I’m going to be honest, I woke up in a grumpy mood. I did not sleep well because the hotel is awful. The bed and pillows were the worst and I just was not comfortable. That combined with the awful shower and lack of Wi-Fi has definitely made it my least favorite hotel on the trip. The elevators were crazy and stairs didn’t go directly to every floor so getting to breakfast was a pain but we made it, only to be disappointed by the options. Luckily, there was yogurt.
We left the hotel by 8:55am (10 minutes late) for our city tour. Marlene is cut throat and left one person behind because she wasn’t there in time. That’s the second time she had done that on this trip! She met up with us later during the tour though.
Our city tour started on our bus, driving past the Circo Massimo (where they used to have horse races) and several different ruins. It’s almost as if the city just builds around anything they find because everything is important.
We got off the bus at Capitoline Hill and walked up the famous staircase, by Michaelangelo, marking the original entrance to Rome. Apparently the term “capital” comes from this hill and is the reason we call the capital of different countries and states… the capital. Romans were also the first to have a republic/Senate/democracy so we should all thank them for having Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump as our political representatives right now.
Next was a tour of the Roman Forum ruins. Victoria forgot her Roma Pass so she had to sit this part out. The rest of us went in and saw the ‘original’ Rome, which was slowly excavated. We also got to see the history of the how they built walls and the development from stacking oddly shaped stones, to same size stones, to the addition of mortar, to the addition of ‘stapling’ marble on the outside of the building using bronze. Monuments, buildings, and statues were all given as gifts or as wartime or religious symbols so there are a lot all over the city, especially in the forum, to see and remember. Over time, they had to build a city on top of the original city (after it was destroyed) because they didn’t have the ability to move the structures. I found that odd because they built the most amazing buildings but then couldn’t move ruins? The only reason we know what the original structures looked like is because the Romans used to spread the news via coins and their buildings are depicted on all of them. I thought that was a pretty fun fact. We took a group picture on the rock where the famous “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” speech was made before heading out to our next stop.
Across the street was the Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre. We visited it yesterday but it was cool to hear some facts about it like that it was built in only 8 years and used to have a canvas (made from sails Roman ships) on top that could be opened and closed depending on the weather. I also didn’t know that it was abandoned until about 15 years ago and full of cats… feel free to fact check our tour guide on that one though. The place was so busy so I was really, really glad we toured the inside yesterday. I think we were the only ones of the group who had gone the day before!
We boarded the bus again around 11am to go to Vatican City. We drove past more ruins, what’s left of the Roman houses, and so many churches and political buildings. I couldn’t keep track of all the names… our guide made a comment that Rome is an “open history book” and it’s really true, everything is old and important.
We made it to Vatican City but our tour guide didn’t want to wait in line so we visited a souvenir shop instead. It was a really bizarre detour so Justin and I bailed and went to get lunch across the street at a cafe. We had pizza and it was pretty good.
After lunch we separated from the group and got in line for the Vatican Museum. It took two hours in line to get in and 400 “no, go away” to random street people trying to charge us twice as much to get in but it was worth it. We finally got in a little after 2pm and toured the entire museum, which took a little over 2 hours. It was incredible but also kind of bizarre. They kept and displayed some very random things… but it was still cool to see and walk through. I was thankful it was a nice day outside because there was no air conditioning and the breeze from the open windows was great. The museum consisted of several artifacts, paintings, and statues but everyone was really there to see the Sistine Chapel. It was very impressive artistically and I’m glad we had the opportunity to see it.
After the Vatican Museum, we went into St. Peter’s Basilica. We missed the turn inside the Sistine Chapel to go straight into St. Peter’s so we had to go back outside, which was unfortunate, but luckily we threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and got good luck because somehow we managed to bypass the entire line into the Basilica. We were looking for the holy door because Pope Francisco declared this year a holy year (the last holy year was 2000 and the next was scheduled for 2025 but he declared it early to claim mercy for all the crazy happening in the world) but ended up in the main line anyways. It was great.
We went into St. Peter’s and it was amazing. It was hands down the best church we had been into. The architecture and artwork was unbelievable. All of the original paintings were damaged from the marble’s condensation so they were replaced with exact replica tile mosaics and it was crazy how much they still looked like paintings. I really enjoyed being there, even though I’m not Catholic!
We left the church around 5pm and hauled over to get gelato from a popular gelato place in Rome called Giolitti. It was delicious, like all gelato in Italy of course. The place also had Wi-Fi which was the first time any of us had been connected in nearly 24 hours so we sat for a bit and took advantage of it. Justin, Greg, and Heidi checked in for their flights home and I was able to post my blog from yesterday, so everybody won. On our way there, we saw the Supreme Court building and walked past the Piazza Navano to squeeze in a few extra sites.
The gelato place was really close to the Pantheon so we visited there next. We didn’t have time to go inside but as with most things, at least we can say we saw it now.
We headed back to the hotel around 6pm to get ready for our last group dinner because 6 people leave back to the States tomorrow. We had a pasta feast at Nazzareno and it was pretty delicious. We enjoyed some bruschetta, salad, fancy Mac and Cheese, Lasagna, and pasta. I’m not normally a lasagna fan but it was pretty good. I’m not usually a red wine fan but I also enjoyed one too many glasses of that too. It was a fun dinner with a crazy-haired singer singing to us and we had a great time.
After dinner, Antonio (our bus driver) drove us around the city so we could see it at night. He dropped most people off at a club and I said goodbye to those leaving for home tomorrow. The rest of us went back to the hotel. There’s no Wi-Fi in our rooms but the Wi-Fi in the lobby works so I’m sitting here writing about my day!
Tomorrow, a few go home (including some of the people I’ve gotten close to, unfortunately) and the rest of us head to Greece with a pit stop in Pompeii. I’m really looking forward to Greece and just relaxing on the beach but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to being home too!