Hello from Italy!! We are currently in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast, after three busy days in Rome. We have seen so much in such a short period of time and are getting back into the routine of moving from place to place after a couple of days.
We arrived in Milan at 7 am local time (1 am Colorado time) and hopped on a train to Rome. We flew into Milan to save money, but at the cost of sleep and travel time. We got to our AirBnB apartment in late afternoon after nearly 24 hours of travel and crashed for a couple of hours. We knew we needed to wake up and get moving to battle jet lag, so we took a short walk to the Colloseum (only 10 minutes!) and grabbed dinner. For our first meal in Italy we had marinated artichokes and prosciutto pizza. It was DELICIOUS (probably the best pizza we have ever had and the perfect first meal in Rome.
Our first day in Rome was spent in full on tourist mode. We woke up and made a bee-line for the Colloseum. We got very lucky and only waited in line for about 5 minutes to get in, but once inside we had to make our way through the hordes of other visitors, which included hundreds of Spanish and French students (maybe on break?). I had been there before when I went to Europe nearly ten years ago, but Logan and I were both impressed with the huge monument and fact that it is located in the middle of a major metropolitan city. We did not take a tour, but we tried to read all the signs to get as much out of it as we could. We walked around both levels of the massive structure, and were able to feel satisfied with our visit in about an hour.
It was raining the whole morning, but we decided to tough it out and go to Palatine Hill anyway (mostly because it is right next to the Coloseum, and it was included on the same ticket). We walked around the grounds, which probably would have had more meaning if we had been able to read our guide, but because of the rain we huddled under our hoods and umbrellas, unable to read the wise and informed words of Rick Steve’s as we made our way around the ruins. Even without the guide we had a great time wandering around and experiencing old Rome. It was really interesting how certain parts of the hill were PACKED (ancient wall to ancient wall) with people, while other parts were completely deserted. Maybe people avoided the hills? Whatever it was, it was nice to be able to explore without worrying about running into 16 year old French students or 60 year old mega-bus type couples.
As we walked back to our temporary home in Asian-town Rome (we stayed with an Indian man whose building smelled like curry, on a street dominated by Indian Restaurants and clothing stores owned by Chinese families), we stopped by the Trevi Fountain, grabbed some more pizza and got very lost in the streets of Rome.
Our second day in Rome was similarly rainy and similarly filled with mega tourist stops. We spent most of the day at the Vatican, exploring the museums and, once again, walking and walking and walking. We reserved tickets online, which allowed us to skip the line (on the day we went it was really not that long anyway, but I can imagine that on a hot summer day skipping the line would have real appeal). We had a quick panini lunch (with prosciutto and artichokes, again) before we walked right into the museum and spent around two hours wandering the galleries, looking at statues, frescos, mosaics, paintings and tapestries. The ceilings we incredible and we spent a large portion of the time craning our necks to see the art above us. The walk through the gallery took us straight through the Sistine Chapel. We are not really art-gallery type of people, and were endlessly complaining about how museums really should give free caffeine to visitors to enhance the experience, so two hours proved to be more than enough time for standing-head tilting-and sighing for us. We did think that the art we saw was really impressive, especially the ornately decorated ceilings, and totally worth the 16 euros we paid to get in.
After leaving the gallery we unintentionally walked around the entire country that is the Vatican (we were trying to find St.Peter’s Basilica and got lost). It continued to rain throughout the day and the long walk to the square (made longer by our lack of map reading) was a wet one. The walk was totally worth it once we made it to the square and got to see the beautiful home of the Catholic Church up close. St. Peter’s is MASSIVE (obviously, since it is the biggest church in the world) and the line to get inside moved quickly since there is space for so many people. We opted to not go to the top of the dome (it cost $$, while going inside the church itself was free). I can’t imagine attending a church service in such a huge building, and, like so many things in Europe, it is hard to imagine that people have been doing so for hundreds and hundreds of years in that same building.
On the way back to our room we made a quick stop at the Spanish Steps to grab a few pictures and a gelato. Our first Italian gelato was “lemongrass” (white chocolate, caramel and lemon) and lived up to everything everyone ever says about gelato. YUM!!!!!! The Spanish Steps are underwhelming and getting off the metro to see them forced us to make the decision of buying another metro card or walking home. We walked (duh, that is what you DO in Rome) and on the way stopped at a grocery store to grab a cheap dinner of salami, crackers and wine. Interesting fact about Rome, clothing and shoe stores seem to outnumber grocery stores 1,000 to 1 (at least). We walked for HOURS around Rome and saw a total of TWO grocery stores, so finding one to buy a cheap dinner was like finding a unicorn. We ate our delicious 5 euro dinner on our bed, watching Sherlock, recuperating for another day of touristing and walking on our final day in Rome.