Rome In 4 Days
After finishing the first half of our excursion along the Amalfi Coast, we took a high speed train and traveled up to Rome where we spent the remainder of our trip. We spent the next four days at Hotel Majestic, right in the heart of the city. Now, when we first got off the train I could have sworn we were in New York City! Just casually add a few ancient ruins everywhere.. I mean everywhere! I was blown away at how many ruins they have excavated.
After arriving to the hotel, we had a little time in between to relax and get ready for our next adventure! (When I say relax, I totally mean take a nap) A little after 7PM we headed to our next stop - The Vatican City! The Vatican City is an independent city-state within Rome and is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head. As we were driving in, it was really wild to see the walls of the city! They have done such a great job of keeping everything so well preserved, it truly felt like we were taking a step back in time.
Since we were on tour with Tauck, we were able to visit the Vatican Museum after hours, beating all the lines! I wasn’t to sure what expect when we first walked in because everything was so modern looking. Basically, you have to walk through a new building they built for the general public to get into the museum. After you pass through the doors and walk up a few flights of stairs, you’ve made it! The Vatican Museum is made up of art and sculpture pieces amassed by popes throughout the centuries including pieces from the Renaissance era. And let me tell you, art is literally everywhere! However, the main event that people go there for is to visit the The Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo himself! Normally you are not allowed to take photos, but during after hour visits you can! So enjoy these pictures!
Our second day in Rome was a HOT one and to top it off we started the day with a 2 hour walking tour through the city. Our first stop on our walking tour was to the Spanish Steps, all 138 of them! The steps were built back in 1723 and are located at the eastern end of the old city centre. Above the steps is The Trinità dei Monti which is the 16th century French church and from here you have amazing views over the city of Rome also looking down on the steps. Below the steps you will run into the Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia) as well as the John Keats Museum, Babington's Tea Room and Restaurant and a slew of designer stores.
Heading down the steps and pass the fountain we made our way towards the Pantheon. The Pantheon is dated back to 125 AD and is located right in the heart of the city. The Pantheon is known for its incredible architecture with a sphere shaped ceiling, making it impossible not to look up! When you look up, you notice that there is a large opening that allows natural light and rain to come through. Right below, you will notice that the floor is gently sloped to allow for runoff of the rainwater. The Romans were huge on their plumbing system. While here, you will see many tombs, including Raphael who’s located on the left side as you enter.
Our next stop on the tour was to the Trevi fountain. My inner child was fan-girling because of the Lizzie McGuire movie! My first initial reaction was holy moly it was crowded. Apparently, the best time to go to the fountain is super early in the morning - makes you wonder what time of day do they film movies here! When you finally find a landing spot to take pictures at, before you throw your coin in, make sure you do it the right way! Apparently you are supposed to have your back to the fountain and throw it over your right shoulder with your left hand. Unfortunately, with the amount of people and how far away we were, we totally just chucked it into the water. They say the amount of coins you throw in has a meaning to it! 1 coin is to come back and visit Rome, 2 is to fall in love and 3 is to get a divorce (not sure how entirely true this is, but it’s kind of fun!)
After our walking tour - we had the rest of the day to hang out on our own! So we went back to the Spanish steps to check out all the shopping they had to offer.
Our third day was spent at St Peter's Basilica. We got up super early to beat some of the crowds, and it was still pretty crowded! Buses and buses of people were making their way to check out the church. Once you’re in the square you’ll notice a whole bunch of chairs set up for Sunday’s mass and for people to see the pope! It is free, but it will cost you your patients, so get there early!
After arriving we made our way into the church and it was overwhelming to say the least. Everywhere you look there is something incredible to see. From the statues to the mosaic pieces, even some popes! Yes, you can see some of the popes that have been preserved over the years on display. There are two levels below St Peter’s Basilica; the first level is known as the Vatican Grottoes, and is a large underground graveyard where the tombs of 91 Popes are buried. The level below this is the Vatican Necropolis and houses St Peter’s Tomb. You will also notice prior to walking in, there is a door that remains closed and only opens every 25 years. That would be the “Holy Door”. Located near the Holy Door would be the only piece of art work Michelangelo ever signed. The Pieta is now sitting behind bulletproof glass, thanks to a crazy man a few years ago. You can also take the steps up to the top of the Dome that treats you to a spectacular view of the city. When I go back, this is definitely on my to do list. Just make sure you do some leg work outs prior - there are over 500 steps! (plus an lift, just in case) I definitely recommend spending 3+ hours there since there is just so much to take in, you don’t want to miss anything! Oh and fun fact - St. Peter’s Basilica can fit TWO St. Patricks Cathedrals inside.. just a reference on how big it is!
Today was also the last day we spent with Tauck Tour and had a lovely dinner reception at a beautiful older restaurant to wrap up our adventure.
Our fourth day was spent with the family and we spent the day wandering the Colosseum. We asked our hotel for a private tour guide - helps beat the lines and waiting! Because, surprise! More lines! Our first stop of the day was to visit the Roman Forum which is located next to the Colosseum. The Roman Forum was a site located at the center of the ancient city of Rome and the location of important religious, political and social activities. While there you can see the remains of the Senate House, Temple of Saturn, Arch of Titus, Temple of Vesta, The Rostra, Temple of Castor and Pollux, and the The Sacra Via. Archeologist started excavating the site around 1803 and it was not complete until the early 20th century. Remains of earlier ruins have also been found under what they excavated. Fun fact - there are still so much underground to be discovered in Rome that people stopped gardening! If they find something they have to report it - and the city will take your land.
After walking around The Roman Forum, we made our way to the Colosseum! This was probably one of the attractions I was most looking forward to on our trip. The Colosseum is dated back in 72 AD, and took many years to complete. The Italian’s originally got the idea from the Greeks, but wanted to make it bigger and better.. so they did! The Colosseum stood at 186 meters long by 156 meters wide in its prime. Since then, due to neglect and a massive earthquake it lost the entire South side making the building seem significantly smaller than originally was.
The Colosseum was built for entertainment purposes. Like today, when you purchase a ticket and you pay a lot, you’re most likely going to get a better seat (some cases) It was the same concept here! Noble families sat on the second course, and the general public sat in the third and fourth levels. When it originally opened up, they would fill the bottom of the Colosseum with water, and would mock sea battles. At this point, the Romans were reeling in animals from all parts of the world.. tigers, lions, elephants, alligators.. you name it!
As always, people get bored. They went from animal verses animal, to animal verses humans. This lasted a while until people were calling it an unfair battle. After that it was strictly people fighting one another. It is estimated that over one million animals were killed in the Colosseum. Depending where you hear it from, the gladiators either fought to the death, or until someone gets really hurt. The Colosseum was used for entertainment just shy of 400 years! How crazy?! The last known gladiator competition in the amphitheater took place on January 1, 404 AD.
My recommendation like I said to tour the Colosseum, is to get yourself a private tour guide. You can do this on your own, but you will be missing a lot of information. Also, wear comfy clothing and shoes. There is a ton of walking to do in both the Roman Forum and Colosseum…both have very uneven roads. You can also visit the Hypogeum and Upper Tiers! However, when we were there it was under construction so we did not get a chance to be where the gladiators fought! (It would have been super cool though!)
Overall, visiting Italy was truly something else! I was absolutely blown away at the architecture on every corner and the fact that they have preserved majority of it is something else. While we were there, we were always on the go so I never really had a moment to stop and appreciate my surroundings. Now that I am back, I cannot wait for my next trip there! I am hoping to visit Sicily at some point, that is were majority of my family comes from. (Both mom and dad)
If you have visited Italy before, where is your favorite location to stop at?
Share it down below in the comments section!