Sometimes when you’ve got a dozen exams to revise for, a ton of essay deadlines, an abundance of year abroad forms to fill in and an entire summer to plan, the best thing that you can do is take a break from it all and remember that there is a life outside of the university bubble. So over Easter, I put down the Russian literature books and escaped to Italy for a week with my family.
I’m almost 20; about to embark on my 3rd year abroad and my Dad has just landed a new job in New Zealand, so we knew it was going to be the last Manjunath family holiday for a long time. All the more reason to go somewhere that none of us had ever been before and although we have a pretty impressive travel repertoire between the 3 of us, Italy had somehow slipped under the radar.
Of course I was super excited when we decided on Rome, mainly because I thought I was about to create my very own sequel to the Lizzie McGuire movie. Unfortunately, the closest I got to meeting an italian popstar called Paolo, was meeting an italian pigeon… who I then named Paolo, but let’s not dwell on broken childhood dreams. Instead let’s focus on the REAL charm of Italy’s eternal city.
Here are my top 5 favourite parts of our holiday:
It’s not technically in Rome, in fact it’s a country in it’s own right, so I’m going to count Vatican City as a separate ‘must see’ (I’m cheating, I couldn’t pick just 5). Despite not being religious, I still found the trip really interesting.The artwork is fantastic, although Michaelangelo’s fresco in the sistene chapel was kind of underwhelming in my opinion. I imagined it to be huge with bold, vivid colours and instead it was a small, dark painting that I found myself squinting at to see properly. But despite that, it was a great day. We relaxed in the gardens, ate lots of pasta and clued up on key art, history and religion knowledge.
5) We stumbled across Piazza Navona on our way to the Pantheon (the oldest Roman temple still standing!). Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend much time here or take many photos because my Mom lost her phone and it involved some seriously frantic retracing of steps to find it! Luckily, it was returned safe and sound giving us a few spare minutes to soak up the atmosphere in this busy square. It’s a really vibrant, place filled with live music, cute cafés and quirky street performers. I would totally recommend a quick lunch stop here or simply just a rest on the benches to listen to the sounds of the city.
4) Okay, so let’s ignore the fact that Lizzie and Paolo filmed a key scene here; the Trevi Fountain has always been on my bucket list of things to see! Legend has it that if you throw 1 coin into the fountain then it means you will return to Rome again in the future. 2 coins and your wish will come true but 3 coins means you’re going to fall in love with an Italian and never leave! It’s a shame I only had 2 coins in my pocket…
3) When I was younger I was hooked on the ‘Horrible Histories’ books, and so a visit to the Colosseum and Roman Forum definitely ignited the nerd in me. It’s one of the busiest tourist attractions in Rome, and I can see why! We got there early and had our tickets in advance, so we managed to experience it without having to fight through crowds of people. It’s amazing to see the ruins of an ancient stadium and also interesting to learn so much about italian gladiators. I always thought they were big, strong men but in fact they were mostly short, stumpy, bald slaves… Imagine that!
2) Our day spent in the Villa Borghese Gardens was probably my favourite. Not only because the weather was fantastic, but because they were filled with interesting and fun things to do. There’s paddle boats and segways, tandem bikes and play areas, museums, a zoo and lush views everywhere you look. Most people forget about the acres of greenery when they imagine Rome but this is a truly beautiful place to relax. Similar to Balboa Park in San Diego, it provides a whole days worth of entertainment. I would LOVE to come back here with friends one day.
1) But I have to say, the highlight of our trip was easily the gelato. Our hotel was next to Termini station but we would still walk for 20 minutes EVERY single night just to reach our gelato haven: Gelateria Valentino. It’s a small family business just a few steps away from the Trevi Fountain and doesn’t look any different to the other gelaterias on offer, but the flavour choices, the affordable price and the perfectly creamy consistency made it the best sweet treat in Rome for us. The unanimous Manjunath favourite was the cinnamon, my Mom even cried a little bit when there was none left on our last night, but thankfully pistachio was a worthy substitute. Crisis averted!
Believe it or not, we managed to squeeze in two day trips to Florence and Pompeii, which I would 100% recommend to anyone with spare time. Even though the weather was terrible, affecting our plans to climb Mt. Vesuvius and causing us to spend the whole day in Florence under an umbrella, we still had a fantastic time.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a ‘revision week’ and although I now need to learn pages and pages of notes in just a few days, I’d say it was totally worth it! There’s more to life than exam results and I’m glad I could discover that in the beautiful city of Rome.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”