And so, the morning after the concert, I woke up at 6:00, after only about four hours of sleep (if I was lucky!) so I could get to Tegel Airport in time for my 9:30 flight to Rome. This time, I flew out with Swiss Air, rather than any budget airline I've taken since I arrived in July. This was definitely a good way to start my trip- I had forgotten that some airlines still give out drinks and snacks for free! I met Marta in the airport, we got a shuttle to our hotel, and the two of us caught up after almost a month of either one or the other traveling and not seeing each other. The shuttle driver dropped us off in front of the Hassler Hotel Rome, and my jaw immediately dropped. We were right at the top of the Spanish Steps, overlooking the center of the city, and somehow, when Marta told me that we were staying in a hotel, she forgot to mention that it was a five-star hotel. "Marta, I don't think I belong here." The doorman welcomed us and offered to take our bags, which Marta and I, as two fiercely independent women, were a little reluctant to give up at first. Marta checked us in while I stood around trying not to appear that I was so out of place yet still absorb everything around me. We were led up to our room, which was HUGE. Seriously, the bathroom alone was bigger than most hotels I've stayed in! Soon after our luggage was delivered, we had a complimentary gift from the owner of the hotel, chocolates and oranges. Wow! Marta and I washed up and headed out.
During her travels, Marta met a girl in a hostel who is currently studying in Rome, and she offered to be our tour guide for the nights. We met up with Lauren at the bottom of the Spanish Steps (oh gosh, so far!) and took us to several piazzas from there. After a bit of walking, she told us she was going to an area that is fascinating to walk around and get lost in. "I love coming here on Saturdays and walking around for hours at a time!" When we got there, I realized it was the same area of narrow streets that Paul and I wandered around for hours in on Christmas Day! From there, the three of us wandered to an area of Rome that I hadn't been to before, where we saw where Caesar was killed (now overrun by hundreds of cats) and a church (big surprise) before meeting Lauren's friend for dinner. While the dinner was nothing spectacular, the dessert certainly was- chocolate shots! Marta and I said, "Ciao!" to the other two at that point and tried to figure out a way to get back to our hotel with public transportation, which is surprisingly difficult at 10:30 at night!
Tuesday morning we woke up for the fantastic breakfast at the hotel before heading out. Right at the base of the Steps is the Keats-Shelley Museum, which was at the top of Marta's list of places to go, since she reads a lot of Keats' poems. When we got inside, we found out that Keats was buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, which Marta immediately begged to go see. We did go, and found out that Goethe's son is also buried there. We also got into a nice conversation with the man, around fifty or sixty years old, running the information desk there, and found out he was originally from California, spent his junior year studying in Rome, and couldn't stay away for very long! It's definitely a reminder of how much studying abroad can completely change your life!
From the cemetery, we headed over to Trevi Fountain. Since it was the second trip to Rome for both of us, we had to throw two coins into the fountain each: one coin over our right shoulder to indicate that we had come back, and one over our left shoulder so that we could come back in the future. We did both agree that a future trip to Rome wouldn't have to happen for quite a while, though.
Continuing on, we went over to the Pantheon, a sight I hadn't seen when I went over Christmas, which my dad was adamant that I see. He considers the Pantheon to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of the Roman Empire and finds it amazing that they came so close to completing the construction of a dome, more than a thousand years before the first successful dome was built. I can't say I agree with him here. It's a building with a hole in the ceiling. The Romans failed to understand the math and physics required to construct such a building, yet decided that they would build it anyways. I guess there are some things we won't agree on. To be fair, it does have a lot of history and the interior is interesting to see, but it's not as great as I was led to believe it would be.
It was early evening at this point, and Marta and I were starting to grow tired. We pulled out our map to see if there was anything else we had any great desire to see. Upon the realization that there wasn't, we decided to head to dinner. Since Marta didn't have any ideas for dinner, I decided we should go back to the restaurant Paul and I loved so much. After a few distractions along the way (shopping and photo opps), we made it over to the restaurant. I was excited to be able to have some their pasta again, but Marta still wasn't so sure. When the food came out, I could understand why she wasn't as excited as I was, since it wasn't nearly as good this time around. It was downright disappointing, actually. She did admit that the pasta was good for the price, but still did not really understand why I pulled her past many other restaurants in order to this particular one. It did make me feel bad.
We spent the night in the hotel, where we decided to take advantage of the fancy hotel and watch a movie. That is, until we saw the prices: 20 euro per movie! So, scratching that idea, we sat around and talked a bit longer before I decided to take a luxurious bath and Marta took a luxurious shower at hte same time. Way to take advantage of our suite!
Our two nights in a 5-star hotel quickly came to an end, and the next morning we headed to the airport. Marta flew to Copenhagen to visit our friend Sara, while I headed back to Berlin. I was very happy to see Marta again, even if it was only for a short amount of time, and get to experience something new with her. That being said, now that I've experienced life in a 5-star hotel, I don't think I need to do it again. A lot of amenities that come for free in a 2- or 3-star hotel or even a hostel, such as internet and TV, were charged at the hotel, and not cheap prices either. And in reality, if you're traveling somewhere on vacation, you're probably not going to spend so much time in a hotel that you need to spend an extravagant amount of money on it. (Then again, we were in the Honeymoon Suite, so one can guess why people would pay so much to stay there.) Also, I think I've had my share of Rome by now, and see no reason to come back anytime soon. It is nice to have my own pictures of the city this time, though- we managed to go the entire time without having anything stolen!