In the interest of full disclosure, the only one of those I didn't have is the panini. But instead, I think I ate my weight in caffé gelato. That makes up for it, right? In short, Italy was wonderful. Rome and Venice were some of the stops I was looking forward to the least but I was absolutely blown away. We spent 29 hours in Rome, 12 in Verona, and a few hours around there in Venice.
We survived our 9 hour layover (by some kind of miracle, honestly) and made it to Rome at around 10 in the morning. We took a shuttle to our campsite and found we'd been upgraded from the typical permanent canvas tents to two-bed "bungalows"--which really just seemed like glorified trailers. Nobody was complaining though; each trailer had its own bathroom and shower.
After we dropped our stuff off, we took a bus and rode the metro back into the city to go exploring. We got off at the stop for the Colosseum and made it our first mission to go find food. €2 pizza in hand, we ate at likely record speed and started wandering around.
We explored some old ruins and were working our ways back to the Colosseum when the skies opened. Alyssa and I had left our rain jackets in our trailer (because 60% chance of rain in North Carolina means it might sprinkle. I forgot that in Europe it will simply rain for just 60% of the day. ;)) so we got absolutely drenched.
Since it was only about 2 in the afternoon, we decided to keep on going through the downpour, since going back wouldn't make our clothes any less wet. We dodged all the guys hawking ponchos and umbrellas (because at that point, what difference would it make?) and wandered around the Colosseum for about an hour. We headed back to the campsite and went to the restaurant for dinner and gelato (it was a strange place, but decent food) before collapsing in bed. Maybe it was the nights sleep on the airport floor that made those beds absolutely amazing but they felt heavenly.
The next day we headed out fairly bright and early to meet up with my friend Jamie from middle school, who's been studying abroad in Rome for the last three weeks. We dropped our bags at her apartment so we didn't have to lug them around all day and then headed to Vatican City, accidentally adding a twelfth country to our travel list. Since it was Saturday, the lines to get in were absolutely unreal so we just walked through the square then headed to a gelateria right around the corner. Apparently it's where the pope gets gelato and I can understand why. Best gelato I had in Italy, hands down.
After that we hopped a bus to the Pantheon. I'm so glad Jamie insisted on taking us there because while I loved Rome from the beginning, that's where I found the real "heartbeat" of the city. It's my favorite thing to do: walk around a city and see its shops, hear the languages, see the people.
We walked out of the pantheon and there was a man playing a violoncello. As we walked into the piazza, I realized it was my favorite classical piece and nearly ran down some people to get there. I'll upload the video later. (My phone is not a fan of the awful hostel wifi.)
J mentioned a rumor that says it takes four people to fit around the columns of the Pantheon, so naturally, we put it to the test. After this, we went over to the Trevi fountain, which is unfortunately under construction. We were a little grumpy about it.
After this, we walked through a giant enclosed market wher I got some pizza for the train and then collected our stuff and hopped a train to Venice!
Thanks for everything, Jamie!