What comes to mind when you picture Italy? Is it ancient Rome? The Ferraris and Fendis? Whatever your vision – this country becomes a thousand times greater, seen in person. Let’s start exploring Rome to Pompeii, in part one of my Italy blog series!
Flying from Munich, I landed at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport at about 1pm. I then met up with my friend Lance, who flew all the way from Manila. We then joined another Filipino – our contact Kuya Ric, ready to show us the Italian capital like the many families he’s toured in the past.
Of course, how can anyone miss Rome’s landmarks? From the Colosseum, to the sacred Vatican City, these large sights showcased Rome’s beauty. Kuya Ric even brought some entertainment value, spilling hilarious stories about some celebrities he encountered in the city.
Then, we passed by a religious store with a lot of rosaries, statues, and other items on display – owned by, you guessed it, a Filipino! After, we stopped by one of the most iconic fountains in the world, Trevi Fountain. As expected, there were many tourists – but the long, chaotic line to see the sculptures was worth it.
Kuya Ric told us tons of funny stories, and was also very hospitable. Still, our stomachs grumbled after all this touristy walking, which was why we had our share of authentic cuisine at the Mirabelle Splendide Restaurant. The trusty online reviews (and sightings of Italian celebrities) were enough to get us going.
While happily eating the proschiuttos, mozzarellas, and pastas, we also noticed the romantic views of Piazza del Popolo in the sunset. It was like stepping inside an old 1950s film. Until it started to rain hard that is.
As Kuya Ric’s service ended eariler, we had to book an Uber to get back. In a series of unlucky events, we were restricted access to our usual route, a small village which had a high level of security that day. We were going around in circles because of the faulty GPS too. And because of the language barrier, we had trouble telling our directions to the driver. Yet as enthusiastic travelers, we chose to go on and get to our hotel of course!
Arriving at our drop off point, we noticed that the hotel was nowhere near in sight. Stepping out, I soaked my shoes into a puddle, and got my jacket drenched in the rain. Our charming of the driver to get us to the exact location didn’t work as well. As a highly planned traveler, this put me in my place – I guess!
After six blocks of wandering, we finally reached our hotel, Hotel Art. A creatively-themed place, each floor is color-coded accordingly. I even felt a hint of sci-fi, with the bright floor lights leading us to our rooms.
After a tiring – but hilarious – day, we had to rest given tomorrow’s even busier schedule.
We welcomed day 2 in Rome with a quick breakfast, and sped off to the glorious St. Benedict Monastery, called Montecassino. Riding a cozy van, we drove uphill to its small path. Glorious art aside, I almost felt that we could be canonized at any moment, given the place’s peaceful and sacred vibe.
This beautiful place is dedicated to Saints Benedict and Scholastica, two siblings who devoted their lives to God away from the big city. Scholastica eventually died of illness, and according Gregory’s Dialogues, went to heaven in the form of a shining dove. Benedict died not long after, of a high fever as predicted to him by God. I found their life stories very interesting after learning about them in the monastery.
After, we had a simple lunch, countryside-style in the form of hearty pastas, fresh seafood, and cured meats.
Our last stop on the second day was Pompeii, a symbol of Roman wealth and tragedy. Buried under a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, its ghostly remains are subject to archaeologists’ studies until today. What an intriguing way to end the second day.
That’s all the time we have for now! Wondering what more excitement in Italy lies in store? JuanderWithUs by reading part two of my Italy blog series!