Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend for One

July 13, 2008

With the weekend coming to a close, I think it's safe to say it was "interesting". It had its ups and downs, maybe more of the latter though, in the form of bus troubles... Anyway, as the title of this post implies, I was solo for the weekend, as three of my roommates went to Bologna to look for housing for the year and my other two roommates took an impromptu trip to Sicily. I had been looking forward to having the apartment to myself though and had planned a few day trips to little towns just outside Rome to keep myself occupied for the three-day weekend. But along the way I encountered a few "hiccups". Thursday night our internet suddenly went out and lasted until Saturday night. I know it seems vain and material to need the internet, but here it is basically my only source of info and my primary way of contacting anyone with Skype. So without it, I wasn't able to double check the details of my trips, like how to get there and what to do. Basically, I had to go off what I remembered reading a few days before. Also, my cell phone ran out of money, so I literally had no way of contacting anyone for anything! Not a very comforting feeling when you're in a foreign country on your own... It was also a really bad weekend to be disconnected because my mom had her surgery Friday and I couldn't easily find out how it went, etc. And honestly, it got a little lonely after three days by myself. And without internet or homework, I had nothing to do in the evenings, so my boredom resulted in movie marathons Friday and Saturday night. I also wanted to mention Thursday briefly... We had our midterm, which was pretty tough, but Carly and I got the most amazing gelato (Tiramisu and Ferraro-Rocher flavors) which made it a little better! Anyway, enough ranting and on to my day trips!
Friday was great! I took a bus to Tivoli, a beautiful little hillside town about 40 minutes outside Rome. It's famous for its villas Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este, but I only made it to the latter. Villa d'Este is a vast, absolutely gorgeous villa with unbelievable gardens, overrun with incredible fountains (it boasts 51+ fountains!). Words really cannot do this place justice; it was simply breathtaking. It was so nice to get out of bustling, humid, dusty Rome and enjoy the fresh air and relaxed environment of the hillside. Some of the highlights included the walkway of Le Cento Fontane, or the Hundred Fountains, the huge Neptune Fountain with the three ponds at the bottom, and the spectacular views of the countryside. The grounds were also filled with these mini lemon trees that I just fell in love with : ) As a nice surprise, I saw a pretty rainbow at the bottom of one of the fountains! I roamed the gardens for quite some time, taking too many pictures and drinking in the beauty, before I called it a day. Since I'm only posting a few pics in this post, please check out the Facebook album called Villa d'Este to see the rest (the link is under the post "Photo Album Links"), it is absolutely necessary to understand exactly how incredible this place is!
Saturday was not quite as smooth or fun as Friday. I had been planning on visiting Frascati, another hillside town famous for its fresh air and food and wine. I had gotten some info about it online previously, but because of the internet situation, I couldn't check it before I went, so I decided to just go for it... It didn't go very well though. I made it there fine, but once I got there I had no idea what to see or where to go. The main villa I wanted to check out, Villa Aldobrandini, turned out to be closed on weekends, so after wandering for a bit I decided to head back to Rome. Here the problems ensued. I asked a bus driver which bus to take to Rome, and he pointed to one that was just leaving in the lane next to him, but I missed it, so when the next one came to that same spot, I just hopped on. Turns out other buses going to other places also stopped there, so I found myself on the opposite side of Lazio, nowhere near Rome. When I finally asked where we were going and how I could get to Rome, the bus driver and his "girlfriend" laughed at me before telling me I had to go back to Frascati and catch a different bus from there. All in all, I spent a good 2+ hours on a bus roaming around Lazio. At least the scenery was nice, but it was still a little distressing as I was alone in a very unfamiliar place, using a transportation system I was also not used to. Definitely not my best day.
Sunday had both good and bad points. I braved the COTRAL buses once more to go to Castel Gandolfo, a quaint town in the hills of Lazio overlooking Lake Albano, and home to the Papal Palace where the Pope lives during his vacation in August. It was relatively easy to find, with an uphill walk from the bus stop to the center of town. Although there weren't any major sites, the big highlights were the beautiful views of the lake (check out the photo album called Frascati & Castel Gandolfo). The town was filled with little cobbled streets, with people dining at tables right in the middle of them; flowers were literally everywhere! Maybe because it was Sunday, it was relatively quiet, but it was nice not to be surrounded by people. There was actually a wedding party taking pictures all around the area that I kept running into : ) I saw the Papal Palace, guarded by Swiss guards off course, and not surprisingly not open to the public. The main square, Piazza della Libertà had the Palace, some cafès, a fountain (duh, it's Italy), and the sweet church of St. Thomas, designed by Bernini. All in all, it was a pleasant, relaxing visit. I encountered a few problems getting home again though. I waited at the bus stop across from where I got dropped off at (which is how buses usually function) but the COTRAL buses that kept passing me were headed to Frascati. After waiting close to two hours, I asked the owner of the gelateria across the street where the bus for Rome picked up, and it turns out it was up the street like 50 yards! I was so annoyed, because there is no way for anyone to know that without being told, and I had just wasted so much time. I finally made it home, but I have to admit I was a bit upset from my bus troubles over the weekend, especially because it was really hard to ask for and get information in italian, and not all italians are nice and helpful to foreigners : (
Anyway, I have to say I'm kind of glad this weekend is over. The places I saw were nice, and it was great to get out of Rome for a bit, but I don't want to see a COTRAL bus for a long time! I kind of wish I had taken a trip somewhere in Italy for the whole weekend, but I need to save my money for the other trips I have planned/want to take. Internet started working again Saturday night and I put more money on my phone, so I am once again connected to the world. I got to talk to my mom and found out her surgery went well, but I still wish I could be there. Even though these hiccups were tough to deal with on my own, I think they're part of learning and growing, and I'm sure there will be many more in the future!

Until next time...
p.s. I almost forgot to mention! Sunday was actually cloudy and it even RAINED in Rome!! It wasn't refreshing though, it was an awful warm rain that made it even more humid : (

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