The last stop on my mom & my European vacation was Rome, the Eternal City! We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Rome Central Park, which is pretty far from the city center, although a good hotel. When we arrived at Termini station in Rome, we crammed on to the metro, got off at the last stop on the A line, then took a bus to arrive at our hotel. That night we got some good rest after chilling with some prosecco.
On our first full day in Rome, we took our hotel’s shuttle bus, which dropped us off right by the Vatican. The first thing we went to see was St. Peter’s Basilica. Luckily, at 8:30 in the morning, the line was basically non existent. The scarf I bought in Florence came in handy again, as I used it to make an impromptu skirt (no shorts or open shoulders in the churches!).
The Basilica was jaw dropping. I can’t even explain it’s enormity or it’s intricate-ness. All the paintings and art (including Michelangelo’s Pieta), all the marble, the sheer hight, and all the other tiny details are incredible. We also went up to the top of the dome (although we paid to take the elevator because it’s so hot in Rome during the summers). Looking down upon what we had just looked up at was crazy. As we walked through St. Peter’s Square on our way to the Vatican museums, we noticed that the line to get in to the Basilica was significantly longer at this point (9:30am). I guess the key for no lines in Rome (which is packed with tourists in the summer) is really to get out early! We had booked tickets online for the Vatican museums at 10:30, so we didn’t have to wait in line at all. The museums go on and on for seemingly forever, and it’s a lot to take in. There are a ton of ancient Roman statues, great works by Raphaell (including his famous “School of Athens”), and of course Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. All the famous art work was crazy seeing in person, although the atmosphere could have been better had we not been among the throngs of other tourists shuffling their way through.
After the Vatican, we made our way to the Piazza del Popolo, the start of the Tridente (a split of three famous streets). First we shopped our way down the Via del Corso, next we saw the Trevi Fountain, which, although it was under construction, was still impressive. After that, we people watched on the Spanish steps in the Piazza di Spagna before going back to the Piazza del Popolo for “aperitivo” on the Via Babuini. It was a tiring day, but Rome’s architecture is amazing. After a shower at the hotel, we went to dinner at a little local restaurant in our hotel’s area that had really amazing authentic food and service.
The next day we started off by visiting the Colosseum. Since we got there early, we only had to wait in line for about 30 minutes, which is a comparatively short wait. The Colosseum itself is just enormous and in surprisingly good condition. It’s wierd to think the place I was standing in was once the epicenter of Roman entertainment. It was like a dream walking through it’s pillars and arches.
We decided not to go to the Roman Forum; we just casually looked at it as we walked by. Next we went to the Campo dei Fiori – a big market in Rome’s Historic Center where tons of people were selling all kinds of things, from vegetables to coffee machines, and “I ❤ Roma” t-shirts. After eating lunch near there, we went to see the Pantheon, the ancient temple to the Roman gods now transformed into a church. It’s tall, white, marble pillars and incredible dome instantly captured our attention, along with the cool air inside. From there we went to the Piazza Navona, which was probably the prettiest “piazza” I’d seen so far in Italy. Not only is it huge, but it has three big fountains and gorgeous architecture all around. We stopped there for a drink before meeting up with one of my Italian friends, who came to Rome to meet us. We ate amazing Napoli-style pizza at Rosso Pomodoro, a great finish to our time together in Europe.
I think in general I preferred Florence to Rome. Rome was so hot, and so full of tourists. I honestly saw more tourists there than I did Italians, which is so against the point of going to Italy. Although Rome has a lot of things that you just have to see if you go to Italy, everything felt centered around tourism, and I didn’t really feel like it was the “authentic Italy”. Maybe it was just Rome in the summertime, when a lot of Italians leave the cities and go to the seaside, and people from all over the world flock to see some of the world’s most famous sights. I know a lot of people who really love Rome, but it just didn’t leave me that impression. If I ever go back to Rome, it’ll never be in the summer, that’s for sure. Of course, I’m glad to have seen the things I did in Rome, but I think the atmosphere would have been more enjoyable with less crowds.
On another note, I had a lot of fun traveling around with my mom, something we haven’t done a lot of just her and me. Traveling isn’t just about the things you see, but more about the people you’re with and the memories you make along the way.