week trip through Italy, France, and Spain via Contiki, a tour group that caters to 18-35 year olds. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I thought I would share with you guys some highlights from our trip!
Rome, Italy (days 1-3):
B and I arrived to Rome, Italy after traveling for what seemed like forever. It was 11am European time and we were exhausted, but we decided that we had to go out and experience Italy before it was time to meet up with our tour group. After settling into our hotel outside of Rome, we walked – yes, walked – the 1 hour trek to the Colosseum. Aside from getting lost once and feeling a bit dehydrated from our flight, the walk wasn’t horrible. Before we knew it, we came up over a hill, and there it was!
It was amazing! Seeing it in person got us all excited for our trip ahead of us. It was incredible to see this thing that we had read about and seen photos of, sitting right in front of us. After we walked around the Colosseum and took some pictures, we decided to go get some food. After an AMAZING meal at a small cafe nearby, we walked back to the hotel to meet up with our tour group. After some paperwork and introductions, we all ventured out into the city for the first time. Giuseppe, our tour guide, was from Milan, Italy and was super helpful when it came to describing Italian history and culture. Our first group meal was at a restaurant where they showed us how to make authentic pizza dough. They explained the differences between Roman pizza and pizzas in other parts of Italy. The restaurant was wonderfully tacky with an “under the sea” theme, complete with a boat-bar and weird bubbles around the room. There also was an old man serenading us in Italian the whole time. At one point, he pulled me up on stage and began singing to me.
All of a sudden, I saw my boyfriend stand up and rush over to us, looking somewhat mad. I was a little confused because I had no idea what this guy was singing to me or why B was all angry. Then I figured it out — it was all for show. B then began to “sing” to me, by lip dubbing the old man’s words. He tried really hard with the italian, and it was hilarious. Definitely a highlight. After dinner, we took a walking tour of the city where we saw the Roman Forum all lit up at night, the Trevi Fountain, and had the best. gelato. ever. at Giolitti. This cafe near the Trevi Fountain was the spot that every single person that had been to Rome before told me to go. I had pistachio, Nutella, and champagne gelato. B had frutti di bosco, which he continued to have at every gelato place in Europe. Amazing. I didn’t want my cone to end.
The next day, we visited the Colosseum again for a guided tour. Our tour guide, Pietre, led us around and told us all about the Colosseum history, structure, and how it was used. Did you know that they used to fill the Colosseum with water to do ship battles as part of the games they would do?! How cool! B kept saying that he wanted to watch the Gladiator after we visited. After the Colosseum, we toured the Roman Forum next door. It was incredible to see our history books play out in front of us.
Next stop — the Vatican. We toured the Vatican museum, which literally is the most massive art museum ever. We had to basically run through it because we had so much to cover in one day, but I wish we had more time. There was a room made up of only animal statues of varying sizes and shapes. We then saw the Sistine Chapel. It was much smaller than I thought it would be, and security was TIGHT! They were kicking people out left and right for taking photos of the ceiling. It was beautiful and awesome to see another text book photo come to life.
After the Sistine Chapel, we moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. It was MASSIVE! Everything about the architecture was incredible. The amount of detail in every single area was awe inspiring. We learned all about the Pope selection and the white smoke vs. the black smoke. I felt like I was getting an entire semester of an Italian history class in one day. By the time we were done at St. Peter’s Basilica, our feet hurt and our stomachs were growling. We walked out into St. Peter’s Square, which is also massive. I felt like a lot of things were on a much grander scale in Rome than anything I had ever seen. At the end of St. Peter’s Square, is the Vatican City/Italian lines. Vatican City is the second smallest country in the world, second to Monaco (which we also went to on our trip). So you could cross the street from St. Peter’s Square and suddenly no longer be in Vatican City.
After recovering at the hotel for a bit, a group of us traveled to the Spanish Steps. They were so crowded with a mixture of locals and tourists and there was a dance group performing. Then the whole tour group went to dinner at a local spot. Then we all went out for our first night at a Roman club. We found that the drinks in Europe were overall really strong, cheap, and plentiful. Everyone in the group debriefed on their days out and everything that they saw. Our tour consisted of a lot of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Londoners, and some New Zealanders. Everyone was young (between ages 18-30) and super nice. I would highly suggest Contiki to anyone who has never traveled in Europe before and wants to do it with other young, like-minded people.
So there’s the Rome recap! I plan on doing a recap of the trip once a week so that we can all relive the warmer months together as we deal with the pain that is winter (especially those in Boston with me!).
What was your favorite vacation? Have you ever traveled to Europe before? What was your favorite vaca this past summer?