Rome is a city I fell in love with instantly. The energy, the sound of the spoken language, the smell of food and of course, the gelato!! I loved asking the locals for directions and watching them explain a route (its true that Italians speak with their hands.By the end of the trip a friend and I had developed semi-plausible Italian accents which we could not get rid off for the next week or so! Buongiorno Principessa! Mi Scusi! Arrividerci! Ciao!)
We started our trip at the Piazza Venezia. This piazza lies at the heart of Rome and became our reference point anytime we lost our way. It is also very conveniently located from most of the tourist hot spots. The building by itself is a sharp contrast to the architecture of the other monuments and though visually stunning, it sticks out like a sore thumb! There is a museum located on the left of the building which houses a statue of Romulus and Remes: the children who were believed to be brought up by wolves (just a FYI for any Harry Potter fans out there.. this is not a statue of Remes Lupin.) After visiting the museum located inside and taking a few photos, we were off to the Colosseum.
Part of the fun of visiting the Colosseum was observing the crowd outside. I was very tempted to take a picture with a few gladiators with me standing on a chair, one hand on hip and the other holding a whip! I missed out though as our guide rushed us inside. Definitely next time! Once inside the Colosseum, the guide took us to a platform from where we could view the tunnels under the fighting arena. This labyrinth is mind-boggling! After an hour of exploring the Colosseum, we grabbed a quick bite and headed off towards the Pantheon. Located opposite the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. (visit if you have time and are not rushing to cram in as much as possible into your trip.)
The Pantheon, Fontana Di Trevi, Spanish Steps were all located in close proximity. The Trevi fountain is gorgeous during the day and stunning at night. Superstition made me flip a coin into the Trevi Fountain in the hopes that I would visit again and you know what? It worked! I went back a second time but that will be explained later on in the blog. Considering the number of gelateries in this area, I was tempted to take a look. (Who am I kidding? They were all calling my name and I knew I had to eat some.) Oh the Gelatooo. Those humongously deliciouusss heaps of mousse. Siigggghhh… After spending hours choosing the flavors we hit the Spanish Steps. I would like to say that I enjoyed sitting here and watching young Rome relax or walk by but after hearing all the stories about pick-pockets and bag-slashers being a-dime-a-dozen in this area, I was nervous. I couldn’t decide whether to stuff my face with that delicious gelato or to hold onto my backpack for dear life.
From here we were off to Piazza Navona. It has a fountain of the 4 rivers of the world (made by Michelangelo) i.e. the Tiber , the Ganges, the Nile and the Amazon. There is also a chapel next to this fountain and a fountain of Neptune (Italy seems to be full of these!) This is one of the areas where you will see a lot of street art and it is nice to wander around and check out the stuff there!
As it was getting a little late, we decided to go to the hostel and leave our bags. It was only then that I noticed that the location of the hostel was not on the map! I was able to trace the route up to a point and then the area seemed to just fall off the map! We managed to locate the hostel after much hand waving and head-nodding but it was only later that I found out that the entire city of Rome is not drawn on the maps available at the i center at the station. They are designed such that only the main tourist sites are locate-able on the map!
Next stop: Trastevere!!! During the journey to Rome, we met an Opera singer who highly recommended Trastevere to us. So after ditching our bags, we went “across the Tevere” (which is the literal translation of Trastevere!) We had an amazing 4 course Italian meal complete with a bottle of Vino after which we decided to walk back to the hostel. Trastevere is also an amazing place to watch various street performers and pick up knickknacks and is a definite must visit irrespective of your schedule. Walking through Rome at night was magical but after all the walking that day, we were in desperate need of some R&R.
The next morning, after a long snooze, a cup of hot coffee and a warm croissant, we headed in the direction of Vatican City. Fortunately for us the bus that we took was delayed by 2 hours and we reached in time to watch the Pope address the congregation that was assembled there. We had lunch with Papa! There were people from congregations from across the globe assembled here and it was an amazing crowd to be a part of.
My visit to Vatican city was not complete though. While growing up, I had read a book called “The Agony and the Ecstasy” which is a biography of Michelangelo. The narrative is so descriptive that you can literally visualize yourself standing next to Michelangelo watching him create his masterpieces and after reading this, I knew that if I ever visited Rome, there were two things I had to see 1. The Sistine Chapel 2. The Pieta. I was not lucky enough to visit the Sistine Chapel this time but I will never forget standing inside St.Peter’s Basilica and looking at the Pieta. You can actually see the veins and sinew in this sculpture. We then climbed 555 steps to get to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica and the view of Vatican City and Rome was absolutely spectacular! Having covered all the major sights and a few more,we ended our trip back at Pizza Venezia,walking around and buying touristy trinkets for folks back home.
No trip to Rome though is complete without visiting the Sistine Chapel. So sure enough, 2 weeks later I was sitting in a train waiting eagerly to jump-off and run to Vatican city. We got a quick tour (or rather, the guide made us sprint through the Vatican museums) but I got to stand under the Sistine Chapel (Saw Sistine Chapel: CHECK! Now another 9999 things to see before I die!) and marvel at how one man could paint something so amazing while all the time lying on his back! This time around, we also covered Villa be bourgesie(this is a picnic spot), campo di fiori, the museum I mentioned earlier at Piazza Venetia and some other spots which are all really close to each other.
I also did visit Trevi fountain again and threw another coin in because I want to go back to Rome (the coin worked once, so it should work again right?) The 3rd time around though, I plan to see the city at a more leisurely pace and soak in the sights and sounds. Roma, I will be back. I have paid my token to the waters of Trevi and I will come to collect.
Until next time.
A few pointers:
1. Carry lots of water/juices/liquid.
2. The Romans may have invented Roman Sandals but they would not last a day on the streets of Rome. So sturdy pair of walking shoes/sandals is a must.
3. Enjoy the food. I tucked into pasta/pizza/canoli/biscotti/gelato/anything else I could get my hands on.
4. Keep your wits about you. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t keep your nose glued to your map and then wonder why your bag suddenly feels lighter and why there is a huge gaping hole in the middle of your bag.
5. More importantly, just have fun!