Welcome back to our European adventure. I hope you had an opportunity to read about Paris and our first international train ride (if not please check them out!) When we left off, we were on our way Rome… We finally made it to there… Late but we were there!
We walked the couple of blocks from the train station to our hotel, where once again we were too early to check in. Once again, we checked out luggage at the hotel, freshened up in the bathroom and then took our first cab ride of Rome. Not as crazy as Paris, but still not as sane as the US.
Vatican City was our first stop. We had booked a tour for the afternoon, which was the BEST idea we had pre-trip, especially since our train was over 3 hours late to arrive.
This was our first sight of the Vatican, the gates surrounding the city. The statues were in honor of the great artist, such as Michelangelo and Raphael, who did great works of art in the city.
We toured the entire grounds and were just mesmerized by all the beautiful statues and artwork! The artists were truly amazing and seeing the work up close and personal was an amazing experience. There were so many wonders and sites to see.
During out tour, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. He had a PhD! He explained how the paintings on the walls and ceilings were designed as an illusion. They were painted to look 3-D when in reality they are a smooth flat surface. We honestly would have never been able to tell this was not true molding on the ceiling.
Due to legal issues we cannot confirm if these are or are not pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling as taking any photography while in the chapel is illegal and carry a heavy fine and possible confiscation of film, media card, and camera equipment.
As we exited the Vatican Museum, we were greeted by the Swiss Guard. This is the Pope’s private army and defenders of the Vatican City. The Swiss Guard was chosen due to their neutrality. Their uniforms are custom made and have remained the same. (Custom made = Expensive).
The tour of Vatican City was amazing but the museums were very crowed and HOT. Maybe we had not adjusted to the temperature change from Paris. We decided to rest on steps surrounding the edge of city. Krystle’s grandmother is a devote Catholic and wanted to receive coins from Vatican City. While sitting on the step, we found a priest who blessed the coins and us to have safe travels. Which we did!
Our visit at the Vatican ended by venturing down to the Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castel Sant’Angelo sits on the outside of Vatican City and a fortress used by the Pope as an escape from attacks on the city. While visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo we saw some interesting sites, wedding photos, guitar players, a guy peeing on the wall by the river, but when we turned around, we saw an AMAZING sunset over St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the actual colors of the sky, we did not enhance the colors at all!
Our first day in Italy ended with a cab ride (because we couldn’t figure out the bus system) to a delicious pizza parlor. So far, our food in Rome was tastier than Paris.
The next day, we headed off to see the sites of Rome. Our first stop was the Colosseum. Sadly, we were not overwhelmed at the size but that comes from being accustom to the size of modern-day buildings. Once we took a step back and truly marveled at the idea it was built by and in ancient times we truly were able to appreciate the site in front of us.
Once again, our tour guide was amazing, and she was an archeologist. Our visit to the Colosseum stared with a simple question “How many of you have seen the movie Gladiator?” Majority of the group raised their hands, and then we were kindly told to ignore everything we saw because it was inaccurate. Some interesting facts we learned was that events at the Colosseum were hosted and PAID by one individual. Each attendee had a certain gate they must enter that was associated to their assigned seat. Lastly, gladiators did not fight to the death as it was costly, nor did they fight animals. If a gladiator died during a battle, the owner of the gladiator would be reimbursed for the cost of the gladiator by the event’s host. The events were rare as they were costly.
After our trip through the Colosseum, we visited the Roman Forum. This is a plaza area that was in the center of Ancient Rome and it held several importance government buildings. The ruins were originally located under the modern-day city and had to be dug out. Throughout the area we would see small parts of old structures and buildings. There are many old columns and other stones just lying around where they were excavated. The details and carvings were spectacular.
One thing we would recommend when traveling… ask a local where to eat. After our tour was finished, we asked our tour guide where she would recommend for a place to eat. She told us of a place to go if we wanted Real Italian food with Real Italian people… as so we did. The food was amazing. We were the only tourist in the restaurant and our server spoke VERY little English. All we were told was it was like “spaghetti” but this was not like any spaghetti we ever had in the US.
We love to travel the offbeat path when we travel. We love to find those places that are “hidden” gems and we did with Borromini’s Perspective. The best part of visiting this site was we walked through several neighborhoods that gave us the feeling of being in Italy, ally way café’s, graffiti on the walls, flowers and vines climbing walls. We even saw bicycles with flower bins in the baskets. It was like a movie scene.
While walking around, there would be statues everywhere on the streets. It was nothing to see ornate artwork on sidewalks just as we see telephone poles. One street had statues honoring past Emperors of the Roman Empire. Once again, we cannot say how amazing it was to see so much history and artwork extremely visible.
At one point we landed in the middle of a marketplace. While in the marketplace, Nicole wanted to get a photo of a stand. While taking a photo of the past with the sauce in the background I was just amazed at the different colors. It was not until we got home and looking through the photos did, I notice the shape of the pasta. Ryan died laughing when he realized I was oblivious to the pasta. He thought that was the reason.
Flags are such a huge part of our culture and yes other countries display flags, just not as nearly as frequent as we do. During our walk around Rome, we were able to capture the Italian ag with the sun shining through it.
Towards the end of our day, we headed to the Pantheon. The architecture was amazing and very ornate. The building survived because it was turned into a church. We were not able to appreciate the original beauty of the inside due to being turned into a church, but the outside was breathtaking.
While at the Pantheon, we decided to relax a bit and give our feet a rest. While sitting next to the Pantheon, Ryan noticed movement in the pit area below us. He kept watching it and finally this HUGE rat emerged. While the rat was scurrying around looking for food, a little girl was hoping and skipping on the boulders. We spent more time than we would like to admit watching this creature… so long that we name him Romatouille (since Ratatouille was French).
After going NON-STOP for several days now, we decided our last day of Rome would be filled with leisure and relaxation. We took the subway to our first destination. The subway station and trains were filled with graffiti.
We started our day at a fantastic park… or at least it was once we got to the main area. We just walked around enjoying the music, statues, lake, and Krystle even got a chance to get a letter box, which made her day. (If you are not familiar with letter boxing please check out this site (http://www.atlasquest.com/).
Romans believe that water should always be accessible to all people. There were hundreds of little fountains all over the city called Nasone that produce fresh drinking water that is free to everyone. So, if you are ever in Rome remember to keep a water bottle with you and just refill it as you often as you wish.
You can not a true Italian experience without enjoying the wonderful dessert of Gelato. We found our way back to the Spanish Steps and decided to take a Gelato break. The shop we went into had a bouquet of cones instead of flowers… how perfect! They definitely believed in making the tasty treat look special!
As our day came to an end and we started to head to the airport, we found the perfect photo opportunity to truly explain the driving situation in Rome. Smart Cars and Scooters! Everywhere you look there were small cars and scooters.
We made it to the airport with little hassle and here we are ready to take a late flight to Dublin!
Thanks for enjoying Rome with us! Let us know what you liked!!!! Until next time, have a great day.
Nicole & Ryan