Rome: The Hustle and Bustle of an Ancient City


The old saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." So, why did I think I could see everything in three? Rome is huge. Rome is busy. Rome is crowded. Formerly the center of one of the greatest empires of all time, the city of Rome is the setting for a thousand-year history of western civilization. 

While I expected the sights in this city to be crowded with tourists, nothing prepared me for the herds upon herds of tour groups and busses, clamoring and fighting their way to snap photos with selfie-sticks and peace signs.

Regardless of the crowds, my journey into the grand monuments of the ancient Roman empire left me in awe. I wasn't disappointed.

To-Do List:

Day One

We packed our bags and took a train from La Spezia to Rome. The route south was very scenic with views of farmland and high mountain villages.

When we finally reached Roma Termini (the main train station in Rome), we purchased two Roma Passes for access to busses, metro, and some of the sights on our list. I highly recommend it!

Our lodging for the weekend was named Marta Guest House. It was close to most of the sights we wanted to see, located in the northern part of the city, right behind Corte Suprema di Cassazione.

While its location was great, its smell was not. It reeked of cigar smoke, as the previous tenant was apparently kicked out for smoking in the room...

Our first order of business, after unloading our gear, was to see the Spanish Steps. As we approached the steps from Piazza di Spagna, we noticed that nobody was sitting on them. Alas, they were undergoing maintenance...

We climbed up the steps to the top, where we caught a view of the sunset from Trinita dei Monti, a 16th-century church inspired by the French.

We trekked south of the Spanish Steps to visit the infamous Trevi Fountain. As soon as we got there, we realized nearly half the city wanted to see the fountain!

Despite the crowds, I managed to gaze at 17th-century masterpiece. It was much larger than I thought! As the sun went down, the fountain lights gave the facade a nice glow in the evening.

In my research of the city, I heard many recommendations for gelato near the Trevi Fountain. There were a couple, so I just picked one and walked in. I can safely say, Melograno Gelato served me the best pistachio gelato I've ever had!

It was quite dark out, but we meandered through the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona on our way back to our apartment.

For dinner, we stopped at a small eatery next to our apartment named Trattoria Memmo. We enjoyed a salami platter, mushroom linguini, and prosciutto pizza. Our waiter was very nice and also gave us a shot of limoncello, on the house!

Rome Day Two

Our first full day in the ancient city! We ate a simple breakfast of cornetti, toast, and coffee at our apartment before heading out.

We made sure to get an early start to the morning so we didn't have to fight too many crowds at our first sight: the Colosseum. To our surprise, there was absolutely no line for Roma Pass holders!

As a fan of the movie Gladiator, I was ecstatic to see where early Roman soldiers fought each other to the death. It must have been intense to watch, even more than a Seahawks game at Century Link Field!

While it isn't as big as a football stadium, it felt like a mountain of stone! Photos don't do this grand monument any justice.

Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza housing many ruins of the ancient Roman empire. It's quite huge and requires lots of walking.

The gardens of Palatine were well-kept and very pretty.

The view of the forum from Palatine Hill shows just how vast the ruins stretch.

After viewing more monuments around Palatine, we made our way back down hill to the center of the plaza. There was so much to see, I lost track of where I was.

While wandering around, we ended up going into Santa Maria Antiqua. It's the oldest Christian monument in the Roman Forum.

I have tons more photos, but it'd get really redundant to post all of them!

After exploring the Roman Forums in the hot sun, we needed to recharge. On the way to Vatican City, we picked up a quick bite at Habemus Pizza. A folded pizza sandwich was the perfect take-away snack!

Most of the religious sights in Rome have no access with a Roma Pass, so we had to stand in line for the Vatican Museums. It took a little over an hour, but we finally made it inside.

The sculptures in the museum were really detailed and ornate. There were so many, I couldn't possibly post photos of all of them!

The Vatican Museums are huge. Room by room, exhibit by exhibit, we made our way (along with thousands of others) through each one. 

We eventually made it to the Sistine Chapel! However, no photos were allowed...  Gazing up at the large, high painted ceiling in real life was awe inspiring!

After the Vatican Museums, we were completely exhausted. We walked into the nearest cafe to sit and recharge. Unfortunately, we walked into Caffe Vaticano.

My prosciutto wrap was decent, but our entire meal was outrageously overpriced... They also added a 12% service charge for warming up our food in a microwave and serving Nespresso. If Im ever back in Rome, I'll probably never go here again.

We hopped on the metro and made our way down to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Other than its grand Baroque architecture, the most breathtaking part of the church is the fresco spanning the entire ceiling. It celebrates Saint Ignatius and the Society of Jesus.

The day before, we had walked by a meat shop named Antica Salumeria, which was located right in front of the Pantheon. We had some time to kill, so we decided to come in and share a platter of meat and cheese.

The staff was extremely friendly and charismatic! Also, the salami platter was very generous!

Once we were all filled up with meat, cheese, and pizza bread, we finally hopped in line to get into the Pantheon.

Built in 128 AD, the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings from ancient Rome. This is because it has been used for several purposes throughout history.

Just a quick walk away, we re-visited the Piazza Navona during the day. It was definitely more lively, with street performers and artists entertaining the nearby restaurants and tourists. It was nice to see the sculptures and fountains during the day!

Since the wifi at our apartment was terrible, we ventured out to a nice bar nearby to do some trip-planning. We managed to get some work done at a place named Lumiere. However, it started to get very busy, so we had a quick drink and called it a night.

Rome Day Three

Since we had seen most of the sights we wanted in the first two days, we decided to take it nice and easy on our last day in Rome. We started the day off by heading to Campo de Fiori, an outdoor market with tents filled with pasta, spices, and fruits.

In the center of the market, the statue of Giordano Bruno overlooks the shops below. The hooded figure looks like something out of Assassin's Creed.

We needed to do some trip-planning, so with my laptop in hand, we went to an American-style coffee house named Buddy. The decor truly made us feel at home!

The coffee was decent and it wasn't too busy for us to set up shop and do some work for a couple of hours.

During our morning coffee, a parade of people marched on the street just outside of the coffee shop. They were protesting abortion. In the city that houses the Vatican, it's no surprise this type of movement would happen here.

We had stayed quite a bit long at Buddy, to the point where we ended up getting lunch here too. A quick appetizer of deep-fried olives followed by a plate of pasta. Both were delicious!

After we brought my laptop back to our apartment, we set out to explore the Trastevere neighborhood. For how crazy Rome has been so far, Trastevere was such a nice change of pace. It was a bit more relaxed, quiet, and rather artsy.

We ended up visiting the Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was a beautiful church, with an extremely ornate, golden ceiling. For all the churches I've seen on this trip, none had a ceiling like the Santa Maria!

After exploring Trastevere a bit more, we began the steep climb up to Gianicolo Hill.

At the top of the hill, we were greeted by a huge monument dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi. As we walked along the edge of the hill, we stood and gazed at a panoramic view of the city.

After spending some time walking amongst the Garibaldis, we hopped on a bus back down to the center of town. Since the weather was warm, we stopped into a place named Bar Tassoni for coffee and gelato.

Yesterday, when we went to the Vatican Museums, we were very put-off by the amount of tourists waiting to get into St. Peter's Basilica. Today, on our way home from Bar Tassoni, we saw the cathedral off in the distance and thought, "Why not get another photo of the square before we leave?"

To our pleasant surprise, St. Peter's Basilica was still open and there was absolutely no line to get in! So, we were able to go in and see it after all. And, wow, it put all other churches to shame with how grand and ornate it is!

Another pleasant surprise, the steps up to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica were still open and, again, no line!

Even further up along the dome is a panoramic viewpoint of the entire city! Much better than the view from Gianicolo Hill.

After celebrating our unexpected view from the top of the dome, we took the steep, spiraling steps back down to the bottom. It was time to grab dinner.

Our last dinner in Rome was in a place named Vito's, a highly recommended steakhouse in the city. The vibe of the restaurant was old-school, leather seats and a classic wooden bar. 

To start, we had a dish of prosciutto and melon, which was an odd pairing, but very common in Rome. We also had fried zucchini flowers with cheese and lightly seasoned spaghetti.

Rome isn't exactly known for its steaks, but they cooked a really good Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine T-Bone Steak). Ironically, Florence was next on our list of cities to visit!

And for dessert: vanilla pudding, tiramisu to share, shots of pistachio and melon liquor, tea, and coffee. The pistachio liquor was very tasty!

Farewell to the Ancient City

Although Rome was the busiest city thus far, in terms of tourists, I enjoyed exploring the remnants of one of the greatest empires in the history of civilization. There's just so much to see in this city, I don't know if I'd consider it a destination for a relaxing vacation.

However, walking the great roads and viewing the grand monuments of the Roman empire left a great impression on me. I'd gladly return to explore it more!

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