Leslie Conner Temple Rome

Olivia, David, and Michelangelo: The Gang’s All Here

After returning from Dublin later than expected (sorry, Ma),I had about twenty hours to prepare for the arrival of my first ever visitor in Rome: Olivia JPP.  Armed with a nasty cold and general lack of sleep, I met Olivia Wednesday afternoon and our Italian adventure commenced. Remember, when you’re studying abroad your mentality needs to be: sleep is for dead people. Olivia is my main girl so having her visit was equal to everyone else’s families stopping by in the last few weeks! It was a blast having someone to show all my favorite spots and take in my Roman lifestyle.

Of course Casey, Avery, and I had a few must-sees for her:

– The Trevi Fountain for a few wishes and the Pantheon because nowhere has ever topped it for me (until last Saturday…).

– A stop at our favorite Enoteca for happy hour!

– A night at the Abbey because well… it’s a lifestyle. 

– And Gilda…this reappears in my highlight reels but is never really a high point. It is however a must see for anyone going clubbing in Rome.

I love everything about Rome (obviously) so it’s been hard dragging me away from the Eternal city to experience other parts of Italy. Yes,I’ve been to Venice but that was for the big draw of Carnivale (SO AMAZING). When we realized Olivia would be flying out of Florence early Sunday morning we realized we had the perfect opportunity to finally get ourselves over to Tuscany. Saturday we boarded a train and decided to spend the day in Florence. The weather was glorious and the company was great. It’s ridiculous how lucky I am to have had three best friends traveling around Italian cities with me!
breakfast on the go

Florence is stunning and full of amazing sights and phenomenal food! We started our day by stopping in the most adorable café right near the Duomo (everything is right near the Duomo in Florence). My olive panino was bomb, and so was the vino della casa. Before we made it however, we had to rescue a pigeon. Yes, we rescued a pigeon.

I have a deep love for pigeons so while we were walking down the street, I took notice of one hobbling around oddly. Upon further inspection we discovered his feet were tied together with twine. HORRIBLE. You don’t just
walk away from a situation like that so I took off my jacket and began following it around trying to capture it. A couple walked by and after seeing me trying to catch a pigeon while saying, “come on, Kevin, I want to help you”, they asked what was going on. We explained, the man caught the pigeon, and I set out to untie his poor little toes. It turns out the couple was visiting from Miami and after about twenty minutes, we freed Kevin. He sprung up and flew onto a balcony only to be greeted by a fellow pigeon friend a few seconds later. Outstanding start to the day! Fly free, Kevin.

After lunch we met up with Avery (who was on break during a class excursion to Florence coincidentally) at the Duomo. It was fate how well this trip worked out. The Duomo is so unbelievably massive and very green. Its sheer size is breathtaking but the details make it truly amazing. We walked around it, ventured inside, and then did some “casual Duomo chillin’”.

Olivia and I decided to do a three-minute caricature by one of the many artists lining the streets. Sitting there watching Casey and Avery react to his drawing was one of the most amusing things I have ever witnessed. They kept shaking their heads and turning away because they couldn’t stop laughing. Once we saw the finished product, we understood why. We may have actually stumbled upon the worst caricature artist in Florence. FAIL! But the laughing fits of Casey and Avery made it more than worth the cash.

The only hiccup on this trip was the hour we spent waiting in line to see the David, if you can even call that a hiccup. If you couldn’t tell, I’m not the biggest on traditional sightseeing. I love experiencing beautiful wonders and all of that but I hate waiting in lines and wasting time that could be spent experiencing a city.

Thank god Casey was so firm on staying in line. The David, or just David if you’re in love with him like I am, was life changing. He should be the number one world wonder. This statue is the most attractive thing I’ve ever seen. Michelangelo was a genius and I will forever be in his debt. Or I might curse him for the rest of my life because no man will compare to a statue- I’m feeling a creepy Pygmalion and Galatea vibe over here (YES! Nailed that mythology reference, Professor Brucia would be proud). David Mania is real and I have a new sticker for my laptop to prove it. No photos were allowed, most likely because our cameras would have shattered from all the sex appeal. We had to leave after about fifteen minutes because there’s only so much a girl can take. Swoon.

When you think of Florence you should immediately think of, besides David, leather (and truffles and chianti…yum). The four of us were adamant about coming home with some killer new leather jackets. We found a little hole in the wall shop and about an hour, and fifty jackets, later we all walked out with unique and brand new leather coats. Casey bought the FIRST jacket she tried on and it fits her like a glove- it’s completely badass and makes her look like an adult (praise Jesus!). Avery decided on a  gunmetal jacket and Olivia will be walking around NYC like a boss in her chocolate brown classy coat. I went in looking for a grungy black jacket and wound up with a camel brown, boho inspired one. I absolutely adore it. All in all, leather is a must in Florence… and now we all look really cool. We might even start a gang.

Casey’s friend from home studies abroad in Florence as well, so we had him take us to his favorite restaurant for dinner! The food was delicious! I had mushroom ravioli in a truffle cream sauce and might just die thinking about it now. It was so, so good.

After dinner we headed out for our first experience of Florence nightlife. Olivia had spent a few days visiting friends here so she led us to the English pub, Kikuya. It was a hotspot for study abroad students from all over the world, and a lot of fun.

On our walk back home, we made a pit stop at the “Secret Bakery”. This is not a joke. You literally walk up to a frosted glass door on the side of a building in an alley, knock, order a chocolate croissant for one euro, and then the door closes for a minute before a man reappears with a chocolate croissant. There’s no sign or any indication of a business and apparently it only opens after midnight. It was one of the best, if not the best, croissant I have ever had. Incredible. I wish Rome had one of these… or I hope I find it soon. It was the perfect end to our collection of Florence memories.

covered in secret chocolate

Sunday found us back in Rome for the start of a new week. This week marks the return of, drum roll please, FAMILY DINNER! You might remember we had family dinners in the beginning of the semester but then Roman Mom and Dad got divorced, mom moved out, and family dinner fell to the wayside. I am so happy for the return of this tradition. So far we’ve had chicken parm, manicotti, baked gnocchi, lots of caprese and wine, and even some Caribou Lou.

Tuesday I decided to tag along on Casey, Avery, Tom, and Brandon’s (why am I not in this class?) excursion to the Vatican Museum. Professor Huber (our guide way back on the Todi trip) gave a tour of the museum with a ton of great information. The collection of artwork is simply stunning- Raphael is prominently featured and the pieces will constantly remind you how boss he was.

School of athens selfie!

I finally got to see the Sistine Chapel as well! It will honestly give you chills. It was such a neat experience- I think I’ll tag along again with their class in the future! All of the ceilings in the museum are quite spectacular and worth a visit to check out.

Sneaky shot with Tom!
So there you have it, my life is still a dream. I am so grateful for the people that make it so special, whether they’re sharing each moment with me directly, or just stopping in to add some extra liveliness. Unbelievably, April is around the corner (NO!) but is lined up to be the most incredibly month. Tonight, family dinner is taking a night on the town to let loose with sangria and burritos at La Cucaracha! Here’s the round up of captures- I need a nap to recover from it all:
train ride home with PLL and vino!
Avery’s modern art
elevator shot for traditions sake
my best friend

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