If there was one place on this planet I never thought I thought I'd it would be standing on the grounds of the Roman Forum. But there I was this past November, standing before the Rostra completely dumbfounded. The words of Cicero playing in my head, the pain at seeing what was left of it, wishing desperately to either be Marty Mcfly (for time traveling reasons yo) or a cat (for their ability to go where humans cannot--damn our destructive and pilfering nature).
In this post I'll tell y'all about the absolute wonder of seeing three Italian cities (Pisa, Florence, and Rome) in two days. So here we go, crossing the Rhine (figuratively of course, as the only body of water I crossed was the Ligurian Sea).
chapter 1: pisa
Nicole and I made it to Porte Malliot with the world still a damp blue and caught a bus to Aéroport Beauvais (BVA). This airport bares a striking resemblance to a warehouse (tbh not entirely convinced that it is not one and is simply masquerading as an airport). It has a whooping total of two gates which made it rather difficult to find our flight and a tiny duty-free store that stocks Chanel.
We disembark the plane and discover, to my eternal chagrin, that our passports have once again both not been not asked for and not stamped. *cue dramatic sigh* I realize next two things: #1 romance languages do not translate as easily as I'd imagined they would and #2 water is excreting in copious amounts from the sky. Let me take this moment to tell you a little fun fact about Nicole, she and rain really just can't handle each other.
Thus if this was a movie the camera would flint to a shot of two American girls wired and racing, backpacks flopping from side-to-side, through the cobblestoned streets of Pisa battling this sporadic and epic downpour of water struggling to remain under the protection of a one-person 3€ rainbow umbrella. The scene would lean do a slow creep segment of the Leaning Tower. Which indeed is really quite astounding in its ablilty to remain upright as the lean is noticeably significant. I think in total I spent about an hour in Pisa before boarding a bus to Florence.
The good stuff: A scarf was purchased for 5€ (#score). Pisa resembled Nice so much it was a little triply. I was seriously digging its buildings and their varying hues of reds, yellows, greens, and off-whites.
chapter 2: florence
And By 1pm Nicole and I were back at the airport in Pisa and boarding a bus bound for Florence. During the hour or so bus ride I did a total of two things, #1 combed the matted mess that had been my hair before the rain claimed and #2 ogled the handsome man sitting in the seat in front of us.
The first thing we saw in Florence was the church, Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. And I was irrevocably stupefied. There I stood, before this massive structure that stretched so far into the air above and around me that its construction seemed to be improbable. A church stapled in marble and bronze doors. The city which watched the birth of the Renaissance.
By 3:30pm I was eating another canoli and learning from an old Italian man the proper way to accentuate the 'double r' in vorrei, which is in no way pronounced as it's spelling suggests it would be. From the small shop we wandered to Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. In which museum there is an entire, and rather large, room dedicated to Roman busts. Seriously an impressive collection.
After which I ate more, this time gelato. Really this trip was more of a Anna eats every hour while in Italy. But the gelato. *whine of withdraw* Let us pause here. Because goodness did Florence have the most amazing food I've had in Europe thus far. While in Florence I had a cannoli, two gelatos, a huge plate of pasta, and a rich chocolate tarte/cake/cookie thing.
I strolled along the Arno River well the city sparkled with lights and nightlife, licking my gelato and loving so desperately every sight around me. And then something dreadful happened... Nicole tripped and fell shattering her iPhones screen.
chapter 3: rome
We woke up the at 8am jumped on the first train we could find leaving Florence toward Rome and made our first stop our hotel to drop off our stuff. What an adorable hotel that was, so quant with blue and white tiles as a bed frame and complementary chocolates.
Trying to see all of Rome in one day is impossible. Word for the wise: if you've given yourself just a day in Rome, first rethink this option, second if you've decided you want to do this than resolve yourself to the fact that you will have to breeze by some things. Accept this and the day will become more relaxed because doing Rome in a day is possible if you have a clear idea of the things you want to see.
So, in the warmth of a soft sun Nicole and I set out to conquer the sights. We found the Trevi Fountain first, threw a coin in and made a wish I won't spoil. From the Trevi fountain and its mass of people we walked along worn cobblestones to the Pantheon. The thing that will amaze you about Rome is how an incredibly modern metropolitan city is built directly around buildings that have been there for thousands of years. The amount of times we walked by the ruins of temples that were simply just there in their eroding format across the street from a restaurant is crazy.
Next, we took to the ruins, which to this day brings forth a surreal feeling of otherworldliness in me. I remember we took a break to sit on a marble stone in the shade and look around. The scene you see is marble blocks that form squares and rectangles in the ground to distinguish the different rooms of a house. The marble stones are everywhere in the ruins among them grass grows and more marble for pathways wind through them. For some reason I imagined the homes of the Romans would be further away from the Forum, they are not actually all that far.
The colosseum, what to say about the colosseum. I will say that on the size is impressively intimidating. The picture of it in its epoch, red flags waving and vibrantly painted statues in the archways is really an image you can picture quite clearly while there. We ate gnocchi at a restaurant across the street, purchased more gelato and stumbled upon an obelisk stolen by the Romans from Egypt.
My experience in Rome was unlike anything I have felt before and it ended with the two of us eating a large greasy pizza in a hotel room.
chapter 4: the way back
This was a mission and a half and I'm not even sure how we managed to pull it off. Think James Bond and the ominous presence of a large timer ticking away. Start time: 2 hours. Go.
Two hours to get from BVA, roughly 50 miles northwest of Paris, to the 5th arrondissement where I had to present my Master's thesis to a group of distinguished professors and my peers. Not that I was feeling the pressure or anything. Word to the wise, never try and go through customs on a time crunch you will end up, as I did, cursing the red letters of a digital clock that would not stop moving forward.
From the moment we landed in BVA entered into dark-ops mode without the leather attire, the mission was: make the impossible possible. We were out of our sets and into the aisle of the plane before anyone had even clicked their seat belts. Unfortunately the passengers were exiting from the opposite side of the plane making us the last people off the plane and some of the last people to make it through customs. 20 minutes down the drain.
Once free, we rushed straight toward the bus where a ticket mishap happened, because I'm Anna and this is my life. The man scanning tickets scanned Nicole's ticket and then I unknowingly but promptly handed him a copy of Nicole's ticket and had him scan that the scanner flashed red. So there's me speaking something that I don't feel was French and there is the man looking confused. If you could burn minutes like paper another 20 had just gone up in flames as the man proceeded to try and figure out why there was not enough seats for all the passengers. The answer was of course because he'd scanned my seat twice.
I bite away my nails at such an unprecedented speed. Changed my shoes, combed my hair, and willed time to slow down. We arrived in Paris 30 minutes after I was set to present; however, luckily for me the other Master's students in my year have epic topics and so the presentations were running 45 minutes late.
I arrived at Reid Hall with quite literally 2-3 minutes to spare. I was just sitting down in a seat when one of the professors was finishing up a comment on one of the students presentations.