This is exactly how I wrote the email to the family on 8 March 2012. Added these pictures in afterwards.
Hi everyone ☺
I’m on the train to London right now, so I thought I should write down my Rome experiences while it’s all still fresh.
On the March 1st, we left for Rome – left school at 8 am, left the UK at 11 am. We reached Rome at around 3 in the afternoon. We got to our hostel at 5 pm. The weather was amazing the entire trip, sunny and warm (especially in comparison to Wales). Our hostel was very close to the main train station of the city. At 7 that night we went out for dinner (very early). We were too tired to venture far that night, but we had a very nice meal close to where we were staying. In Rome, we learnt the first night, you have to “pay for the tablecloth.”
The second day we head out as a group, with the three teachers that went with us, leading us through the different sites of Rome. It was a walk through the city. We went by the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps (Piazza Spagna), Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona. So after about 3 hours of (almost) non-stop walking and getting a feel for what the city is like, we were left to do what we pleased. Every day we had check-in at the hostel (more like check-out) at 10 am and 6:30 pm. In order to keep within our budgets for the trip, we started buying things at the supermarket and bringing them back to the hostel…and also carrying them around.
The next day, we went to the Ancient Rome sites –the Coliseum area. It was an amazing experience – everything in Ancient Rome is so majestic! Then we went to the monument of Vittorio Emanuele, the first king of a unified Italy. It was designed in 1885, and built in the early 20th century; fairly recent in comparison to its neighbor, Ancient Rome. It is built on the Italian unification museum, which has a great view of a lot of the sites from its roof. There is a panoramic elevator which gives a 360 view of Rome, but we didn’t go up there (cost money, hehe) but the view from the roof was amazing enough! After a supermarket lunch in a piazza, we walked back to the hostel for check in.
We walked to Trastevere that night. Trastevere is almost at the other end of Rome in terms of where we were staying. It was a long walk because we got a little lost – everyone we asked for directions pointed us a different way. We ended up at the Pantheon twice before getting to Trastevere…but Rome is very beautiful at night, and as a result of this night, we know Rome very very well! After eating nice dinner (we had a lot of money saved up from all the supermarket lunch and the crafty breakfast schemes), we went to Campo de’ Fiori which is very close to Piazza Navona, almost straight north from Trastevere. Campo de’ Fiori literally translated means field of flowers because that’s what it used to be, and all of the roads that lead to it are named after different trades.
Sunday we went to Ostia Antica. This was the harbor town of Ancient Rome. It was a 20 minute train ride away from where we were staying. I really liked Ostia Antica – it was more of a park than a site. We were able to climb on top of all of the ruins…so many great pictures! We had a letter from our school written in Italian, which we called the “magic letter” because it got us into many of the sites free/very cheap and we got to skip a lot of lines (especially in the Vatican and Coliseum area). I took my camera out for the first time this day because within the first three days almost everyone’s cameras were full! I had been saving my memory for exactly this reason (don’t worry, I’ll be getting all the pictures from everyone else’s cameras into my computer) – hardly anyone took their laptops or camera wires with them because we had to travel all on hand luggage; we didn’t have checked in baggage because that would cost extra money. So that was another experience – trying to get everything for a week (more than a week in my case, since I’m going to London now for work experience in a hospital), into a bag that they would accept onto the plane!
The next day, and last full day in Rome, we went to Vatican City! It’s the only “country” that my little sisters had been to but I hadn’t, until yesterday! By this day, everyone’s feet were dead! We had been walking non-stop for the past few days; day and night! So we convinced our teachers to take the metro to the Vatican, because it was on the other side of town, on the other side of the river. The metro in Rome is very reasonable in terms of price – 75 minutes ticket for metro, bus, tram cost 1 euro, and 24-hour ticket is 4 euros. Which I think the teachers were trying to make sure we didn’t find out until now because walking really made us get a real feel for Rome and if we had started taking the metro from the beginning, we wouldn’t really have seen anything…and Rome is small enough to walk around everywhere! …especially with New York walking stamina.
But the Vatican was amazingly beautiful. Even with our aching feet we made ourselves walk through every single room of the Musei Vaticani to get to the Sisteen Chapel. It was awesome, to the full extent of the word. Then we went to the basilica. Then we walked to the Castel Sant’ Angelo where one of the popes had taken refuge during the sack of Rome, sometime in the 16th century.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never before walked this much in my life, my feet still ache, and I’ve been sleeping all day (all through the journey), but it was an amazing trip!
All the street vendors in Rome are from Bangladesh. They sell different things – all of the souvenirs in front of the sites and sunglasses. Because it was amazing weather, almost everyone needed sunglasses. I used my Bangla skills, and got us all sunglasses at minimal prices. Bangla was a much more useful language to know than Italian, in Italy!
The flight back from Rome was great. This particular crew on EasyJet was an amazing one. The person giving the announcements was hilarious. In the beginning he was like: in a few moments we’re going to be giving the safety announcements, which I’m sure most of you heard only a few days ago, but don’t worry, it’ll only last a couple of minutes. And the most efficient way of handing out landing cards ever – everyone who was a non-UK/EU, was asked to put on their attendant buttons and so they went and gave them landing cards instead of asking everyone and missing people out. And then later on, at the end of the flight, right before landing: please make sure you turn off your electronic appliances such as your toaster, electric saw, microwave, (the list went on and on). Hilarious man.
The train is quite empty too. I have a table seat and there’s no one else at the table, so I’ve spread out quite nicely and am charging all of my electronic appliances.