How To Make The Most Of A Week In Rome

How To Make The Most Of A Week In Rome

Seven days can last a lifetime, if you do them right.

Rome offers so much that trying to cram it all into a trip even as long as a week can be a challenge. My sister came to visit me this past week and, knowing that it was unlikely she would be back in the Eternal City any time soon, I wanted to make sure she saw everything she wanted to.

Throughout the week, I started to realize that making the most of a short time in Rome is completely reliant on letting your curiosity and sense of adventure carry you throughout. If you're visiting Rome, go ahead and make a schedule, sure, but don't be afraid to stray from it. Every part of Rome wants to be seen, and denying yourself an extra moment of serenity in an empty part of the Palatine Hill or the chance to explore the city's hidden streets and secret histories simply because you want to make it to dinner at a certain hour won't just force you to miss seeing parts of the city, but will leave you feeling rushed and irritable.

Instead, give up a schedule for a list. Give yourself priorities, until you have created a group of sites and things to do that you feel you have to hit in order to feel satisfied by the time you leave. If you do choose to opt for a list, be sure to include some of what was on ours:

Make sure your first meal is a good one.

In Rome, it can be easy to fall into a tourist trap when you're near the city center. Across the Tiber, Trastevere offers a better selection. Its restaurants may be far from the sights, but that means its food is normally more authentic. Get pizza at a place like Dar Poeta or a take-out place like La Boccaccia, or find pasta and live music at Ombre Rosse. Walk Trastevere's maze of side streets with a full stomach, and sit on the steps of the in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Let your first moments in Rome be a colorful introduction apart from the crowds in the city center.

When you do go to the center, do not rush.

Piazza Venezia can easily become a throughway toward the Roman Forum, especially because the Forum and Colosseum are in sight as soon as you enter the piazza. Take a moment to stand at the foot of the Altare della Patira (AKA "The Wedding Cake") and look up at the stark white columns, so tall that they can be seen from almost every one of the seven hills. Climb the 124 steps to Santa Maria in Ara Coeli and gape at the difference between the brick exterior and the decor inside. Stand on the top balconies of the Wedding Cake and count the domes of churches, scattered throughout the city and turning the sky to a series of cloud-patterned triumphal arches.

The Colosseum has its home amid hundreds of ruins.

They lead you straight to its doors. Do not ignore them. Take every moment to admire them as you walk. Once inside, circle the bottom level first. Rest on fallen columns and climb what steps aren't blocked off on the flattened remains of staircases. Go to the upper balcony only when you are satisfied that you have seen everything below. A bird's eye view of the inner tunnels accompanies exhibits filled with bones and decrepit pillars and a view of the Forum, blazing bright white against the deeps greens of the surrounding hills and trees. The view changes as you glance under each arch in the Colosseum's side, each becoming more beautiful than the last.

Do not ignore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Your ticket to the Colosseum includes two consecutive days in the ruins adjacent to it, and an entire day could easily be dedicated to the vast amount of temples, arches, and homes that have been left behind. Reconstruct the Forum in your mind and then climb the Palatine Hill. Make an unnecessary amount of Emperor Palpatine jokes, and search every nook, crevice, and cave in the ancient architecture until the sun sets and the grounds close. Swear you missed something, no matter how long you spent inside.

Spend a rainy Thursday at the Vatican Museums, when the crowds are scarce.

The rainier the better. Keep your eyes distant as you pass another man trying to sell you an umbrella. Start with the Pinacoteca and come face to face with paintings by Raphael and the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in Rome. Loop through every museum. Do not dismiss anything. Just before you need to leave, give in to the signs for the Sistine Chapel. Stand beneath "The Creation of Adam" and study the ceiling until its frescoes seem to move on their own and your neck starts to hurt.

Most importantly, explore Rome every night.

That magical, romantic version of Rome you come expecting is best seen under moonlight. Watch the sunset over Rome from the top of the Spanish Steps, then watch the way blueberry ripples change the faces of the statues on the Trevi Fountain. Toss three coins into the fountain now that the crowds are gone: one to return to Rome, a second to find true love, the last to ensure a happy marriage. Go to the Pantheon before it closes and stare up at the stars through the oculus. Imagine a world of gods looking down on you. Get gelato at Giolitti around the corner, and walk toward the Colosseum while its melts into the crevices of your fingers. Sit on the stone wall that loops on one side of the Colosseum, and let your legs dangle over the steep slope below. Race down Via dei Fori Imperiali after midnight, when the Roman Forum is spotlit and empty, and the Colosseum's golden eyes illuminate the track at your back. Let Rome take you where it likes, no matter the hour, because though Rome is a city built on ruins, they will come back to life for you at night.

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The Joys of Traveling Abroad

I wouldn't trade it for the for the world

Over this past spring break, I was lucky enough to go on a choir trip to Spain. We went to Barcelona and Valencia, and it was of the most amazing experiences ever.

There were about 55 people on the trip, 2/3 were the female choir I'm in, Voices, and the other 1/3 were the male choir, Singers. We prepared for months, getting song after song ready for the trip. The whole thing started off with a bit of a bump when winter storm Riley decided to postpone our trip for two days, cramming our plans in Barcelona into two days.

We had the chance to sing in some of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen and I met some of the most amazing people ever, as well as strengthened old friendships.By the time I got back, I was dog tired and proceeded to stuff my face with a pizza and then passed out for 13 hours.

I don't know how I already feel nostalgia for something that just ended, but I do. I miss watching movies with the girls while braiding hair. I miss creepily hitting on everyone on the trip. I miss some of the most amazing food I've ever eaten. I miss late night deep conversations with my roommate.

I know I can still see all these people, but it just isn't the same. These one in seven billion people are the coolest, funniest, most talented people I've ever been lucky enough to know, and I know the memories I made over the past week will last for a lifetime.

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Why You Should Visit New Orleans

There's more to the city than just Mardi Gras

For my last Spring Break, I decided to do something a little special and venture outside of New Jersey for the week. My friend and I packed our bags, but instead of heading to Florida like many college students, we headed to the Big Easy. While NOLA may not have a beach of its own, there's plenty of other reasons why this trip was so memorable and amazing.

1. The food was amazing!

From gumbo and jambalaya to Caribbean taquerias, New Orleans has so much to offer in the way of flavor and food. And much to my surprise, they had plenty of options for vegetarian, vegan, an gluten free diets.

2. The architecture was beautiful.

The unique architecture of the city will pull your eye in and make it really hard to look away. Picturesque and gorgeous homes litter the streets of the city, especially in the Garden District.

3. Cemeteries

Since the city is mostly below the water table, and due to the influence of the Spanish, many cemeteries in New Orleans feature the unique concept of above ground burials. You can visit the tomb of Marie Laveau and the tomb purchased by actor Nicholas Cage (who is notoriously obsessed with New Orleans).

4. Voodoo and Hauntings

Speaking of Marie Laveau, New Orleans is special because you can explore the world of voodoo in an area where Caribbean and Catholic influences alike contributed to this unique culture. Visiting one of the most haunted cities in America opens up doors for lovers of all that is creepy-- you can go on ghost tours and visit the sites of some of the most gruesome murders and notoriously haunted establishments.

5. Drinking on Bourbon Street

Walking up and down Bourbon Street is an experience in and of itself. The only rule about carrying alcohol on the streets of New Orleans is no glass bottles. Other than that, its open range for walking the streets with the crazy cocktails Bourbon Street has to offer.

6. Jazz on Frenchmen Street

Jazz is one of the first things I think of when I think of New Orleans. Its hard to walk around the city without hearing the soulful sound of a saxophone or trombone. On Frenchmen Street, you'll find more of a local vibe where bars have open doors and jazz bands playing almost 24/7.

7. Shopping at the French Market

Although a bit overwhelming, you'll find almost anything you could need from trinkets to food to cocktails from the various vendors in the French Market.

8. Steamboat tours on the Mississippi

One of the best ways to tour the city is on the Mighty Mississippi. Grab a cocktail, some authentic Creole food, and watch the sights pass you by.

9. A Huge Casino (with a nightclub).

Enough said. Central to many areas of the city is a Harrah's Casino with their own nightclub, Masquerade. If you aren't afraid of your wallet being mad at you, go spend an evening at the casino.

10. Festivals and Parades.

I was lucky enough to catch the Top Taco Festival during my visit, and it was one of the best nights of the trip. A ticket got me endless tacos, tequila, and cocktail tasters, and the vendors were very accommodating to the fact that I was vegetarian.

11. Beignets and Cafe Au Lait

If you didn't get Beignets and Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde, did you even go to New Orleans? And don't you dare say it is the same as donuts and coffee, because it just isn't. If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, look no further.

12. The Restaurants and Shops on Magazine Street

A little different and more laid back than the French Market, this is a must visit area of New Orleans. The Rum House has some of the best cocktails and tacos you'll ever eat, and its worth the wait for a table.

13. Explore a city with a very rich history.

I was blown away by the amount there was to see and learn during the day in New Orleans. From French rule to Spanish rule, to the Louisiana purchase that made New Orleans part of America, the city has seen the influence of many different cultures as well as the impact of natural disasters such as fires, floods, and Hurricane Katrina.

14. National Parks, Museums, and Art Galleries

If art, nature, or history is your thing, you will love the Big Easy. With plenty of art all around the city, Museums on Mardi Gras and World War II (just to name a few), and plenty of gorgeous parks to stroll through.

15. You'll remember it forever!

Because of all of the things listed above, New Orleans will be a place that I will never forget, and only hope I get to visit again.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Kleinwaks

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