Rome, Italy

If I close my eyes, I can still taste the pasta. The slight al dente crunch of the spaghetti, the sweet acidity of the tomato sauce, and the surprising kick of spice at the end of every bite. That's how spaghetti arrabiata should taste.

All drooling aside, I really did love every aspect of Italy. Two of my roommates and I left for Rome directly from final exams. We were literally sprinting down the terminal, afraid of missing our flight, which knowing us, could have easily happened. But, as luck would have it, we made it aboard. Mara had to be reminded how to fly a plane, "Ma'am, can you please turn off your iPod. And buckle your seat belt. And put your purse under the seat in front of you. And put your tray table away. And put your seat in the upright position," and after we eventually stopped hysterically laughing, we were underway.

Our first tourist stops was the Colosseum (of course). Sure you've seen it on post cards, in B-grade movies such as Jumper, or in history textbooks, but to actually step into the massive structure was a whole different experience. Sure, the rocks were crumbling and modern touches such as a wooden platform recreation and gift shop sort of tainted things but overall it was incredible to stand in the massive structure and imagine what it would have been like for ancient Romans to cheer on fighters in the arena. It's such a shame that all of the benches have whithered away because it would be so interesting to see the Colosseum as it looked originally. Because we were in the area, we also checked out the Roman Forum and various ruins and arches nearby, followed by a long dinner with plenty of wine and plenty of scrumptious pasta in Trastevere.

On Thursday, we continued our apparent quest to be the ultimate Rome tourists. We woke up bright and early in a panic because our alarm went off an our behind schedule (Oops. Forgot about that time change!) and booked it over to our 11am tour reservation at the Vatican. We frantically got a cab, ran half the way, pushed through crowds, and made it without a hitch into the Vatican Museum. Impressive? Yes. The Vatican was a never ending maze filled with sculpture after sculpture and walls covered in biblical scenes. I really appreciated the artistic aspect of it, especially Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, but it was so crowded that I started to become anxious to leave. From the Vatican we went to the Piazza del Popolo then down the the Spanish steps where Mara and Brynn did segway tours (I pretended I didn't know them...) and I explored the area, walking to the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon, asking tourists along the way to take pictures of me. My favorite had to be the Pantheon, which according to my years of art history, is one of the best preserved ancient Roman ruins still standing. I stayed there for a while soaking it in, looking at the hypnotizingly symmetrical dome above which reminded me why I am minoring in Western art history.

Our other roommate Leni met up with us from the South of Italy, just in time for the eve of Brynn's 22nd birthday. We ate a late dinner in front of the Pantheon, during which a man tried to sell us a dancing cat tuned to Shania Twain (Brynn impressively bargained him down from 12 euro to 5 euro), and toasted to the birth of Brynn at midnight with some limoncello. A great end to a amazing time in Rome. Happy birthday Brynn!