Kayla Sides is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A psychology major, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester through the custom program at Norco College.
In this week's post, Kayla talks about what it was like to celebrate her 20th birthday in Italy. Happy belated birthday, Kayla!
It is true... twenty years... I am no longer a teenager! It's almost as exciting as turning seventeen (finally being able to legally watch rated-R movies). Yeah, although a twentieth birthday isn't very monumental, what was exciting about my twentieth birthday was that I got to spend it in Italy. Starting off my second decade in Florence and Rome?! Not too shabby, Kayla. Not too shabby.
In my last post, I talked about how my birthday weekend started with the midterm dinner. Live music, "Happy Birthday" sung in three languages, earlobe pulling - it was quite the fiesta. The following morning, I went to go volunteer at the local elementary school to teach English, and the second grade class also sang "Happy Birthday" to me... in English! I feel like y'all can imagine how adorable that scene was. Almost immediately after I got home, a handful of friends and I went to my favorite restaurant, Ristorante Natalino, and had a delicious lunch. My friends and the staff surprised me with sweet little presents and an Oreo ice cream cake (which was bomb.com btdubs). One last "Happy Birthday" song was sung, with the help of the rest of the restaurant's customers; then, off to Rome we went.
If you haven't watched "The Lizzie McGuire Movie", you need to put that on your to-do list so you can truly understand when I say that this weekend was as magical (well, almost as magical) as Lizzie's trip to Rome. I say almost because *spoiler alert* I wasn't mistaken for an international popstar nor did I receive a wheel of cheese at the Trevi Fountain. I can say, though, that it was a weekend that I will never forget.
The first day was a day to myself, dedicated to aimlessly roaming the streets of the Eternal City. I first went to a sandwich shop, 200 Gradi, that I visited in 2014 when I first went to Europe with my mom. The sandwich? Amazing. With my body fueled and ready to go, I made my way from Vatican City and ended up in Piazza Del Popolo. In the corner of my eye, I saw nothing but green. So, naturally, I went to go explore and my curiosity led me to Monte Pincio and the Villa Borghese gardens. Of all the places I have been to, this is definitely one of the most beautiful. This giant piece of land was covered with vegetation, fountains, and statues. I even found a wooden clock in the middle of a pond whose pendulum was powered by running water. I spent a few hours wandering around the grounds, taking in all the sounds and smells. It was the perfect place to take pictures, sit, and reflect.
I continued to explore for the rest of the day. I watched the sunset from the Spanish Steps, observed the Trevi Fountain under the moonlight, and ate a fancy dinner in Piazza Navona.
The following day was a little more touristy. The group and I woke up early to get a good spot at the Trevi Fountain so we could all take the cheesy "tossing the coin" pictures before the crowd came. We were successful. We all got our Lizzie McGuire moments. It was pretty surreal for me when I tossed my coin into the fountain. I did the same exact thing almost three years ago, wishing and believing in the myth that throwing a coin would guarantee a return to Rome in the future. At that time, I never would've guessed that I would be returning just a few years later while I was studying abroad. I hadn't even really thought about studying abroad until I got back from the first trip to Europe. Then, there I was, smiling like a weirdo at the edge of the Trevi Fountain. Now, I can say that I am living, breathing proof that that "myth" is true and I highly suggest throwing a coin whenever you go to Rome.
Next on the list was the Pantheon. Not only was the outside magnificent, the inside of the giant building was stunning... literally. I gasped and froze as soon as I saw the dome. Yeah, the rest of the building was cool, but the dome... wow. It continues to amaze me how perfect ancient architecture is... and they were made without modern technology! The geometry was so precise and accurate and everything just flowed together so perfectly. How. Did. They. Do. That. I can't even draw a perfect circle with the help of a compass.
After marking everything off of our "must see" tourist lists, I ended the day with the Colosseum - the place where thousands upon thousands of spectators watched as gladiators fought for their lives. Wild animals, chariot races, and even naval battles were held in this one monumental amphitheater. It's almost 2,000 years old and only a fraction is left standing. It's withstood time, tourists, and wars and I couldn't be more thankful that I'm alive to see it in person. This was one of those moments where I really had to stop and absorb the fact that I was actually seeing that with my own eyes. I was standing on the same ground level as ancient Roman times. I was standing at the gates where millions of Romans would enter to see true warriors. Like, that all actually happened. I was looking at history. I was literally standing on history.
Just like that, my trip to Rome came to an end. Until next time, Roma! Every single part of my birthday weekend was absolutely perfect. The people, places, and history I was surrounded with made this birthday better than I ever could've imagined!
Kayla's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.