Rome was the original intention for our visit to Italy. Home to some of the world’s most amazing architecture and history, I really wanted to experience the city for myself. Rome is one of, if not the most touristed city in the world. Visitors come to see the Colosseum, the Pantheon or the Vatican. The come to see the beautiful statuary and fountains strewn throughout the city. They also come for the shopping.
For our first adventure in Rome, we had to find our hostel, or rather, our B&B as it turned out to be. Thankfully our host found us and got us taken care of. He then gave us a full map lesson on Rome, giving us recommendations for dinner, lunch and the best gelato, as well as a helpful tip that the Trevi Fountain was closed for repairs. After settling in, our next order of business was lunch. Luckily we had a really nice trattoria just around the corner where I was able to finally try Spaghetti alla Cabonara. Basically noodles, bacon and parmesan in an egg sauce. Mmmmm.
Rome was a lot of us stumbling around not being quite sure where we currently were or where we were headed. We found Bernini’s Triton fountain, and we also stumbled upon Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The monument also houses the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). There is also a large museum of Italian Unification where you can read histories of Italy’s military adventures and see relics of those events. After a brief wander here, we went out onto a terrace. Upon heading back inside through another door, we oddly found ourselves in the Bascilica S. Maria Aracoeli. The space is highly ornate and gave off a very cluttered feel for a church. I found the tombs covering the entire floor to be very interesting.
After exiting the church, we again found ourselves a bit lost. We wandered into an adjoining Piazza where Marcus recognized a landmark shown to us by Gianluca, our B&B host. The building itself wasn’t of much interest but following a narrow alley to the back gave us a magnificent view of the Roman Forum. We luckily had our guidebook along so we could place the buildings and read about some of their histories. Later when we visited the Colosseum we did get tickets for a walk through the forum, but decided we had seen most of it from this vantage point and didn’t need to take the walking tour.
For this trip, we really didn’t want to have too much planned before we left home so we would be able to be more flexible with our time. This meant that against many people’s instructions, I didn’t buy skip-the-line tickets for our visit to the Colosseum. We finally got there around 4:00 pm and to my very happy surprise, there was basically no line. We waited to buy tickets for maybe 5 minutes. We did pick up audio guides which I found a nice addition. Marcus said he was a little underwhelmed by the actual size of the structure; in person it does feel smaller than it appears it will be both from the outside and as a perspective when you see pictures or videos of the inside. It is still an impressive place to visit and learn about though. The Arch of Constantine, built in 312, commemorates Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius. We were able to get a close look at it with very few of our tourist friends given the time of day we visited.
Day two in Rome had one special excursion. I had purchased advance tickets for the Galleria Borghese, a collection of some of the most magnificent marble sculptures in the world. If you also would like to visit, you must buy tickets in advance as they only sell so many of them to keep crowds down, and they usually sell out a few weeks in advance. We took a train up to Barberini station and then walked north to the Borghese grounds. On the way we passed the US Embassy and the Cripta dei Cappuccini which we would visit later in the day. We came into the Borghese grounds through a massive and immensely beautiful park.
I did not take any pictures inside the Borghese Gallerey as all of our guide books and the signage inside made it clear you were not allowed to. However, they lied and everyone was taking cellphone pictures, and unfortunately, I had checked my cellphone with my purse, which was mandatory. So if you do visit, you may take pictures with your phone. Lesson learned there. Even though, this museum was ultimately one of my favorite places we visited in Rome. The collection houses some of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s most beautiful works including Rape of Proserpine, David, and my favorite Apollo and Daphne. There are literally awe-some paintings by Caravaggio and Correggio. I would have been more than happy to spend a few hours admiring this collection, but your entry only allows you two.
After admiring the human form in pristine marble, we decided to up the weirdness factor and admire the human form with bone sculptures. The Museo Frati Cappuccini e Cripta Ossario houses an impressive collection of histories and relics about the fraternity of the Capuchin Friars. While some people are interested in the lives of the monks, more visit for a view of the crypts. Decorated with ancient human bones, the crypt’s origins aren’t 100% certain but they do a good job of using long-dead monk’s bones to tell visitors about lessons of Christendom. Photos are certainly not allowed here and you will be watched. I found the crypts to be interesting but left them feeling quite uneasy.
Day two wouldn’t stop there though. We wandered our way past the Trevi Fountain, into the Pantheon, through the Piazza Navona and up to the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo. Marcus learned about Italian shopping, that it wasn’t in our budget to mosey into any shops on Via dei Condotti. There was very little rhyme to our wandering reason while in Rome and that ended up working out for the best. We covered a lot of ground and were able to stumble upon some amazing places.
Our third and final day in Rome started with no plans. We eventually decided to try and find a beautiful fountain we had been told about across the river. We never found the fountain, but we did get some amazing views of Rome and the Vatican, which we then decided to visit. Who would have thought there would be what appeared to be a mile-long line to get into St. Peter’s? We didn’t, so instead, we headed to the Vatican Museum, which, again much to our surprise and delight, there was no line to enter. The Vatican Museum is monstrous, housing some amazing pieces of art. Tapestries, maps, frescoes and statuary combine with ancient relics and tools, sarcophagi, and architecture to create an almost overwhelming experience. A lot of visitors came for the view of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but there was so much more here. I was surprised, and I think Marcus was too, at how much of the collection wasn’t purely religious. This was a great end to our stay in Rome, and I’m glad we ventured over the river to see it.
Our trip to Rome was coming to a close, so we had one last dinner at the little place down the street and watched a massive rain storm from our table. This city is a curious place. It is hard history that can lead you back thousands of years. I enjoyed that history and what it taught me about our perseverance as humans. Not only that, but Rome shows the artistic nature of humans; how we can take a vision and make it something truly amazing. Definitely put Rome on your must-see list, it is a real tribute to humanity.