Oh, Rome. What a city. This place is absolutely magical. I wish I could go back almost every day.
We spent 3 days in Rome, one of the longest stops on our trip, but it still wasn’t even close to enough time to appreciate all this city has to offer. Luckily, I’ll be going back to this amazing city this coming summer, and I cannot wait. Here’s just a glimpse into my reasons why.
Gin, Emily, Elvio, and I took a short train ride from Cassino to Rome and hopped off right at noon, immediately joining the masses. Elvio lived in Rome for many years, so he knew exactly where to go, which was a nice bonus. On our way to the bus stop, we passed fountains, tons of people, and the Baths of Diocletian. It was a little surreal to look around and see ruins that are a millenium or two old. Once we reached our bus stop, we realized just how many other people were waiting for the same bus. We attempted to shove into the already-full bus, but with no luck. Em and I aren’t really used to public transportation (and the rudeness that sometimes comes with it), so we ended up hopping in a taxi to take us to our airbnb. We were a little early, but we were able to leave our bags in the gate and go exploring for a while.
Our airbnb was in the perfect location, just around the corner from Piazza Navona. We did a little exploring, looking at all of the beautiful fountains, while dodging other tourists. After Piazza Navona, it was time to put our things into our airbnb. This little apartment is one of the cutest places I’ve ever stayed, rivaled only by our airbnb in Siena. We got all of our things situated and then we headed back out. Lunch was pizza at one of Elvio’s favorite places. Emily had a pizza that had a fried egg right in the middle, which was a little strange, but she enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, discovered that I prefer sh*tty American pizza to real Italian pizza. Old habits die hard I guess. When we finished eating, we made our way around to see many of the sights that Rome has to offer.
First, we saw the Pantheon. It’s so much bigger than I imagined it would be, it dwarfed everything around it. It was interesting, because the center of the ceiling is completely open, so when it rains, the whole building gets wet, but thanks to some intricate draining systems, nothing gets damaged. We got to see Raphael’s tomb (seeing all these tombs was strange, all of these iconic people being right there) and Emily, ever the art lover, freaked out just a little. After the Patheon came the Spanish steps. It was ridiculously hot outside, and ridiculously busy, so the fountains offering free drinking water (a blessing when water is not free) were extremely busy. We (I) waited in line and filled up our bottles, and then we made the trek to the top of the stairs. Peddlers were everywhere trying to sell everything from water to roses to toys, but we avoided them the best we could. At the top of the steps we put on our scarves to enter the cathedral, but we were turned away due to our outfits being ~too promiscuous~. In 95°F weather. I understand the need for respect in sacred places, but some of the rules got to be a bit ridiculous. But that’s enough for another post entirely.
After the steps, we walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was also ridiculously busy. We managed to get close enough to toss our coins in (and it worked! I’m going back to Rome next summer!). The fountain was beautiful, but it felt like half of the city was gathered there, so we ducked out pretty quick. Then it was time to go see one of the Paganos’ old apartments. They ended up selling the apartment to purchase a different one in Florence, but wow was it beautiful. It was only two blocks from the Colosseum! There was a giant vine plant covering the front of the building, and stretching across half of the street on a wire. We thought it looked pretty cool until Elvio informed us that he planted the vine when it was only about 10 inches tall! Tons of tourists stopped to take photos of the sight, and we just had to laugh.
Next stop was another church! This one had the relic of St. Peter’s chains. Another great feature was Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses. Once we saw all that we wanted to see, we were again yelled at for being too revealing. We just left at that point. Right outside this church we found another cache, signed it, and then made our way to the Colosseum. We just looked from the outside for today, but even that was pretty amazing. It’s so much bigger than I realized! At that point, Elvio told us he was heading back to Atina, leaving the three of us to our Roman holiday. He would be greatly missed, but it was good that he got to have that extra time with his brother.
Dinner was at a cute restaurant near our apartment. We had some delicious carbonara (one of my favorite Italian dishes) and a bit of limoncello for dessert. It was all amazing. I still miss this food! We thought maybe the crowds at the Trevi fountain would have gone down this late at night, but we were wrong. One look and we turned right back around. We looped back by the pantheon and saw a giant rally going on for the two soccer teams in Rome. It was crazy! At first we didn’t know what was going on, and it looked a little scary. That was the end of our explorations for the day. When we got back to the apartment, we looked and saw that we had walked twelve miles. It was time for some relaxation before Vatican City.
Vatican City! Time to explore the smallest country in the world. We had a quick breakfast at a cute little shop near our apartment before making our way to Bernini’s bridge, with a stunning view of St. Angelo’s Castle. When we got into Vatican City, there were quite a few people, including a ridiculously long line to get into St. Peter’s. Emily had our Scavi tickets though, so we didn’t need to wait in the line! We got to our special entrance, but we couldn’t go in until 10:50, and we were about 10 minutes early. When we got up to go in at 10:50, there were about 30 people in our line. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Until we finally realized that it wasn’t moving at all. We jumped the line to get to our tour, and realized that everyone was just standing in line for no reason at all. These people that had no idea what was going on almost made us late! Thankfully, we got to our tour guide just in time.
We had the sweetest little Italian lady as our guide to the Vatican Necropolis (aka city of the dead). It turns out it was actually above ground until Constantine ordered the building of a new Basilica in the 400s. The tombs were all Pagan, as the church is built on an old Pagan cemetery. We walked the narrow roads of the old city of the dead, looking at the Pagan family tombs. One small tomb appears to be Pagan, but upon further inspection you can see that it’s actually a secret Christian tomb. It’s weird to remember that Christianity used to be illegal in a city filled with so many churches. Toward the end of our tour, we learned more about St. Peter. We learned how he was crucified upside down in 64 AD. Christians at the time secretly buried him in an unmarked area in the Pagan cemetery. They then built two protective walls on either side of his grave. A temple was also later built by Christians. When Constantine legalized Christianity he secretly placed the bones in a graffiti covered niche. The bones were not discovered until the 1960s and were officially declared St. Peter’s by the Vatican. And we got to see them! It was crazy that oral history was the only thing that kept people believing St. Peter was under the church until the 1960s. It was a super interesting tour, and if you have the chance to go to the Vatican, I implore you to take this tour.
After the tour, we got to walk through some of the grottoes and see the tombs of the popes, and then we walked right into the basilica without waiting in line! It was a nice bonus of our tour. I was completely in awe of the basilica. It’s so much bigger and grander than I was expecting. After appreciatiing the church, we made our way to the Vatican Museums. We were constantly heckled by people saying “Sistine Chapel, Museums, and St. Peter’s with no wait!” Well, St. Peter’s is free, the Sistine Chapel is included with the museum, and we waited about 15 minutes total to get in. If you’re ever there, it’s safe to say you should ignore anyone trying to sell you things.
We made it into the museum pretty quickly, but Emily and I found we were a little sick of sculptures and ancient art. Gin wanted to see a lot more of it than we did, so we split up to allow her to fully enjoy everything. Emily and I quickly made our way to the Raphael Rooms. We got to see “School of Athens” which was so cool. We really did speed through the museum, though. We were a little museum-ed out. We were pretty excited to see the Sistine Chapel, too, so that pushed us to go a little faster. The Chapel was incredibly full. It’s so crazy to think that Michelangelo did all of that so young! It was nothing like I was expecting, although I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I attempted to take a picture, but I was caught by a guard. (The ceiling is copyrighted, because it costs so much to clean and preserve, so taking pictures isn’t allowed). The whole thing was kind of funny, because Emily told me to take the picture and I said “no, I don’t want to get in trouble!” to which she replied, “you won’t no one will even notice!”. So, of course someone immediately saw me.
After that, we practically ran to the end of the museum. We waited for Gin and thankfully were able to rest our feet. Once she reached us, we realized that we never really ate lunch… it was 4 PM at this point. So, of course, we stopped for gelato. Then, we headed for home to rest up before going out for the night. We stopped for some souvenirs, and I found a pin with Pope Francis’s face on it. The second place we stopped was a grocery store, where we bought some vodka and some soda. After a little resting, it was time for dinner. Em and I had been sipping on some vodka sodas (gotta love the Italian drinking age!!), so we were a little tipsy for dinner. We walked to an Istanbul kebab place, ate some kebabs, and shared a bottle of cheap wine. It was some of the worst wine I’ve ever tasted, but we finished it during dinner anyways.
We were fairly drunk when we got back to the apartment, so naturally we finished our vodka. We had some wonderful deep talks, like sisters do, and even pinky promised to be sisters forever. We planned to go out to a club, but the one we tried was apparently permanently closed. So we ended up back in Piazza Navona! I jumped a guardrail so I could put my hands in the fountain, because what else would you do when drunk in Piazza Navona?? We all laughed so much that night, and it was really perfect.
Waking up was just a little difficult after our wild night. We slept in until 11, and all woke up with splitting headaches. So, of course, we went to get some pizza to nurse our hangovers. Gin was appalled that Emily would eat something with garlic and cheese, which seems like a strange rule to me. Italians are weird. When we finished eating, we hopped on a full bus headed to the Colosseum. When we got off the bus, we were once again bombarded by people trying to sell us tickets. Once we got in, Emily and I did some exploring, but Gin needed to take a while to rest. We explored the first floor, and then tried to get up to the second floor. However, every single set of stairs said “down only”. We searched and searched before finally just running up a set of “down” stairs. We got some amazing views of the Colosseum, took some amazing photos, and explored an exhibit about the Colosseum during medieval times.
After exploring, we found a one-legged pigeon! It was kind of cute, but mostly just weird. I had to take a polaroid photo of him. We spent quite a while just walking and looking around, before finally deciding that we’d had enough. We tried to find Gin, but no luck. We searched and searched and searched before coming to the conclusion that she’d gotten sick and gone home. We weren’t sure though, so we found a cafe with free wifi so we could get ahold of her. Apparently, she had been in the Colosseum the whole time. Not sure how we missed her, but oh well. If nothing else, it was a nice excuse to get some peach bellinis at the cafe. After that, we headed to a great photo location and took our classic tourist pics, and then headed to the Roman Forum.
It was awfully hot, but it was cool enough to walk around most of the forum. We explored for a while, sweat through our clothes, and then hopped on a bus back home. I didn’t have my ticket anymore, but what can I say? I like to live on the edge. Walking home from the bus stop, I decided I needed to find a place that served plain pasta with pesto (another of my favorite Italian dishes). Luckily, there was a place right near our apartment, so we made reservations and went to get cleaned up. An hour later, I had a plate of pasta with pesto in front of me. We had too many appetizers, so dessert was out of the question, but we got to sample some delicious prosecco. Once we got back home, we packed up for the morning’s train ride back to Cassino.
Next stop: Salerno!
Stay tuned for more updates,
xoxo, second sister suzie