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Friday, 10 February 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Rome

I visited Rome in November 2016 for an erasmus trip organised with the ESN group at my university. It was a three day trip in which we managed to basically cram everything you could ever want to see/do in Rome! The trip started with an absolutely lovely overnight bus journey from Bergamo to Milan, then from Milan to Rome, which all in all took around 12 hours if I remember properly. And for anyone who has not travelled on a bus that long, it is the most uncomfortable sleep ever! So when we arrived in Rome we were all knackered, achey and a little bit moody. We arrived at the bus station at around 5/6am and then had to take another bus to the station near where our hostel was. Not the funnest journey in the world on about 3 hours of sporadic sleep but we were in ROME so we were excited!
We got to the hostel and then found out that we couldn't actually check in until later on that afternoon... so we all crammed into one room to dump our luggage and freshen up. Even though it was November and practically freezing in Bergamo, Rome was surprisingly warm so I was able to walk around with a leather jacket and jumper on and actually feel pretty warm if anything. The trip included a complimentary breakfast of a coffee and croissant to prep us for a long, long, LONG day of walking. 
We were lucky enough that a member of the ESN group in Rome agreed to give us a tour of the city and its history - apparently this usually costs around €50 per person so it was an amazing experience for us to have for free! Or included in the price at least ha. On the first day we basically visited all of the major tourist attractions in the city, including Vatican City. Strangely enough we came on a weekend where there was a huge religious ceremony to do with the Pope closing a sacred door so St. Peter's square was set up with loads of chairs. We also saw a parade where many members of the church all sang whilst walking through the square which was very interesting.

My photos absolutely do not do the place justice; I think it was possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been inside! Very ethereal especially as there was some sort of religious ceremony going on. From here we were given a bit more information about the city, particularly about Vatican state, and then moved on to continue our tour. 

Here are a few photos from what we visited during the day. The gelato featured was from a gelateria which had about 130 different flavours, including cheesecake, nutella, biscuit... basically every flavour you could possibly want on an ice cream. We managed to visit Piazza Navona where we saw the Fountain of the Four Rivers, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Chiesa di. San Ignazio (here we actually managed to experience a choir performing as we walked around the church which was a haunting and pretty overwhelming thing to witness!) and Saint Peter's Square to name a few. 
As we visited the Trevi Fountain at night it was really busy and everyone wanted to take a lot of photos so the group ended up being split up... and leaving my friends and me at the fountain. Obviously this sort of thing would happen to me (lol) so after a few panicked minutes we ended up having to ask a local police woman how to get back to the train station. Her directions were pretty rubbish but we managed to work out where to get a bus from to take us back to our hostel. It was very annoying at the time because who really wants to be left in a small group in the middle of a city you have never visited before on minimal sleep (not me!) but if anything it actually taught us how best to use the bus system and which buses we needed to take to get to the places we wanted to visit. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz!
We visited so many places on the first day and were absolutely knackered from all the travelling but that did not stop us from going out that night... the entertainment of choice was a Scottish bar called The Nags Head (I know, took us all the way to Rome to go to a Scottish bar...) but basically it was a pretty cheap bar with live music! The ESN leaders bought us all a shot which I'm pretty sure was just orange juice and then we all got suitably drunk on beer. AND I found Newcastle Brown ale on tap... 
The next day I woke up a teeny bit hungover from the previous night's antics but was up early and ready to spend the day exploring the city again! This time we had a tour from one of the ESN leaders and the day, again, included a hell of a lot of walking. But it was absolutely worth it considering the sights we got to experience!

The weather wasn't as nice this day despite how gorgeous it looks on the photos and randomly started raining but the day was amazing none the less! We visited Terrazza del Pincio where basically we climbed up to this gorgeous view point which showed you a huge amount of the city (we also managed to experience a huge outburst of rain whilst we were all taking photos in front of the view which was lovely...) Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II, the Colosseum, the Imperial Forum and a few more historical sites. I would say this day showed Rome how I had expected it to look; the first day was amazing but I was surprised at how many tiny little roads there were as I had expected it to be huge and open and this day was a bit more like that, especially with regards to the Colosseum and its surroundings. 
By evening we were naturally pretty hungry after all our walking and one of the ESN team members recommended a food market at the train station near us... this is basically a huge indoor market inside the station which has all sorts of traditional Italian dishes. It was absolutely amazing; the sandwich above doesn't look amazing from the photo but tasted magnificent and there was fresh pasta, pizza, sushi, meats, alcohol, cakes, chocolate... you name it! I was really impressed with this place and we actually returned in the morning for a late brunch to nurse our hangover selves.
That night the ESN team had organised for us all to go to a nightclub in Rome so we dragged our slightly hungover and extremely overtired selves to the metro station and then walked in the rain for about fifteen minutes to find the club. Needless to say, it was nothing like any club I had visited before; there was a restaurant/bar area downstairs but you had to walk through the actual dance area to get to it. Again we all managed to get suitably drunk and had a pretty good night. My roommates and I had planned to go to watch the religious ceremony with the Pope on the final day as it would be an experience we would probably never witness again but alas most of us were too hungover to go... 

The final day was basically spent visiting the places that Serina, my erasmus friend from the USA, didn't manage to see on the first day. We revisited Trevi Fountain which was even more amazing in the daytime than at night, revisited the amazing gelato place and shared a bottle of red wine sat outside the Pantheon. This day was lovely as after two whole days of constant walking and rushing to fit everything in we were able to go at our own pace and just enjoy ourselves. The only bad thing was that we wanted to go and visit the Colosseum but when we arrived there at around 3pm it was already shut... so we just stood outside and admired it again! 
I would definitely visit Rome again as I felt it was a really beautiful city. I can imagine it gets really hot in the summer time which maybe isn't the best for walking around all day so I would recommend going when I did as the weather was still lovely enough to walk around the city without being too hot/cold. I would also definitely recommend getting a metro pass if you are staying a little out of the centre like we were; we stayed in a hostel near Roma Termini which is the main station in Rome (and where the food market was) and we took the metro to most places. Also be VERY careful with your bags; I know this goes without saying in all big cities but especially in metro stations it is useful to be super vigilant with your belongings. 
Food wise, pretty much every meal we had was decent enough. The included breakfast on the first day was a bit naff if I'm honest but on the second day was really nice as it was in a different cafe. Obviously Italian coffee is going to be amazing anyway and for lunch we managed to find some reasonably priced restaurants. If you're willing to venture out a little and avoid the really tourist-orientated places you can find some great deals; on the first day Serina and I went to a lovely little restaurant not far from the Piazza Navona where you got a starter of bruschetta, a main (choice of either a pizza or pasta dish but there was a lot of variety of either) and a drink for around €12 - not shabby at all in a capital city! 
On the final night we had a few hours to kill before we got the bus back so we actually had tea at a little restaurant opposite our hostel. To be honest it didn't look amazing from the outside but it had a huge menu and was relatively inexpensive. We also ended up drinking about four huge beers each whilst waiting to go for the bus. 
The bus home was just as lovely as the way there (as in horrible) but had a lot of extra room this time. I still didn't really manage to sleep and we arrived in Bergamo at around 8am. I had a lesson at 9 which I obviously attended (not)... I ended up spending the whole day catching up on sleep and trying to recuperate my health after a weekend of drinking, eating, drinking, eating and about seven hours sleep over a three day period. I would love to return but definitely look in advance for a train ticket or flight as no way would I recommend taking the overnight bus unless you have the ability to sleep absolutely anywhere. Especially if you plan to be walking around the entirety of the city the next day! However, it was a great way to experience the city with natives very cheap so I can't really complain.

Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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