Rome was the 4th stop on our trip. We originally were only going to visit London, Paris, and Amsterdam but decided to add Italy to the agenda and I'm glad we did. Although I did feel the least safe in Italy and Rome specifically (but only as a result of getting my phone stolen in Pisa which was entirely my own fault). We were in Rome for 2 nights, only 1 full day and about two 1/2 days. I was really nervous about the crowds, lines, and heat in Rome and that we wouldn't be able to see everything we wanted to. When we got to Rome Friday night, we hit the ground running. The fact that we were able to see so much in one night made our Rome itinerary possible. Had we not done this we wouldn't have been able to see it all. Plus, looking back our Friday night was probably my favorite time in Rome.
Here are a few great Rome resources: How to pick a restaurant in Rome (great tips!), How to Conquer Rome in 2 Days, 44 Tips for Traveling in Italy, (<-----This blog was seriously an Italy Treasure Trove!) and our Rome Google Map.
In London and Paris we used public transportation (the Tube and Metro) to navigate around the cities, in Rome however we didn't use it at all. I had heard that it wasn't very safe and after getting my phone stolen a few days before I wasn't ready to go through something like that again. So we walked and walked and walked in Rome. It was the most walking of our whole trip.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Rome, just like we did in Paris and London, but we didn't have as good of an experience here. After spending a day wandering in a hot and sweaty city I REALLY wanted a clean place to rest and clean up and this Airbnb wasn't as clean as our other ones. So that was one of the big downsides of our stop in Rome. Given that though, we didn't pay as much for our Rome lodging as we did the in the other cities. Lesson learned. (I went back through the 60 reviews on Airbnb afterward and I was astonished that it had positive reviews for cleanliness.)
Evening upon arrival [Friday]:
Pantheon (right before it closed)
Trevi Fountain (throw a coin in the fountain)
Dinner at Pizzeria da Baffetto (by Piazza Navona)
Day 1 [Saturday]:
Alter of the Fatherland (didn't visit just looked at from the outside)
Lunch by the Vatican
Vatican Museums (purchase tickets ahead of time, VERY IMPORTANT! Guided tour was amazing) with Sistine Chapel
St. Peter's Dome
St. Peter's Basilica (right during 5:00 mass)
St. Peter's Square
Dinner at Cul de Sac (by Piazza Navona)
Day 2 [Sunday]:
Breakfast at the flat
Finish up souviner shopping
Catch taxi at Roma Termini to Airport
Now the best part, the details and pictures:
We didn't quite know where to start in Rome so on a whim we said, "How about the Pantheon?" Our Airbnb did have a Rick Steve's book so we grabbed that and headed out on our way. We made it to the Pantheon right before it closed. It was perfect.
(On our way to the Pantheon we stopped in this store called Tiger. I saw one in London while we were riding a bus so we couldn't go in and I was bummed because it looked like my favorite kind of store, so I was happy to find one here. We ended up going back 2 other times)
This building is amazing! I had learned about it in Art History, but seeing it in person was way better (obviously!). I couldn't believe how perfectly round the dome was. I truly can't imagine how those Romans built this without having a computer or a calculator or like AutoCAD or something. Jordan is also really fascinated with the fact that we aren't completely sure/are barely figuring out what Roman concrete is really made of. It is different than the concrete we use today. I was just blown away by how perfectly round that domed ceiling was. It was incredible. Oh and those HUGE pillars that make up the Portico are each ONE SOLID piece of granite. They aren't pieced together. They were quarried in Egypt and then brought to Rome.
From the Pantheon we headed over to the Piazza Navona to check out the Fountain of the Four Rivers. We ended up coming back here quite a few times, later this night for dinner as well as the following night for dinner and then again after that to watch some of the street performers (I'm a sucker for street performances, I love them). It was a cool little Plaza.
From Piazza Navona we walked to the Trevi Fountain. I think this was my favorite thing in Rome. It was so gorgeous and magical. There were a million people here both times we went but it didn't detract from it's beauty or splendor. I threw a coin in the fountain this time and Jordan threw one in the next night. (So hopefully we'll get to go back to Rome someday!) Being that this was my favorite spot in Rome, I'm so glad we came when we did. This fountain has been undergoing extensive renovation in the last few years, most recently finishing in November 2015.
After Trevi we headed to see the Spanish Steps, but unfortunately they were closed. So we glanced at the shops around that little Plaza and then headed to an AMAZING restaurant for dinner.
We had dinner at Pizzeria da Baffetto which was one street away from the Piazza Navona. I really liked the vibe on this street, which is why we ended up coming back there for dinner the next night as well (but a different restaurant). This place had a little line when we got there but you know if there is a line that there has to be a reason why there is a line. We waited in line for about 15ish minutes and then were lead into the restaurant where we were seated at a table with 6 strangers (like Benihana). There were two guys from Spain, a couple (I don't remember where they were from) and then a lady from Jackson, Wyoming. We ended up talking to her the whole time. She was great. She had the most extreme country accent I've ever heard. She said that she was staying really close to this restaurant and that there was always a huge line and she decided to go on her last night in Rome. She said that she found a direct flight form Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Rome, Italy. I didn't even know that was possible.
After dinner we stopped to get some gelato and then started heading home, but on the way we decided to go check out the Colosseum at night.We walked all the way around. It was pretty cool lit up.
When we got back to the apartment Jordan found us an available slot for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums for the following afternoon. We had heard that a guided tour was the way to go and we were excited we found one at the last minute. (We were so torn about when to visit the Vatican Museums because it is free on the last Sunday of every month, which would have been the Sunday we were there. It would have been nice to save a little bit of money but hindsight we're SOO glad we just gave in a paid to visit because there's no way we could have gotten in and seen everything including the Sistine Chapel all before our flight.)
The next day, Saturday, was our only full day in Rome, so our schedule was packed. We started our day at the Roman Forum. I had read that it's best to start at the Forum to avoid the ticket lines at the Colosseum. This was GREAT advice. The Forum was empty when we got there so we wandered around at our leisure and then headed over to the Colosseum.
The Colosseum was so cool! Like I mentioned before, we got to skip the huge ticket line. We did have to wait in a small security line, but that was nothing compared to the ticket line. I couldn't believe that we were actually in this iconic building. We looked at as many of the viewpoints and angles as we could and tried to imagine what it would have been like 2,000 years before. They had a few displays about how the stage and trap doors would have worked to bring the animals and gladiators up from the basement. I thought those were particularly interesting.
After the Colosseum we walked down Via dei Fori Imperiali to the After of the Fatherland. This road was closed off to cars because they were setting up bleachers for a big event for their National Republic Day which was June 2. They had huge speakers set up blaring loud music.
We stopped and read from the Ricks Steve's Book but didn't go in to the Alter of the Fatherland. We were pretty fascinated with the world's largest equestrian statue that is out front. The mustache on Victor Emmanuel is 5 feet wide!
From here we stopped at a bank ATM to grab some more cash and then we headed towards the Vatican. We decided to have lunch near there so we'd be ready for our tour right after. We ate at a little restaurant called Ponte Vittorio just across the Tiber from the Vatican. We had THE BEST ravioli for lunch. Oh it was SOOOOO delicious! I wish I would have taken a picture but we scarfed it down much to quickly.
From lunch we had to book it over to the entrance to the Vatican Museums which was still really far away. To walk from St. Peter's Square to the entrance of the Vatican Museums it takes about 15 minutes. Our guided tour was awesome. Our guide had been giving tours there for 13 years. She was good. We started the tour with a big presentation about the Sistine Chapel, which we didn't see until the end, but since our guide wouldn't be able to talk to us inside the chapel she explained it with the aid of this neat touch screen TV. Then we hit the main museum highlights. After the highlights and Sistine Chapel you have the option of going back through to see more and explore on your own or to head straight to St. Peter's. We decided that the highlights were enough for us.
We really enjoyed learning about the papal crests and all of the emphasis they put on keys. The tapestries were breathtaking, the Raphael Rooms were amazing and the Sistine Chapel was incredible. You weren't allowed to take pictures inside the Sistine Chapel and I so wanted to break that rule like a lot of people were but I really didn't want to get in trouble like a lot of people were. Our guide told us that the Sistine Chapel was actually supposed to be punishment for Michelangelo because he was primarily a sculptor not a painter. He had already been paid a huge commission to create a series of sculptures for the Pope but he never followed through so the Pope told him that he had to instead paint the Sistine Chapel. Another interesting piece of information was that Michelangelo and Raphael did not get along (especially since Raphael was primarily a painter but wasn't given this huge painting commission) but once Raphael saw the work Michelangelo was doing inside the Sistine Chapel, he ended up adding his face to his fresco The School of Athens (pictured 2 below).
After the Sistine Chapel we exited on the right and headed to climb up St. Peter's Basilica Dome. The views from the top were pretty extraordinary. While we were up there we could hear bands playing and after a few minutes we spotted a small parade marching around the Vatican. And after a bit of Googling, I guess it was the VIII Great Parade from the International Association Friends of Sacred Music. Of course.
^^The Alter of the Fatherland can easily be seen with the Colosseum behind it.
After checking out the views we went down into St. Peter's. It was just time for the 5:00 Mass. We got stopped at one point and had to stand and wait for the Cardinal to walk into Mass. It was pretty cool to see that. We didn't attend Mass but listened from afar. Along the top of the ceiling/dome are all of the words that Christ ever spoke to Peter. Around the dome it specifically says, "Upon this rock I will build my church" and since it is traditionally believed that Peter was killed at this site and that is it the location of his burial it is pretty interesting that they literally built a church on top of Peter.
^^I liked the Swiss Guards. Jordan thought they were silly. He said, "How is anyone supposed to take them seriously wearing those outfits?"
From St. Peter's we headed back over to Piazza Navona for dinner (stopping for gelato first though because we were so dang hot). Tonight we ate at Cul de Sac, where we had more amazing ravioli.
^^This nun was cracking me up. She was stopped and almost standing in the middle of the road to read scriptures. Whenever inspiration strikes, right?
After dinner we had some time before we wanted to head back to the Airbnb for bed so we watched a few street performers at the Piazza Navona (a clown and a fire dancer) and then walked over to Trevi Fountain again. It was even busier today than yesterday but still totally amazing. We even witnessed a proposal while we were there. The fountain looked really neat at night. One of my favorite parts about it was the light teal color of the water, and it looked stunning at night lit up.
^^Hordes and hordes of people!
The next morning we slept in a little bit, made sure we were all packed up, had some breakfast and then headed back up to the train station to catch a taxi to the Airport. In Rome you have to call a taxi or find a taxi line instead of just flagging one down like you can in New York City. We had asked our Airbnb host about getting to the Airport and she said that it takes about 45 minutes. So we made sure to leave plenty early so we could get there on time. We knew that the taxis had a fixed rate going to the airport of €48. When it was our turn we got in the taxi and took the scariest car ride of our lives. The driving in Rome was CRAZY! (I'm so glad we hadn't rented Vespas or something, I'm convinced that we would have died.) I kept imagining how our families would find out that we died in a freak taxi accident in Rome. I was so scared that our lives were in the hands of this maniac taxi driver. He truly seemed worse than all of the other taxis I saw on the road. He kept getting flipped off and screamed at by other drivers. He was driving down the wrong side of roads, crossing over medians, and averaged over 160kph on the highway, which is about 100. We got to the airport in 15 minutes (not 45 like our host said...) And then to top it off we didn't trust out guts when it came time to paying him. He said that it was €58 because it was Sunday, even though we knew that it was supposed to only be 48. He kept pressing us and I don't know why but we gave in. I gave him a 50 and Jordan gave him a 10 expecting to get 2 back but of course he just took off without giving us any change. So he really stole €12 from us and almost took our lives. HA! Definitely an experience to remember.
Rome was truly an adventure. Off to Amsterdam!