After a beautiful two weeks in Poland, I hopped on a short flight to Rome. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I jumped in a cab and headed over to Campo de Fiori where I met my family! They were still pretty jet lagged having arrived late the night before, but I was READY TO GO! I talked them into just wandering around the city, but we saved all the exciting sightseeing for a little later!
On our first day, we followed Rick Steve’s Italy walking tour (highly recommend using a tour book to get a feel for the city…and then just explore!). We stopped at the Pantheon, which was surprisingly hard to find. It’s located in the center of a square, but you can’t see it until you’re right in front of it! It’s a prime example of how the city of Rome has grown up right around these ancient buildings.
I was in dire need of some caffeine, and talked my mom into stopping in this cute little shop along the way. She mentioned having heard about some thing called a granita and I decided to order one without knowing anything about it. IT. WAS. AWESOME. Basically a coffee slushy with whipped cream…perfect for a mid-day pick me up and some relief from the heat!
We stopped for dinner at this little restaurant on a back street…I definitely have an addiction to Italian food. It’s been interesting being in so many different cultures this year and trying and comparing food (but I’ve enjoyed almost every single thing I’ve eaten!)
We decided to take a day trip to Pompeii, even though it’s about an hour south of Rome. Visiting Pompeii has been on my list for quite a while, and I was beyond excited to actually get to visit such a unique location. Rather than hiring a guide, we spent the day wandering around (following Rick Steve’s map again), and just exploring the site. It was such an experience; there were multiple times where I had to consciously remind myself that the streets I was wandering down were over 2,000 years old! The city is so well preserved that you can really get a sense of what people’s lives were like back then; it was absolutely one of my favorite stops in Italy.
We also got the chance to attend a general audience with the Pope, which was one of the most surreal and incredibly moving experiences I’ve had. To hear him speak and to get to feel so connected to other Catholics from around the world who had traveled thousands of miles just to visit Vatican City was really powerful. We also went to the Vatican Museum with the BEST TOUR GUIDE EVER, Frank. I enjoy museums, but they’re definitely not my favorite place to go while I’m on vacation. That being said, Frank made the entire experience fascinating, did a great job keeping us excited, and taught me more than I would ever learn in a history class. As part of our tour, we were allowed to visit the Sistine Chapel and see the gorgeous work done there by Michelangelo, another location that I’ve wanted to go for quite a while. In the same day, we also visited St. Peter’s Basilica, which I personally believe is one of the most gorgeous buildings on earth.
IT’S GLADIATOR DAY! My mom signed us up for gladiator school, so we decided to commit to the theme and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in the same day. The Colosseum was first on the list; it’s an incredible structure and I would’ve felt that I missed out if I hadn’t visited during my time in Rome. However, it wasn’t my favorite…it might have been the crowds, but I felt like there wasn’t all that much to see after the initial shock at how gargantuan it is! We then went to the Roman Forum, which is definitely much more interesting when you know what you’re looking at! 😛 I started with out any reference, but eventually decided to follow the audio guide. Once I started that, I really enjoyed the visit.
After lunch at an adorable rooftop cafe, we hopped in our chariot (it was a cab) for gladiator school! SO. MUCH. FUN. We started with a history lesson in the gladiator museum, where we got to try on the replicas of gladiator armor and take tons of cool pictures. Next it was out to the training yard, where we were taught the basic gladiator moves, put through our paces, and even given the chance to fight each other! I beat Aidan once, but he did come out as victorious in the end.
After heading back into the city, we found this little cafe with a breathtaking view of the Colosseum and we enjoyed their all-you-can-eat Roman antipasto. A very Italian evening for our last night in Rome!