The last two and a half days on my Europe escapade were spent in beautiful Italy. I truly wish I could have learned Italian before going on this trip. The culture, history, and people were remarkable and I would love to go back to Italy for a longer experience.
We took an overnight train from Milan to Rome. That was a unique experience on its own. I managed to sleep a bit, among my excitement and the normal challenge to get a good night's rest in new places with new people. My group started the day by getting some espresso. Me and another gal split from the group to go to Vatican City. It was the last Sunday of the month and gave free admission all morning. The line only took 30 minutes to get through and we were in.
Architecture, religious momentos, and historical artifacts surrounded me. My main interest was to see the Sistine Chapel. And, boy, was it beautiful. As I walked through the hallways leading to it, filled with the paraphernalia of Roman and Catholic culture, I wanted to know more. I'm a Christian (Lutheran), but I felt disconnected to what everything meant and truly represents in today's society.
We walked solemnly into the Sistine Chapel. Breathtaking. No photos allowed and I was OK with that. It would seem too disrespectful to start snapping selfies and panoramas of the fantastic artwork decorating the walls and ceiling. After taking in the beautiful atmosphere, an opportunity of a lifetime awaited me. We left for St. Peter's Square to hear the Pope speak.
No, I do not speak or understand Latin. However, the 20 minutes spent standing in the blazing 95-degree heat and hearing the most recognized world leader address his constituents was an unforgettable experience.
Immediately afterward, the last "landmark" I wanted to see in Rome was the Coliseum. This was probably my favorite historical site to see, based on my sense of imagination and pretending I was back in the days of the Gladiators.
|Peach sorbet and chocolate chip gelato|
After the drawn-out dinner and heat exhaustion, the next day, I went my own way. From the metro to the train station, I took the train 40 minutes outside of Rome to a local bus stop, where I rode the bus for about 20 minutes to the outskirts of Nerola. There, awaited my paradise at an agrotourismo.
These are local farmstays where hotel-like accommodations can be made and let you experience culture on farms but also get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The farm I stayed at had olive groves for olive oil production. Harvest would take place in September and I was able to try some of their olive oil during dinner. It was very good.
It seemed very luxurious, yet was extremely affordable! I spent the afternoon by the pool and took some photos of the geography that evening. The next morning would be an early one to get back to the airport for customs, security and finally the long trek home.
By 6 am, I was out the door and headed to the main road. The bus driver from the day prior said he could stop and pick me up. However, after 30 minutes of waiting, I was getting anxious, with no bus on the half hour like expected. A car was pulling out of a driveway across the road and I caught the driver's attention.
He did not speak much English, but I put faith in him that he could take me to the bus stop. I got in the car when he said he was going there. Ten minutes later, he dropped me off at a stop and kept driving. Within five minutes, he was coming back around and parked across the street and accompanied me to wait for the bus.
In those moments spent trying to communicate, he eventually pulled out a Samsung tablet, opened Google translate and our language barrier was [mostly] overcome. Technology was not worthless for this experience. I learned about his family and passions, he asked about mine and the connection we made while traveling across rural Rome was one I could not have found while traveling in a group the entire trip.
I am an independent young woman. I have a lot to learn. Because of this trip, I was able to take great strides in better understanding myself, my interactions with people and the beautiful world around me. There were a few hiccups along the way. Overall, it was a trip filled with beautiful moments.
I'm not sure where my passport will take me next. Any suggestions? If not, I'll continue to brainstorm.