Italy Vacation {Part 1}: Rome is for Hustlers

I’m baaaaaack!

I had an absolutely incredible week away, but it sure does feel good to be home! {Especially going to the gym and the puppies. I missed those tons!}

Now, getting to the good stuff; Italy!

GETTING READY FOR ROME

As we arrived at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport last week, I was giddy beyond measure. I was about to break out my passport and travel overseas for the very first time in my life. Such an exciting proposition!

Airport

At the airport

Paul and I had decided to indulge a little bit with some drinks and start our vacation off on the right foot! Especially since we had a 4 hour layover once we arrived in Charlotte and plenty of time to kill. {It still blows my mind that a smaller airport like Charlotte flies direct to Rome, while Atlanta does not. Crazy!}

BENVENUTI A ROMA! 

Welcome to Rome! After an overnight flight, we arrived in Rome around 9am the next morning. I struggled on the plane… despite taking my best measures in preparation {Sleep mask, ear plugs, glasses to change into, travel pillow, and blanket}. I was unable to fall asleep on the plane for even a single minute. I tried so hard to sleep… and failed miserably. This is what I looked like when I realized it was light out and I had yet to sleep:

 

Redeye Flight

Not pleased with the situation

Then, at the airport, the man at customs decided he didn’t feel like stamping passports. I even asked for a stamp and he yelled at me to “GOOO!” I was so upset! Is a stamp that he is supposed to provide such a big problem to ask for? I should think not. I was genuinely mad about this. My first time abroad and no stamp to show for it. Lame!

FIRST FULL DAY

Skipping ahead, the first full day we spent in Rome was an eventful one! It began with Paul and I both naturally waking up early {before 6am} and deciding to take an exploration walk. This was honestly one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. We strolled aimlessly around “the Eternal City” in the morning sun, with almost nobody else around. Not to sound cliche, but it was magical. It felt as though we were on a movie set with picturesque buildings surrounding us and no other people in our way.

Rome

City to ourselves

Above, you will see different shots of Castel Sant’ Angelo {Castle of the Holy Angel}, the Palace of Justice in Piazza Cavour {where I look as small as an ant}, bridges, and the Tiber River.

Empty Roman Street

 

Just to drive home my point even further. You can see there were no other people on this typically busy street!

We made our way back to the apartment after happening upon Vatican City for showers and breakfast. We made our way back out with the rest of Paul’s family and showed them our findings. They were impressed with how far we had gone!

Rome fountain

Then we went into Vatican City to hear the Pope’s 10-minute blessing to the people at noon. {It was a Sunday, as well as Mother’s Day} Needless to say, it was inevitably crowded.

Vatican City

Paul and I going to hear Pope Francis {Papa Francisco}

St. Peter's Basilica

Crowds waiting for the Pope

Finally, at 12:00 on the dot, Pope Francis made his appearance from the window!

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

The entire blessing was in Italian, so I had no clue what he was saying. But, I am still glad we went, as it was a once in a lifetime experience!

The rest of the day we spent exploring and visiting the shops that were open {it was Sunday, after all} and wandering around Rome.

Rome

 

Roman Market

Roman Marketplace

We found an outdoor marketplace on our adventures. A few staples I noticed were as many kinds of pasta as you can imagine {no surprise} and the biggest bell peppers I have ever seen! I took the photo with my hand in there to give a size perspective. They were the size of my head almost! It wasn’t just one place that had the huge peppers, either. Everywhere did!

One thing that did take me by surprise was an area of ruins where they keep stray cats! Supposedly digging had begun to expand the Metro and had to stop when they came upon these ruins. I found it to be completely random, yet a wise use of space. A lot of these cats has been injured in traffic and hanging out in a protected, yet natural, environment was just what they needed. Well done!

Rome Cats

 

We next found our way over to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

Pantheon Rome

Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon Cupola

Pantheon inside

 

The Pantheon is pretty amazing. It is hard for me to wrap my head around how old it is. As an American, I have a hard time fathoming that structures can be thousands of years old! {I think we can agree, we tend to consider things built before 1990 “old”}

We shopped around some more and ate dinner. Following dinner, we decided to take the Metro back to where we were staying, as we had made our way several miles that day. And this is where things were quickly put into perspective…

ROME IS FOR HUSTLERS

I was warned before I went to Rome that it is the #1 place in the world for petty crime; meaning pick-pocketing, thieves, and the like. Unfortunately, I now 100% agree with this sad statistic and witnessed it first-hand multiple times in a few short days.

Without going into too much detail, Paul and his dad were both near victims of pick-pocketing that evening at the Metro station. Luckily, we were very aware and they were unable to “get” us. Not for lack of trying though. Paul’s sister, Laura, and I both made Paul move against a wall because we noticed a guy getting way too close to him for extended periods of time. Paul’s mom actually slapped the same guy’s hand away from her husband’s pocket as he was going in. {Little did he know that there was no wallet in his pockets} He said “Oh, mi scusi scusi” as if he was just bumping into him on accident. Nice try, pal. We knew what you were up to. I was death clutching my cross-body purse underneath my armpit the entire time to the point that my arm was sore later because it was flexed for so long. I wasn’t going down without a fight!

Laura was also a near-victim inside the Pantheon as well. Luckily, her fiance was on his A-game and pulled her out of the way.

Three attempts in one day.

Now, the other problem I have with Rome are the street peddlers. SO. MANY. They’re selling knock-off purses, flowers, drinks, and these cheap toy things that you throw. They are illegal, technically, but are absolutely everywhere. The issue is, they are ridiculously persistent and get up in your face trying to force you to hold whatever they’re selling. A simple “no” or ignoring them is not enough. You practically have to yell at them. It’s completely exhausting watching out for them all. There are also fake old-lady beggars. They stand hunched over with stockings over their hands {To hide the youthful skin} and a huge hat on with their head down, shaking a change cup. Also everywhere. When the police do make their rounds, all of these people flee like the cockroaches that they are. Then thirty seconds later, are back out there setting up their piles of junk. It’s so frustrating.

Rome is certainly a place where being aware of your surroundings is simply not enough. You need to actively guard your personal belongings at all times.

Not to end on a bad note, but I felt the need to add a sense of realism in this post. Rome has incredible history and it’s worth seeing once, buy you certainly need to watch your back.

More to come tomorrow!

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