It's bittersweet to write about the last part of our adventure in Italy.
We spent 3 jam packed days in Rome but we soon learned that we could have stayed for weeks. Upon arrival we thought the bus system would be easy to use but it was much more complicated than we had imagined so, instead, we braved the Metro and found it much easier to use. With luggage in tow we stumbled out into the Piazza di Spagna just as the rain subsided and fell in love with Rome. Beautiful shoppes like Dior and Pucci lined the edges of the piazza as well as festive chestnut roasters.
We unpacked at our AirBNB and then headed to a few famous Roman sites; Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona.
The Trevi Fountain was packed with tourists all making their wishes to return to Rome again and so we joined in. Then we moved on to the Pantheon which was less crowded. The history there is fascinating. The almost two thousand year old building is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome and has influenced a plethora of other historic architecture around the world but as cool as that is I found the crazy fountain heads out front a little more entertaining.
TRAVEL TIP: walking can be fun unless you have a bad back like yours truly. We later opted for a 2 day HOP On/Off Bus pass and found this really enjoyable. Also, because of the convenient bus routes, we were able to see more sites than planned even if it was from a distance.
TRAVEL TIP 2: DO NOT EAT on the Spanish Steps.
The next day was mostly spent at the Vatican. We had previously purchased tickets which did not include a tour but once we got there we had a tour guide company trying to sell us a guided ticket. We eventually caved and joined a tour which turned out to be good. I'm fascinated with Michelangelo and our guide had some much information about him. She also had a poster of the Sistine chapel and talked us through the history of it since there is no talking or photos allowed in the actual chapel.
Speaking of the Sistine Chapel -- that whole experience was quite comical. Imagine a jam packed ornate hall with hundreds of tourists looking up at the ceiling while the security guards are yelling over a microphone: "Silencio, No Photos!" . . . but everyone is still doing those things.
TRAVEL TIP: The Vatican is always crowded. Even in the off season. We started at 10:00am and it was so busy in some of the smaller halls. Also there are no beverages or food for sale inside the museum. You get hungry and thirsty quickly after all that walking. Also, I didn't find a bathroom anywhere except in the ticket sales area at the beginning of our tour.
I think chatting with the guide about Michelangelo, the animal sculpture room, the map hall, and mailing postcards might have been my favorite parts of visiting the Vatican. There is just TOO MUCH to see in one visit. I honestly couldn't retain it all.
Just outside the Vatican is where we first discovered the aforementioned Hop On/Off buses and the sales office. We got our passes and rode a bus to the Colosseum. Along the way we saw where Caesar was killed, Circus Maximus, and the Castel Sant'Angelo plus experienced the crazy drivers of Rome, oi vey!
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears."
We had tickets for the Colosseum the next day and already knew it was an early morning adventure due to crowds so we strolled on over to Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. We were surprised to see it had no line possibly because it was about 1.5 hours until closing. Either way we enjoyed a practically empty exploration of these amazing ruins. We listened to the Rick Steve's free audio guide and learned so much. We even saw where the famous Caesar was buried.
The sun began to set and we watched the orange hues cascade over the ruins from atop Palatine Hill. I couldn't help but imagine what life must have been like when Vestal Virgins and Caesars roamed these pathways.
That night we devoured an amazing dinner that included, but not limited to, seared artichokes, tiramisu, and limoncello. It was a great way to spend our last night in Rome.
FINAL DAY IN ROME.
Well, we headed out early for the Coloseum. We barely had to wait in line because of 3 things; off season, purchased tickets beforehand, and got there very early. We again did Rick Steve's free audio tour instead of a paid tour guide. I believe the tour guides cost more but allow you to go into the lower level where the gladiators and wild animals were kept.
Again, this ancient site makes your imagination run wild. I definitely suggest listening to an audio guide or a tour guide to hear about the history.
After the Coloseum we had some time to kill so we grabbed some pizza then headed to the Piazza del Popolo. We were pleasantly surprised as to how lovely this piazza was; kids playing, musicians and street performers performing, and tourists enjoying the nearby cafe. It was a lovely site to end our trip.
Sadly, we had to pack up and train to Milan for a quick night's rest then a long flight back home. Overall, our trip was an absolute dream so much so that I often wonder if it even happened. It was full of experiencing new things, being brave, thinking on the fly, getting a crash course in world history, and learning the ins and outs of traveling in Italy. I will say, I've definitely accessed a new obsession and plan to offer more insight (and photos!) for my fellow travel enthusiasts. So keep in touch via Instagram to see more [ @laurenathalia ].