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Amalfi Coast | Pompeii | Rome | Tucany | Venice


We backpacked out of the train station in Rome without plans — only a determined goal of not paying more than 35 euros ($40) for a hotel in the middle of the city. We were laughed at by the hotel agencies recommended in Lonely Planet. Undeterred, we wandered into an Internet café where the lively and entrepreneurial Eritrean owner sent us to his mother's hotel: a converted apartment in a classic building across from the British Embassy, complete with an iron-cage elevator rising up through the winding staircase. The room was only big enough for the bed and two backpacks, but we had our 35 euro room.

We spent the next few days walking… and walking… and walking: across the piazzas, around the Pantheon, under the orange trees lining the sidewalks and the rainbow "Pace" (Peace) banners hanging in every other window, picking though the Forum ruins, throwing our pennies into the Trevi fountain, clamoring up the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, and roaming the endless galleries of the Vatican. We sat and watched shiny Smartcars zoom around the Coliseum in a confusing whirl of new meets old, and even Dana was thinking that the camel-express wouldn't be so bad as we rubbed each other's aching feet.

We found ourselves having to choose between sightseeing and eating, as the entrance fees for places like the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum were as staggering as the sights themselves. Some days we'd pay to see the sights, and then eat bread and cheese for dinner. Other days, we'd admire the sights from afar as we lingered over our Chianti and snarfed down sinful spaghetti carbonera over a checkered tablecloth in a tiny trattoria. Satiated with city life, we headed out of Rome in search of some countryside.

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