(preface: I am a loooooong winded writer and there isn’t an editor on our staff, yet, so, very sorry for the babble. If your eyes glaze over, my apologies. But not really, 'cause no one is making you read this.)
Sometimes traveling let’s you step outside yourself. As you are already outside your normal surroundings and your familiarity zone, travel can add to your sense of adventure and help build confidence. It gives you the power to act as you might not normally because you are not in a place where your family and friends might see you. It opens your eyes to not only the world around you, but to who you are. It gives a piece of you back that seems to get lost in the hustle and bustle of “the daily grind”. It's an amazing feeling, a time to discover yourself. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to travel more, I took it. And I'm not regretting it.
HOW I DID IT.
I am way late in publishing this (new to blogging, waiting for the "perfect" version that is never going to happen). But a little over a week ago I returned from spending 24 hours in Rome. Yes, you read that correctly. I flew 10 hours there and 10 hours back just to spend 24 hours on the ground in Rome.
Why? Because, well, why not?I am Irish-Italian, so Italy holds a special place for me. And since it is my birthday month, as well as that of my awesome late Italian grandmother, I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate place to go. It was only 24hours, but so very worth the trip. #grateful.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not independently wealthy. Flying on a whim overseas isn't something I can just do - or rather, can afford. Until now. You see, I have two jobs other working my arse off to get this business where I want to be. Yes, not one, but two. Luckily, I like them both, but one, awesomely, provides amazing travel benefits. It is, in fact, why I took the job, why everyone takes the job working for an airline…because they have wanderlust sprinkled heavily throughout their whole being. That's me. Hence starting a brand of travel inspired products. So when the opportunity presented itself, I took the job. And I love it. Love it.
But, as you can imagine, three jobs and trying to maintain some sort of personal life doesn't leave a whole lot of travel time. Not in the way most people do travel - a week or so at a time. But anyone who knows me knows I don't do things like everyone else. And if I was waiting for a huge chunk of free time to go somewhere, I'd be waiting awhile. So I decided to go to Rome for 24 hours. Because that's all I had. And if I can do work in a coffee shop here, why wouldn't I do it in a little Italian cafe? Done. Let's go.
At first I doubted myself. I hadn’t traveled overseas in awhile and thought, "this is crazy". I didn'’t really decide if I was going to go until the night before (we fly standby and therefore don’t book our tickets in the same way you might). I was going to travel alone, I didn’t have euros, I hadn’t looked at anywhere to stay, I had no idea how to get from the airport to, well, maybe the center of the city, I had no idea, really, what I was doing. Many people who know me know this really isn’t unusual. I fly by the seat of my (under)pants all the time. I think because I overplan for my businesses and jobs, I am a terrible planner for my personal life. But still, this one was a biggie.
But I live by my mother's motto, "you only regret the things you don't do". So the night before the flight, I packed a backpack of clothes and my work bag (because I am always working, but luckily I like what I do, so it’s more just "my life" than it is “working”) and decided to go. I exchanged Euros at the airport and planned to find a place to stay and map out what I would do while in the air.
And I got on the plane. With the most amazing seat. Great start so far. The flight was smooth and the flight attendants made the journey amazing. Just amazing. I tell you, the service with this airline is top notch. The one bummer was that although I was able to work on other things where internet wasn’t required, I was not able to get online and book a hotel, research what I would do, plan, etc.
So. Once again. I was landing in Rome with no real plan. The only things I knew I wanted to do were see the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.
WHAT I DID:
I arrived at Fumincine Airport at 10:30 Roman time and went through customs. Basically, I just followed the crowds trying to look like I knew what I was doing until I got through. The very first thing I did after that? I changed my clothes in the bathroom. Changing your underwear and brushing your teeth is like taking a shot of espresso. Especially after just sitting 10 hours in them. You feel instantly better and more confident and clean. Done, I was ready for my adventure.
I tried using my cell service to book a hotel before heading to the city - (I called my provider before leaving the states and was told I would have service in Europe, no problem) but it didn’t work. I wasn’t too worried because it doesn’t really work at the airport at home, either. So I decided to take the train to the Termini Station (the main train station in the center of town) because I figured I would be able to find a cafe, access wifi and book something then.
So I bought my ticket and headed into town. The benefit of Western Europe is that a lot of signs are in English, so it's not terrible to find your way around. Normally I ask a lot of questions - I am not afraid to do that if I need help - but I also wanted to be careful not to alert anyone I was traveling alone. I mean, I am no scardy cat, but I have seen the movie “Taken”. So I just tried to do it on my own.
The train was full of passengers like me, visitors from all over the world to one of the most amazing cities in Europe. Backpacks and bags and travel gear accompanied by excited passengers. Upon arrival I exited the train station to find a cafe, ordered a large cappuccino and asked for the wifi...which didn’t work. Bummer. But luckily my cell service did at this point (albeit slow) and I got on hotels.com and booked myself a hotel for 100 euros, near the Colosseum. Done. All the while I was doing this, I was accosted by men selling throwaway trinkets like selfie sticks and iPhone cases. I'd like to say I politely ignored them, but I got sucked in and purchased a selfie stick for 10 euros. Best thing I did. For reals.
I knew Rome was a walking city, and I love to walk as it's a great way to see a city, so I decided to hoof it instead of take a cab or public transportation. So I plugged in the hotel address on my Google maps and set off on foot.
It was hot. Like 90% and high humidity hot. I love that, normally. But I don’t love it when I am carrying a backpack and a work bag a little over a mile through extremely crowded streets. But still, I was having a great time. I was doing it! The city is beautiful to just amble through. The old mixed with the new creates a fantastic juxtaposition. The street performers and street artists were amazing. Everywhere you turn there is something to look at.
I continued to follow my Google Maps in the direction of my hotel, passing the Spanish Steps (yay! Check one!) but they were blocked off for maintenance and had no flowers or anything. Bummer. But the area around the Spanish Steps is amazing. Beautiful stores to the likes of Tiffany & Co., Longchamp, Chanel, etc.
Spanish Steps under construction. Total bummer. Usually they are filled with people and flowers, etc.
I followed my map a little further, turned on a side street and heard “you have arrived at your destination” from the little lady in my phone. Except I hadn’t. Or it certainly didn’t look like I had. Hmm. I decided to ask one of the women working in the stores. They were so nice in telling me I wasn’t anywhere near my hotel. Not even close. But they directed me back towards the Spanish Piazza where I decided I was over carrying these bags and hopped in a taxi to get to my hotel.
In Rome you can get by with English. I find it polite to try and use the little you can pick up of the language, but a good majority of the people speak English at least a little bit. So I informed the driver the address and he zipped me through the streets to my hotel (if driving like a bat out of hell scares you, shut your eyes - it’s a trip!). Except, once again, it wasn’t my hotel. Or didn’t look like it at least. So we looked at my reservation to confirm and sure enough, we were in the right place. But there was no implication that there was a hotel in this building (see photo below). Thank goodness my cab driver stayed with me and a man came up to the door with a key to get inside. The driver explained the situation and this nice man called the number on my reservation. Turns out we were in the right place and someone was going to come down and get me. I would have figured out what to do if that man hadn’t arrived, but I am sure glad he did because he saved me from wasting more time. I mean, when you only have #24hoursinRome, wasting time isn’t a good idea.
This was my hotel....wait, what? Yeah, no markings.
But someone came to get me. The hotel was called iHotel and was a block of rooms in the center of an apartment building in some unused space in their courtyard. Pretty interesting. The guys running the place that greeted me were so very nice and helpful. I couldn’t check in until 3, so I charged my phone (now running low on battery), asked them a few questions, left my backpack (but took my computer bag), and headed off.
The first thing I did was buy a backup phone battery for my iPhone because mine seemed to be guzzling the battery. The hotel guys directed me to an iPhone specific store right around the corner. Awesome. I’d have the ammo I needed to snapchat, instagram and text all day long. Let’s go.
Destination #1-Colosseum. I was close. So I walked in that direction soaking in the energy of the city. All around you are chunks of ruins.I like seeing the structures better than just blocks of ruins, but it’s so interesting to think about what happened here soooooo many years ago. Unreal. It was cool to see the Colosseum peek through areas of these little streets as you approached.
I found an information station a few blocks from the Colosseum and purchased a ticket that also would get me into the Roma Forma and Palantine Hill if I wanted to go. After waiting 35 minutes in the line to get through security, I was inside the Colosseum. I picked up my audio guide (I decided on purchasing this as I can't quite remember my history - sorry, Mr. Barbeau) and headed off. There were 6 spots to listen to the audio. I went to the first and then the second... and then my audio battery died. Bummer. I decided because I was both upstairs and way on the other side from where I picked up the audio guide, that I would just walk around, read the information signs, take pictures and soak it in. It’s pretty damn cool to see. And crazy history. I’ll spare you the history lesson. But I recommend it.
Okay, finished that. Now I am off to see more of Rome. I skipped the Roma Forma and Palentine Hill because I only had 24hours and headed to destination #2 - the Trevi Fountain. Again, because apparently I learn the hard way, I typed the destination into Google Maps and set off. Walking, loving life. Problem. I had to go to the bathroom. And unfortunately, Rome isn’t peppered with a ton of public restrooms. So I figured this was a good excuse to grab a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe (one of my favorite things about Europe - all the outdoor spots) and write down a few of my thoughts. And go to the bathroom.
So I was doing just that, sipping on my wine, when the woman next to me, a Canadian, started talking to me. She had been in Rome a few days and asked where I was headed. I told her the Trevi Fountain. She told me I was on the other side of town - wrong direction. Again. So eff that Google Maps. I decided to ditch using Google Maps and use the map I got from my hotel - do it the “old fashioned” way. And although I am terrible at North/South directions, I am pretty good with visuals and following a map. I finished my wine, thanked my new friend and set off with my map and selfie stick in hand. I bought gelato along the way, because, when in Rome…(I have to research why that’s a phrase - anyone know?). It melted almost faster than I could eat it, but I was a happy camper nonetheless.
Destination #2 - I arrived at the Trevi Fountain. I love water, especially the sound of it, and this was a welcome sight on a blistering hot day. Just being around it felt cooler. Apparently it was under maintenance last year, like the Spanish Steps are this year, but now is a beautiful sparkling white. It was amazing. I battled the crowds to get down to the front (all over Rome there are thousands of tourists, but this place was just jammed! See photo below) and I took a few selfies, something I am learning to do. I also sat on the side and got my bum all wet. Although I was wearing a black sundress and you couldn’t tell my arse was wet, but this is time #2 I was glad I had a change of underwear in my bag. Check. The only thing I regret that I didn’t do at the fountain was throw in a coin to make a wish. Next time.
Destination #3 was the Spanish Steps. But I walked by them earlier in the day (remember?) so I had completed the quickly made list.
At this time all my devices were either our or almost out of charge - my computer, my phone, my backup batteries. How was I going to snap and document if I didn’t have anything to do it with? A bit frustrating. So I decided to walk back to the hotel to charge the devices and shower. When you only have #24hoursinRome, this isn’t what I would have chosen to do, and I felt guilty doing it, but I really wanted my phone to work at the very least.
Quick shower, charge, change. Note, I always travel with a TowelTopper, too. Yes, I may think it’s particularly genius because I developed it, but I developed it because I needed it and it's pretty handy. It doesn’t take up any room and turned my towel into a robe. Awesome. Now off for wine and pasta. Again, when in Rome….
My cousin, who also happens to be one of my best friends as well as an avid traveler, mentioned heading to Campo di Fiori square for dinner. I did just that. (Note, I took a taxi because although the only shoes I brought were extremely comfy sandals, my terrible feet really should have been in some sort of tennis shoe all day). Rome is a dusty city - check out my awful feet before I showered (Note of apologies that my feet are not really instagram worthy).
I arrived at Campo di Firoi square - Very worth seeing! - and walked around looking at the menus. It’s very touristy, and I don’t always like that - but so much of the city is just that, so I didn’t mind. I was bummed because the shops in the area were closed as I arrived late, but at least I could peek in the windows. Several looked like they had some great things. I made note to go back and capture the shopping of Rome on another trip. Anywho, I found a place, ordered Gnocchi with a gorgonzola sauce and a glass of wine, of course, read my kindle paperwhite and people watched. I was in heaven. I don’t mind dining alone. I think it’s empowering.
After dinner, I decided to walk back to the hotel to take in the city at night. Something magical happens to cities like these at night. They are different places than what you see during the day. And Rome is beautiful at night; the way they light up the architecture and the ruins. It’s stunning. Here's just a few glimpses.
Once I was close to my hotel, which is, apparently, in the less touristy area even though it is close to the Colosseum, I came upon a square filled with Romans drinking, smoking and enjoying around the fountain. Instead of getting together in bars, as we do here in the states, Europeans gather in the city squares. I was in a local area and loving it. I found a little cafe nestled right on the side of the action with outdoor seating so I grabbed a table, ordered one more glass of wine and…..a tiramisu. Oh man, the tiramisu! It made me wish I had eaten my whole dinner there. It was to die for. I read my book, people watched and enjoyed the energy of the group in the square.
Romans drinking at the square.
I finished up, paid, walked back to the hotel and fell flat on my face in bed, exhausted and thrilled and grateful. This was 2am. When you only have #24hoursinRome…
The next morning I woke early, packed, thanked my hotel people and headed out to the airport. I was bummed as I was walking to the metro that I didn’t have more time, especially now that I had a little sleep, but had to get back for work and my nephew’s baptism. I ordered a cappuccino and a croissant at a cafe, soaking up the last bits of my time in this glorious city, then boarded the metro to Termini Train Station where I would catch a train to the airport. I did the same thing I did upon arrival, I followed the masses and pretended to look like I knew what I was doing. I purchased my ticket, hopped the train and got to the airport 3 hours early (I didn’t want to mess around with missing my nephew’s baptism). BUT PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE TRAVELING TO ROME - GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY! It took me almost all 3 hours to get to my gate. In fact, I walked up to my gate and they were already boarding. It was the biggest cluster. Crazy.
I got my seat assignment (another awesome seat), was greeted by the same crew that brought us in (yay! Because they were awesome and I was exited to fly with them again), sat in my seat and decided I was never quitting this job as I sat planning my next adventure.
Totally worth it. Life is short. Do what you can when you can.
WHAT I SPENT
BAGS I USED:
THINGS I’D BRING NEXT TIME: