Four Days in Rome

Ok, just imagine me harnessing every ounce of my previous 7-year-old self, jumping up and down with glee, and shouting, “Rome is awesome!” Seriously, Rome is awesome!  We’ve been here for four days, our flight leaves tomorrow morning, and I’m not ready to go home.  Even though we’ve been gone for three weeks and I miss my own bed, my fully-stocked kitchen, and my bathroom full of LUSH products, I’d still love to stay here a bit longer. 

Walking from the Pantheon to the Spanish Steps

It’s beautiful here.  The feeling is similar to Barcelona in that it’s got a big city feel, but without the frantic hustle and bustle of most American cities.  Plus, Rome is full of surprises, both large and small.  Walking along on a street, you might see a small drinking fountain – not the typical box-like structure we have here, but rather one that’s sculpted like the ornate fountains you see in a city square.  Or you might be strolling down a narrow street that quickly opens up into a huge plaza with one of the grandest buildings that you’ve ever seen, complete with intricately-carved sculptures on par with what you’d find in the world’s greatest museums.

A random shot that I took of a building in Rome

The people here are relaxed and friendly.  We had one or two instances where someone seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, but you’ll find that anywhere – because, well, sometimes people wake up on the wrong side of the bed, right?  Overall, the people have been nice, welcoming, and helpful.  Most everyone speaks English, too, which makes it a lot easier to communicate than in some countries when you’re not fluent in the language.

The square outside the Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda

We had to take a shuttle bus from the cruise port to the train station in Civitavecchia, which is over an hour’s train ride from the center of Rome.  Getting on the shuttle bus and taking the train with all of our luggage in tow really zapped our energy.  By the time we got to the hotel, we were tired enough that we wanted to take the rest of the day off.  We didn’t even go out for dinner!  I just handed out some fruit and nut bars I brought from home.  I keep them on hand for when I can’t find an allergy-free meal.

This is the view while waiting in line at The Roman Forum.

On our first day of sightseeing, we conquered the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill 🙂 It was a beautiful day and not sweltering hot like it’s been in other places recently, so we were able to do a lot more.  We still needed to drink lots of water, but it wasn’t as necessary to find shade and rest as often.

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is quite prominent in the landscape there.

To save time on the long lines, we went to the Roman Forum and waited in line there to buy our tickets.  It was the first Sunday of the month, so entry is free, but you still have to wait in line to get an entry pass.  Everyone in your party has to be present, too.  The passes that you get at one place are good for all three places, so it’s better to go to the Roman Forum and get the pass, because the lines at the Colosseum are much longer.  We downloaded Rick Steve’s app and used the audio guides for Rome.  They are quite good, but we had some issues with the one for the Roman Forum.  We started at a different place than the audio guide, so we had some trouble figuring out what he was talking about initially.  About 15 minutes into the audio, it finally became clear.  Listening to it during our time there was really informative though.  I highly recommend it.

Kyle has stopped to listen to the audio guide about the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.
This is the Garden of the Vestal Virgins.  If it was found out that one of them was not a virgin, they were given a loaf of bread, a lantern, and they were buried alive.

A closer view of Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Palatine Hill is adjacent to the Roman Forum, so we walked directly there.  There are no gated entries between the two places once you get inside.  There’s no Rick Steve’s audio guide for Palatine hill, so we just enjoyed the views.

Buildings on Palatine Hill

We took a break for lunch.  Fred was starting to grumble about all of the seafood restaurants that we’d been going to, so we decided to get an inexpensive lunch at the supermarket.  We found sandwiches, fruit, and salads there.  We then grabbed a shady spot on the sidewalk to enjoy our fare.  It wasn’t long before a nice lady walked past and told us about a garden nearby.  We were already well into our lunch so we didn’t move, but it was really sweet of her to mention it.

Happy after our mid-day meal

Once we refueled, we headed to the hour-long wait at the Colosseum.  It was after 1pm, so the lines were fairly long, but they did move quickly with the exception of going through the metal detector.  We chose the wrong line.  The other line moved more than twice as fast.  It required some patience, but we were rewarded with seeing the Colosseum!  Here’s some pics from when we were there.

A view of the Colosseum from across the street
Just *part* of the line at the Colosseum
In the center of the photo, you can see some of the original marble seating
A look at the lower level from above
Cool detailing on the columns on the second level
This is as close as I could get to the lower levels, which had elevators to lift wild animals to the main floor of the Colosseum
Fred on the second level of the Colosseum with a view of the Roman Forum behind him

Day two of our sightseeing in Rome was a lot more relaxed.  We didn’t walk to do as much walking, since we’d done so much the day before and we planned to see the Vatican Museums, etc. the following day.  Our hotel was close to the Barberini metro stop in Rome, so we were really close to the Trevi Fountain.  We just walked around the area and saw the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps.

The Trevi Fountain was only a short walk from our hotel.
The Pantheon is truly incredible
Walking through the door of the Pantheon
The Spanish Steps

Day three was the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.  We took the Metro to the Ottaviano stop and walked the short distance.  We didn’t buy tickets because Fred is great at negotiating and we knew there would be guides selling their services everywhere.  The lines were really long, so we bartered with a tour guide and got to skip the lines with an expert guide for about 40 euros per person.  She was fantastic and worth every penny.  It was a great deal for us 🙂

I’m not a Catholic and I’m not particularly enamored with the types of art found in Vatican City, but I am impressed with the sculptures, so most of my photos are going to be of those.  Photos are not allowed in the Sistine Chapel.  Anyway, here’s what caught my eye over the course of the day.

St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City
The Pope’s balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica
The Pontifical Swiss Guard is responsible for the Pope’s safety.

We stopped by the post office in Vatican City on our way out because I needed to mail a post card to Louisiana.  I didn’t have a pen and a nice couple there offered to lend me one without my even asking.  It turns out that they are from Louisiana, so I really enjoyed connecting with some other folks from back home. 

As far as restaurants, we ended up eating at a couple of good places.  Our favorite place, Vi Vi Bistro, is in a shopping center on the 6th floor.  It has tons of vegan options and plenty of non-dairy and wheat-free choices as well.  The juices there are really small and are seriously overpriced, but the salads are amazing!  The sandwiches are not bad, either. 

Vi Vi Bistro
a vegan sandwich from Vi Vi Bistro

We also liked Origano Trevi – just not the buffet.  We tried the buffet one night, which had a vegan pizza and some spiced chickpeas, but it wasn’t all that great.  The following night, we went back for pasta dishes and they were quite tasty (albeit a little salty).  What I really appreciated was that the menu has all of the ingredients listed for each dish and clearly states which items are vegan.  From that, it’s easy to figure out dairy-free options.  We got pasta with clams and a vegan apple cake for dessert. 

I’m going to miss Rome.  I’m just getting used to walking on the cobblestone streets without tripping, being down the street from the likes of the Pantheon (wow), and eating pasta for lunch just because I can.  I’m going to miss the rich history that’s almost palpable in every brick, stone, and sculpture – and how it’s mixed and mingled with modern-day architecture, art, and technology.

We’ll be back in Valencia tomorrow, which feels even more than a world away.  I’ll be back with more posts in less than two weeks when we leave for our 60-day cruise.  More on that later 🙂