All I had heard about when talking about Rome were the pickpockets. They were everywhere and you never knew when or where they’ll get you. I had bought an anti-theft backpack and kept nothing in my pockets, because they target tourists. The top places they target tourists are the airport and the train station connected to the airport. We arrived around 9 PM, so we weren’t sure what to expect.We were wary of everyone. So, we bought some pizza, which was awesome. Even train terminal pizza was amazing. We then bought tickets for our train. We missed the first train and by the time we got to our stop at Ostiense, it was late. Turns out it wasn’t a very good area, too. So, we quickly moved to our hotel. It was late, we were tired and this wasn’t a nice place. When we arrived, we learned that they was an additional €2 per person per night tax, wi-fi costed money per hour, a TV remote could only be used with a €20 deposit and the AC was controlled by the front desk. It was horrible. So we climbed the stairs to our room, called the reception to turn on the air conditioning (saying it was on low is a massive understatement) and watched some Italian TV. I showered in what can only be called a wet room where no claustrophobic person could ever go. It was like the Shining, but not as nice. We just wanted to get some sleep though, and soon knocked out.
The next day we woke up early for the hotel breakfast. It was comprised of hard dinner roll, donuts, coffee and milk. It was horrible and made us angry that we missed sleep. So, we had to go find our own. We got some food along the way of our half mile walk to the Colosseum. We also saw the Circus Maximus and other sites. We bought tickets in advance and fortunately didn’t have to wait in the massive line.
Not going to lie, seeing Gladiator and playing really spurred me into loving ancient Greece and Rome. And if you don’t know yet, I am a Classical Civilizations major.
So, within a few minutes we were inside a place I have dreamed about for over a decade. We were where emperors, philosophers and many famed people have been; where popes have preached, where Christians have been fed to lions, Nero built the domus aurea and where Flavius tore it down.
As you can, I love this and I was thrilled just to set foot there. We walked all around it on each level, looking from seats of the commoners, the emperor and everyone in between.
You can also see into the halls and holding areas below the stadium where fighters and animals were held.
We also saw a family where everyone was decked out in capris, long sleeve shirts, safari hats and long socks with sandals. All five of them. We soon needed a break though and plopped down on marble columns that were thousands of years old.
Once I got my fill (not really, but Sarah was bored), we walked south a little bit to theentrance. Palatine Hills is home to many, many famous ancient sites, but it was always the site of the palaces of the rulers.
There were tons of sites and spectacular views of the forum and city. There was a great view of the Forum Boarium and Piazza Campidoglio. We walked more north in Palatine Hill after some museums, seeing where Caligula was killed and walking through underground tunnels used for escape in Nero’s Domus Aurea and Livia’s House.
At the northern edge of Palatine Hill, you overlook the Forum and it’s amazing. Huge building from ancient Rome as well as churches from when Christianity began to rule as well. Rome is a culmination of thousands of years of history all laid on top of each other and right next to each other.
We ran into the weird family yet again, but this time they had umbrellas.
We made our way down to the Forum stopping first at the and simply admired the layout.
It’s an awesome feeling just being the Forum, the center of Roman life and government where so much happened. We also walked through seeing sooo many things.
We walked inside the Temple of Romulus, which now has many old Christian frescoes made by the Catholic Church and more temples along the way to the end.
At the end we saw the Arch of Septimius Severus and many old Catholic Churches from the Renaissance and Medieval Ages.
We then stopped to check out Piazza Campidoglio, the piazza designed by Michelangelo.
Sarah wasn’t having any fun doing any of this though and just wanted Italian food, so we moved toward Campo di Fiori, but I wanted to stop at places along the way, because we wouldn’t be coming back.
There were tons of churches that deemed must-see items, but the majority were closed. I have no idea how any of these people got into the churches. We finally found one that looked open and an entrance far from the street. We walked in and saw a priest who basically went from calm to frenzied in 10 seconds when we told him ‘no, we didn’t have an appointment.’ As we were being forced out rudely like thieves breaking and entering, other kids were inside this place, jumping around unruly. As we were pushed out the door, they all jumped into the fountain and other things and then ran out with the priest chasing them. Yeah, WE were the ones you should have been freaking out over.
After no churches being open and a rude priest, we decided to stop looking for sites and eat. I let Sarah pick because she was starving and wanted Italian food the entire trip. So, we got some amazing pasta with mussels and clams, bread with artichoke and brussel sprouts. We didn’t take any time to take a picture though, we just wanted to eat.
After we finally had some good Italian food, we walked north to the Piazza Navona. It has an Egyptian obelisk in the center with Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi around it.
There are other beautiful Renaissance fountains at each end as well.
We also checked out the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in the piazza, but photos aren’t allowed. It was the first church we had been able to get in.
We were starting to get worn out and I was satisfied for the day after seeing the center of ancient Roman life, so we began our way back.
We stopped by the Pantheon on the way back as well. We admired another ancient Egyptian obelisk and another beautiful fountain. We also got our first gelato and then walked briskly walked through the Pantheon. We weren’t really up for it though and began walking a few miles back to the hotel.
We passed lots of Pope wear and some suggestive priest calendars.
You never know where the streets in Rome will lead, because there is no grid and the buildings are too high to see above them.
We happend to run into the Fontana delle Tartarughe on the way back, but Sarah didn’t want to admire anything anymore. We needed food, though and actually had begun to like shopping at grocery stores in each country we went to. So, it was time to check out what Italy had to offer.
First of all, we realized how great stores and customer service in general is in America. In Italy, you pay to use shopping carts and grocery bags. And in at each country we visited, you have to bag your own groceries. They’re not very nice about any of this, either.
We found some great items though, such as champagne for less than €1, fries in a bag and much more great and horrible things that you’d never see in America.
The next day, we walked to the Vatican, because apparently the bus to the Vatican is famous for its pickpockets. We also had to prepare to cover our shoulders and knees, so we had to cover up in the sweltering weather.
I just wore a strapless dress and brought a scarf, but Sarah wore capris and a cardigan.
We made it to the Vatican, which is bigger than you could imagine early in the morning hoping to beat the crowds.
We also ran into the weird long sleeve/capris family who were wearing the exact same clothes. We had tickets to the Vatican Museum, so we had to make another long walk along the Vatican City wall passing tons of beggars and tour guides all trying to lure you as well as a monstrous line. There is definitely much more to look out for at the Vatican than the Colosseum. We met the group that had our tickets though, and made it into the museum.
We went to the art potion and saw many beautiful works.
We saw depictions of martyrdom, a tapestry of the Last Supper, and other pieces of art.
It was all so beautiful and each piece was significant. After the art wing, we tried to check out some others in the building, but they were all closed.
We did some big Pope stamp collections and many other pictures of the Pope.
Outside is a cool sculpture of the world made of metal.
There’s also odd acorn-ish statues next to a fountain and peacocks.
The next building houses a multitude of sculptures and baths that I couldn’t begin to know enough about.
The walls and ceilings are also decorated from top to bottom gorgeously. In the outdoor portion, there are many statues and granite baths.
Inside, there are many sculptures of animals, mainly dying. But rooms were being roped off left and right and it wasn’t even 2:00 PM yet. So, we moved through various statues and beautiful rooms until we reached what seemed a focal point.
The floor mosaics were unreal. Then we split with crowd, which was the biggest we had been in yet in the trip, and made a left into the Egyptian collection.
We found out what a Sarah was and saw the coffin of Amenhotep.
There were also mummies, tombs and lots of Egyptian art and sculptures.
Returning to the cattle herd, we walked up stairs to more unbelievable beautiful walls, ceilings and sculptures.
I was beginning to admire the rooms more than the collections.
We moved into the Hall of Maps, with maps from all throughout history, showing how the western world saw the shape of the world beginning in ancient times. They’re so cool and being the history nerd I am, I could have spent hours in that hall.
The rooms started turning into the exhibits themselves as we moved closer to the Sistine Chapel. Each of the elements of the rooms was ornately decorated from ceiling to floor. They were all beautiful beyond words – each square inch was decorated, but somehow was not overdone.
As we got very close to the Sistine Chapel, we came back to galleries of art, but the art was more modern now.
We saw works by Matisse, Dali and more.
Then, we came to the beautiful hall before the Sistine Chapel and finally the legendary church.
Photos aren’t allowed, but the reason behind it is ridiculous (a Japanese company paid for the restoration of the ceiling and has copyrights to the images), so I may or may not have taken these 🙂 There’s no way they can expect people to not take photos are some of the best art in the world in one of the most famous spots in the world because of copyrights in a holy place.
The halls that succeed the Sistine Chapel are ravishing, but following the Sistine Chapel makes them look ordinary, so most people rush past them, but Sarah and I were tired and just ambling at this point. So, we hung out in each room, walking very slowly just taking it all in. Everywhere we had gone, we saw people taking ‘tourist photos’. This means each person in the group takes turns standing in front of everything, whether they know what it is or not and poses with the blankest look on their face. And I mean this is done in front of EVERYTHING. So, Sarah and I started taking our own.
Afterwards, we made our way through the crowds of tour guides and beggars to St. Peter’s, but we were too tired to wait in the sun for 2-3 hours for the church. So, we decided that we would come back the next day and just walked the streets.
We made our way to the Castel Sant’Angelo where we saw even more street performers and the Pont Sant’Angelo bridge.
It has some amazing statues and a great view of the castle once you cross the Tiber.
We then got some food. Spaghetti and clams were amazing for me and then walked through the piazzas.
First was Campo di Fiori again, where we finally stopped to admire the statue of the monk. This square has a sad history as the ghetto for the Jews for centuries and this monk was an ominous reminder for them to not disobey the Catholic Church.
Nearby is the Piazza Farnese with fountains on each end where cars drive in and out unexpectedly, and apparently these is also a road through the square. Against the Palazzo Farnese are coldstone benches to sit. So, we just sat and hung out after a busy day just loving being in Rome. We also noticed the soliders stationed there once they began smiling at us every few minutes.
Police, Carabinieri and soldiers are everywhere in Rome. There were men on street corners with fully automatic weapons.
We finally saw an open church, Santa Brigada Church at the other end of the piazza and walked in, but there was a church service of nuns going on, so I got a quick photo and left. We began walking back looking for churches to see, because they were finally open while navigating alleys that can lead anywhere.
We walked into San Carlo ai Catinari Church after covering up again, but only for a few seconds. We got some glares and church service began.
We saw more chuches among other things and made our way back home to the Shining hotel and relaxed. Italian TV (along with music videos, which are usually good) isn’t good and extremely dirty, but we made due with some American movie we had never heard of.
We made our way to the Baths of Caracalla, which are huge. I never imagined baths could be so large.
The floor mosaics were beautiful and each was different.
We saw an Asian group of tourists truly acting like tourists, taking photos of everyone in front of everything, not even bothering to read anything or stop to enjoy anything. And they were yelling at each every two seconds. So, we decided to do the same, except senior photo style this time.
After our photo shoot, we walked around a little bit more and then walked to Colosseum.
We walked down the median, hoping to ge the best photo of the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum. Many cops were driving by though and chasing gypsies, so it was kind of hard.
We also saw some beggars really trying to work over tourists by laying on the ground shaking a can dressed entirely in black in over 100° weather. We watched one for a few minutes and saw what a fake they were with sunglasses looking watching for people. “Beggars” in Rome have no shame.
We finally got to see the Market and Column of Trajan, which is right across the street from the Forum, but Sarah had been too tired to see the first day. Me moved north just wandering till we hit the Trevi Fountain.
It was the one place in Rome that Sarah wanted to go. She tossed in her coin and we got wet on a hot day. And we actually were able to go into a church where the priest was nice, visitors were welcome and we didn’t have to cover up in 90°+ weather.
It was Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi church and it was a gorgeous Renaissance church inside and out.
We then wandered the streets looking for food. The thing about most restaurants in Rome is that they charge relatively the same, but you never know if it’s good or a tourist trap.
So, we’d look for places that had Italians eating there, but alas, we had no hope in this area. So, we went to an empty place off the main drag and we were had. The food wasn’t that good and the restaurant looked like a 1970’s hunting lodge.
After, we went back to the Trevi Fountain and the Santa Maria in Trivio Church nearby it, but the priest kicked us out because of our clothes. We were sick of these Catholic churches and priests by this point, so we decided no more churches. I almost said to the priest as we left “what happened to ‘come as you are?'” Churches should be inviting and loving, but they were only mean and judgmental in Rome with the exception of two. Sarah and I grew up in churches that were loving with loving and kind pastors who weren’t worried what was covered on you or about letting you just enter a church. We grew up in places where they cared that you were there and about you, so we had no idea Catholic churches could be so mean. So, we had had enough of Rome’s churches and thought we had seen enough in Ireland, France and Greece anyway.
We moved a few streets west where we saw the Column of Marcus Aurelius, one of the most elaborate sculptures ever seen.
Moving further west, we saw another ancient Egyptian obelisk from Heliopolis in the Piazza di Monte Citorio. We were now only a two or three streets from the Pantheon, so we walked over.
It’s gorgeous and now a church (so we did go in one more) and one of the only sound remaining buildinsg from ancient Rome. It’s actually still a mystery why it is still standing.
It’s also the home of Rapahel’s tomb and many of his works. The beautiful marble from floor to ceiling and the magnificent ceiling itself makes you think of the ancient Romans, the Renaissance, the church and everything in between in Rome’s history. It was incredible. We were literally the last people to see Raphael’s tomb lit up though as we got there right at closing time.
We walked more toward the Piazza Navona and then to Campo di Fiori where we got gelato. One thing we noticed is that is almost all other languages ananas, or some variation means pineapple.
This completely threw us off. Also, pesca means peach in Italian, while in Spanish it means fish.
We got our gelato and headed to the Piazza Farnese, which was now our favorite place to hang out. It was one of the few piazzas that was not busy, had a seat where you could actually lean against something and you could watch people bustle in and out of the square, restaurants and Campo di Fiori right above.
You felt like you were back in time with buildings and streets that haven’t been updated in hundreds of years, including the portraits on the corners of some buildings.
To make it even better, I finally got an internet signal for the first time since being in Rome, which I believe was courtesy of the French Embassy in the Piazzo Farnese.
We walked back to the Shining hotel after tons of walking, ate the odd stuff we had bought at the grocery store and got ready for the night. It was our last night and we had already missed the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, so we weren’t going to miss anything else.
We walked to the Colosseum with some cheap champagne in hand (you can just walk around drinking in most cities in Europe) and gazed at the ancient place.
We moved north to the Trevi Fountain, which was packed even at midnight.
There were interesting people, but we wanted to head to Campo di Fiori and our favorite place, Piazza Farnese. So, we did, but before we did anything, we need to finish our champagnge, so we went to the Piazza Farnese. There were new soliders stationed there and after them glancing at us a few times, they came over and hung out with us til the end of their shift. Neither spoke English that well, so it was a struggle, but it was fun. Sadly, it was our last night though, and we wouldn’t get to hang out. We finally headed back late at night, not sure what we would encounter in our neighborhood. We were happy to only spend one more night at the Shining hotel after the hotel informed us that they weren’t responsible for anything missing from our rooms (but we also had to leave our keys there when we left the hotel), paying for internet that didn’t last the whole hour, maids waking us up and not cleaning our room because we weren’t out by 9 am, food getting spoiled in a fridge that wouldn’t get cold and much, much more. It hurt our trip, so we were glad to leave it, but we were upset that our trip had been so hindered.
The next day, we wanted to check out St. Peter’s and possibly the Theater of Marcellus. We woke up and packed, which was now a struggle after buying things at each city we visited. When I was packing my bag, my wine bottles from Santorini fell out breaking one of them. I couldn’t believe it for a second as it gushed out of the plastic bag. I ran to the bathroom, but half was already gone.
There was no hope. We didn’t know if we should clean it up with the towels, because being as cheap as this hotel was, they’re probably try to charge us. So, because it had been such a horrible stay and we didn’t want to get charged more, we just left the wine there, but we now didn’t want to store our luggage for the day, which meant we were now hauling it everywhere. Sarah wasn’t up for more sight-seeing, though. We got lunch at a cafe that offered internet and just relaxed until we took the train to the airport.
The airport in Rome is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Calling it a cluster is an understatement. People will start forming a line 3-4 hours before their flight, because you have to be ready to check in when airline employees come to the check in counter. There are never people just manning the desks at airlines counters. They stroll up as they please and never earlier than 2 hours before the flight. So, you have to wait in line or you won’t make your flight. It’s insane. We didn’t have much to do though, so we found our counter and were second in line. People slowly came in, but as we found out everyone was joining one line for 2 flights. The other flight to Cork left 5 minutes before ours, so they checked people into it for 30 minutes before the Irish in my line were literally yelling for help, while 2 people helped 1 flight and no one helped us. Some snotty Italian woman who had been told to help us repeatedly already finally walked up and the entire line applauded sarcastically and then began making fun of her. One woman we were talking to said the best insult I’ve ever heard “She’s got a face like thunder.” We checked in quickly and then went to security, which has no order whatsoever, a common thing among Italians.
When we got through everything, we bought food and really cool snacks that consisted of Nutella, bread sticks and apple juice.
We also checked out how much stuff had pictures of the Pope on it and were soon returning to our last stop, Dublin.