Rome, Italy

Posted By on Jul 23, 2014 | 0 comments


Where to start. Rome was a whirlwind with nearly every minute filled. It would likely take me 2 days to fully write about what we did in 2 days, so I will do the highlights.

We arrived in rome via airplane at 1:30am. Apparently the bus and strain services stop at midnight so we were forced to take a taxi, a 50 euro taxi. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast by 2:30am, Trinity B&B, the lady was not happy with us. After a long-winded lecture we were let into our room. It was lovely. Much more than we had expected for 25 euros. It was the cheapest option for ‘private room’ (which Jess and I have decided to aim for whenever possible) and it was probably better than any of the others on there! It had a large queen bed (but we didn’t mind sharing) and 13 foot ceilings with a table and chairs for breakfast. It also had a private bathroom, which is apparently a luxury in hostels and the like. We were very pleased.

We crashed pretty hard and woke up by 8:30 to start the adventure.

Rome itinerary – Day 1
Colosseum
Palatine Hill
Roman Forum
Trevi Fountain
Pantheon
Spanish steps – Evening

Colosseum

The Roman colosseum

Colosseum

We walked the 1.2km from our B&B to the Colosseum entrance. The line was huge. We also heard that they would be closing the entrance for a little while because it was getting too crowded. We were then approached by one of the tour people and for 23 euros? we would get to skip the line and have a tour for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. It really ended up only being a few dollars more than if we had done it alone, and we decided our time (skipping the line) was worth it.

We were going to wait for the next tour because the man told us that the one leaving had a really boring guide. However, since they were closing the entrance soon we man not be guaranteed to leave soon. We opted to go now.

There was a group of about 15 people standing around a little old man with a fisherman’s hat and a speaker. He was adorable! He told us all about the earthquake that broke the exterior wall of the colosseum on the one side, the importance of the pillars, how the building used to look, all sorts of interesting facts. He was right in the middle of painting us a beautiful picture when some extremely rude man told him that he didn’t want to stand outside all day and insisted we get inside. Our guide looked crushed. He put his little books back in his saddle bag and lead us to the entrance. Jess and I were crushed.

Once inside we went up to our guide and reassured him that his information was both interesting and encouraged. We told him that he was a great guide and we were looking forward to the rest of the trip. Jess even showed her italian side and grabbed the mans face in traditional passionate fashion. He lit up immediately and told us that we had reignited his strength. We felt great.

He showed us all around the colosseum explaining what it was used for, how the building ran in its prime, pointed out various markings on the walls, and really went deep into some of the terrifying history of Rome. We were so caught up in his stories we did not even notice the time. Another lady did though and, more politely than the last man, asked him to wrap it up. Our tour to Palatine Hill was to begin in 10 minutes.

Palatine Hill

Mussolini's house built right on the side of a roman ruin.

Mussolini_house

We took a few pictures and selfless and headed to the exit where we met the next guide. She was Canadian. Originally from Edmonton and then Toronto. She led us down the street to the entrance to Palatine hill and up along the windy path. We heard to the original building or Rome, how the soldiers captured surrounding tribal woman, and built an army with thieves and other degenerates. We saw the castle ruins and the aqueduct that nourished the city. We saw Mussolini’s residence (when he so graciously decided to build right up next to the ruins to unite himself with royalty… nice guy… thanks for ruining a historic site with your hideous modern house) and looked in at the museum that was currently closed.

Some of the marble left behind after the dark ages thievery. Said to be some of the worst.

Ancient Castle Marble

The main castle at the top of the hill was stunning. It had marble floors (which, when had water splashed on them,

shone with red and pinks) and walls with yellow and gold. During the dark ages most of the castle was dismembered and most of the marble was stolen. The tour guide said to keep in mind that the marble that is left, no matter how beautiful, is actually the worst

Blue flowers representing water on Capitol Hill in Rome

Flowers as water

that was here. The stuff people left behind. Wow. It must have been stunning. here were blue flowers in the area representing the courtyard and were to used to show where water used to be. It was beautiful.

Roman Forum
The guide took us to a hill overlooking the Roman Forum and painted a picture of an ancient roman ‘downtown’. Most of the buildings were ruins but those that still stood were, or used to be, churches. It is apparently the only reason they were spared from the dark ages. So much history in such a tiny place. She eventually left the group and Jess and I sat pondering what it would be like to live back then… it was a scary thought. We took a few more pictures and started to chat with other members in our group. We met a fellow Calgarian as well as 2 handsome german boys all equally as interested in the sights.

After filling up our water bottles at some questionable fountains (only questionable because they are rusty metal spouts with continuous streams, but are actually life savers and the way of getting water around here) we strolled through the forum and out to the street. We were famished.

Lunch with Friends
We decided to go on a hunt for some legendary Italian pizza. We had not yet had anything but our free breakfast croissant and were itching to see what Italy had to offer. We headed towards a busy looking street and who did we run into? The German boys! They, coincidently, were also hungry so we all decided to stop at a small place off the beaten path. Our very first friends in Europe.

The place was almost empty but the menu looked nice. Jess and I got pizza and then boys got pasta. We all chatted over a bottle of water and made fun of each others accents, the usual. After learning how to properly say ‘Bratworst’ {Brawt-vwerst} found our server for the bill.
(One major thing we have noticed about Europe so far is that once your food comes, your server disappears. Getting a bill is a task and a half and they more often than not just write the amount on a napkin. It is quite strange… so eating at a sit down restaurant is not recommended for those in a hurry).

We headed out onto the street and deeded to go separate ways. They had already seen the Trevi fountain and we were making it a priority. We did, however, make plan to meet at 10pm at the spanish steps. Jess and I had yet to see them and thought that a night out could be fun. We bid them farewell and beelined for the Trevi.

Trevi Fountain

A close crop of one of the Trevi Fountain's horses during construction.

Trevi Fountain Horse

I have been looking forward to seeing the Trevi fountain since, well, ever. My first google of ‘Europe’ likely brought it up in the search and I was instantly in love. Seeing it in person was going to be a major sharpie-sized check off my bucket list.

When we got there… we were devastated. Apparently, for the first time in a long long long time, it was shut down for restoration. The water was not running and scaffolding was covering 85% of it. There was a small pathway built so that you could walk up closer to the statues than you could have if it were running, but it was hardly a conciliation for the missing water element. I took as many close-cropped photos as I could to avoid the construction but I was mostly unsuccessful.

Disappointed, we decided to hit one more monument before heading home for a rest.

Pantheon

Inside the Parthenon in Rome, Italy

Inside the Parthenon

We got out our trusty map and started to weave through the crowded streets to the Pantheon. We passed some beautiful shops and waved ‘no’ to the man restaurant promoters trying to pull people in off the streets. We stopped at one store where Jess fell in love with a beautiful purse, but reluctantly left un-purchased.

We made it to the Pantheon in only a few minutes and took a stroll around inside. It was pretty grand and had a lovely dome roof, the first we had seen on this trip. A mass was about to take place and crowds were gathering near the alter. It was nice to see these churches still in use.

Rest
The song ‘Home for a rest’ played in my head as we took the long walk back to our hostel. We had wandered pretty far throughout the day and our feet were feeling it. We hobbled back past the Roman Forum, past the Colloseum, and back up the main street towards our place. There, we crashed. Both plopping onto the bed with our wifi and settling in for a couple hours of peace and quiet before we had to leave again.

Spanish Steps
When 9:30 rolled around we were hardly ready to leave. We were not sure if our friends would show up anyway, but, since we hadn’t seen the steps yet, we decided we would make an appearance.

We hopped on the Metro line to ‘Spagna’ and walked out into the plaza. It was lit with street lamps and 30-40 people were calmly strolling around. The steps were not busy but also not empty. We did a quick scan of the stairs and decided to plop down in the middle, they would find us there. We people-watched for a few minutes when the guys plopped down behind us. They were not too happy that it was 10:20 when we and said our meeting time would be 10:00 and we apologized. In all honesty we figured it was a more casual thing, but we did feel bad that they were waiting for us. They pulled out a bag with a cup and a bottle of wine. Jess had mentioned that she wanted a glass while she was in Rome and I suppose they wanted to make her dream come true – so sweet. We sat and talked for a few hours (though Jess and I did most of the talking. They would answer our questions but never really start new conversations… it was a strange exchange). Eventually we got tired of keeping up the conversation and said we wanted to go get food. Although it was 2am now, we were determined to find a slice of pizza. It had been many hours since we last ate. They wanted to come so we wandered the streets for a while before finding a main road and a small pizza place. We shared 2 pizzas (that we really not good at all) and were pleased and surprised that the bill came right away. When we were finished we hugged them goodbye, exchanged facebook’s (obviously making them official friends), and said smiled as they yelled “Goodbye Canada” as they walked away.

Bedtime.

 

Rome Itinerary – Day 2
Catacombs
Vatican Museum
St. Peters Basilica
Spanish Steps – Daytime

Our plan was originally to get up early at hit the Vatican right from the get go but, being that we got in at 4am, we were not ready to get up with our 7am alarm. We did a quick early-morning google search and found that the Vatican quiets down again in late afternoon, as long as you are there before 3. Perfect.

Catacombs
We hipped on the metro to S. Giovanni station and then crossed the street to catch the 218 bus to the catacombs. We waited nearly half an hour and we knew the last tour was at noon. It was already 11:15. It finally came. We followed the instructions we had googled and got off the bus. It seemed to be quite a hike to the catacombs and we were almost the only ones that got off, even though there were many tourists on the bus with us. We walked down a long road and and up to the catacomb entrance. It was 12:07. The last tour had started. We pleaded with a monk sitting in the office to told us to wait while he walked out back. He came back and ushered for us to pay him. It was $8 each but he only charged us $7.50 (probably because he didn’t have change and we paid together with a $20). He then brought us around to the back where the English tour was going over some basic points before entering. We were so thankful, as the next tour was not until 2:30 and we had to be at the vatican before that.

We went down a long set of stairs into a cold damp room. The walls looked like they were made of mud, with body-length indents in them- it was eerie. We followed the guide down a few narrow hallways and passed many more indents, some the size of babies, before reaching the ‘most important place in the catacombs’ – the popes room. Many of the more ancient popes had been buried here over the centuries and some of the carved marble name plates were still intact. We then headed through to the tomb of Saint Cecilia – a young girl who converted to christianity in a time when christianity was illegal. Her strength and sacrifice gave her saint-hood status when she was killed by a slit to the throat for participating in illegal activities (her new religion). There was a beautiful marble statue on the floor, marking her grave, that had visible slits to the throat. It was a strange sort of beautiful.

We headed through a few more corridors and then back up the stairs. The tour was only about 30 minutes but I was happy to be out of there.

Lunch
We were directed to a much nearer bus stop when we left and caught the 218 back to S. Giovanni and then took the metro to the Vatican train station.

As you can see, it was the best pasta ever, given that it is already gone.

Best Pasta Ever in Rome

When we got off we were hungry. A croissant and 3 malba toast with jam (our included breakfast at the hostel) doesn’t hold you for very long. We wandered past a few restaurants and then settled on one where there was a man eating what looked like the most delicious pasta in the entire world. It had huge pieces of buffalo mozzarella balls, cut up tomatoes, basil, and thick noodles. We ordered it. Along with a capriccios pizza to share.

Turns our the man that was eating was the owner of the restaurant. He ordered 2 wines on the house and chatted us up until our food came. He was nice but a little bit creepy. Wife beater, unkept, and constantly commenting on how beautiful Jess was and how he used to always get the tourist women. I looked away from him pretty quickly.

Then the chef from another restaurant came over (I guess this guy owns a couple) and introduced himself. A fellow Canadian! He was so excited to see us he took a picture with us and then ran back for a minute. When he came back out he showed us a Kellogg’s box with his picture on it. Pretty neat! He had fallen in love on a visit to rome and then decided to move there and become a chef. Romantic.

The owner also took a picture with us (taken by his wife and co-owner of the restaurant) and then headed off, telling us we should come back for dinner). We smiled, thanked him for the wine and ate.

The pasta was absolutely the best pasta I had ever have in my entire life. I shoveler it into my mouth like it was the last one on earth, which, for me, it may have been. The pizza was pretty good too but not in comparison. In fact. I should have eaten that first so the pasta taste was my last. Oh well.

2 more wines showed up (I gave mine to Jess) and then finally the bill.

Vatican City
As we walked along the giant wall separating the two countries (yes, Vatican is it’s own country), we noticed how long the line was. It wrapped around a few corners soaked in sunlight before coming to the end a few hundred feet back – we were not waiting in that. Just then a little man came up to us waiving pamphlets for tours in our face. At first I wanted to shoo him away but his prices did not seem so bad. Apparently it is about $12 to get into the museum and another $17 to get into St. Peters. Or so he said. So the $36 for the ‘childs price’ he was offering to us since we were “so bella” didn’t seem to bad (most people in our group, we later found out, paid the ‘child’s price’ as well. Thieves).
We followed him to the tour office and got into the group. The little man was absolutely taken by Jessica and told her many times how beautiful she was, even coming so close as to rest his head on her shoulder. She shuttered. We quickly went to the other side of the group, thanked him for his service, and ignored him until he left.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum entrance

Vatican Museum

The museum had so many beautiful rooms and sculptures and art. It was truly one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. Our tour had some great information about a few key pieces but overall skipped 95% of the museum. If you are not a big museum person I would recommend the tour, but if you have any passion for seeing the artifacts I would

Laocoön and His Sons sculpture in the Vaitcan Museum

Laocoön and His Sons

strongly recommend buying the line skip and just going through it on your own. I might, however, recommend the audio guide, as there is so much to read it could take days.

Sistine Chapel
We made our way through to the Sistine chapel where we had to wrap scarves around our knees (since knees are completely hideous and blasphemous in the catholic religion… or so I would guess…). Shoulders also needed to be hidden but I knew that beforehand and wore a longer sleeve shirt (THANKS NIKI!).

The Sistine chapel was beautiful inside, but not quite what I expected. It was pretty dark and the painting were slightly faded (even after restoration). The famous finger-to-finger of Adam and God was much smaller than I had imagined but still a wonderful piece of art.

St. Peters Basilica

St. Peter's basilica near the alter.

St. Peter’s basilica

We made our way out the small door on the left (left takes you out to St. Peters and right takes you back into the museum). Soon we were out on an area overlooking the square just in front of the doors the church.

Jess and I took turns taking photos and then a lady asked Jess to take a picture fore them, while I headed to the edge to take a picture of the square. When I turned around, Jess was gone. In fact, the whole group was nowhere to be seen. My headset (that we had to hear the guide) started to go fuzzy, which, I had learned previously, meant that they were going out of range, likely into the church. I was on my way in when the guard stopped me and told me to wrap my legs. Right. Blasphemous knees… how could I forget. I folded my scarf in half and began to wrap it. “No!” he yelled, pulling to off me. He unfolded it and held it back up. Apparently floor length was better… thanks buddy. I tied the scarf around my waste and sported my hideous floor length get-up into the church. The group was nowhere to be found and now the radio was dead. They must have gotten in fast. I wandered down the right side to the end, across the top, and back down the left. No one. When I looked down at my radio the light was off. Great… a dead radio. Now I would never find them. I did one more lap backwards in a hope to run into them, but nothing. The crowds were so thick and the guide we were with had such a tiny flag that the odds were slim.

I remembered that Jess and I had said that if we get lost we should wait at the exit of wherever we are. Perfect. I headed there. I was not sure if she would be there waiting and missing the tour but I hope not. I was ok waiting there while she finished up and then she could fill me in later. 15 minutes went by. I was asked to not sit on the ledge. 30 minutes went by. I had to pee. 45 minutes went by. I asked a man how long it takes tours to go through usually. He said 20 minutes max. Strange. I waited another 15 minutes, making my stand near the doors almost an hour. Ok. She wasn’t here. I snapped a few photos and decided, rather anxiously, that since I couldn’t find her here she could be anywhere, so maybe I should just head back to the hostel. I headed out the doors and down towards the square. JESS! She looked miserable sitting on the edge outside the church area. Turns out, the guide had turned off her radio and collected everyone else’s before heading into the church, and that they had not even done a tour in there (thanks for telling us… I would have stayed in the museum longer if I had known that…). The guide also would not let Jess go inside the church because she needed my radio back before she could get her ID back. So she and jess waited outside for 45 minutes before getting kicked out of the area for loitering. That is when she ended up against the wall. Luckily the guide had given up and given Jess her ID back. So, turns out, we had the same idea to wait by the exit but, since we had different exits in our individual circumstances, we did not meet. I also felt horrible that Jess did not get to see the church.

About the church? Well. it was entirely beautiful, rich, grand, and gluttonous. Yes. Gluttonous. All I could think was how so many ancient romans were starving on the streets and breaking down old buildings to have materials to survive and the catholic church and pope decided their money was best spent making sculptures and lining the massive church ceilings with gold? Although not all in the same century, I just think that the money could have been spent on the people. But is that not all churches? Pastors with Rolex’s and sports cars and citizens with a cup in front of them on the street. Ah, such is life.

Anyway. Yes. St. Peters was beautiful and certainly worth a look, if not just as an ancient art gallery.

Shopping

My long lost italian leather purse. We were not meant to be.

Italian Leather Purse

Remember that purse Jess had walked away from? Well, now we were walking back towards it. It was a nice one and certainly would be a great souvenir from Rome. We caught a train to the spanish steps, took a picture in daylight and walked to the nearby pantheon where we saw the purse. We both looked and purses and, although I managed to narrowly talk myself out of a 109 euro one, Jess did not. We came out 30 minutes later with 2 beautiful purses (neither of which were mine… Sadface). And then? It was bedtime.

Off to Sorrento (Amalfi coast) Tomorrow.

Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha. Thats all folks!

 

Rome (3-4 days)

  • Vatican City
  • Vatican Museums
  • St Peter’s Basilica
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Colosseum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Capitoline Hill
  • Roman Forum
  • Spanish Steps
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Pantheon
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Piazza Navona
  • Piazza di Spagna

 

Ps: Number of times we said “When in Rome”: 743 en-counting.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *