That night we boarded the train for Rome. I was under the impression this was a high speed train common in Europe, but that was very much not the case! We left the train station at 7pm, and were scheduled to get into Rome at 10am. I was in a "couchette", which is a six seater compartment that turns into six bunk beds. Unfortunately I was the only person traveling alone in our tour group, which meant the numbers worked out that I was in a compartment with strangers, rather than the people I had gotten to know on our tour. I was in one of the top bunks, which was really the best seat in the house. Plenty of headroom. It wasn't super comfortable in there, but way more comfortable than an airplane where you can only recline a few degrees. I slept a bit, and woke up to have breakfast in the dining car. Unfortunately Italian trains are notoriously late, and we had some issues in the evening, which meant we arrived in Rome almost three hours late. This meant a 15 hour train ride became an 18 hour train ride, and we would only have a day and a half in Rome rather than almost two days.
But we arrived. Feeling greasy, dirty, tired, and even a little bit dizzy, I heaved myself into the bus and went on the first part of city tour in Rome, with the second part being rescheduled for the next day. We saw the Forum and Circus Maximus (where they had chariot races) from the bus, then stopped at the Colosseum to look around. I snapped a few pictures and tried to look interested in what the tour guide told us about the site, rather than wishing for a hot shower and a comfortable bed.
After the Colosseum they drove us around the city a bit more before taking us to our hotel, which was probably the nicest of the trip. My bathroom even had a bidet, which for some reason I equate with fanciness. I showered and forced myself to go out and see some sites, since I would only have one more day in the city. I went to Trevi fountain and tossed a few coins in, and then decided to stop and have some Roman pizza. I ended up sitting next to an Australian couple who was coming from the other way, starting in Turkey and Greece and coming west. We had a very nice conversation and I had a prosciutto and mushroom pizza that was pretty good. Since it was getting dark by the time I was leaving, I went back to the fountain and snapped a few pics of it lit up before going home and collapsing in my bed.
And then disaster struck. I woke up about 4am with my stomach churning. I went to the bathroom. I went back to bed. I went back to the bathroom. I went back to bed. I ran to the bathroom. I laid on the floor. I went back to bed. I ran back to the bathroom.
You can see where this is going. Italy, the capital of pizza, had served me a bad pie. When the time came for breakfast and leaving for the tour, I had to go downstairs and tell them I couldn't come. I ordered room service of water and toast. They brought me water and a ham sandwich, which made me nauseous as it reminded me of the pizza.
My stomach churned constantly for the next several hours and I watched videos on my iPod to try to distract myself. I also caught an episode of "Bewitched" and "Smurfs" in Italian, which was kind of fun. Apparently "la la, la la la la" is the same in Italian. It killed me that I couldn't go on the tour, but I was in no state to go, and I figured it was better to be sick in my hotel room today than be sick on my 10 hour flight tomorrow.
Around 2 o'clock I FINALLY started to feel okay again and decided I would at least try to get to St. Peter's Basilica, and maybe the Pantheon. Ever since last summer when I found out I was related to a Holy Roman Emperor buried at St. Peter's, I wanted to check it out.
I made the long trudge to the subway station (Rome was the hardest city to get around in, and its subway didn't get you very close to major sites) and got off at the closest stop, which was still about a 20 minute walk away. It was hot and I wasn't feeling very sprite. By the time I made it there I was exhausted, and could only be bothered to take a few pictures. I looked for where Emperor Otto I was buried, but it turns out LOTS of important people are buried at St. Peter's. Everywhere you look there's a statue dedicated to a new person, so I took the fact that I made it to the same building as my ancestor as "close enough" and headed out.
I intended to still try to make it to the Pantheon, but about halfway there I ran into a parade procession blocking my way. I took it as a sign and decided the Pantheon wasn't in the cards this time. If tossing coins into Trevi fountain really insures you'll go back, I can check it out next time.
The next day I left early and headed back home. My first flight took me through Munich. This meant that in addition to going through security in Italy, I had to go through passport control, customs, and security again in Germany and the United States. And I had to go through it in Chicago, which is the worst designed airport ever. The international terminal is completely removed from the other terminals and the only way to get to the others is to use a train. And guess what, only one train was working that day. That meant after traveling for 12 hours or so I had to stand in a long, hot hallway with about 647 other people wanting to get the heck out of there.
But I made it home, and all things considered, it was a fun trip. Hectic, crazy, and at times uncomfortable, but I saw so many places I've always wanted to see, enjoyed good art, good food, and (some) good company. Now I just need to decide where to go next year!