Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rome, Italy (Round 2)

Actual date of this event: 16-19 October

Rome - ah, we love Rome! When Luke's mom (Julie) and his brother (Austin, who just graduated from college) decided to come visit us, they also decided they wanted to take a side trip to Rome. I was thrilled to go back to Rome after having such a wonderful time the first go. I was also looking forward to spending mid-October in a sunny spot since London was starting to get a bit dark, rainy, and windy, but this was going to be our last warm-destination until after winter. Thankfully, it was a good one!
The four of us arrived to Fiumicino around 1:30pm on Thursday. After all the airport jazz, then taking the train, then the tram, then walking, we arrived to our superbly located AirBnB in Largo dei Librari at 3pm. It was some work finding this apartment, but the location was amazing! We were in a less touristy area, but it was central to everything in Rome.
After dropping our stuff, we want to Campo dei Fiori to have lunch in the square.
Then we started our walk around Rome. We began with Piazza Navona where we also picked up some walking beers, and wine for Julie. We hung around for a bit just enjoying the atmosphere of the square. It was so cute - Austin was in heaven! The happiest graduate I've ever seen!
We visited the Pantheon - a man asked Austin a question while inside, and Austin answered so proudly for knowing the answer. But to be honest, the question was, "Is this the Pantheon?", but Luke wanted to reply with "No, this is Jurassic Park."

We picked up another set of walking drinks while Julie window shopped at every store we passed. There is a lot to see in Rome, but the lot to see is casually wandering and enjoying the atmosphere. And we couldn't do a bit of wandering without walking by a church and old building. This is Rome after all.

Arriving to Trevi Fountain, we were not so glad to see the rumors we had heard were true. Work was being done, so the fountain was emptied of water, covered in scaffolding, and in order to see it better, you had to walk along a pathway in an orderly fashion. The Polizia didn't take too kindly for unruly behavior here.
Continuing on, we walked our way around Rome's circle of death - Piazza Venezia - where Il Vittoriano (Altare della Patria) is located. We showed Julie and Austin how just down the road is the Colosseum, giving them their first glance of Rome's most famous attraction. We sat for a while on the steps as selfie-sticks were waved in our faces over.and.over.again. Luke/Austin: "NO! We do NOT want to buy a selfie-stick! Go away." Julie: "How much are they?"

Next, we walked to Largo di Torre Argentina (the cat ruins) where we lost Julie in a fabric store. Luke, Austin, and I hung out with the cats drinking a few beers before deciding to pull her out of the store. Then we went back to the apartment for a few minutes to freshen up before heading to dinner in Campo dei Fiori again. And we ended the night with a few drinks back at the apartment before crashing for the night.
On Friday morning, Julie and Austin woke up early to tour the Colosseum. Luke and I made plans to meet them just outside of the Colosseum by the Arch of Constantine at noon. In the meantime, we took our time and got some coffee along the way, and wandered in a small area that we didn't see during our last go in Rome.

Eventually we made it to the Roman Forum which is right across the way from the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine.

Since Luke and I had done the tour before, we suspected we would be able to see Julie and Austin at the top at the end of their tour and we were correct!

After the tour, none of us had eaten breakfast yet, so we decided to go for lunch just around the corner from the Colosseum. Then we walked through the Roman Forum for a little while.

The Forum is huge - Luke and I spent half a day in the ruins last time! We put a stop to our visit pretty early before we got lost in them and exhausted ourselves for the rest for the day. We still needed a little break afterward though, so we refueled with a coffee at a cafe before moving on.
We made our way back to the circle of death - Piazza Venezia - to take the elevator up to the roof of Altare della Patria (Il Vittoriano).

Last time Luke and I visited Rome, we forgot to go to the top of Altare della Patria, so the four of us did that together. It was nice to get a cool breeze up top! Those clouds look a bit frightening, but it was fine all day :-)

When we went down, we wandered in the area just behind Il Vittoriano for a little bit. I honestly don't know what is what in this area, but it has a few churches, a great view of the Roman Forum, a square with lots of sculptures, and more views of the city.

Julie wanted to do a little shopping, so she did that while Luke, Austin and I went back to the apartment for a little while to have a few drinks. We decided while she was gone to make our way to Trastevere to eat dinner at Alle Fratte di Trastever. This is one of my favorite areas out of all of the cities we have visited. Its touristy, but not the obvious kind.

After dinner, we got gelato and wandered a bit more. Luke and Austin decided to stay out and have a few drinks while Julie and I went back to the apartment to have some wine there.

Saturday was an early morning for all of us as we made our way to Vatican City. Luke and I's first visit to the Vatican Museum was not a great experience, partly because we attempted it on our own. That was big mistake, so I wanted to make sure we did it right this time with a very reasonably priced private tour. Thankfully, along the way to Vatican City, we found some to go coffee, which is practically impossible to find in all of Italy, so we became some peppier people in no time!

After meeting out tour guide at 9am, he showed us around the museum in a less overwhelming way, explaining the important pieces that us non-art lovers wouldn't have paid any attention to. We also went through a few rooms that Luke and I skipped last time because we were so exhausted from the experience. It was still crowded throughout the museum, but less than last time.

The biggest difference was visiting The Sistine Chapel - thankfully! Our guide sent us into the Sistine Chapel alone, but had explained everything prior as no talking is allowed inside. The people visiting were actually respectful of the Chapel this time around, and it was much less crowded. We were able to look at the ceiling and understand each frame. It really is a very impressive piece of artwork. My neck was aching after just a few minutes of looking upward, so I cant even fathom how Michelangelo did it! It can be frustrating to not be able to take pictures in the famous room, but it allowed all of us to look at it for real rather than through a camera lens. After the visit, we met our guide in the secret hallway that goes straight to the Basilica. This is the hallway that Luke and I missed the first time around even though I had read about it online (signs direct visitors to the opposite way, but tour guides know the trick). Anyway, we made our way into St. Peter's Basilica - his explanation was short, but as it had been almost three hours, we were getting a little antsy anyway.
 {Above: One of the secret hallway that connects the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. This one is roped off the visitors because only the Pope can take this path.}

Before leaving the area, we followed the notes I made on how to obtain tickets to the Papal Mass for Sunday. We asked one of the Vatican City guards just outside of the Basilica for tickets, and he handed them over with no problems.
We did have coffee before the tour but no food, so we were ready for lunch (plus we needed to sit and change into shorts for the rest of the day)! We made our way over to the pedestrian street of Borgo Pio to have lunch at Il Pozzetto. Then we headed toward Castel Sant'Angelo located right on the river.

We walked along the west side of the river passing by a market before crossing the bridge.
We came upon the Spanish Steps, which I still don't understand the hype about, but whatever. Like last time, it was jam packed with people, but the church was covered in scaffolding this time.

We attempted to find a pick-me-up coffee but few cafes live in this area, so we sat at a wine bar instead... meh.,. then we wandered back toward the Pantheon.
We went back to Piazza Navona, while Julie did a bit more shopping. For dinner, we decided to stay close to home, so we went to one of the restaurants in Campo dei Fiori again. We got gelato for dessert, then went back to the apartments to have a few drinks while we packed up our belongings to leave the next day.

On Sunday, we grabbed all of our stuff and went back to Vatican City for mass in the square. It just so happened that the mass was a Beatification Mass (which is the step before a person has been named a Saint) for Pope Paul VI. We were told the day before during our tour that a special event would be taking place, but we did not know what it was, so we learned of it when a lady passed out programs for the mass. Unfortunately, we didn't realize the mass would take over 2 hours, and we had a flight to catch. We ended up leaving before communion took place (I was very curious to see how that would work with all of those people). And we did not get to see the Pope either :-( But it was still pretty cool to be there for such a special event!

After mass, we walked to Trastevere to have lunch at Taverna della Scala before making our way to the airport. We really had a great time, and it was fun to see the family excited! We were pretty exhausted from the weekend, but still had a whole week of fun in London to come...
Oh... a blog post about Rome is incomplete without (double negative?) a picture of an itty bitty car. Seriously, how does one stretch in this thing?

The official emblem of modern-day Rome is S.P.Q.R. The letters are displayed all over the city and stand for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (aka "The Senate and People of Rome").

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