I woke up the morning of my second full day in Italy and ate breakfast at the hostel with a South African guy I had met the day before. We talked about travel and his job as a set designer, which provided lots of opportunities to travel, including to Ourzazate here in Morocco. Then, checking out but leaving my bag at the desk at the hostel, I wandered around the city some more, eventually winding up at the same café I had spent a couple hours in the day before. (That cute waiter may have had *something* to do with it, but not as much as the tiramisu. Priorities.)
I was waiting for a Whatsapp from my mom to know they had landed and made it through security at the airport, but as noon came and went, I figured she hadn’t been able to connect to the airport wifi. So I set out to find their hotel, our meeting point. To see more of the city, I decided to walk. It was a couple miles, and by the time I arrived, I was confident my parents would be waiting for me there.
Rather higher budget than my backpacker hostel, Hotel Madrid was located on a lovely cobbled street near the Spanish Steps. Sure enough, my parents had told the receptionist I was coming, and he informed me of their room number. I knocked, and my mom opened the door. Since we hadn’t seen each other in six months, we spent the next hour catching up and getting organized in the hotel. Between the holidays I had missed and my upcoming birthday, they had brought me several presents, so I had my own little Christmas morning, scattering wrapping paper across the hotel room floor.
Then, in an effort to beat the jet lag, my parents powered through the lack of sleep on the plane, and we spent the afternoon exploring. We saw the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon, ate some pizza, and then walked around the Coliseum. Then we returned to the hotel separately, because I had to stop back by my hostel for my backpack. When I arrived at the Metro stop near the Spanish steps, I exited in the wrong direction, and emerged into the evening sunlight in a forest of umbrella pines outside the city walls. Oops. Instead of going back through the metro, which probably would have been easier, I spent at least 30 minutes finding my way out of the park and back into the city, eventually turning up at the hotel. There was a different receptionist this time, and with my hiking backpack and sneakers and sweaty face from my detour, I must have looked like the kind of riff raff that doesn’t stay in nice hotels, because he graciously asked me to leave. Only once I had given him my dad’s name and room number did he permit me past the front desk.
The next day, we crossed the river and had our Vatican tour. I had bought tickets online beforehand for skip-the-line passes and a tour. I suppose it was worth it, because the line was shorter, but there was still a lot of waiting. The whole experience of lines and crowds reminded me of a theme park. While the art and architecture were, of course, incredible, it was not my favorite part of the trip. I loved our guide Nicoleta and her accent, but she was long-winded and I was relieved when the informational part of the tour was over and we could wander the massive cathedral at our leisure.
Afterward, we found a lovely little outdoor café by the river called the “Bibliobar,” half library, half restaurant. The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed sandwiches, beer (Dad), wine (Mom), and milkshakes (me, because I’m barely a real adult) with a view of the river and the Vatican. It was idyllic. That evening, we ate pasta and gelato. We tried to eat our gelato sitting on the Spanish steps before we were politely informed by the Polizia that this is, in fact, illegal. Sorry Roma! So we ate near the steps and enjoyed people-watching until it was dark.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and then took a taxi to Ciampino, the smaller of Rome’s two airports. We were unnecessarily early, and there was not enough seating at the gate, so we had to wait for about two hours standing around or sitting on the floor. So for future travelers, if you fly out of Ciampino, just know that it’s not the kind of airport where you can sit in a café near your gate and charge your devices while you wait comfortably for your flight. Better to enjoy one more cappuccino in Rome and then aim to arrive maybe 90 minutes before your departure.
Eventually, we boarded our RyanAir flight and took off for Morocco.