The weekend after Athens, Natalie and I took an overnight train to go spend the weekend in Rome.
Let me just say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the overnight train. We did a sleeper car and were provided with water, a sanitized pillow, a substantial blanket, and even a package containing tissues and a wet towel for refreshing. They even woke us up at our destination and gave us a juice box! The overnight train had us arrive in Rome at 6 am, so we were guaranteed to get a full day on site-seeing.
On this day, we started at the Coliseum. Wow. I don’t know what it was about the Coliseum that was so awe-inspiring to me, perhaps the vastness of its size, perhaps its age, perhaps the knowledge of the tools and technology available to help build it, perhaps visualizing the events that took place there hundreds and thousands of years ago- whatever it was, it was difficult to turn away. After the Coliseum, we saw the Arch of Constantine and then entered Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. The Hill was vast and full of numerous temples, ruins, gardens, and more – with the most famous of these of course being the Roman Forum. We could have wandered here for the rest of the day to try and see everything, but we had to get to the Vatican for our scheduled tour. At the Vatican, we were guided through the museums, Rafael rooms, and led to the Sistine Chapel. The whole complex was beautiful, from floors to ceilings, and the numerous detailed tapestries were absolutely lovely, but I was very glad to have a guide to learn from. The entire place was so packed with tourists that I would not have appreciated the experience otherwise. The Sistine Chapel was both stunning and disappointing at once- stunning for the vast size, high quality, and beautiful mastery of the work, but disappointing for the hundreds of tourists within showing no respect for the sacred place in which they stood. The entire tour, our guide implored us that silence and respect was necessary for this room and for that reason, guides were not even allowed to speak to groups within the room, but for any guide who was silent, there were atleast 10 tourists exchanging conversation. Upon exiting the Sistine Chapel, we ran into my friend Madi, who was also visiting the Vatican for the first time and whom we had been hoping to run into. As our tour was completed, we followed her group around until they finished, and then we explored St. Peter’s, starting with a trip by foot to the top of the dome and then continuing to explore the church from ground level. It was a very cool experience to see the church in person and be able to recognize various areas from the election of the last Pope. After the Vatican, we walked around Rome with Madi as our guide (she is an exchange student there) and saw the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, several obelisks, and assorted fountains. We concluded our day with dinner at a cute restaurant suggested by Rick Steves, and headed back to our lodgings for a well-earned sleep.
The next morning, Saturday, we started our day by going to the Pyramid of Cestius, walking up through the Trastevere neighborhood, stumbling across the Campo dei Fiori market on our way, then heading to the Trevi fountain, grabbing gelato, and seeing another fountain before finally heading to a metro. From there, we took the metro up to Piazza del Popolo where we saw a Michael Jackson impersonator rake in the cash and then took a side trip to the Ara Pacis before crossing back and going up into the Bourghese gardens. Now, I know the Bourghese Art Gallery is very famous and popular, but I am not very adept at appreciating art so, we ended up just exploring the gardens for a while, as it was a gorgeous day. We took the metro back to the apartment to make dinner plans and take a short break and then headed out to see St. Peter-in-Chains, home to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, which was unfortunately closed by then, and grab some dinner in the same area.
The next morning, we started our day at around 10 am with the National Museum of Rome. It was one of the more interesting museums I have ever been to, and very enjoyable. They had pieces of old Roman calendars on display, even one that predated Julius Caesar! After the museum, we headed back to St. Peter-in-Chains to try again and got there an hour before opening (lunch break!). We spent the hour souvenir shopping and wandering around the neighborhood. Our wanderings brought us upon a dirt-field community soccer… excuse me, football… game that we watched for a few minutes before moving on. The statue of Moses was beautiful and intricate, as was the entirety of the church. We moved on to catch the metro from the Coliseum back to Termini train station and made the discovery too late that one does not simply buy a metro ticket by the Coliseum on a Sunday afternoon (*insert Boromir meme here*). We spent about 30 minutes in line, met about 5 or 6 other traveling Americans, and I got about a dollar in American change for helping out a couple of American ladies who didn’t have small change for the ticket machine. It is so funny to feel the light weight and thinness of American coins after you have grown used to the weight of the Euro. We made it back to Termini with about 30 minutes to spare, so what does one do as a last event in Rome? Why, get gelato of course! We literally finished our gelato in front of the bus driver after buying our tickets. It was a good end to the weekend.
I can now say that I have seen both Greek and Roman mythology, and in order! I can also crack my own jokes regarding the phrase about Rome not being built in a day. Well, it wasn’t built in a day, but Natalie and I conquered it to our satisfaction in just over a day and a half…