by Jordan, Experimenter:
We landed in Rome late Monday afternoon, just in time for dinner. Greeted by in-country hosts, we all boarded a bus that took us to our hotel. The hotel overlooked Vatican City, which we soon learned is the smallest, but the richest, country in the world! After unpacking our bags and changing out of the clothes we had just traveled over 24 hours in, small groups set off to local restaurants for dinner. We were addressed with “bella” and “belissima” and some of us were even called “bello.” Mostly importantly, this meal was our first taste of authentic Italian cuisine.
Following dinner, groups explored the local area. Some stopped for Italian gelato, but others decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel. After all, we were all super tired from traveling.
The next morning, we drafted our group constitution to ensure inclusivity and positive vibes throughout the trip. Afterwards, some of us took a local train to a nearby mall in order to explore Italian fashion and of course, food. Others decided to stay local and explore the beautiful city of Rome a little more. Later in the afternoon, we all headed down the street to the entrance of Vatican City, where we met our tour guide, Luca, who is an expert on everything related to Roman history.
Luca told us that we could spend weeks exploring the city without seeing everything, so we were only able to see some of it. But we were able to walk through some of the museums, bringing us back as far as 50 B.C. We saw hundreds of sculptures and even learned the secrets about how statues are refurbished and put back together. Did you know that Vatican City is protected by the Swiss Guard to maintain neutrality? The experience was truly astonishing and a great way to learn about the history of Vatican City and step far back in time.
That night, we all pooled in some of our meal money in order to spend three hours eating a true Italian dinner at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant had been raved about to our Group Leaders before the trip, so we couldn’t leave without trying it. In addition to this, we were celebrating the birthday of a fellow group member, Amelia. Starting with simple bread paired with anchovies, salmon, and crab, we were served calamari, squid, muscles, risotto, spaghetti with clams, sausage, potatoes, turkey, and much more. Additional options were provided for fellow vegetarians and meat lovers. Stuffed to the brim with amazing Italian food, we went straight to bed after dinner.
We woke up early Wednesday morning to catch a bus with our personal tour guide, Luca, to downtown Rome. We visited The Victory Manuel, which took over fifty years to build and honored the first King of Italy. Following this stop, we headed to the often-forgotten Mayor’s square that was designed and built by Michelangelo himself. Immediately following this, we saw ruins that connected Jupiter’s Temple with the Colosseum. Luca explained how since the Tiber River would flood, transporting mud that would cover buildings and structures, Rome was built in layers. That was why a building was built on top of Jupiter’s temple, and most of the ruins were much under present-day ground level. When we were walking to the Colosseum, Luca mentioned how an underground subway is currently being constructed underground. He also pointed out active archeologists that were digging slowly and carefully right outside of the Colosseum. Did you know that there are still undiscovered artifacts and history hidden under the streets of Rome? After a quick trip to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night. After all, we left early the next morning for Cortona.
Overall, our trip to Rome was short, but our days were packed and we were able to discover so much about what Italy has to offer. We are only on Day 5, and we have already seen so much. So, we can only imagine how much we will see within our remaining few weeks!
Sunset over the Fiume Tevere:
Half of the group outside the Colosseum, right before counting the arches:
Scavenger hunt at the Spanish Steps before a quick bite and shopping: