I have had the opportunity to visit Italy twice (and I hope many more times to come.) My times in Rome were filled with copious amounts of gelato, failed attempts at flirting with handsome Italian men, and a constant awe of the historic sites that dot the city.
The first time I went to Rome was for a FOCUS mission trip. I won’t go into the details of said trip since I mentioned it in a previous post before (First Things First), but it was such an incredible experience! This was where my love story with Mother Teresa began; I got to serve along side the Missionaries of Charity and do homeless ministry in Termini, handing out paninis and attempting to communicate in very poor Italian and hand gestures. I was so touched by their hospitality and willingness to love. One lady in particular really impacted me. She had this cardboard box that functioned as her house with pillows strewn all over, serving as her “floor”. She invited us inside and started to read us poems she’d written. We mentioned the name Jesus and tears started to fill her eyes. She told us how she’d always wanted to be a writer and had the confidence that Jesus would help her fulfill that goal one day (I also accidentally walked through a Swedish popstar’s music video, lol.)
My second trip was for a study abroad program focused on studying the Blue Zone of Sardinia; we had the chance to stay in Rome for a few extra days (which of course I said HECK YES to) and I got the chance to be a tourist! I loved wandering the streets by myself and ended up taking a day trip to the Vatican on my own. (I am actually pretty terrible at reading maps but managed to sharpen this skill while abroad) Anyhow, I ended up somewhat lost while attempting to make it to St. Peter’s Square. Along the way I met the sweetest lady from Milan who also looked a little lost. She saw the puzzled look on my face and asked me in Italian if I knew how to get to the Vatican.
I noticed that Europeans treated me muuuuch kinder when I told them that I was from Mexico and only spoke Spanish. Much to my surprise (actually it’s not that surprising, Europeans are usually at least trilingual) she said she knew some Spanish since she had studied Flamenco dancing in Madrid. Together we made it to St. Peter’s Basilica and kept each other company up until entering the massive structure. I learned that Milan is actually very cold, she was super annoyed at the fact that they were building a Starbucks there, and that she hated the way English sounds (thank goodness I pretended not to be American hahaha).
Rome holds such a special place in my heart and I hope to be back one day! Here are some tidbits/highlights if you ever find yourself in the Eternal City:
- You definitely want to visit the Spanish Steps early; they can get super crowded FAST and I just loved the calm feel of pre-tourist attack.
- My absolute favorite gelaterias were Frigidarium (located in Piazza Navona) & Gelateria de Cerchi!
- The view from Castle San’t Angelo is SO WORTH IT; Better than the one from atop St. Peter’s.
- Ask for peperocino on anything if you love spicy foods (I really missed hot sauce while abroad and could only manage to located a small bottle of tabasco sauce while in a liquor store.)
- Put your phone down. Trust me, you’ll end up wondering why you needed 10248235830 pictures of cathedrals. Just enjoy the moment, snap a pic or two, and soak up all the Italian goodness.