Rome is a city where history oozes from every crack in the wall. It’s a place where every brick can tell legendary stories of the rise and fall of empires and gossip about the lives of people hidden between the legends. It’s where the intricacies of the preserved sites, though now crumbling, show us the greatness of an empire that contributed to shaping the world we know today. In late September of this year, I became enchanted by the history that Rome has to offer with my parents and sister on a two-week trip to Italy. While we only had a small taste of what this landmark city has to offer during our 3-day stay, I was blown away by the history preserved here among the hub of modern city life.
My family had caught a red-eye to Rome from Orlando the night before me, so they were already resting when I arrived a little after midday from Spain. Once I arrived, however, they shot up out of bed because they were just as excited to start exploring as I was. While the hotel room was tight for four people, its location was ideal. We were just a few blocks from the Spanish Steps and in the middle of some fantastic shopping. We were also less than a 15-minute walk from several historic landmarks like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
We started the late afternoon by sharing a pizza and a bottle of prosecco to celebrate our reunion. While we were disappointed my husband couldn’t make the trip, we were all giddy to see each other. The bubbles infused themselves into our spirits as we explored the Spanish steps in the glow of the setting sun. We took many selfies and pictures as we pranced up and down the grandiose staircase and spent quite a bit of time soaking up the views of Piazza di Spagna from the top.
Before our dinner reservation, we had a little time to kill, so we went to the Trevi Fountain to relish in its splendor and toss our lucky coins. While many blogs recommend going to the fountain in the morning to avoid crowds, I was perfectly content basking in the evening aura of it despite the crowds. We were able to take many pictures and found a place to sit and people watch.
After seeing the fountain, we walked over to our dinner reservations at Coso. This was my favorite meal in Rome and probably the only place we ate that I would vehemently recommend to someone visiting. We sat streetside under a canopy of tiny lights to enjoy the fantastic fall weather, delicious wine, and dreamy pasta plates. I particularly loved the clam spaghetti and the carbonara.
On the second day, we got off to an early start to see the Vatican Museums and the city. The museums housed colorful frescos, hundreds of chalk-white statues with solemn faces, and artifacts from not only Italian history, but ancient Egyptian history as well. They even had real mummies! My favorite part of the visit was stepping into the Sistine Chapel and being drowned in the most famous works of Michelangelo. The entire ceiling and all of the walls were drenched in his awe-inspiring, detailed works. Some were in their own rectangular sections while others took up an entire portion of the wall. I was surprised at how many pieces I had recognized from my studies in art history but was most excited to see “The Creation of Adam” and “Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter”.
We left the Sistine Chapel feeling entranced at having seen such an important religious landmark, but the day was not even halfway done. After we finished our visit to the Vatican Museums, we walked over to the Vatican City and were amazed at its sheer size. A walkway with hundreds of sturdy columns embraced the main plaza in a horseshoe shape that was crowned by Saint Peter’s Basilica. We wanted to go inside but ended up skipping it due to hunger and a line that wrapped around the city itself.
We refueled after taking a taxi back to our hotel and then spent a few hours shopping. We popped into some stores of Italy’s most renowned brands like Prada, Gucci, and Fendi as well as some independently owned boutiques. Shopping is extremely tiring work, especially for our wallets, so after a bit of downtime and refreshment in the hotel we headed off to dinner.
Because we had such a nice time at the Trevi Fountain the previous evening, we decided to go back to try some gelato and cannoli from the shops nearby and people-watch again. I was worried the treats wouldn’t be good due to the proximity to a huge tourist attraction, but everything we tried was delicious and the evening was just as sweet.
The next morning, my dad and sister went back to Vatican City to see Saint Peter’s Basilica. My dad was bummed that we skipped it. While I enjoyed my visit there the day before, my experience was a bit tainted by the overwhelming crowds so I didn’t have any desire to return. Instead, my mom and I walked over to the Pantheon. I was stunned to suddenly pop out into the Piazza della Rotonda from a narrow side street and see a structure quite literally frozen in time. Being one of Rome’s best-preserved historic sites, its weathered-stone façade looked, well, ancient without the added crumbliness that usually comes with similar sites. The open aired dome on the inside was interesting as well considering the architectural ingenuity of people from so long ago, but overall I found the outside of it to be most memorable.
By the time we concluded our morning, my dad and sister had finished theirs so we met up to go to the Colosseum, The Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. I have seen thousands of pictures of the Colosseum in my life, but to be there in person and imagine myself attending a game was wondrous, and I learned a lot of new facts. For example, senators had their names carved into their stone seats and you could still walk on the marble flooring of their section. I also learned that they made prisoners act the part of people who died in plays and were literally killed during the play. I found that quite jarring. The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were vast and interesting as well. I think my favorite part was seeing the ruins of the market which was essentially just a giant mall of shops. Can you imagine what it must have been like to spend a day shopping for goods in ancient Rome?
That evening we had dinner at La Scalinata. The ambiance was rustic, our waiter was hilarious and friendly, and the pizza and cannoli were good. By this point, we were exhausted so we called it an early night to relax and pack before a day of travel to the Amalfi Coast.
Visiting Rome was an unforgettable experience. For me, it’s so easy to depreciate people from ancient Roman history. I sometimes view them as a little crazed, and while they were in a lot of aspects from a modern standpoint (for example, we no longer make sporting days of watching people get torn apart), they also craved the same comforts, had many of the same joys and fears, and liked doing a lot of the same things we do. When in Rome, it’s impossible to forget the past when the ancient is infused so well into the modern. Being in Rome brings one so much closer to the people from past civilizations and I find that to be humbling and inspiring.