Europe Trip Part 1: 3D2N in Rome, Italy
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
I have been yearning to post about this trip for quite sometime now. But I guess, I was just waiting for the right moment. I will post the entire journey in several parts and I will start with one of the most amazing cities I've ever been to: Rome, Italy!
Before anything else, let me provide a disclaimer that I will not include in this post how I was able to secure the Italian Schengen Visa. But just to note, I sought the help of a travel agency. Should you wish to know more details about it, you may contact me here.
So, where did it all begin? Sometime around January 2018, I reconnected with one of my close friends who was then working at Gibraltar, located at Spain's south coast. It was a pretty long catch up session and I told him that I want to travel again and was interested in applying for a US visa. He then mentioned that before I attempt applying for that visa, I might as well try to visit him first and take advantage of the fact that he was there and he can accompany me on a European tour, particularly in Italy. With that, I contemplated on whether or not I should accept his offer. For one, the trip would need a lot of funds. Second, I would need to apply for another elusive visa, which is the Schengen Visa. From what I researched, the Italian Embassy is one of the most strict embassies when it comes to visa issuance. Third, I was not sure if my Mom would allow me to travel on my own, on a far away land. And lastly, I wasn't sure if I was mentally and physically ready for that kind of trip. Until I prayed about it.
One Sunday afternoon, while attending mass and looking at the altar, I was surprised to read the word "Roma." Apparently, it came from the tarpaulin of St. Philip Neri, the Third Apostle of Rome. And I thought to myself, "Maybe this was the sign I was waiting for." I prayed for it continuously, until I heard a little voice within me saying, "Go ahead and do it, God will provide for all of your needs." And so I did.
I told my siblings first then my close friends about it, before I told my Mom. I was reluctant to tell her, because I wasn't sure if she would give her permission. But after sometime, after I was able to gather some of my requirements (yup this happened first!), I finally told her. Of course she was kind of hesitant initially, but I knew then that she knew that whenever I am decided on doing something, I would definitely put a lot of effort on it to make it come to reality. And so I got that most awaited YES.
Fast forward to the visa application, it took me 40 long days to get the visa. Those lengthy days really tested my patience and I had a million thoughts running in my head. Until I finally got it and prepared for the trip.
On August 2018, I finally took that big step out of my comfort zone. It was time for me to leave. I was ecstatic but at the same time nervous about this new adventure!
I booked all of my plane trips to and from Europe under Asiana Airlines through a very good friend of mine's travel agency, Celebrity Travel and Tours. You may visit their Facebook page here. They offer bookings for both local and international trips. Do check them out! I was even able to choose my seat (I love seating in the aisle because I can easily go to the washroom without disturbing anyone) through their assistance, and it was a very pleasant experience.
Here are some of my photos inside the plane. Asiana Airlines provides free blankets, slippers and in-flight entertainment. It was even my first time watching the Coco movie here! Aside from that, I felt really happy during the course of the flight because I am a big fan of Koreanovelas. Half of the cabin crew were Koreans and it was music to my ears when I heard them speaking using their language. Daebak! (It means something awesome in Korean).
The trip had a connecting flight from South Korea to Rome. There was an 8-hour layover but it was fine because I got to roam around Korea for a few hours. You need to get a Korean Visa though to be able to get out of the airport. They even offer free Transit Tours if your layover time permits. I wasn't able to join the tour because I arrived at around 5:00 AM and tours would usually start at 8:00 AM, hence, I might not be able to make it back on time. I tried to visit Insadong but eventually got lost and just returned to the airport. Perhaps it was better to stay there as I really didn't plan out my Korea trip well. But I'll definitely visit this beautiful country again!
I'd say I still earned an achievement even though I got lost because I was able to meet a Korean local at the train station who gave me directions on how to reach my destination.
Then I waited at the airport until it was time for my flight going to Rome. It took me another 12 hours, and I finally arrived at Rome Fiumicino (FCO) airport.
Arrival at Rome, Italy
I was so thrilled because I finally reached my destination! I waited for my friend for a few more hours at the airport, since he flew from Spain.
As soon as we met, we took a bus going to the hotel and it was already around 9:00 PM. The next thing that happened was totally unexpected. Once we arrived, we tried to ring the doorbell; it was a Guesthouse that my friend booked via www.booking.com. We did it a couple of times more but to our surprise, no one was answering. Then we started to freak out! Of course we didn't want to sleep in the streets on our first night in Rome! My friend tried to call the Guesthouse's service hotline and luckily an operator answered but we freaked out even more because he spoke in Italian, *insert swear words here*! We just dropped the call as we totally didn't understand what he was saying.
"So what do we do now?!" I said. I really appreciated how my friend didn't panic and just stayed calm. He offered for us to eat dinner first. I totally forgot my hunger for a while there.
After dinner, we tried to ring the doorbell of the Guesthouse again and asked around if anyone knew any of their staff. Unfortunately, there was no one who could offer us help. The next thing we knew, we were already on the road to find a new hotel as we really had no choice. We found Smooth Hotel, it was a decent 3-star hotel and fortunately, they have a room available that night. Thank God!
1st Day: Vatican Museums
The following day, we were off to our first destination: the Vatican City! It was a pretty cold morning outside.
We joined a guided tour of the Vatican Museums: Pio Clementino Museum, Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries, Gallery of the Geographical Maps, Raphael’s Rooms, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We were a little late but luckily, we were still accommodated by the tour guide.
Here are some of the photos I took inside the Vatican Museums:
It was fun to see a lot of paintings, not to mention that they were original artwork by famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael!
We also got to visit the Sistine Chapel. However, since this is the papal chapel, we were strictly prohibited from taking any kind of photos and/or videos. One could just really marvel at the beauty of this very incredible place. I highly recommend that you visit it if you can.
As soon as we're done, we went inside the St. Peter's Basilica. It felt surreal!
And I couldn't compare the experience when we were already outside, as it was also breathtaking!
Of course I wouldn't let this day trip end without me trying a legit gelato. It was so yummy!
2nd Day: Colosseum
The next day, we visited another famous tourist spot in Rome: the Colosseum. This place felt more surreal as I would usually only see it in post cards and downloadable wallpapers in the internet. Seeing it in person felt a lot different!
This prominent structure speaks a lot of history. You would be able to read a lot of information during the tour from the reading materials in each area. We were lucky enough to get a free audio guide even though we were late (yes, again!).
I couldn't imagine how this place looked like when it was still up and running. Can you see the vertical structures at the bottom of the Colosseum? Per the audio guide, there were a lot of secret places in that area, where the Gladiators can hide during a battle. Pretty interesting, right?
Roman Forum/ Palatine Hill
After the Colosseum, we then went to another beautiful place, the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill. These were ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome.
After lunch, we looked for the Spanish Steps. They just looked normal stairs to me, but it was a historical place worth visiting. There are 138 steps that you need to climb if you want to reach the top.
Afterwards, we went to the Pantheon, which was a former temple turned into a church. It's interesting because their source of light during the day comes from the open dome ceiling. Whenever there's rain, there's drainage on the floor so it won't get flooded inside. Really cool, huh!
Then close to the Pantheon was my most awaited place: the very popular Trevi Fountain!
The place was very crowded, but it didn't stop me from doing the traditional throwing of the coin! I threw the coin with my back facing the fountain as part of the 'ritual,' then I made a wish. I'll keep that wish to myself for now, hoping that it will happen very soon!
It was indeed a jampacked day! But what I didn't know was that the following day was going to be a lot more exciting!
3rd Day: Papal Audience
The next day, our schedule was to attend the papal audience. My friend begged off and said that he'll just rest at the hotel. And so I went alone. I was scared because that meant I had to travel on my own going to the Vatican! But I didn't let my fear get in the way, because I knew then that God will be with me and guide me. Using my internet and a very useful app (Rome2Rio), I was able to reach the Vatican. There were a lot of people who were also yearning to see the Pope, just like me! I had to line up before I can enter the St. Peter's Square. There was strict security, a scanner for bags, and a lot of guards. I was fortunate enough that on that day, tickets weren't required to get inside. Most of the seats were almost taken but luckily, I got to sit near the area where the papal car will roam around and where Pope will bless the audience closely. As soon as it was announced that Pope Francis is already there, I felt overjoyed! I thought of standing on my seat just like what other people did, but then I realized that I could just squeeze myself in the crowd to get a better view of the Pope. And good thing I did! I was able to take a video of him up close!
It was indeed a blessed day for me! I wasn't able to see the Pope when he visited the Philippines in 2015 but I promised myself that I will definitely see him one day. And that day finally came. I was literally in tears while taking this video. It was truly one of the best days of my life!
And with that, you'd always have a special place in my heart, Rome!
Are you interested to book a tour in Rome, Italy? Check out KLOOK through this link.
The following day, we were off to another equally lovely city: Florence, Italy! Stay tuned for my next post!