Roma-The Vatican and beyond

Per Rick Steves’ advice, Josh and I temporarily suspended our protestantism and spent a day immersed in the glory that is Roman Catholicism. We reserved a ticket and a spot a few weeks in advance on a guided tour through the Vatican Museum, and wandered the halls of the historic grounds for hours. The tour was found from the Vatican website, and it allowed us to skip the insanely long line that had formed around the entire outer wall of the museum. All that planning really does pay off.

The tour was alright, but definitely worth the extra money spent to skip the line and have a few of the artifacts and significant artworks explained to us. Our tour ended in the Sistine Chapel where we ooed and awed over Michaelangelo’s interior-masterpiece.

From the Sistine, we went next door to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you’ve never been to St. Peter’s, I would suggest you go ahead and scratch a note onto the ole’ bucket list. I mean, this place completely blew us away. It took two jet lagged, sore-footed travelers and transformed us into children. We were giddy at the grandeur of that church. It is the richest, biggest, most visited church in the world, all built on top of what is said to be Saint Peter’s resting place. Like much of Europe, this destination exceeded our very high expectations.

 

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Hall full of hand painted maps in the Vatican museum

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Outside St. Peter’s Basilica

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The size of this place is unreal.

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Sun rays peaking through the dome in the Basilica

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The baldacchino, designed by artist Bernino is said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world. It sits directly above the tomb of Peter.

It is safe to say we enjoyed our time at the Vatican. I’m happy we didn’t miss that important piece of Rome. It was mind-boggling to discover how Christianity evolved into the widespread religion it is today, starting with Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion right here in Rome.

Some other places we visited in Rome that I haven’t mentioned include:

The Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain

The Jewish Ghetto

A few incredible restaurants I will pass on if anyone requests it. Yelp was most helpful in this department.

Like I said previously, we could have spent many more days in Rome and still not seen all we wanted to see. We also wasted a few hours on Vatican day making a long trek to the airport to retrieve our bags (MIRACLE!!) which decided to show up. I loved this city and can’t wait to return one day. In my opinion, every human needs to visit Rome if they can. The history is just too important to miss.

Roma, you were magnificent.

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 Next stop…Florence!

Roma! Getting acquainted with Italy.

So, in case I forgot to mention it…We are in Europe. And it is amazing.

The last time I was on this continent I was 18 and it was snowing and I didn’t have any walking shoes with me. This time around, the trees are blossoming, I don’t need a ski coat, and I am completely enchanted. There really aren’t words for the magic that is Italy.

Our trip started with 3 nights in Rome. Unfortunately, our bags didn’t come into the picture until day 3. But now that I have access to clean underwear I can truly say without hesitation that Rome WAS everything I had hoped it would be.

Thanks to Rick Steves, we spent most of our time in Rome wandering on our own listening to audio tours of the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum. We did the “Caesar Shuffle” on our first full day, and The Vatican on day 2. There was, of course, much walking, gelato eating, and phone calls to various airports to locate or luggage along the way.

Really two full days in Rome was not nearly enough. Especially when we spent so much of our time dealing with -get this- FOUR airports who were linked to our lost luggage. What a nightmare. The worst part about not having our bags was that our camera was in my checked luggage. Thank goodness for iPhones!

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Arche of Titus

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Ruins of the ancient Roman Forum

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Inside the Pantheon

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Piiazza Navone

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The Colosseum

 

I can certainly see why Rome is not everyone’s favorite place. It is overwhelming and can become a dizzying maze of poorly labeled public transit if you’re not on top of planning. I’m keeping a running list of little tips I wish I would have had when planning the trip. Here are a few of my top ones I’ll forever suggest to anyone visiting this amazing city.

1) Get on the Italian eating schedule ASAP. Like, don’t wait until you’re hungry to eat. Eat lunch at 1 or 2 pm, and dinner around 8. If you wait until your American tummy tells you to eat, NOTHING will be open. I mean nothing.

2) Buy a Roma Pass. Just do it. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble by having unlimited access to public transportation and getting to cut everyone in line at museums.

3) Stay near a metro OR close to all the action. We stayed way too far from everything for our own good. On the second day in Rome my pedometer registered a total of 11.5 miles of walking. That is painful, guys. When people say you’ll walk a lot in Europe they are NOT messin’ around.

4) Yelp is your friend. We found our only great meals in Rome through Yelp. The photos helped a lot.

5) Take Rome in stride. Love the beauty, appreciate the faster pace of everyday life, and just pretend you’re a Roman for the time being. Have an espresso standing at a bar, even if it tastes like drinking charcoal. Just have fun and laugh about how fun it is to be immersed in a completely different culture. We came to their country for good reason after all, so learn and grow and taste and smell and ENJOY!

I’ll keep listing tips as I think of them. It really is true that you can never be 100% prepared for what you’ll come across when traveling abroad. I have been planning this trip for months, but never could have predicted our luggage would get lost. You just never know. I’ll just take this as a chance to re-learn what it means to be flexible, and thank the good Lord that He reunited us with our stuff before I had a nervous breakdown.

Ciao!