Thurs, June 4 | Day Two, part 2
(Yes, I had to.)
Touristy day! After an exhausting but eventful second morning spent at the Vatican, we ate a quick lunch at this caffe just a few blocks from our hotel, since the old folks and kids were getting tired. I had my first panini! …it was all right, haha. The rest of the family went back to the hotel to go change/rest before dinner, and Uncle Anthony, my cousin Andre, and I decided to take the Metro subway to one of the most infamous neighborhoods of central Roma: the Piazza di Spagna, named so because of its distinct, Spanish-influenced culture, and also because the Spanish embassy and the infamous “Spanish Steps” are located there. We got onto one of two main Metro lines that run through the city, Line A, which cost 1.50 Euro (originally we misheard the lady at the ticketing booth, and were about to pay 15 Euro!) per person for a one-way trip. Riding the Metro was thrilling! It was like an adventure, from buying the ticket, to inserting it into the little machines that allow a quick access, looking on the map to see what stop you’re getting off, and making sure you get on the right train in the first place because everything’s in another language. But the train station was so neat! It wasn’t disgusting or dirty like I had expected; all kinds of people were milling about, and the walls were covered in ad posters or colorful graffiti. Once off the subway, we stepped out in the main square- and it was probably one of the most memorable images of my life. Walking out into the sunlight and seeing the colorful European architecture of the streets; the thousands of tourists, the music, the liveliness, the hundreds of variety shops from expensive designer brands (Chanel! Versace! Dolce & Gabbana!) to wooden puppet stores. & of course, the vibe. It was like different worlds were coming together in that square; there were so many languages and voices and sounds all around as we walked about. Coming up to the Spanish Steps, notably the widest staircase in Europe, I wanted to count how many steps there were from the base of the square to the Trinità dei Monti Church at the very top, which they were remodeling. (I just looked it up on Wikipedia: 135!) The Steps are rich with history and culture, built by French diplomats and Bourbon kings sometime in the 18th century. Surrounding them are tall buildings, designer stores, government centers, & one apartment building had a sign out front noting “The English poet John Keats died here.” After milling about and taking pictures on the steps, we found ourselves wandering through a diverse neighborhood of stores mixed in with historic monuments. It was like Ancient Roma had their famous statues and monuments spread out throughout the city, and built newer shops and larger buildings around them. And we were navigating around the different sites with a map! Normally I am horrible at reading maps, but luckily the one we were following that we got from our hotel was relatively easy to figure out. We slowly moved our way through the winding streets, marking well-known spots that we would visit along the way. We had no agenda or sense of direction really, but that was the best part. It was almost like getting lost in both the ancient past and the hopeful present. Roaming around central Roma, stumbling upon rare shops and magnificent artwork and “plazza” squares that are hundreds of years old, and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a Roman in such a rich and beautiful place. From the famous historic landmarks, to all the touristy stuff (such as throwing coins in the Fontana di Trevi… that was a challenge), exploring the city was truly fantastico. Rome, you have my heart.