There’s two things I just can’t pass up… a good deal and a trip to Italy. So when I come across a 35 euro round trip ticket to Rome.
I. Just. Had. To.
The combination of the two was just impossible to turn down, even in the mix of an epidemic. It’s been the conversation over the last few weeks. Coronavirus. As I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, social media platforms, or rare case, newspapers, Italy is the new hot spot for the fast spreading Coronavirus over here in Europe.. But in my defense I had already booked my flight well before all the news on the Coronavirus broke out. Rome is located in the south of Italy and the “spreading” was occurring in the North at the time so it’s safe. (In my mind anyways)
One of my teammates, Leah, also grabbed the same flight at the same great deal. She was going to be coming with me. We contemplated the intelligence (or lack of) of still taking this trip as the date got closer but we voted that we would be going. So we hopped on our 35 euro flight and we were on our way to Rome. When we landed, we were met by employees wearing masks that were scanning visitors. We stood in front of a screen and our body temperature was checked. We both passed and were let in.. this was no shock to me as Italy is the one with the fast spreading virus not Germany. Regardless, appreciate the precautious. I’ve never really been one to think about germs or door handles, hand rails, exc. but I do admit I avoided them at all costs on this trip.
I even found myself playing my own version of Hot Lava as I stood on the public transportation. You know when your a kid and the ground was lava, so you’d have to jump around from one piece of furniture to the next in attempt to not fall in.. well same.. kind of.. when getting on the trains I would separate my feet and try my best to keep balance as we went from stop to stop. The goal was to keep balance without needing to grab a handle. This was an extreme version of hot lava because let’s face it, if you lost balance as a kid and fell into the “lava” nothing happened but now if my balanced failed me, I was running the risk of being infected with the Coronavirus. Exhilarating.
If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a pretty carefree person. Some may say naive, but the fact that even I was a little nervous about the virus says a lot. I didn’t know if it was the media blowing things up or what most people truly thought about the virus. But the extremity of this virus was really displayed as we walked through the streets of Rome, alone. Rome was empty. I’ve never been to Rome before but I know it’s the largest city in Italy with a population of nearly 3 million people PLUS the millions of tourist that travel there every year. With that being said, it resembled a ghost town. Maybe, it was a mix of it being a rainy weekend or down season for tourists but truthfully, I think the majority of the emptiness was a direct correlation of the Coronavirus scare. My CNN notification also kindly informed me, on the first day of our trip, that Rome has received their first case of Coronavirus. Great. Still not nervous. No biggy.
**As I proceed to put my hands in pocket and hold my breath every time we pass someone on the street**
Mostly joking, once we there and exploring the city, the thoughts of the virus quickly dissolved. The city is filled with too many distractions to be thinking about the virus. We only had 48 hours to explore Rome. If you’ve been to Rome, you would know that is simple not enough time. As a friend told me.. my new mantra for the weekend was RUN. Run from corona and run from one site to the next. He wasn’t wrong. We saw as much as possible in the time and we had a great time while doing it. Talking and just roaming the city. I love Italy. I’m pretty confident you could drop me off in any city and I would enjoy each place equally.. the coffee, the language, the people, and of course the food. Rome provides all those things, in addition to some of the most beautiful and historic sights in the world. So you could say it was a great trip.
Where else would you start your 1st day if not at the Colosseum?! Well, it was everything it’s cracked up to be. (Unintentional pun, enjoy) We walked around seeing what’s left and admired and imagined what it used to be so long ago. We ventured through the Roman Forum, saw the Trevi Fountain, and made our way to the Spanish steps. I have yet to discover how to get my German cellphone service to work in different countries.. with that being said, thankful that Leah had service and we weren’t completely lost. We were proudly displaying our best tourist look with her iPhone out in front of us turning left and then right before eventually making a full circle to see which direction we needed to go next.
The next day we headed to Vatican City. (Fun fact: Vatican City is its own country, making it the smallest country in the world with a 2 mile radius) We ended up purchasing a tour for the Vatican Museum. This was a guided tour and much needed as the Vatican Museum was so overwhelming with artwork and sculptures that if we decided to try tackling it on our own, there probably would have been a bunch of ooo’s and ahh’s but actually having no idea what we were looking at. And I would have not got to listen to our tour guide (nice Italian lady) say, “Mamma Miaaaa” (my goodness) after every interesting sculpture we passed or fun fact she shared. This alone was worth every penny. Vatican City is also the home of the Pope and no trip there would be complete without stepping foot into the Sistine Chapel. It was truly breath taking as we sat in silence and just took in the artwork surrounding us.
Although, we did indeed cross off everything on our “To See List” the best part of traveling is just wandering and seeing where you end up. This is what we did most times when searching for coffee shops, restaurants, or a place to grab a glass of wine. The decision making process was rather easy in this regard because with people being so scarce throughout the city, we would just go into the place that had the most life and wasn’t completely empty. Simple.
We did however stumble upon a bar that served only Italian beer.. Beer in Italy c’mon. I get I’m an outlier in Germany but there’s no time for beer in Italy. (Okay, that’s just the opinion of a dramatic non-beer drinker) In the end, I think it was a fair trade off as Leah doesn’t like coffee but yet I had her try an espresso. So this was my culturing moment of Italian beer. Still a no but we can say we tried.
The easiest decision we encountered was when we were weaving through the streets and heard live music. I think we both stopped in our tracks, made a hard right and walked towards the bar without even exchanging words. Again simple.
We enjoyed our last night like a local. Wine, live music, and even got a ride on a moped from a local. Rome was exactly what I envisioned it would be; full of history, beautiful sculptures, and good memories.
The next morning we got on our flight and filled out a Public Health Passenger Locator Form (That was the name of it I really have no idea the use of it) My thought was it was a way for Germany to obtain the personal information, flight information, from where you were traveling, exc. of all flight passengers in the case someone on the flight did indeed have the Coronavirus. I have yet to receive any email or confirmation that someone on the flight was ill with the virus so we will chalk that up as a small victory. When we finally landed in Germany, we got off the airplane handing over the Public Health Form and walked through the exit and headed to our car. No checks, no screening, no nothing. To my knowledge, both Leah and I survived the sickness and are back safe and sound in Germany.
The Coronavirus has been spreading quickly and with concerns escalating many precautionary measures have been taken. Being an athlete, of course the ones that stick out to me are all the ones that are surrounding sports. No fans at March Madness, NBA being suspended, the Italian league on pause, football(soccer) games without fans. We haven’t heard anything from our league here in Germany but it appears to only be a matter of time. This morning I read the news of the suspension Trump has placed on Europe to US travel. I’ve decided to stay indifferent on the topic as I am unsure of the severity. I’m not an infectious disease expert nor know anything about anything in that department.
Therefore, my two cents… wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, and in the words of Aaron Rodgers.. R-E-L-A-X.
Disclaimer: My trip to Rome was taken on March 1st and this article was written on March 11th. The Coronavirus news is changing every hour and I’m a procrastinator. That’s all. Enjoy.