Oh Rome, there is so much to say about this city. The last time I was there I spent most of my days in the hotel room vomiting (not to mention my day in an Italian hospital) so this visit was much more pleasant. We stayed with our Italian friends Stefano and Simona whom we met in Sydney but who have since moved back to Rome. They were the most gracious and hospitable hosts. They picked us up at the train station, drove us around to different places, recommended all the touristy sights to see (as well as a few unknown to most tourists), Simona cooked SO many meals for us (Andrew nearly cried when he tried her lasagne) and Stefano shared many glasses of limoncello. It was a really nice 6 days. Oh, and not packing and getting on a train every 2-3 days was pretty good too.
We visited most of the main attractions. We almost passed on St. Peter’s Basilica but decided to go in at the last minute when we saw the line had died down. All I can say is WOW! This place is absolutely amazing!! I would dare say it is the most mesmerizing and beautiful building I have ever stepped foot in. Even Andrew who had already had his fair share of Italian churches was super impressed. We were so glad we decided to wait, we ended up spending about an hour just walking around and staring in awe at the architecture and detail of this magnificent building.
The Colosseum was just as I remembered- old and thought provoking. I do have to admit, the colosseum and other ancient ruins sort of “ruined” (yet another pun intended) my perceptions of all other old historical monuments because compared to these, everything else seems so “new.” Something built in the 1600s? Big deal… it’s not 2000 years old! Something built in the late 1700s? That’s practically brand new!
Luckily we were able to visit most of the major sights in Rome in one day without drowning in rain. For awhile, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it through the day when we saw this storm rolling in…
The Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps I could take or leave. I know these are super touristy but I’m not even sure why. The fountain is pretty beautiful but the steps are… well, steps. We decided against going to the Vatican Museum. Sure the Sistine Chapel ceiling was appealing, but we’d seen some pretty impressive ceilings already in Italy and after Uffizi, didn’t feel a great need to pay for another museum. We did however visit the (free) Pantheon, built in about 126 AD. This was one of Andrew’s favourite buildings.
We were able to visit a beach while we were there (who knew there were beaches in Rome?) and it was pretty crazy. There is this lively bar on the packed beach where we ordered a massive drink in a jar (picture at the start of the blog) and they brought the drink and some snacks and we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the evening. Since it doesn’t get dark until quite late, you can stay there for hours. Many of the Italians also stay into the night when a DJ starts spinning some dance tunes. It’s a beach party every day of the week! You can even enjoy the aperitivo but it’s insanely crowded so unless you like waiting in lines for food, drinks, and the bathroom, it’s imperative to purchase a “service” spot on the beach, don’t drink too much, and plan to eat dinner elsewhere.
One of the coolest things Simona and Stefano showed us is St. Peter’s through the keyhole. It’s basically this old church that you go to and when you look through the keyhole of the door, there is a beautiful view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Didn’t get a photo ourselves (well, we tried on our iPhones with no luck) but I found this cool shot by T. Foster on Flickr.
A few of my favourite spots were the artist filled Piazza Navona and the markets at Campo de’ Fiore. I could have spent hours at each one, in fact, maybe we did. We also loved walking around Trastavere for dinner. So many cute little streets and alleys filled with quaint little restaurants. We did receive one important tip from Simona though- never eat in a place with a checkered table cloth or pictures of the food on the menus, these are definitely tourist traps.
Another pretty cool spot we visited was the Capuchin Crypt. It contains several rooms filled with artwork made from bones of 3700 people, believed to be the friars. Pretty creepy in theory but when I was there it did not feel weird at all. Not sure why, maybe I didn’t appreciate that every single one of the bones around me belonged to someone who used to walk the earth. I appreciate it more when I think about it now.
After spending nearly 3 weeks in this beautiful country, I have a greater appreciation for the culture and history but I don’t think I could live in Rome (or Italy for that matter). I feel in some ways it took me back to my early 20s, to the days where we wouldn’t leave the house to go out until 10pm, then we would drive around for ages trying to decide where to go and then we’d drink too much and have to wake up early the next day. Back then I was young and bounced back quickly but now I don’t know how they do it past 28 years old . In summer, most Italians (according to S & S) will eat dinner between 8:30-9:30 (at the earliest) and then decide where to go after that. Many times, final plans are not even made until nearly midnight and this is NOT just on Friday and Saturday. They do this most, if not all nights of the week. It’s just not for me. I need my bed, my rest and days off. I’m not into socialising every single night. Its great from time to time but I think living in Italy would totally wear me out. Either that or I would be a social outcast.
In the end we had an amazing time in Rome (and all of Italy). Each place had its own unique qualities that made it special and different from the rest. For Rome, the history stood out most as well as the good times with good friends.