Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Two Days in Rome

At the end of Day 4, we took an overnight train to Rome, and arrived in the morning on Day 5. All roads lead to Rome! For some reason, I was much more excited about Rome than Paris; when I first started thinking about traveling to Europe this summer, my plan included ten days in Italy, and *maybe* a side trip to France.

After dropping our bags at our cozy hostel not too far from the train station, my friend and I set off on our Roman Holiday (of course we watched the movie before leaving!). Since it was Saturday afternoon, and we weren't sure what all would be open on Sunday, we got some one-day metro passes at the train station and headed straight to Vatican City.

Day 5 

1pm: Vatican City. After a quick gelato stop, we got in line for St. Peter's Basilica. The line was very long, but mostly covered, so the heat wasn't too much. It moved pretty fast, since it was just to go through a security checkpoint, not to pick up tickets or anything else. Before entering the Basilica, there was another checkpoint with guards reminding everyone to cover their shoulders and knees. I was wearing a full length dress and brought a scarf to cover my shoulders, so all was good. Smart vendors were selling giant scarves for about 15 euros right by the checkpoint though.

Inside of St. Peter's is beyond description. It is huge, it is gorgeous, it is so full of works of the masters, I don't even know where to begin. The first stop for pretty much everyone is the Pieta, of course. After that, we walked around each of the side chapels, admiring every inch of gorgeousness. One thing I'd been waiting for was to rub the feet of St. Peter near the front. When we got there though, we realized it was June 29, the feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul! The statue was roped off and dressed in full papal robe, the only day of the year it is adorned so. How serendipitous for us. We also stopped in the gift shop near the museo to get post cards, which you can mail from the Vatican City post office! I sent one to my little cousin, written in Latin of course.

3pm: lunch outside Vatican City. I just couldn't wait to get some tagliatelle.

4pm: Metro to the Fontana di Trevi. Of course I threw in a coin! So did Oreo.

5pm: Another gelato break. then we got hopelessly lost after finding the Pantheon, ended up at Piazza Navona, and then looked for the Coliseum to find our way back to a metro station. We grabbed some groceries in the train station as we headed back to our hostel to wipe our feet off and get ready for another day in Rome.

Day 6

9am: Up and at 'em! Sort of...waited a bit for my friend to snooze until I finally ripped her blankets off. We're in Rome! And it just happened to be the last Sunday of the month; the one day the Vatican Museums are open not only on a Sunday, but for FREE! But only from 9-1. After some cappuccino and pastry for breakfast, we hopped back on the metro and raced to Vatican City to find a line literally around the country. We stood in line for a little over an hour, which really isn't too bad, before getting in around 12. That left only 2 hours to explore thousands of years of art....including the Sistine Chapel. Up for the challenge! Again, there were guards outside the Sistine Chapel reminding ladies to cover up, so bring a scarf!

2pm: After exploring the Musei Vaticani, it was time for some Ancient Rome. After some pizza for lunch, we headed towards the Coliseum. A ticket at the Coliseum covers both the Coliseum and the Palatino, so if the line is long there, head over to the Palatino first.
The Coliseum is a lot of walking, very sunny, and kind of confusing. Yes, it is round, but some parts are closed off only for private tours. I defnitely took my time exploring all the levels, trying to imagine what it looked like full of people. Part of why it looks so decrepit (besides being 2000 years old) is because tourists used to take bits of it home, as a souvenir or as a relic of martyred Christians. That's illegal now, but I kind of wanted to take a piece of rock home with me anyway.

4pm: Palatino and Roman Forum. Just down the road is the back entrance to the Palatino, an area of excavations of ancient Roman homes. Mostly ruins now, it still gives you an idea of the kind of grandness that surrounded the ancient Romans.
At the other end is the Ancient Roman Forum, with the pillars and the ruins of the home of the vestal virgins, and the curiae, and pretty much everything awesome that you have ever read about. Walking the paths of the Romans is just so amazing. As you can imagine, I was kind of geeking out at this point.

5pm: After all that history, we explored some more of the other forums, outside this protected area. I can't believe Mussolini thought it was ok to try to cover them up....but anyways, after a bit of a walk, we found the Bocca della Verita....just after they closed. Too bad, we will never know if I'm a liar...or if my friend is as gullible as Audrey Hepburn.

7pm: We wandered back towards the Palazzo Venezia and had some dinner at a cafe there while watching everyone else on the streets. Yes, gelato was involved.

After such a long day, it was nice to get back to the hostel and just relax a little bit, after washing off our feet. This was the first time during the trip I wore sandals all day, and got some pretty awesome tan lines.

Getting around

The Roman metro system isn't that great; there are literally two lines, one across, one down, and they meet at the train station in the northeast part of metro Rome. A day pass is 6 euros. I didn't try any of the buses.

Our original plan was to buy a Roma Pass for 30 euros, which includes a 3 day metro pass and admission to two sites listed on their website, and discount tickets elsewhere. Since we ended up paying only for the Coliseum, 12 euros, it was just as well that we didn't buy that. But if you want to see a lot more sites, go for it.

Rome is even worse for pickpockets than Paris is. Keep everything zipped up tight, and don't keep everything in one pouch! I had money in pretty much every pocket on me, and my passport, ID, and debit card were in separate pockets as well. Also, pack sunblock, it's very hot and sunny in Rome, and a scarf, for all those historic sites. 

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