During our spring break, Amanda and I took a vacation to Italy for the week. The best part about the trip was being able to meet both of our mothers there and travel together with them! Aside from Amanda, it was everyone else’s first time in Italy and we were ready to explore. The first stop of our week long adventure was Rome, the country’s capital.
After meeting our Mom’s and exchanging hugs and kisses in the hotel lobby around noon (Hotel Homs), we headed up to our upgraded suite. It was an interesting room and even included its own roof top terrace. It became a joke that we were put in the honeymoon suite and our moms let us tag along. All jokes aside, we recommend this hotel to anyone planning a stay in Rome. It has a great location and the hotel staff were very helpful.
Even though both parties were a bit tired from traveling we decided to check out a few places that afternoon. The original itinerary for this day in Rome had to be abandoned because we did not get an early enough start. It was our plan to head into Vatican City to see the Museums and the Sistine Chapel. We needed to see it that afternoon because for this weekend it would be closed due to the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square. Sadly, we were not able to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of Michelangelo’s most famous works of art.
Instead, we ventured to see the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain with the plan to call it an early night. Unfortunately, the Spanish Steps were under construction and tourists only had a small section of the stairs to reach the beautiful French church (Trinità dei Monti) at the top. The good news was that Rome had so much to offer as far as sightseeing, that within the next couple days, we had forgotten this minor glitch.
Before we ate dinner and went to the hotel for the night, we thought it was a good idea to see one of Rome’s more famous sights, the Trevi Fountain. In order to find the fountain you have to take small backroads and as you get closer and closer you start to think, “Is there really a huge fountain nearby?” It seems oddly placed among all the buildings with not much space for viewing. However, we were able to find some room to enjoy this amazing fountain and even make a wish like you see most tourists do. Remember, you have to throw the coin with the right hand over the left shoulder! We did it the opposite way by (Amanda’s) mistake and our wishes still haven’t come true.
It was an early start for us on Saturday because we had a lot on our plate for the day. After grabbing a quick breakfast we headed to the Roman Forum. On our way, we stopped to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). This building is very grand and beautiful but we did not go inside due to our time crunch. However, we have heard that the view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum from the top of this building is great and it is worth it.
Then it was time to check out the Roman Forum… Or at least some of it! Since we were only there for a few days we could not spend the entire time at the Forum. We were able to see a lot of the ruins and Palatine hill. I couldn’t believe that this was the center of one of the biggest empires in the history of the world. Also, standing next to huge granite columns, it was hard to imagine how they were able to construct such magnificent buildings without modern technology. My only advice is to pay attention to where you are going because it seems almost endless and at the beginning we were a bit confused. It was well worth the 12 euros and this ticket includes entrance to both the Roman Forum and Colosseum for 2 days.
After we had our fill of the Roman Forum, we decided to head into Vatican City. Since we did a lot in Vatican City, we allocated a whole other blog post for it.
Upon leaving Vatican City, we stumbled upon Castel Sant’Angelo, which was built as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian. Although we did not go inside (it is now a museum), we did check out the view from across the bridge.
The following morning it was Palm Sunday and we enjoyed Mass in Saint Peter’s Square with Pope Francis. This was one of, if not the best part of Rome but stayed tuned for our next post!
Then it was back to Rome in order to finally see the Colosseum. Luckily for us, we already had our ticket from our visit to the forum a day earlier and the lines on Sunday were shorter than the lines on Saturday. We only had to wait for the guard to check our bags and then we were inside, feeling like gladiators. Not only were the views amazing, there were exhibitions that included old pieces of statues as well as fossils of the animals that were used in the colosseum. You could see any type of fossil, from tigers to deer, that were found inside. The colosseum was a central part of the Roman Empire and had many functions in society. It was used for staged naval battles (they would flood the amphitheater), animal hunts, re-enactments of famous battles, the popular dramas of the day and of course gladiatorial contests.
Another part of the Colosseum that we found interesting was the big cross inside. We still are not really sure when it was put in, or why? Christian martyrdom is an often debated topic when discussing the Colosseum. A lot of Christians argue that the Colosseum was the place of persecution. However, historians and scholars of the modern day say that the executions of Christians was mostly held in other sites throughout Rome. Either way, we thought it was interesting to see a big religious symbol upon entering a place where many cruel events took place.
Before it was time to say good bye to Rome, we had some time to check out the Pantheon. It was amazing to see such an ancient building preserved so well. This may be because it has been in almost continual use since its construction. The most impressive part is the concrete dome with an opening (oculus) at the center. This is the worlds largest unreinforced concrete dome and it’s funny to think it has a hole in it. We thought it must get wet with the rain, however, they have a drainage system in order to keep it from flooding.
We were able to enjoy almost all that there is to do in Rome in just about 2 days! Then it was time to move on to our next destination Florence. Italy had so much to offer on our week long trip and I hope you enjoy our take on it. Stay tuned for more posts about Vatican City and our other Italian adventures.
PS. Special thanks to our fellow travel blogger, Liz, for some amazing tips in her Rome & Vatican City travel guides! Check out her blog and guides here at California2Catalonia! She definitely knows her stuff.