26

Back in Sweden after a very long week. But it still was over so fast. I am now older than when I left (which I could have said even if it wasn’t my birthday today, but it is a cliché, and sometimes clichés are fun), but I don’t feel too much different.

The day started with a nice surprise at breakfast at the hotel in Rome. The personnel gave me a pastry with a candle in it and wished me a happy birthday! That was so sweet of them. The green juice is green apple juice, really tasty.

We packed, and then drove out to the beach in Ostia, we just picked the closest one, Mamma Mia Beach. It was not as warm today, only around 19C, and a bit windy, so no swimming in the ocean for me. But I felt the water, it was cold (it wouldn’t have been impossible to go in, but I preferred to sit in the warm sand and enjoying the sun rather than shivering in the wind). We were there for about 45 minutes and then we had to leave for the airport which was only 15 minutes away. We had lunch, did a little shopping, boarded the plane and flew home to cold Gothenburg.

It is nice to be home, but I miss the sun and the warmth. You would think that it would be warmer than 6C here now in April…

Mom picked us up at the airport, drove us home and we went shopping. Late dinner in front of the movie Trolls, consisting of entrecote, potato gratin and pepper sauce. No cake for dessert since they didn’t have any at the store, but some Easter candy and a Budapest pastry.

It honestly didn’t really feel like my birthday today, but it really hasn’t the past few ones either. Downsides of getting older, eh?

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Countryside Italy

Today was such a beautiful and fun day! It didn’t feel like we did too much walking, but my phone tells me this was my best day yet, 22,800 (accumulating: 121,800 steps in 6 days). We had to leave the apartment at 9am but we couldn’t check in at the hotel until noon, so we took the car, drove south to a lake we had seen on Google Maps. That was a good choice. The lake was called Lago Albano and it looked like a volcano crater, which is also is, I just double checked. The city was the cutest ever! It was placed on the hillside with an amazing view over the lake. There was only 8,800 inhabitants. Super cute town. After we checked it out for a bit, we drove down in the crater to walk a bit on the beach. The beach was black, which made sense since it was a volcanic crater. Such a pretty place. Here is a link to a sphere photo which I uploaded to Google Maps.

We then just kept on driving and found ourselves in another small village called Rocca di Papa. It was also on a hillside but more spread out. We saw one old man walking on the tangled road beneath us (when we were standing on the highest point we could find for a great view) with 6 big bottles of water, waddling along to his house further down.

We then drove back to Rome and to our hotel for the night, Pulitzer Roma. It is not much on the outside, but it is cute on the inside, and they have a dog mascot, a black and white cocker spaniel. Adorable! The lady in charge (I think) is super nice. We had lunch at the hotel and then decided to go into Rome today instead of Ostia since we got a parking space right outside the hotel door! It literally couldn’t have been better. So tomorrow we are going to Ostia instead after checking out and then going straight to the airport from there since it is very close. In Rome we walked around a bit to see the big things one last time. We saw Colosseum twice, Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi, had dinner at Piazza del Popolo and I bought a new backpack, a wine red Herschel. Really cool one. An early birthday present to myself!

Pompeii

This was a very special day! In 18500 steps, we have seen some stuff, but it is everything around the sceneries we have seen today that will make this day memorable. Okey, sure, Pompeii was really awesome to see, but today was the perfect example of how much of a struggle it is to pursue a lifelong dream.

Okay, let’s start from the top, by renting a car. We had booked a car through http://www.rentalcars.com, got a really good price and that should have been the first warning bell. Renting a car is NEVER easy and you never get away with a good deal (except when I was on Puerto Rico and got several hundred dollar cheaper, during Christmas, for some reason). But before we could get to the car rental place (GoldCar) at the airport, we had to get to the airport. We left a bit late from the apartment and were a bit stressed. We had approximately 4.5minutes at Termini (the train station in central Rome) after we arrive by Metro to buy tickets and find the track. We actually managed, but the train saw us running and held the doors for us. Crazy! The train arrived 15 minutes late for some reason, but we still made it to 10am. Luck! When we get there and are presenting passport, drivers license and credit card… oh wait, we only have debit cards… Nope nope, no car. They told us Sicily by Car accepted debit cards, so we called RentalCars.com and made them change our reservation. She was very helpful, but she couldn’t rent it until 12:00. I talked to the guy at the desk and he said that it was weird that we got a car, when they didn’t have any. He had to make several phonecalls, change our insurance thingy, I had to transfer money and talk to RentalCars.com again. So, at 11:am we had a car (we must have been his most annoying customers today) and was driving south toward Pompeii. We got a Smart ForFour, not too bad actually. For a smart car it is decent size (all the cars here by the way are tiiiiiny). At 3pm we arrived in Pompeii after paying A LOT on road tolls. We spent so much money today on this trip.

So, finally down at Pompeii we realized the archeological site was huuuuge! We got an audio tour but were told to only go to 3 regions out of the 9 because we only had a little bit more than 3 hours, 6 would be needed, at least, for the whole site. We were tired, so it was enough for us.

We went through most of Region VII, VIII, I, and II. It was really cool. I am surprised at how well preserved it all was! I guess a lot of it was restored, but it didn’t say exactly what was restored. I think most of the walls where the original though, which is what made the whole site seem like a real city. There was a Forum, there were some of the casts of people (I honestly thought there were more, or maybe they were in the Regions we didn’t go to?), there were baths and lots of houses and temples. Even a temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of Nature. I am not going into details about stuff, because I would probably get most of it done. But I wish I could have seen it when it was a living city. It seemed like a really pretty place. And the baths with incredible architectural solutions to saunas and hot baths. Impressive! There was also an amphitheatre, supposedly the oldest one, and definitely the most well-preserved one. Colosseum was built on flat land and just up ~50 meters. Before, they built theatres on slopes (amphitheatre means double theatre), and this was built the same way. But instead of building it on a oval slope, they dug a pit and from ground level you have to go down to reach the arena.

The pictures are not sorted unfortunately. I am too tired to name them all now, but I will eventually! Here is also a link to a sphere photo I took at the amphitheatre.

When we were done we had to fill up the car and we managed to do it without speaking a single word in English. We were too tired to try and find a cute restaurant in Naples (most of them were in small street like in Rome, and with the car, it would have been too much of a hassle), so we decided to go to McDonalds so we could get back to Rome quickly). We found a very native shopping center where I think we were the only tourists.

2.5 hours driving, not without bumps, before we arrived in Rome. First, I turned off the GPS too early, so Jesper missed the correct entryway to the freeway, so instead of missing a toll station, we went through TWO (4 euros total) when first going the wrong direction and then going back in the right direction. Then we had several cars flashing their high beams and making weird things with their hands at us. It took as a long time to realize it had something to do with our lights. I am not sure what exactly, but they stopped after Jesper turned on a thing on the wheel. To make up for Jespers mistake earlier during the drive, I forgot to tell Jesper what exit to take from the freeway, which resulted in driving around a bit and 1.30 euro extra in the toll (it was 14:50 on the way down and 16:30 on the way up, it is just a price you pay when you are driving between Rome and Naples, for some unknown reason). We got back okay, we had spent tons of money today, Pompeii by car was expensive!!!

In the papers we got before going here to stay in this apartment, it said where there was a garage nearby. We drove there, looked nice enough. The guy didn’t speak any English, after a lot of hand gestures and a little bit of Google Translate, we gave him the car keys and told him we would be back at 9am. I hope this ends well for us, cross your fingers for us!

Long and crazy day with many events even if we only had one thing on the agenda. Pompeii was really cool, it was much more than I expected. I think it would have been nice to have a real guide there. For next time; I want to climb Mount Vesuvio!

 

We have packed most of our stuff, cleaned as best as we can, and are ready to leave the apartment tomorrow by 9am. On tomorrow’s agenda is driving around outside of Rome and going to Ostia, both the beach and the archeological site. It will be as warm tomorrow as today, about 22 C. On the freeway down it was as hot as 26 at one point! By the way, Italy in the spring is so beautiful! So many mountains, so much light green, we even saw a snowcapped mountain top. We only saw this from the car, but so pretty!

Ancient Rome

Today was all about exploring ancient Rome and we did it with 21,000 steps. The soles of my feet don’t hurt anymore, I am getting used to this lifestyle. Like I have stated at another time, I so wish that I could remember more from the World Architechure class I took a couple of years ago in California. I recognized names of monuments, but not exactly what about it! So frustrating that school today works like this. You learn for the exam and then forget once you pass the exam.

It was great that we had a tour guide for Colosseum! She was great and showed us the dungeon levels and the top levels which are restricted and only for groups. Exclusive. Very interesting too! More than 50% of the Colosseum is gone and none of the seatings are left. They have tried to reconstruct it in one place. You could not see the tunnels going around the whole amphitheatre under the seatings. 50,000 – 75,000 said the guide and all of them could be evacuated within 15 minutes. Crazy! In the dungeons where 15 rows where animals and props were kept. There were lots and lots of mechanisms to take up animal cages and scenery to the stage floor which had as many “trap doors”. The floor was made completely of wood and that’s why none of it remains after ~2000 years. The holes in the walls all around the amphitheatre was explained by one of the group members. The big blocks were held together by iron clamps, and during times of need they were looted and left were big holes. Makes sense. The gladiators didn’t live in the dungeon (like I thought for some reason), but in baracks which were connected with the dungeon level via tunnels. Ludus Magnus was one barack where they lived and was a ruin close by. I am sure she said much more, but I can’t remember it now. If you go to Rome, book a tour, just walking around doesn’t give much more than a spectacular view. Here is a pretty good spehere picture I took.

After the 75 minute long tour we were hungry and had lunch at a restaurant nearby called Naumachia, nothing super special (the pizza at the other place the other day was much better), but I do think we sat on a table next to a couple of celebrities, or at least one. I recognized the British woman. But it took me a long time before I realized who she looked like. Cat Deelay, the host of So You Think You Can Dance. I am not 100% it was her, but she and the man she was sitting with got nervous when they saw Jesper’s gigantic camera, haha!

We then entered Palatine Hills and The Forum which was included in our Colosseum ticket. We walked around in there for hours. It was a big park with so many ruins! And since it was so big, the people in there were scattered, so it felt peaceful to walk around in there. It was warm (21C), clear sky, it was perfect! I think we discussed Palatine Hill (Hill of Palace, where emperors lived) in the course because I recognized names, but not much more). It was very pretty anyway. But I have to admit that the information plates where not very informative.

The Forum, a very famous place in ancient Rome, was in the same park. I remember the Forum being a place of big importance and that was clearly visible by how many big monuments there were. I know I have been in both Westminster Abbey and St. Peter’s Basilica, but when I saw the half that remained of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, I truly had a moment of awe! The arches were huge when you saw it as a section! How could they build like that? (I had the same line of questions while seeing those other two too (and others in Europe))

We then went for ice cream at the Magnum shop we found yesterday. There you could design your own ice cream. Super fun concept and super fancy ice creams! I had a vanilla ice cream with white chocolate coating and tried cherry, meringue, crispy gold as topping, with milk chocolate drizzle. Yummy! We then walked around a bit around Piazza di Spagna, window shopping and then sitting down to eat dinner and back to the apartment.

Tomorrow we are picking up a rental car and will have it until we leave on Tuesday. So our big plan for tomorrow is Pompeii!! I have wanted to see it since I was like ten, so this is kind of a dream come true! I am so excited!! We will also look at Naples while we are down there, probably find a cosy restaurant.

 

A touristy day

My left foot hurts pretty bad, not under, but on top! It hurts all the time, but sometimes it gets really bad and I almost stumble because it feels like the skin on top of my foot is peeled off, except there is nothing visible on the foot. It is super weird and a fairly big bummer. I will survive, and a little pain is not gonna stop me from enjuying this vacation! I untied my shoelace after dinner and then it got kinda okay.

19,600 steps today (accumulative ~58,000), even though we didn’t leave the apartment until 1pm. Since we were gonna stay out longer today for some night time photography, we decided to spare our feet and sleep a little longer today. We made lunch, canneloni, planned the day and went out.

Our first thing was to print the voucher for Colosseum. It took us a long time to find a place to print it and we were redirected from several tourist information centers who just sent us to another one. We finally find a place, the guy inside only spoke Italian, but it worked out and we have now the voucher. It says on the voucher that it MUST be printed, and that it won’t suffice with a mobile device. I have read that before, but I don’t want to take any chances this time.

Our next stop for the day was The Museum and Crypt of the Capuchins (Convento dei Frati Cappuccini). Since the Capuchins Monks are a current religious group, the museum kinda felt like a try of conversion. I did not find the museum particuarly interesting, but I learned a few things, that for example Capuchins means small hoods (because the monks and friars had small hoods). The crypt was why we went there. Several rooms with skeletons. We saw the one in Paris and thought it could be cool to have seen something similar in Rome. But no, nothing similar at all. In Paris the catacombs were used as burial sites since diseases were spread in the cematary’s. But here, the bones of previous monks (around 4,000 it said) and Christians were placed in architectural designs. For a crypt, it felt weird that it was aboveground with windows. It also felt really tacky to “glue” skeletal parts on the ceiling and on the walls. It felt disrespectful and honestly a lot crepy! If you compare it to the catacombs in Paris where they just stored the skeletons of, I can’t remember, but MANY, deceased ordinary people. Sure, there were some formations, but it was different. We were not allowed to take photos in there. But use Google, you will find something on how it looked!

We then walked on to the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti). Like with the Trevi Fountain, there were too many people there. And our last stop in the daylight was Hard Rock Cafe. We had burgers, Jesper ordered a couple of drinks, we shared a desert and got our 18th glass. I can’t believe I have been to 18 Hard Rock Cafés around the world. Crazy.

 

It then got dark, and Jesper wanted to try his photographing skills. We first walked to Fontana di Trevi. There were as many people there in the dark as during the day. It was pretty though, and I got some good photos. Jesper was too tired to look at his more closely.

We then walked to Forum Romanum, took some pictures there and lastly walked to Colosseum. It is hard to take good pictures in the dark. But it was pretty there. I am really excited for the tour we are doing there tomorrow.

 

Vatican City

Last night we had a little bit of a freakout, we hadn’t booked any tours before coming here, so we looked into it last night. Our plan was to go to the Vatican today, Colosseum on Friday, and Pompeii on either Saturday or Sunday. We have one of those three things figured out. We booked a tour to both Vatican City and Colosseum, but today we found out the Colosseum tour was already full so we had to book it for another day. I think we knew that it would be full-booked, but we still didn’t book anything in advance. So I encourage you all planning to go to Rome, book everything in advance, at least Colosseum! We have rebooked the Colosseum tour for Saturday morning, I just hope that one is not full as well. Otherwise the only option I know of is early on Tuesday morning, on the day we are leaving. Let’s cross our fingers for Saturday!

Anyway, we booked through the official website of the Vatican Museums and picked a tour of the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the St. Peter’s Basilica. It was interesting, the tour guide had been in the Vatican for 50 years or something, as a guard and something else. Pretty cool. He knew a lot. What was not so fun about it was that we were not alone. There were approximately 1,340,292 other people there. It was hard to see anything, you could hardly see the floor you were walking on! Too many people. I also wish we could have stayed a little bit longer in the Sistine Chapel to watch the paintings a little bit longer. So many details everywhere! St. Peter’s Basilica was really cool! Church architecture is, but I am kinda bummed that I don’t remember too much from the World Architecture class I took at Cal Poly 2.5 years ago. Probably a third of that course was about ancient Rome. I feel kinda lost here in general and don’t know much about the pretty old buildings I take lots of pictures on. And honestly, I am too tired to try and do any research on it now afterwards. It is still pretty, and as a fan of architecture, I really enjoy this city.

After the Vatican we were already tired (it was around 12:30pm). We found a cute restaurant called Polese and had pizza there. I had a proscuitto pizza and it was incredible! The crust was the thinnest I have ever seen!

We then walked along to Pantheon which was incredible. I remember the professor talking a lot about it and it felt really cool to be there and see it with my own eyes. But like I said before, I don’t really remember exactly what it was. I think something about it withstanding WWII, but still being damaged from it?

Our next stop was Fontana di Trevi. We found the people before the fountain. Crazy many people there! But the fountain was so pretty! If there weren’t that many people there, I would have loved to sit there with a gelato in the sun, just watching the water.

We walked 19,000 steps today (accumulating to 39,000 in two days) so we took many breaks, right after the fountain we sat down for a Swedish fika with ice cream, coffee, and something sweet.

The last thing we did for the day was trying to find the GAP store so I could buy a new pair of favorite jeans. I bought a pair of True Skinny jeans in San Francisco some years ago but they have been worn so much that I feel that it is time to get a new pair. 600 SEK for a pair of awesome jeans was so cheap! I also bought a pair of more fancy pants for 300 for future situations when my normal style of clothes does not fit the occasion. I wish we had GAP in Sweden.

Then we just walked around, found a square (Piazza del Popolo), saw a staircase up to a house where it looked like a great view (Piazza Napoleone I). We will go back there tomorrow when it is dark to get some real nice photographs. My soles didn’t hurt today, but my calves when we got back, and the top of my feet has been hurting since this afternoon. So much walking! We have decided to take it a bit slow tomorrow, sleep until 10am, plan our day with museums and such, Hard Rock Café in the evening and some photographing in the evening.

Here, enjoy a bunch of pictures from today (only mine, not Jesper’s, I might post some of them when we get back home).

All the roads lead to Rome

I wouldn’t say that I am out of shape, but I am definitely out of shape when it comes to walking and standing up. It is out of season for Liseberg, so I am not used to this much walking. Today we reached 20,600 steps, crazy amount of steps!

So it wasn’t a bump free ride to go to Rome. Six hours before our flight took off last night, Jesper realized that his passport had expired a month earlier. He paid a huge amount of money to get a provisional passport (it is extremely pink!). The flight was more than half empty, I don’t think I have ever flown with that few people on board. It only took 2.5 hours, I finished Harry Potter and the Deahtly Hallows (amazing ending to the story, the review was not that well-written, I apolgize, I might change it someday when I am not as tired as I am now), slept a little bit and watched a thunderstorm over the Alps somewhere, really cool to see lightning from above the clouds.

Our second bump arose at the airport in Rome at 11pm when our pre-booked taxi driver didn’t show up. There was a miscommunication we learned this morning, they needed a reconfirmation from us that the price would change since our apartment was outside the city limits, but at the end of our confirmation email it also said that they were happy to have confirmed this with us. So we got to the apartment a little bit later than we planned, but it worked out very well anyway. There was a shuttle service at the airport with fixed prices 20 euro per person. Very friendly and helpful people.

The apartment is a little bit outside the city limits and very nice. There are two big balconies. One much bigger than the other one and the “small” one is bigger than most standard balconies in Sweden. Pretty great. Unfortunately, there are only singles bed, and I was afraid of falling down between them during the night.

Today we slept until 10am, went out to the grocery store (crazy store where the aisles wouldn’t fit more than one person, and there were also a ton of easter eggs, we couldn’t resist and bought one, it was basically just a big Kinder Egg, delicious and with a super big Star Wars toy inside) to buy breakfast, then had breakfast in the sun on the balcony. The whole day has been around 20C and a little bit cloudy. Perfect for walking around a big city. We left the apartment at 1pm approx, bought a week pass for the metro and buses and went to the city where our promenade started. We didn’t have any plans for today, just walk around, look at things, and plan for tomorrow, tonight instead. So we walked, and walked, and walked, and took lots of pictures. I actually only took 65. Jesper borrowed his dad’s professional camera and has taken most of the pictures.

I am honestly not sure what we photographed today, there are so many old and special buildings. I might write descriptions other days.

So here comes a bunch of pictures from today.

Ramses crawled inside one of our bags before leaving yesterday.