A Summer Abroad: Rome

A Summer Abroad: Rome

Adventures in Italy's ancient city.
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(This is part of my Summer Abroad series; you can find part one here!)

I spent two weeks in Berlin as part of my recent job with a publishing company, and the other two weeks of my month long Europe excursion could be spent however I wanted. Seeing a golden opportunity, I booked cheap flights for some Eurotrip-style traveling in four other countries. And so I flew from Germany and opened up a new kind of adventure as I landed in Rome, Italy. The change in energy was as jarring as the change in weather, from a chilly 56-degree summer in Berlin to the bright and sunny 92 degrees at Rome’s airport. And my German taxi driver said I was silly for wearing shorts.

It should come as no surprise that Rome had been on my bucket list for a long time- it is for most people. As a child, I fell in love with Italy and Italian culture through the lens of Cornelia’s Funke’s various books… and admittedly because of The Lizzie McGuire Movie. The reality of Rome is nothing like the movies, though, which is beautiful to realized Berlin is an art piece of a city, but Rome is an artifact. It is old, and worn, and layered with eras past. It is still cobbled and cluttered, designed around its history and wrapping odd secrets in its maze-like streets. Roads full of Vespas, cars, and walking traffic (often on the same road: behind an elderly woman while riding taxis through the city, on more than one occasion). And before you ask- yes, the food is just as amazing as everyone says. Nothing quite tastes like the tomatoes in Italy, and I’ve yet to find tiramisu quite as good. The same with the fountains, which was some of the purest and clearest water I've seen in my life.

Also before you ask: yes, Rome’s men are as forward and flirty as you might expect. I lost count of the number of times men stopped to watch me through windows, offer me rides, and scooted themselves onto the same table as me. “Ciao, Bella!” became a commonly overheard call in the streets I walked. A pair of sunglasses usually solved the problem, if I felt I didn’t want the attention. The people are kind, though, and the tourists unusually pleasant for such a busy city. I shared a pizza lunch and travel stories with a backpacker and talked about David Bowie's music with a cab driver. The language barrier that had been such a hang-up in Berlin faded in the streets of Rome, making life much easier and more relaxed.

One of the most incredible things I have experienced- not just in this trip, but in general, was the most I took the train to Colluseo and stepped out onto the block that overlooks the Colosseum. The real, actual Colosseum: the one from text books and all of the postcards. It always looked big, and somehow it was bigger in real life. Walking its columns and stairs just aches with history, tracing the edges where new concrete ends and the earliest bricks begin. The Roman Forum surrounds the block like the portal to another place and time, temples and political buildings mixed together over a hilly landscape of olive trees. The air is hot and the water vendors are persistent, but the walk around the area is worth every blister and potential sunburn.

My favorite corner of Rome was Piazza de Spragga, one of the richest and most beautiful areas in the city. Just a walk down the streets takes you passed the Spanish Steps and all the way to The Pantheon, with all of the beauty in between. Wonderful restaurants and hidden treasures line the walk, including the historical Caffe Greco (the world’s oldest cafe), the Gucci store, and the beautiful former home of John Keats and Percy-Byche Shelley. There are hours to spend just exploring the area, and some of my fondest memories in Europe were spent relaxing at Caffe Greco with a cup of tea or exploring the beautiful books at The Keats-Shelley Museum. I also enjoyed venturing around the busy and colorful area that surrounded Termini Station, where you could find whatever food you needed and the best gelato in the world, if I do say so myself.

After three days wandering and enjoying the magic of Rome, I had to pack up again for another flight: I was off to Paris! But I had only just realized that three days would never be enough to see the whole city. I had experienced so much culture and magic, and there was still more to find. I used this to take heart that one day, I would just have to return for more adventures in Italy.

Cover Image Credit: Caitlin Jones

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Day Four In Italy: Florence

This is the day we learned the history of everything

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Waking up bright and early we first took the tour bus to the country side of Florence where we visited a medieval town full of shops that lined a beautiful countryside.


CountrysideBrooke Burney

We spent about three hours here just looking around, buying things, and taking pictures. Once the three hours were up, we went to a winery where they explained how they made wine with the grapes in their vineyard.


In the vineyardBrooke Burney

After the tour, they fed us lunch with some of their wine. Then, after we ate, we passed through their wine shop and took the bus back to the Piazza della Signoria. On the way back, our tour guide was telling us about Michelangelo and his time creating the Statue of David. We had to stand in a line for about thirty minutes but when our time came, we were thrilled. We entered and saw artwork from many different artists. However, Michelangelo had a hallway of his own that was mostly filled with unfinished sculptures of statues with David being at the very end.


Statue of DavidBrooke Burney

After the tour of the art museum, our tour guide took us to the square where the churches were and gave us a history lesson on them. He gave us a background on the pictures that were painted on the doors and what they represent.


Brooke Burney

After this tour, we went back to our hotel where we were able to go eat dinner. My friends and I went back to the small square we first went to and ate in a small pizza joint.


Italian pizzaBrooke Burney

If you ever go to Europe, keep in mind that they have a hard time splitting orders. As we were sitting at this table, we asked for separate checks but they made us pay separately on a single check, which was kind of funny watching three American girls pick through their euros.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to pack for the next day. To the train station, then Pompeii!

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