When we arrived at Rome we arrived right in the heart of peak rush hour for the Italian Capital and as such got to see firsthand how busy the trains can get, and also how difficult they are to navigate with luggage, however mission accomplished 30 mins later after checking into our hostel. We enjoyed a wonderful Italian dinner of homemade Gnocchi and Italian wine.
|The Painted Dome|
The next morning we ventured out into the main part of the city and saw the famous Spanish steps as we waited for a walking tour. Our group for this tour was considerably smaller than many of the other groups that we have had with previous tours. In total there were 7 of us
The tour was extremely relaxed and we got to know our fellow travellers really well as we set out to explore the city, we walked past several interesting churches and monuments, including the Pantheon, engineering marvel hundreds of years after it was initially constructed. We also visited the Plaza Nuvone where scenes from Angels and Demons were filmed, as well as being home to many great Italian restaurants.
|Michelle’s Coffee Experience|
We took the chance to drink from some of the many fountains pumping fresh drinking water in Rome. These fountains appear on many street corners for thirsty locals or travellers and have fresh water all year round! We also took the opportunity to try some of that famous Italian espresso, and well the photo sums it up all. Perhaps we need to wait for our taste buds to develop a bit before we try it again.
Of the churches that we have seen throughout Europe the roman ones are particularly interesting. In particular among the many frescos (roof painting) there was one that caught my attention in particular. The church of St Ingazio has a fake painted dome which is completely artificial and was created by a resident priest not by an artist of any note. It is remarkable and looks completely real which is a feat in and of itself.
|Bridge Vittori and Castel Sant Angelo|
That night we ventured out on one of Rome’s controversial pub crawls. The reason they are controversial is because they were banned after one tourist had a little too good of a time whilst wearing a branded t-shirt. After meeting our guides we met some of the people on our tour, a few girls from Minnesota, studying in England, a contingent of Australian Tours, Alex (from the walking tour we had talked into coming) a couple of Finnish guys and our American friends that we met in Venice – Brinindune and Eric.
|The pub crawl crew!|
|Alex, Eric, Michelle, Brin and James
Living life large in the pub crawl
We enjoyed a long night of partying and celebrating Michelle’s birthday in style, starting at a bar where it was free drinks for the first hour and a half, and finishing at a club where there was a zumba instructor taking a dancing class – at 2 am in the morning! It was great to celebrate with other travellers, and we learned quickly that our American friends can drink quickly. Eric won the pint sculling competition on his ‘night off drinking’, while I am pretty sure Brin and I spared no drink for Michelle’s birthday – something that hurt us both in the morning. The guides made the night and it was that much fun partying with everyone that we really didn’t want to leave!
The next morning – which quickly turned into afternoon we set out for the Colosseum it was a tough walk after a big night on the town but it was amazing to see what is the second most visited European attraction after the Eiffel Tower. Construction of the Colosseum started in the year 72AD and was completed just 8 years later (what you can do with slave labour). Famous for Gladiator fights, hunts with animals, executions and even naval battles, although contrary to popular opinion historians believe this only happened once!
Events at the Colosseum were sponsored by senators and the nobles to win over the people (maybe the politicians of today could learn from the ancient Romans…). The stadium very much has the feel of a modern stadium, with the obvious difference it was constructed out of stone. I was most interested to learn that most gladiators were actually not respected by the Romans; in fact their stature was often lower than slaves. Although some Gladiators dined with the Emperors this was not as common as pop culture makes out.
After touring the Colosseum we headed to the ruins of Palantine Hill which are the ruins of the old Emperors palace. Our tour guide was extremely informative and he gave us a great overview of the ruins, including the legend of the start of Rome.
We then made our way into the memorial monument for Emmanuel Vittori II to meet up with Eric and Brin. They showed us the Trevy Fountain and we flicked a coin into the water to ensure that we will return to Rome as the legend says. We then set out to claim our t-shirts from the pub crawl from the previous night. We then said goodbye to Eric who was leaving to head back home, and we will hopefully catch him when we go to New York.
We went had dinner with Brin in a traditional Italian restaurant and then enjoyed a desert consisting of Gelato at the biggest Gelato shop in Rome with over 150 different flavours, it was brilliant! So many different flavours and such good taste. After enjoying dinner and gelato we headed to do a bit of sightseeing and saw some of Rome’s magnificent monuments by night!
The following day we took a tour around the Vatican city and discovered the amazing sights that are the capital of catholic church. We toured the amazing Vatican Museums seeing some of the more spectacular Mosaics, Statues and artefacts that make up this spectacular collection. One of the gems of the collection was the bath of Nero which is made out of Egyptian Porphyry and weighs about 22 ton.
|St Peters Basilica|
After touring the museum we headed into the world famous Sistine Chapel to admire the crown jewel of catholic churches which boasts the world famous fresco by Michelangelo. This artwork is unbelievable, I have never seen anything quite like it, the intricate details and colours fully justify its position as one of the world’s most famous pieces of art. Michelangelo painted this entirely on his own and it took him 4 years from start to finish and he would only venture down a few times from his lofty scaffolding during this time.
|A Vatican Fresco|
|Inside the Colosseum|
After touring the Vatican we caught up with Brin for a lunch before he continued his trip to Austria, and explored the city as we made our way to the main station doing some more sightseeing along the way. As we said goodbye we made plans to catch up in Buffalo and Niagara Falls when we are there in a few weeks.
As we returned to our hostel we were greeted with our hosts, Fabio and Domenica who had got a bottle of Italian sparkling wine and a boutique Tiramisu to celebrate Michelle’s birthday! This was a fantastic thought and was a wonderful surprise for Michelle. It certainly made us appreciate staying in this boutique Rome hostel even more. The rest of the night was however considerably less interesting with us having to change our travel plans for New York as they had been altered by the Hurricane Sandy.
|Fabio and Domenica celebrating Michelle’s Birthday|
In the morning we headed to the Roman Catacombs of San Calista, which were the catacombs where the Christians buried their dead for several hundred years until the first Christian emperor Constantine came into power. The story behind the Constantine says that he was going to fight a battle when an angel appeared to him in a dream and said if he fought in the name of Christ he would be victorious. The next morning Constantine painted a cross on his troops shields and they emerged victorious from battle. Henceforth Constantine remained a Christian and granted them considerable religious rights and freedoms compared to previous emperors.
|View of Rome|
In the afternoon we ventured into the non-tourist area of Rome to get a nice Italian lunch, and wandered around a park overlooking the Vatican, which provided us with a great view of Rome. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the gardens before heading to the Castel St Angelo to get a great view of the city, and we were able to take a look at this building that has been a hideout for the pope, military barracks,
On our last night in Rome we decided to try something a little different and made our way into the city of Rome to see an Opera performance. The Opera was amazing, we heard songs performed from all of the famous Italian Operas including, Carmen, Tosca, and La Boehme. It was great to do something that was different and listen to people sing that were so talented – a great way to finish our time in Rome.
The Pub Crawl! It was a great way to get out and meet other travellers and celebrate Michelle’s birthday in style. The fact that the organisers made a special effort for Michelle was a great touch!
The Colosseum, a fascinating building in Rome rich with history this was an amazing part of our trip, and although we were feeling a little worse for wear we still managed to have a great time.
The funnier things I saw
The prize goes to Roman drivers, to the bus who almost took me out and the smart car that accelerated as Brin and Michelle crossed the roads, the drivers in this country have to be the worst in Europe if not a contender for the world title.
A close second were the hawkers trying to sell trinkets, and mostly junk to tourists running at the first sign of the police.
|Pantheon by Night|
|Monument of Vittori Emanuel|
|150 flavours of gelati|
|Eric’s Night Off!|
|The Roof in the Vatican Museum|