This past weekend was a blur of action-packed and memorable adventures spent in Rome, now one of my favorite cities. Me, my roommate Jessica, and our friends Alea and Christina hit the top ten places in Rome in only two days. I wanted to make sure to recap everything we did, so I wrote it all down in my journal on the train back to Perugia.
On the first night (Thursday night), we arrived in Rome, found our hostel, and got some dinner at an Irish Pub of all places. We met up with some American friends that my roommate Jessica and I had made in Assisi and we all walked to the Trevi Fountain and saw it all lit up in the dark.
Friday was our “Tour of Ancient Rome” day. We started out by seeing the huge Victor Emmanuel Memorial which put the White House to shame, and we had our first encounter with the crazy Roman roads (which have no lanes, and mopeds speed around wherever they want). Walking toward the Capitoline Museums, we could see our first glimpses of the Colosseum in the distance!
The museums were beautiful. Inside held the works of Caravaggio and the famous sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf nursing the twins Romulus and Remus. In the myth, the Roman god Mars seduced a Vestal Virgin named Rhea Silvia, and she had twins. Her great-uncle and her father sentenced her and the twins to death. The sentence wasn’t carried out and the twins were abandoned in a basket on the banks of the Tiber River (sounds a bit like Moses). The twins were then saved by a she-wolf until a shepherd found them and raised them. Much much later, the twins decide to found a city where they were saved. Romulus killed Remus over some altercation, and Romulus eventually built up Rome.
After the Capitoline Museums, we headed toward the Roman Forum. It was so amazing to see all of the ruins from centuries ago still preserved. We took a Rick Steve’s walking tour of the forum, quickly grabbed lunch, and then went to the Palatino (Palatine Hill) where ruins remained of the palaces of Roman emperors. The ruins were so large, I couldn’t believe that someone had actually lived in that place.
Finally to end our tour of Ancient Rome, we went to one of the most famous monuments in Rome, the Colosseo (the Colosseum)! The Colosseum was my favorite part of that day. After being forced into watching the Gladiator by my boyfriend before I left, I was really able to appreciate the architecture and the history of the place. I could picture when the stadium was completely filled with thousands of spectators, watching an epic battle of man versus beast on the stage below. I could imagine Caesar sitting at the podium with his posse and presiding over the affair. When I saw the maze that was below the stage (called the Hypogeum), I pictured machinery, pulley systems, even animals down there waiting to be used on the floor. It reminded me of the labyrinth of ancient mythology with the minotaur at the center.
After our adventure in the Colosseum, we made our way to a trattoria (family restaurant) that had been highly reccomended in our guide books. On the way, we stopped at a huge piazza, Campo de Fiori. This was my favorite piazza we saw in Rome. There was so much positive energy in the place. Outdoor seating for restaurants surrounded the square and in the center was a large statue where street performers and young people were gathered. We sat there and watched a man with a Chinese yo-yo perform some astounding tricks, another mysterious-looking man on stilts who stood still until approached (and then he may or may not hand you a message), and a quartet with a crazy lead violin. Everyone in the piazza seemed so happy and carefree, eating, dancing, chatting with good friends. It was a wonderful atmosphere and I didn’t want to leave. Finally we went to get dinner at the trattoria, where a set menu was served to us. The food wasn’t amazingly great but my friends and I got to have some solid bonding time over pasta and prosciutto.
The next day we started out by throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. I had to throw two coins in because after the first one, a girl told us that the proper way that tradition says to throw it is with your left hand over your right shoulder. Now I’m ensured to be back in Rome at least twice, which is fine by me!
After the Trevi Fountain, we stopped in the Pantheon. Originally made as a place to worship the Roman gods, it has the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world. Quite a feat, considering the Ancient Romans didn’t really have much to work with. The Pantheon today is used as a Christian church, and has the tombs of the famous artist Rafael and the kings Umberto I and Victor Emmanuel II. Next we walked past an open-air market to Piazza Navona, possibly the biggest piazza in Rome.
The majority of our day on Saturday was spent in the Vatican City. Now Rome has more tourists than Perugia by far, because of it’s popularity of course and it’s status as the capitol of Italy. However, I must say that the Vatican City has disgusting amounts of people everywhere. Masses crowded us as we went into St. Peter’s Basilica and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic inside the enormous church. The building itself was absolutely stunning, with detailed paintings and portraits of saints, Pieta by Michelangelo, and the huge dome. However the amount of people inside made me feel like we were defiling the church in some way. Feeling overwhelmed by the continuous flow of people, we grabbed some lunch at a less crowded place.
As much as we were tired of the Vatican already, we made our way to the Vatican museums. We knew there would be a billion tour groups inside, but we were determined to see the frescoes of Rafael and the Sistine Chapel. Eventually we made our way to the end of our quick tour of the museums where those wonderful works of art were. It was amazing getting to see them in person, but we were still feeling very crowded. We headed back to the hostel and made some plans for dinner at a pizzeria.
After dinner we headed to the Spanish Steps for some relaxation. I thought they would be much larger or prettier, but they were just a bigger version of the steps where everyone congregates here in Perugia. We sat for a while on the steps, relaxing from a stressful day. Groups of friends, couples, and families joined us in listening to a makeshift band play some familiar American songs. Again, I got the same vibe from this atmosphere as I did the previous night in Campo di Fiori. Everyone seemed so happy just to be together, even though we didn’t know each other. I felt so content in that moment, listening to middle-aged Italian men try to get through songs they didn’t know the words to, hearing people laughing, seeing couples dancing and children playing.
Sunday we decided to go on a casual morning walk to Villa Borghese, the city park. It was so nice to see so many trees finally. I miss the grass from home. All the grass here is short, mostly weeds, and nothing like the lush lawn my parents have cultivated in my backyard. It was also nice seeing so many people enjoying the day with their families and dogs. I’ve become somewhat of a dog stalker here in Italy. These Italians really love their dogs, and keep them wonderfully groomed and exercised, so it’s hard to not want to take a picture here and there.
After such a busy fun-filled weekend, it was nice to just relax. It started raining so we headed back to the hostel to gather our belongings. In the cold, wet rain we saw a pizzeria and decided to get some lunch. I had a soup called pasta con brodo, and the pasta was in the little stars, or strelline, that my grandma often has at her house when we visit. It was so yummy! I started to take pictures of the restaurant and the chef back in his kitchen. He noticed me and waved me into the back and asked if I wanted a good picture. Of course! So he counted “one, two, tree” and tossed a pizza in the air for me to snap a quick photo. What a wonderful way to end a fun-filled, exhausting weekend in Roma!