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A Week in Rome (And My Top Tips for Visiting!)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

In August, David and I travelled to Rome for a week for our annual holiday. I've made it a habit to visit somewhere new every year and Italy has been somewhere I've always wanted to visit as an adult (I visited Venice when I was a toddler, and I can't remember any of it!). Here's what we did in a week and my top tips for anyone planning on visiting the eternal city.

Day one
We landed in Rome Fiumicino in the early afternoon, a couple of hours before hotel check-in. We waited in the hotel restaurant, drinking Diet Cokes until we were able to check into our room and I was able to change into something a bit more comfortable (skinny jeans in 30+ degree heat is not great!). We stayed at the Smooth Hotel which is quite close to the city centre, so we decided to walk into the centre to see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We quickly discovered the nasoni, Rome's free drinking fountains, and took advantage of them throughout the rest of our stay. On our way to the Trevi Fountain, we stopped at a gelato store and, quite foolishly, ended up paying €8 each for gelato (I would like to guess that it's probably a lot cheaper elsewhere). We also popped by to Pinsere and ate pizza in the street - I had a classic margherita and David ordered a broccoli, anchovy and olive pizza which was the shop owner's recommendation.

Day two
On day two, we visited the incredible Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The three are so close to one another which meant we didn't have to stay on our feet for very long, therefore making the 34+ degree heat a lot more bearable. We also tried authentic Italian pasta and bruschetta from a nearby restaurant - both were amazing but the bruschetta was unreal.

Day three
Our third day was spent in the Vatican City, touring the museums and seeing Michelangelo's masterpieces, including the Creation of Adam, in the Sistine Chapel. We also saw the Castel Sant'Angelo and had burgers for tea at a little burger bar that had a Better Call Saul poster displayed on their wall - a winner based on the poster alone!

Day four
We started our fourth day in Rome with a visit to the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, also known as the 'bone chapel', the 'bone cemetery', or the 'bone church'. Though the overall experience was quite short (it consists of a short museum tour then entry to the chapel), the chapel itself was incredible and something both David and I enjoyed seeing. We then decided to visit the Pantheon, stopping again at the Trevi Fountain on the way.

Day five
On day five, we decided to travel out of the city centre to visit the Catacombs of St Callixus which is a short bus ride away. Before leaving for the catacombs, we decided to pop by and see the Bocca della Verita, the marble mask made popular by the film Roman Holiday, and the Circus Maximus, which had been recently used as a concert venue. Despite the fact we are both pretty hopeless with buses, and find metros and trains so much easier to navigate, we managed to get to the catacombs - and with a lot of time to spare too! When we returned to the city, we went to find the best pasta in Rome and I think we found it. Pasta Chef, just a short walk from the Colosseum, was our restaurant of choice after seeing excellent reviews online and it didn't disappoint. David ordered a tomato based pasta with shrimp and I opted for the vegetarian lasagna which is, to this day, the best vegetarian lasagna I've ever had.

Day six
After feeling that we'd seen all the major landmarks at this point, on the sixth day, we decided to venture out of Rome and visit the 'city of the sun', Naples. We travelled from Rome's main train station to Naples which only took us over an hour. With a small difference in price, we also decided to travel first class, which was a first for us both. Once we arrived in Naples, we visited Nuovo Castel, went to the top of Castel dell'Ovo, ate cannolis, sat in the Piazza Plesbiscito, then tried baba', an iconic dessert in Naples which  is a small yeasted brioche-like cake finished in a rum-spiked citrus syrup (we both weren't too keen). We also ate authentic Neapolitan pizza which was David's favourite food from the whole trip.

Day seven
Our final day doesn't count for much as we did nothing on our seventh day except for sleep and visit McDonalds (did you know Italian McDonald's serve cheesy chips?)! The holiday had truly caught up with us at this point, and so we had an extremely lazy day, sorted our suitcases, and got ready for our flight home the next morning.

My top tips for visiting Rome

If you’re planning on visiting Rome anytime soon, then there are a couple of things I think would be beneficial to know (or, at least, I wish I had known!). Continue reading for my top tips...

1. Carry an empty water bottle
As mentioned, the nasoni are Rome’s free-to-access and safe-to-drink water fountains placed throughout the city. Taking advantage of the nasoni will save you on average €2-€4 per bottle of water. The fountains can be found near in all major tourist spots as well as hidden away in side streets and on street corners. You can also find them by, as obvious as it is, listening for running water or looking for streams of water in the street. If you want to make it easier, there’s also a nasoni map app available for download on the App Store though be warned the user interface isn’t the best so you may need to spend some time to understand it!

2. Take the train
Rome is a pretty compact city that can easily be explored on foot, though visiting in the summer can be exhausting. Rome's metro system is efficient and affordable, making it easier to visit all the major landmarks of the city without breaking the bank. To get around without spending a lot, purchase a 100 minute ticket. The ticket, which costs a couple of euros, allows you to transfer between the metro, bus and tram within 100 minutes from when the ticket was validated. However, be warned that the tickets are only good for one-way journeys. For example, once you've left the metro station, you will have to purchase another ticket to travel again.

3. Ignore scammers and those trying to sell you things
Like many other major European cities, when in Rome, it's highly likely that you will encounter individuals trying to sell to you, or trying to scam you. We watched this YouTube video on the second night we were there and found it incredibly interesting. It sounds so rude, but throughout the rest of the trip, we simply ignored everyone which was a better tactic than engaging with them by saying 'no' or 'no, thank you'. If you show you have no interest in the items they're selling, they will leave you alone.

4. Cover up
Rome may be a major tourist spot but it's also important to respect the city's religious landmarks too. Rather ignorantly, I didn't consider the dress codes enforced within places like the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, though, luckily, I had packed a skirt and dress that was long enough. The dress code is pretty simple: your shoulders and knees should be covered. 

September Snapshot

Monday, October 1, 2018
Coats are getting thicker, the air is getting cooler, and daylight is getting shorter: it's October, and autumn is officially here.

On reflection, September was probably the most exciting and unplanned month of 2018. To begin with, the 1st was David’s 24th birthday. We’d booked tickets to see Kynren (a live outdoor show telling the story of England) for the 31st of August, the evening before David's birthday. Although Kynren wasn’t a birthday present in particular, we had it all set weeks in advance and of course, on the evening I end up too ill to attend. Luckily David still ended up going with a friend, but the illness continued for the rest of the weekend and into the next week meaning that I was mostly in bed for David’s birthday weekend. Though I don’t think he seemed to mind, it would’ve been nice to have a marked his birthday with a nice meal out, visiting the cinema or seeing Kynren together!

The 14th was my leaving drinks at work, the 20th was my last day, while the 24th was my first day at my new job (it's been a busy few weeks). Additionally,  the 4th was David's first day at his new job!

Also within September, we painted, glossed and prepared the upstairs of our house for the new carpets which were fitted on the 17th. The home feels a lot more like ours (and warmer!), and for some strange reason, I'm reminded of Christmas when I stand in what will be our main bedroom.

Finally, on the 19th, we picked up our new car! The purchase was completely impulsive: we went to visit the VW garage on the Saturday prior - the 15th - and by 5pm, we've signed the documents, paid our deposit, and confirmed our pick-up date for the 19th. We're now the proud owners of a VW Tiguan. It is an absolute dream to drive and is so spacious I can't wait to visit IKEA with it!

About Evie

Saturday, September 22, 2018
This blog is named after our puppy Evie so it seemed apt to dedicate a post to her.

We brought Evie home on Christmas Eve last year, only weeks after David and I moved into our first home together. I remember initially we were drawn to her from the photos online; she had a petite, pointy face, white socks on her back feet and white whiskers (over time she's actually lost her iconic whiskers!). When we went to see her, there was four puppies left from a litter of six. She was the last remaining girl, and was driving her three brothers crazy.

They say a dog chooses its owner, and that's certainly true with Evie. She was the first puppy to run to us, and she definitely made herself known - we couldn't get a proper look at the other dogs because of her jumping up at us and playing around our feet.

A cocker spaniel and toy poodle mix makes Evie a F1 cockapoo. She has, however, definitely taken more of her dad (the toy poodle's) physical appearance: she's small for a cockapoo but has the long legs of a poodle.

Since bringing her home last December, she has filled our house with life (and mess!). While she may be cute, she's a mischievous pup who loves to destroy all of her toys, and leave the remains on our bed. Next month she turns one, and I'm completely smitten. I am a fully-fledged dog mam!

On Working In an Industry Not Related to My Degree

Monday, September 10, 2018
(Grab a cup of tea, this post's a long one!)

I've been a university graduate for just over two years now and, if you would've asked me back when I was studying what I would be doing in 2018, I'm positive I wouldn't have said that I'll be working in marketing.

The reason why is because, up until 2016, my plan was to study English Language and Literature, graduate with a good grade, and then do my PGCE and become a primary school teacher. That was my plan.

In reality, the expectations of a primary school teacher just aren't for me. And while I applaud all those that do teach, in my heart, being a primary school teacher is not who I am. It took me a long time to realise that teaching wasn't for me because I thought if I don't teach then isn't my degree wasted?

I considered other levels of education, teaching secondary school, college or even university, but I was intimidated by the thought of it. When I graduated in 2016 with first class honours and top of my class, it was evidently the best feeling ever; I'd set myself goals, I'd worked my butt off and I achieved them. However, as many graduates will probably know, having a degree doesn't guarantee you a job and, even more depressingly, having a degree and experience doesn't guarantee you a job, either.

The job market is a tough nut to crack. The memes shared by student Facebook pages are endless of the battle between having experience to do a job, but having a job to gain experience, and it's certainly true that students don't have it easy when they graduate. For as long as we can remember we've had our hand held, by teachers, careers advisors, and tutors to make decisions that, ultimately, were in their best interests, not our own. Choosing where to go or what to do after graduation is difficult, and at a time that everyone seems to have something lined up, it feels discouraging when you can't say the same.

Marketing was something that I had never, ever considered as a career. To me, it was all numbers, having a product and selling it. I didn't like the idea of being a salesperson or having to hit targets, and that's what I initially thought marketing was. I therefore got into marketing by somewhat of an accident. After my dissertation was published on the English department's website, my university's Communications Officer reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in having an article written about me and my dissertation. Of course I said yes, thinking that the experience would, at the very least, be good to include on my CV.

One interview and photoshoot later, my article was published online on not only the university's website but also in the local press too. I remember being in Florida at the time and how excited I was to finally see it published. When I returned from Florida, I started studying for an MSc in Human Resources, a subject that I had no passion for, but what I thought would land me a good graduate job. Not long into the masters, I realised that this wasn't what I wanted to do; I missed the creativity offered to me throughout my English degree, but, at the same time, I needed to pursue an avenue that would lead somewhere (i.e. lead me to a job). I kept thinking about the article when my mam encouraged me to contact the university's Communication Officer and ask if I could shadow her for a short period of time. She replied instantly saying that I could, and we arranged a date for me to start.

Fast forward a couple of months to the end of spring 2017 (as this blog post may never end!), and I completed a short, unpaid internship in the university's press office, and I was in the middle of another short-term internship at a PR agency based in Sunderland when I was offered a job as a 'Content Assistant' at an organisation in Gateshead. The job would have me doing everything that I did while at my unpaid internships: write blogs and articles for websites and draft press releases. Pretty simple, but I was absolutely over the moon to have landed a full-time job where I got to use some of the things I learned during my degree.

I've been at the same organisation for almost a year and a half now and my role has developed dramatically. Within a few months at the organisation, my job title changed to reflect my role more accurately. From a 'Content Assistant' I became a 'Communications Assistant' which I held for a couple of more months until, once again, my role changed (the beauty of working for a small company!). Earlier this year, I was promoted to the 'Marketing Lead' which is an incredibly varied role but one I absolutely love. The job incorporates everything that I love to do, and I'm fortunate that the organisation I work for is so incredibly interesting that no day is ever dull. While I'm still writing, editing and proofreading work, what I learned and what I got from my degree has no relation to what I'm producing every day as a Marketing Lead. I've had to learn a lot of new skills on the job, whether that's using social media for business, or analysing data in Google Analytics and Data Studio, or cracking the mystery that is SEO.

I loved my university experience because I was always learning, and I've found this, too, in marketing (I'm sure the same can be said in many other professions). The industry is always changing, trends come and go, and staying ahead of the game is a challenge, but an exciting one.

Though I may only be at the start of my career, I feel excited about where it is headed. I mentioned in my August reflection post that I had some good news to share which is that, later this month, I will be starting a new job as a Marketing Executive for an organisation which supports entrepreneurs across the North East of England and I can't wait.

Note: This post was hugely inspired by What Olivia Did's 'A Life In Work' post, available to read on her blog. Also, while this post is quite personal I'm thinking of writing a more generic, reflection piece on life after university in the upcoming future. We'll see...

About August...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

It's crazy to think that we're now in the ninth month of 2018. Where has this year gone?

August, much like most of 2018, flew by, though it was marked by an incredible holiday. At the beginning of the month, we (as in me and David), visited Rome for the first time. We spent a week in the eternal city except for one day we spent in Naples. We visited in peak tourist season and experienced 30+ degree heat every day while we were there (and yet I have no tan to show for it!). Needless to say, we drank a lot of water (Rome's free-to-access, safe-to-drink water fountains were amazing) and ate a lot of carbs. In Naples, we ate authentic Neapolitan pizza which was David's favourite, whereas my favourite food from the trip was a vegetarian lasagna from a tucked away pasta restaurant and takeaway near the Colosseum. We hit all the major landmarks while we were there, both of us amazed by the Trevi fountain and the Colosseum, but we also took a bus out of the city centre to visit the Catacombs of St Callixtus and what an experience that was.

I could go on about the beautiful paintings in the Sistine Chapel, or the impressive sprawl of ruins that is the Roman Forum, but to continue, August has been a unique month. Both David and I have had some great news come our way which I will share later in September. We're still working on the house, but in August we finally got around to buying and fitting the hallway lighting, ordering the carpets for upstairs, and progressing with the garden. We only moved in last December, and it'll take a while to get the house how we want it, but we're getting there slowly but surely.

In August, I also finished a book which I haven't been able to say in such a long time. I'd purchased Matt Haig's Notes on a Nervous Planet after spotting it in my local Sainsbury's. The concept instantly appealed to me, especially when I flipped through and saw Matt's reflection on his experience with panic attacks. Throughout the book, Matt reflects on the unhelpful habits we've all developed including our reliance on social media. In September, I hope to 'switch off' a little bit, to be more present, and to spend my time wisely rather than wasting it by spending hours scrolling through feeds and dashboards, looking for nothing in particular.