1. Roma

     
  2. Stato della Città del Vaticano, Roma

     
  3. Stato della Città del Vaticano, Roma

     

  4. Rome, day 2

    On Saturday the 11th, we had our sights set on the Vatican and the Colosseum. Since the Vatican always has crazy lines, we decided to go there first.

    When we got to the outside of the Vatican, unfortunately, I started feeling sick for some reason. I started feeling really weak and couldn’t think straight. Katie asked if I wanted to eat something, so we stopped in a sandwich shop, but I couldn’t even process the options enough to order something. It was kind of bizarre. Katie ordered me a sandwich and we sat down outside and I ate it and kind of just sat there for like half an hour until I felt better. Not the best start to the day, but at least I did feel better.

    Anyway, then we started waiting in line to get into the Vatican. As I said, the lines there are crazy—about a fifth of the way around the perimeter of the city—and it took us about 90 minutes to get to the entrance. We went straight toward the path into the Sistine Chapel once we got in, because I really wanted to see Michelangelo's frescoes, especially The Creation of Adam. Katie knew basically everything about that one and The Last Judgment, plus a few more of the frescoes that were on the museum path to the chapel. From what I’ve heard, the experience of those who visited the chapel before its restoration (before 1984) is entirely different from that of those who visited after the restoration (after 1994). Just looking at the photos from beforehand, this is easy to see: the un-restored ceiling looks practically black compared to today’s colorful frescoes. If you saw the chapel before the restoration was complete, I strongly recommend seeing it again if you have a chance to do so. Fun fact: in The Last Judgment, judge of Hell apparently has the specific face of some Vatican official that Michelangelo despised for getting on his case too much.

    Since the entrance to the Sistine Chapel is itself a long tour of a museum with a bunch of other art, it took us another hour or so to get through that. With the extensive walking and minimal sleep over the last week or so, I was exhausted by the time we finished. We wanted to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica too, but by this time we weren’t sure whether we would have time to see that and the Colosseum. Since the lines were getting even longer now, we walked over to St. Peter’s to see how long the wait was. Part of the area was under construction so it was hard to see where the line went, but it looked surprisingly short. We sat down in St. Peter’s Square and said “let’s take a quick break and then we’ll have time for both the basilica and the Colosseum.” Our “little break” actually became me napping for 15 minutes, right there on St. Peter’s Square. Oops. When I woke up and we were about to get in line for the basilica, we noticed that the line was about 10× longer than we had thought it was just before. Whether it grew dramatically while I slept or it was that long all along, we’ll never know. Oops. Because of the huge line, we would only have time for either the basilica or the Colosseum, and the Colosseum was my priority. We left the Vatican at 1pm or so and got pizza for lunch at another little street-side restaurant nearby. I got some cola to wake me up and we boarded the metro to head across town again.

    The Colosseum was the attraction in Rome I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint. It surpassed the Pantheon as the oldest manmade structure I had ever seen by about 200 years. It is also HUGE. The lines were, again, super-long—but this time we had pre-purchased tickets, meaning we got to skip the lines. :^) Inside, we got little pamphlets telling us what was up, and it was largely a free roam (of the open areas) from there. It was fun to explore; to see the views of Rome and of the inside of the Colosseum from different vantage points. It was again amazing how much solid concrete can just deteriorate, given enough time. We spent awhile exploring and then left to see the Forum, the leftovers of ancient Rome that stand across from the Colosseum (yet again surpassing my personal record for the oldest buildings I’ve seen, haha). It was neat to see this ancient part of the city and imagine how actual people lived and worked there, but we were so spent by then that we didn’t get very into it.

    We left the Forum to find dinner and head to the hostel, and actually found a little restaurant right across the street from the Colosseum. The Gran Caffè Martini & Rossi had a pretty good view. After dinner we went back to the hostel, but as we got the we had a last-minute spark of inspiration and energy and decided to go to the nearby Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi, the oldest gelateria in Rome. It was awesome. Afterward we went back to the hostel, had another bottle of wine on our patio, and finally… sleep. Next up: Cinque Terre!

     
  5. Roma

     

  6. Rome, day 1

    The worst part about Rome was the trip from the train station to our hostel. It was my first day lugging my huge suitcase around, the walk was way longer than I had guessed from looking at the maps, and it didn’t take long for me to get grumpy (Katie laughed at me the whole way). When we got to the hostel, I had to lug both of our suitcases up two flights of stairs to the check-in counter—only to find out that our room was in a different building, back down the stairs and back a few blocks toward where we came from.

    But everything changed once we actually got to the hostel room. It was a palace. We walked down a half-flight of stairs to our door, and entered to find:

    • bedroom (expected)
    • it was huge! (awesome)
    • high, arched, stone ceilings (fancy)
    • a full bathroom (expected)
    • a little living room (whoa, nice)
    • a private, spacious patio out the back door with a table and a cozy little two-person swing
    • keep in mind this was expected to be just a normal crappy little hostel room
    • like €20 a night or something
    • did I mention we go our own private patio that none of the other rooms in the hostel had access to

    We were like, really excited. My foul mood was instantly vanquished. We took some time to settle in and unpack for the weekend, and then we set out to conquer Rome.

    We hopped on the metro (disappointing for such a large city, to be honest) and headed toward our first destination: the Trevi Fountain. Katie had been to Rome a few years ago and thought the fountain would be a good start to our visit. She taught me the tradition of throwing a coin into the fountain over the left shoulder using the right hand. We then walked a winding route through part of the city to visit the Pantheon.

    At that time, the Pantheon was the oldest building I had ever seen—by nearly a thousand years. I could hardly wrap my mind around how old this was, except for the sheer amount of deterioration solid brick and concrete undergoes over the course of 2000 years. Seeing the Pantheon for the first time was one of those moving “I’ve never seen anything at all like this before” moments—like the first time I looked out of an airplane window, the first time I saw mountains, the first time I saw the New York City skyline. It was a whole new category of thing. We approached the Pantheon from the back (the south side), and it was instantly clear how old this building was compared to all the buildings around it, which are already five times older than most of the buildings in the US! The road level was nearly a story higher than the Pantheon’s ground level, because cities apparently just rise after being built up for so long. After walking around from the back, we entered the building. To this day, the Pantheon is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The center of the dome opens up to the sky, which makes the building, among other things, one of the only places I can think of that might be better to see on a rainy day than on a clear day. It did start sprinkling while we were inside, and the perfect column of rain entering through the ceiling was breathtaking. I think we spent 45 minutes just standing inside of the Pantheon, taking it all in.

    Next, we walked to the nearby Piazza Navona, where we enjoyed a break from the rain and a close-up view of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. After resting our feet for a little bit, we set off on another long, meandering walk through the streets of Rome, to see the Spanish Steps. As in most of the places I visited in Europe, these walks were just as much a part of the day’s events as the destinations themselves. The hustle and bustle of the crowds on busy streets punctuated with sudden silence on the side streets—it’s all part of the experience. The Steps were neat, everybody was lounging on them, but I really enjoyed the mini-view from the road at the top. Tourists, clothing shops, restaurants, apartments, a garden; all within a view of a few hundred square feet. After taking in this view (and drooling over a €10,000 suit in the window of a small clothing shop), we were getting pretty hungry for dinner. We found a little pasta restaurant nearby and sat at one of its tables out in the street. Of course it started raining again as we ate—oh well.

    After walking all day, our feet (or at least mine) were completely dead, so we decided to grab a bottle of wine and head back to the hostel room for a relaxing evening on the patio. We enjoyed the vino and the stars, and then called it a night.