The Conquering of Rome

WARNING: LONG

That title is not to be misconstrued at all. This trip was literally an epic conquering of a massive city, and we did it under 48 hours. I remember hearing from my Uncle Ian that he saw all the sights in Rome in two hours, though he claimed this was at night with considerably less tourists around. I didn’t believe him.

Now I do.

After a night’s recuperation back in Florence, Danielle and I headed out the next morning to Rome. This train ride, four hours long, cost a measly 38€. Both ways. As in, we paid 17.50€ for a one-way ride to Rome. Venice screwed us. In any case, I managed to get some sleep on this one, proving once again that I can fall asleep in any moving vehicle (including water taxi, by the way), and we arrived at the Freedom Traveller Hostel around 5:30PM. I wasn’t quite as impressed with Freedom Traveller as I was with the Venice Fish. The atmosphere was definitely one of individual travel, lacking the mingle-y feel that we found over the New Years. We had a private room for the three nights we stayed, and while all we did was sleep there, I think we both were hoping for another experience similar to the Venice Fish.

In any case, we dropped our things in the room and promptly left for a rather sketchy pasta dinner at the restaurant across the street. The food was fine, but the drunk guys oggling our fellow females all over the creepy back room was not so nice. We headed out quickly enough to the Metro to purchase a three-day ticket. Wasting no time, Danielle shuffled us off to the first stop on her list, the Colosseum.

Taking photos at night is bleeding hard, you know? Everything comes out blurry.

We spent a bit of time just staring at it, munching on some proscuitto-mozzarella calzoni, before heading onwards to our next destination, the Pantheon. On foot. There’s no Metro to the Pantheon/Piazza Navona. It’s too close to the Spanish Steps. Close being like a twenty minute walk. Rome made up for the distance with plenty of lit streets and copious amounts of people. Unlike Florence, Rome seems to be alive at all hours of the day. It was somewhat refreshing to know that somebody else, more like a city full of somebody elses, actually stayed up late to go out to dinner.

We passed all sorts of ruins and modern buildings, a strange juxtaposition, and Rome seemed equally ancient and futuristic at the same time unlike Florence, which seems to ooze “I am Renaissance love me for I’m old.” Something like that. Our walk led us down the backstreets and the promenades, but we finally made it to the Pantheon, bypassing Piazza Navona for that night. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside, since we’d missed closing by three hours; however, the view from outside was just as good as the Colosseum. The next stop was the Trevi Fountain, predictably crowded with tourists and Italians both, and its surrounding cafés were full to bursting. Danielle and I obligingly threw our coins into the fountain (over our left shoulders), and I made yet another promise to return to Rome. That fountain will know if you don’t.

We then made our way to the Spanish Steps, where we ended our evening. Not as crowded as it usually is during the day, the Steps were still a sight to see, being the location of Rome’s haute couture shopping strip. Danielle and I made a pact to come back the next day and indulge in some McDonald’s like every other Italian person did on the Steps. I kept thinking about my Food Culture professor and what he would say to me. I’m definitely not telling him about that! After a few lingering looks at the frightening Prada prices, we trooped back onto the Metro and made our way back to the hostel for a good night’s rest. After all, we had to tackle the Vatican the next day!

Our first stop was the Vatican museums. Luckily we’d thought to buy tickets ahead of time and we got to skip the line going into the building. Even on an off-season, there were plenty of people eager to see the Vatican’s treasures. Unlike the last time my family and I went, we made it through the entirety of the museums, seeing every department and even stopping at the pizzeria for a taste of how the Vatican feeds its visitors. Apparently they save the best pizza for the pope. My favorite department was probably the Australian Aboriginal exhibit, photos and artifacts alike, but it was nice running through the Egyptian department again. Of course, we couldn’t skip through the Vatican without seeing the Sistine Chapel!

Post-Vatican saw us hunting through the city for all the sights we’d seen the previous night. By the time we’d actually left the museums and basilica, evening had fallen and we stumbled upon Piazza Navona in the throws of an outdoor market-fair complete with a merry-go-round and carnival games. Since the Pantheon was right next to the Piazza, we poked our heads in for a look-around before heading to a recommended café called, “Tazza d’Oro.”

That evening we decided to spend a nice evening at another recommended restaurant, Maccheroni. Without a reservation, though the manager put us on a time limit, wanting us out by nine for his reservation at 9PM. Danielle started with a cheesy prosciutto pasta and I chose a pasta-garbanzo soup. Our entrees were stuffed zucchinis and chicken cacciatora respectively. I realize you’re being bombed with photos so I won’t put dinner up, but you can see the entirety of my Rome and Venice albums on my Facebook page. Hope we’re friends!

Our last full day in Rome was spent at the Colosseum. We got up bright and early to arrive on the Metro around 10:00AM. The line was already massive and we were herded on all sides by tour guides attempting to sell their services for a “cheaper better price” than the official ones. Fool that I am, I forgot my British passport when we went to buy our legitimate tickets from the Palantino and had to pay full price, and for whatever reason they didn’t offer student prices, which was also unfortunate. However, for the 12€ we did pay, we say the Palantino, the Roman Forums, and skipped the line into the Colosseum as well. It was a pretty good deal. I forked out a little extra to get an electronic guide for the Colosseum itself, since the history of that was more of interest to us than the ruins just across the street.

The Colosseum was, of course, colossal and magnificent. I can only imagine how it looked in its prime with gladiators, wild beasts, and savage hunts on display for all the public to see. In honor of our visit, Danielle and I even watched “Gladiator” with Russell Crow once we returned to Florence. The CG version of the Colosseum didn’t measure up to its real-life splendor. Though it’s ultimately falling to pieces due to centuries of neglect, I’m glad that it’s been preserved as much as it has. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back at some point. My Ancient Rome class will probably land me there again in the coming months.

Danielle left back for Spain on the 7th, so I know that this blog post is coming very late. The semester is starting up soon and I’m working through orientation and brand-new roommates. This semester has so many new people and even a new building to get used to; I hope everything works out as planned and not like last semester. The group living with me seem good thus far. We’ll see how things progress as the time goes on. I’m sharing a room now so I’ll have to keep careful track of my things. It’ll be strange not being able to just drop my books and bags wherever I like. Again, we’ll see.

Updates on classes to come. I get my schedule tomorrow! Ciao!