It's Wednesday morning (midnight) and day four of jet lag. I'd love to sleep a full night for once so that I don't have to be a sleepy zombie at work for once, but alas, I'm wide awake, so without further ado...here is blog 4/5 of my Europe series: Rome. Enjoy!
No trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to Rome. At about 8:45am, we boarded a train from Florence towards Rome. The trip was quite short; about an ho ur and a half ride to the city. I slept the entire way there and woke up right as we were pulling into the station.
From there, we made a fifteen minute trek from the train station to our hotel in the heart of Rome. That morning was a busy one, as we only had enough time to drop off our bags before our scheduled tour at the Vatican Museums. The Uber ride from our hotel into Vatican City was a short one, spanning about 15 minutes. Once there, we were met with large crowds awaiting to get inside. The check-in process was quick and seamless, as we had made an online reservation prior to our visit.
Upon our tour time at 12:30pm, we were greeted by our personal tour guide, Isabella. Isabella was a delightful guide. She was warm and friendly, and was very knowledgeable about the artworks in the museum. The tour commenced immediately. While the Vatican was bustling with tour groups and activity, we managed to find a spot within each one of the exhibits to fully take in the sights and sounds.
The tour lasted roughly 2 hours, with enough time for Isabella to explain the different pieces and answer our questions. I had enough time to take photos, and felt that the timing of the tour was perfect.
My two favorite rooms of the tour was the Room of Segantura painted by Raphael, and the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. Up until our trip, I knew very little about the two artists. During the tour, I couldn’t help but find intrigue at their paintings and their seemingly competitive rivalry. I loved that fact that while both talented men were very competitive in nature, that Raphael had a great respect for Michelangelo, even including a portrait of himself in one of his murals in the Vatican.
Room of the Fire in Borgo fresco painting by Raphael.
At the end of the tour, Isabella led our family to the Sistine Chapel where we were left to explore the rest of the Vatican on our own. My brother and I stayed inside the chapel for maybe 10 minutes, taking in the beauty and awe of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. This is where we lost our parents.
Not knowing whether they exited to the left side to continue viewing the museum exhibits or exited right towards St. Peter’s Basilica, we had some tough decisions to make. Without having a means to contact them, we decided to continue through the museum to see if we’d have any luck. Sure enough, my brother found them about 10-minutes later through a window on our way to the restroom. Once reunited, we explored all of the exhibits in the museum one last time before ending our day at St. Peter’s Basilica.
In comparison to the romantic and often cheerful art of the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s Basilica had a more solemn mood to it. Opulent and extremely large, it was dimly lit inside. There we saw the final resting place of several popes, the alter place where St. Peter was buried, and had the opportunity to explore the different corners of the basilica. Once the basilica closed, we went outside to witness the entire square set up for the upcoming Easter mass. We also had an opportunity to see the Swiss guards at their post in full uniform. It was truly a surreal experience to see the Vatican from the outside and the statue of St. Peter holding the keys. We got to watch the sunset behind the basilica which was really special.
Once we headed back into the city, it was time to eat dinner. We decided upon Alessio, a popular and safe choice. There, we dined on artichoke hearts, thick noodle spaghetti, seared sea bass, and steak. After dinner, it was time to retreat to our hotel. It was another great day in the books.
We started out our morning with a morning walk to Antico Caffè Greco, a historic and popular café in Rome. It first opened in 1760, and is known for famous visitors which included poets Keats and Shelley. There, we enjoyed Americanos and Cappuccinos as well as pastries on the go. My parents enjoyed a warm apple tart, my brother enjoyed a prosciutto sandwich, and I had a giant pistachio cannoli (so good).
From there, we made our way to the famous Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), then to the Pantheon, followed by the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain by far was the most crowded area we had encountered that day, with many visitors wanting to get an up close view of the fountain. In comparison to the grandeur of the Vatican a day before, these sights were not as awe worthy in my opinion.
Next, we made our way to the Colosseum (also known as the Coliseum or Colosseo). It was as big as I imagined it to be. Lined with tourists and tour services, we around around 1:45pm to check out the sights. Despite missing our tour, we enjoyed ourselves on the second story of the building. Being able to sit down and people watch for a bit was quite relaxing.
At about 3:10pm, we were led by a private tour guide to the top levels of the Colloseum. I was extremely excited to climb the top tier, having heard that it had recently opened (November 2017). The view was nothing short of a spectacle. Despite being afraid of heights, I thoroughly enjoyed the view down into the area and felt at peace in the quiet area. Since only a limited number of people were granted access into the top tiers, there were no mass crowds lining the observatory railings of the level. Thus, making this the perfect opportunity to take some aerial pictures of the Coliseum. Once our visit was over, we took a quick peek at the ground level of the Colloseum before heading out.
Now comes my favorite part of the day. The visit to the Mouth of Truth. Myth has it that if you put your hand inside the mouth, it will bite the hand of the liar. It was featured in my favorite classic film, Roman Holiday, featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It’s a cute romantic comedy film about a reporter who is going undercover to try to get a story about a royal princess. Plot wise, I thought it was a much better film than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve probably seen the film over a dozen times, and I still love it very much. Although the line to take a photo with the mask was quite long, I managed to get a quick photo of it nonetheless from the corner of the church were it was displayed. It was a great sight to witness to say the least.
Once we wrapped up all of our sightseeing activities, it was time to get dinner. We dined at Osteria da Fortunata, which was known for its fresh handmade noodles. Upon arrival, we saw some women through the window kneading out the dough, and forming noodles. There, we dined on spaghetti and ravioli. I hate to say this, but my brother’s spaghetti, bacon, and mushroom spaghetti was probably the best spaghetti dish I had tried in Rome. It was much better than my Ravioli, which was a pretty basic and classic platter. Ironically, we also ran into my brother’s friend at the restaurant which was pretty cool, considering we had separate itineraries.
After dinner, our family grabbed some dessert at Giolitti, a popular gelateria in Italy. At this point, I was pretty bias and picked the Amaretto again. This time, I also ordered, a Bailey’s flavor and Pistachio flavor as well. The cream on top was so good, and I really enjoyed the dark chocolate lined cone. The gelateria even had a Roman Holiday flavor which I thought was really cute!
By this point, our family was pretty exhausted, with only 4% battery left on my phone, it was time to get home. Luckily, we had a hotel map handy which helped out a lot. I tried to call an Uber, but at that point, it was just easier to try to walk home. We made it back to our hotel with only 1% battery life to spare. WHAT A RELIEF. By then, we were ready to call it a night. We needed to get our strength up before Naples the next day.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Be sure to stay tuned for the next post: Naples!
Until next time!