Europe 2016: Rome, Italy – July 2016
Well it took me longer than I would have liked but I have finally gotten around to sorting through all my photos from my trip to Italy and Austria and now I am going to do my best to get these posts up in a timely matter. We saw so many amazing places but for the sake of my sanity I will be focusing on just sharing some of the highlights from each day.
Rome Day 1:
After arriving bright and early after our overnight flight (after already being awake for nearly 20 hours!) we had to hit the road running to try and adjust as fast as possible to the new timezone. Luckily the excitement of the trip made it easy to stay awake, and copious amounts of espresso didn’t hurt either (starting with a delicious one from an airport vending machine). This was actually my second trip to Rome but my first as an adult so it was nice to be back again and experience it with a different perspective. I have always been a huge fan of history in general but Roman history in general has always had a special allure to me. As a side note, if you have any interest in catching up on your Roman history I would highly recommend giving a listen to the History of Rome podcast which covers Roman history from start to finish.
Since we only had two days in Rome and Day 2 was reserved for Vatican City, we had to try and hit all of the major attractions we could on Day 1. Luckily we were up to the challenge, but the oppressive heat we dealt with throughout Italy didn’t always make it easy. After getting our rental car from the airport and driving into the heart of the city and checking in at our hotel we set off on our mission.
We decided to start with the Colosseum and Palatine Hill which includes many of the most important and well preserved ruins in Rome. I wont go into detail about each and every thing there but I would say if you are in Rome you absolutely have to check it out.
After taking a break to recover from the intense heat we continued our walk around the city for a while just trying to take in as much of it as possible. There are so many historical locations within the city that you could certainly fill a lot of time and that is even without including museums and the like. The other highlights we saw included the Fountain of Trevi and the Spanish Steps. However, much to our disappointment both sites were closed off to visitors for events so we had to settle for appreciating them from afar.
However, we were still able to visit the Pantheon which despite being built in 126 AD, sports the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It is an incredible structure and in my opinion a must see stop. It is interesting to see how the architecture of our own government buildings is drawn from these ancient examples.
Eventually we meandered back to our hotel and after enjoying a light dinner we were out cold pretty early. It was a long hot day but we saw a lot and it was a great start to our trip.
Rome Day 2:
The main focus of Day 2 was to visit Vatican City. As a special note here, if you plan to visit the Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel) I HIGHLY recommend buying tickets in advance online. The tickets are time specific but trust me it is worth it. Without buying tickets ahead of time you can plan on spending 1-2 hours online baking in the sun. With a ticket you can walk right past this crowd and straight into the front of the security line. Given it was in the 90s the day we visited I couldn’t imagine having to wait in the line.
We took a cab from the hotel straight to the Vatican and made our way over to the entrance of the museum. Our ticket time was for 9:30 so we knew it would be best to start there and then move on to St Peters Basilica later in the day. I will also note that this particular site is completely mobbed. We were there on a Thursday afternoon but it felt more crowded then the mall on Christmas Eve.
The Vatican Museum in simple terms is an incredible place. I have a hard time thinking of other museums around the world that have such a fine collection of amazing artwork and the amazing part is that way you see is only a small fraction of what is contained here. From the buildings themselves, to the frescoes, and statues, there is priceless works of art everywhere you look. I won’t even try to explain it in any detail because I won’t do it any justice but it is certainly a must see place at least once in your life, even if you aren’t Catholic and or religious.
The only negative was that it was so crowded and incredibly hot and stuffy that we were being shuffled around down the hallways like cattle to the slaughter.
Included as part of the Museum is the Sistine Chapel. However, you are not allowed to take photos within the chapel so I don’t have any to share but it is certainly worth the visit. Another side note here is that if you are visiting basically any church, cathedral etc. you are required to have your shoulders and legs covered in respect for the space.
After finishing in the museum we made our way back around the building to St Peters Square and on into the Basilica itself. St. Peters Basilica is one of the greatest buildings I think I have ever been in and it never fails to impress. The amount of artistry and of course wealth which went into its construction is hard to truly fathom. From the moment you walk through the doors it is impossible to not be moved by this imposing and beautiful place.
Additionally for a fee you can climb up onto the top of the dome. In order to do this you have two options, one is a cheaper ticket to walk the stairs and the other is more expensive and provides an elevator to the base of the dome. Of course being the avid hikers we are we took the cheap way and hoofed it up the stairs. The first half isn’t so bad but it is certainly quite a bit of stairs. The stairs deposit you on the roof above the Basilica and then you just have to walk across and back to the rafters of the main dome. From here you can look down onto the magnificent space below.
Now from here you can either call it a day and go back down the stairs/elevator or you can continue on to the very top of the dome. Now from here the only option is the stairs and this part may not be for the faint of heart or out of shape. The stairs are extremely small and narrow and the space is hot, stuffy, and very claustrophobic. The walkway is so narrow that my shoulders nearly reached from one side to the other. There is no way to pass anyone and it is a one way street so once you start you are committed to going all the way. However, if you are up for a little adventure the experience is worth it. The top of the dome offers perhaps the best views in the city.
We hung out on the top for a while enjoying the views and the cool breeze before working our way back down. The challenge was most definitely worth the reward. We spent the rest of the day walking around the surrounding area before getting a cab to our last stop in Rome where we planned on having dinner.
We made our way over to the Ristorante L’Archeologia which is a well known restaurant located on the Via Appia Antica (Appian Way), which is the old road that was the main artery into the city for hundreds of years. We arrived a bit early for our reservation so we took that extra time to walk down the ancient road and see what we could. Nearby the restaurant were a few highlights such as the Circus of Maxentius and the very well preserved Mausoleum of Caecillia Metella (wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus, son of the famous Marcus Crassus). These sites are beautiful and next time I will have to make time to come out to see them while they are still open. Additionally there is still a section of the original Roman road that is still in use to this very day!
The meal was great and it was a nice ending to our first stop in Rome. It was a little short but we were excited to get out of the big city and into a more relaxed and intimate environment. The next stop for us was the city of Assisi and Verona on our way up to Lake Garda in the Italian Alps.