Rome was the absolute best. By far the most interesting city I have visited, and for once I have a favorite that is not solely based in vain. My current favorite cities, Prague and Budapest, are mainly due to their beauty and they are based by water (my favorite). I think Prague + Budapest would be nice without the water, but they are truly exceptional with their waterways. Rome, on the other hand, really isn’t around water/is not part of the beauty or appeal.
My favorite part of Rome is the never ending history. It’s hard to fathom how old some pieces of the city are. I did a couple tours and it’s impossible to put into perspective life 2000 years ago. Although, I now know that Italy as a nation is only 150 years old – similar to Canada, but their history (including Rome) goes far beyond that.
I was excited to hit two new countries this trip, even though it is kind of cheating (Italy + Vatican). The first morning I slept in a titch as I got in late the night before, and decided to go out and explore. Of course, as a stupid human, I figured I could leave the hotel and just find something of importance winding through the streets. My hotel was supposed to be (and was, which I later discovered) 0.7 of a kilometer from the Trevi Fountain. So morning #1 I figured I would just stumble onto it. I looked for two hours, and came across 25+ fountains that were so grandiose, it would be the main attraction of any North American city. But I didn’t find it. I hopped on a tour, and saw the main sights – Coliseum, old stuff, had lunch at the HardRock (such a tourist, it’s embarrassing). I got off at the Vatican and walked around a bit. The sqaure (or Piazza as they call it, I’m so cultured/Italian) was much, much bigger than I expected (TV does not do it justice) but the actual Vatican seemed smaller, until I realized that every building surrounding it was actually attached to it and that it was absolutely ginormous. They were setting up chairs in the square for some type of event, and the line up to get into the museum was about 1000x longer than anything I was willing to stand in line for. Even if I got to meet the Pope myself, that line was too long.
Side note: as I was wandering around quite aimlessly, I found a 5 story Zara store. If that isn’t a sign that Rome is the best city in the world, I am not sure what I am looking for.
I went back to the hotel for a little pick-me-up (wine) and booked an Angels and Demons tour (based on the book by Dan Brown, and one of my favorite conspiracy movies!) for the next morning. I went to find the Trevi fountain again (which I did find, and it was closed #classic) and the spot we were supposed to be meeting the next morning. I had delicious Gnocchi for dinner – homemade, in a 4 cheese sauce, and found the Piazza del Popolo by chance (I am always surprised when I find something I am looking for in a foreign city because I always feel aimless and have very little strategy to finding things. I seriously found this Piazza by walking in the general direction I thought it was in. When I found it, I had to check about 40 times because I couldn’t believe I had pulled it out of my ass) which is where we were meeting the next morning for Angels and Demons. The map made it seem like a dump in comparison to the other sights in the city, but I found it to be quite pretty and had great energy! The monument in the middle of the plaza was under construction (a lot of the city was) but there were cute fountains and churches around. I needed to meet the group at the Church del Santa Maria but there were seriously like 5 churches in the square so I walked to each of them 5 times until I guessed and went home.
(Piazza del Popolo)
I got up early the next morning out of fear of not being able to find the Piazza again and missing the tour (it was 56 euros, so I aint got the budget to miss it) and skipped breakfast to be there early. The tour e-mail said there would be a coffee break during the tour which was 9:30-1:30 so I figured I would pick up a pastry or something when we stopped for coffee. The tour started at the Piazza and we actually got to go into the Church del Santa Maria because that was the first clue in Angels and Demons – it was where the Chigi family chapel is (chapel actually means tomb within a church, not a small church) so we got to go in and learn about the Chigi faily (wealthy, aristocratic banking family, one of which actually became the Pope at one point). In the movie, the Chigi family tomb within this church is where the first body is found. The church was super random and if you walked by it, you would never think it was a church. It was attached to a Da Vinci museum, and had no signage. The church interior was very grandiose, especially the Chigi family chapel. The more extravagant the chapel, the more wealthy the family, and the Chigi’s were deffo not pinching their pennies.
We were then whisked off to the Vatican, specfically St. Peters Sqaure (the big swaure outside the Vatican) where the second clue was – one of the markings on the ground within the square, but we couldn’t see it because of the chairs everywhere. The symbol was a little cherub blowing in a certain direction. There are actually 16 of them, so it was tricky to find the right one (under chairs), but we got to the exact opposite one. The Vatican was still nuts busy, and the amount of people asking if we wanted to skip the lines was out of this world – it’s like a million airport people asking if you want to sign up for their Visa card.
(Vatican, day two)
We we’re then taken to another church, of baroque style (super gold, marble and totally my style – if you were curious how my palace will look in the future, quite similar to this church. It was seriously as if a New Jersey housewife had an unlimited budget to create something) and we got to the see the statue in the third clue – the ecstasy of St. Theresa. She was the first female doctor of the church (a long time ago) and the sculpture is actually based on her journals in which she describes herself being stabbed by angels with gold sticks (which actually is her getting boned and having an orgasm – FUN CATHOLIC FACT). This chapel was also very extravagant and detailed, especially being baroque still. This family (can’t remember the name) was also very wealthy, and they had two demon holes in their chapel which are the holes with coverings where you climb down the ladder to put the bodies to rest. This family was extra rich because they could afford two demon holes, and the ol’ slummin’ Chigi family on had one – they’re basicalllllllllly peasants.
We got our break after this church, which I was told was coffee, but was actually a wine bar (which was adorable) so I got a wine and was buzzed for the rest of the tour due to my lack of breakfast. So that was a real treat – day drunk on a semi-religious tour. The last clue is at a fountain, which was super cool to see and looks different than the movie. This scene was recreated in LA and the fountain basin was a lot deeper in the movie.
(Italian Day Drinking Locale)
We then got to go to the Castel St. Angelo, which I thought was going to be a snoozefest, but was my favorite part of Rome! Apparently, in the book, this is where everyone is saved (I haven’t read the book, and it wasn’t in the movie, so I just enjoyed the décor). The Castel’s bridge has 10 sculptures along the way depicting the stages of the cross (which some religions believe there are 12 stages, but Catholics believe there are 10, so only 10 are depicted). The bottom part of the Castel was built 1700 years ago as a tomb for one of the first Roman Emporers, Hadrian, but the top part was redone and built out by the church a couple hundred years ago. We went in and it was incredible and grandiose – and a really snazzy place to be buried. If I die, I want a tomb at least that size and with the similar marble features. There were a million steps, and I was exhuasted (and still drunk) but I couldn’t let these old ladies out walk me. If you want to learn about ancient Rome or some oldtime controversy, you should read up on Hadrian – it was the most interesting part of the tour for me, I won’t get into details but it was beyond fascinating and he was quite progessive, dealing with similar issues that we currently face nowadays. It was incredible. When we were in the bottom of Castel (the tomb part) it was all stone and in my head I was thinking “this is kind of a dump for someone who literally had no budget and unlimited pesos (or gold coins, whatever old timey currency)”, but apparently all of the holes in the walls (I assumed were bullet holes #LawAndOrderSVU) was actually used to hold up pure white marble but was taken away when the Vatican took over the Castel. The majority of the marble taken from here and the Coliseum were actually used to construct and decorate the Vatican. Our tour guide said that they were the first people to recycle, but they started with marble! The top of the Castel had exceptional views, and you could see the Vatican/St. Peters Basicila (the highest building in Rome) so clearly, it was truly magificient. It’s odd that such a short city still has an amazing “sky” line. I snooped around through some other rooms after the tour concluded here. Once church had acquired the Castel, it was where the Pope would go and hide during times of war and you can see the walkway from the Vatican to the Castl quite clearly from the top. The “wall” that surround Vatican City is actually the walkway to and from the Castel. Once Vatican become an independent state, Italy gained posession of the Castel so now it is just a museum.
(Castel St. Angelo)
After the tour I tried to find food, and my hotel, but ended up walking around for over an hour and took a cab back the Trevi to have dinner. The Trevi was open but there a solid 500 people around, I thought there was a celebrity there, but apparently the fountain was the celeb – I’d rather see a Kardashian but whatever. So I threw my coins in and made a wish. I had dinner (Fetticine with Romano Cheese and cracked pepper) and it was incredible. Rome was mad expensive, but had the best food and wine I’ve ever had on a trip. I didn’t even have pizza, I was so infatuated with pasta. Next time.
Two full days in Rome was absolutely not enough. There was so much more I wanted to do going in, and even more now that I have been there. I really wanted to go to the MA XXI museum of modern art. The gallery itself was designed by one of my favorite architects, Zaha Hadid, but I didn’t have time to visit. Next time! I would also like to do a tour of the Vatican museums and the Coliseum – the history is beyond at every one of these places, and even the history at every church (there are over 1000 ) is so fascinating.
So these were my Roman adventures. I had a great time, and it was a cool/weird experience to be totally on my own. It’s weird to not share the experiences or stories with someone else, but there were some really great memories there and it’s now the top of my list to go back to!