More Stories from Rome!

The Pantheon is incredible. It is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, and its absolutely spectacular inside. There are lines to get in, but they didn’t take too long to get through. Once inside you will see sculptures, artwork, and, of course, the intricately designed dome ceiling. We left the Pantheon full of culture—but empty of food, and so we made our way to a nearby restaurant. Almost everywhere you go to eat will have pasta, wine, bread, salad, and pizza. It is not hard to find an authentic Italian meal in Rome, which is great because the food is delicious!

 

That night we were staying at a campground (camping for the second time this trip). However, this experience was totally different than Paris. The Parisian campsite was fun, a little different, and was in a prime location. Having that as our only European communal camping experience made this Roman campsite look like a resort. Our “tent” was a canvas room, with bunk beds and a sliding, LOCKING door. The campground was equipped with an actively used pool, even more actively used bar, and dining and grocery shopping needs. It was huge. We had been a bit uneasy at the thought of camping again, just because we had become accustomed to sleeping in beds, but this campground blew away all of our preconceived notions of camping. Everything was clean, functional, and downright luxurious!

Our last stop before saying goodbye to Rome was Vatican City. Did you know that Vatican City is actually its own country? It is, and the smallest in the world. It also takes about two hours to get into Vatican City because of lines, and since we didn’t have the time for that we opted for a paid-for guided tour that let us skip the queue.

The Vatican is amazing, as I’m sure you would have guessed. My favorite part was the Sistine Chapel and its beautiful ceiling. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed in the Chapel. Also, you’ll have to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and aren’t too short. The chapel is a scene of breathtaking beauty that provokes you to wonder in amazement at how something so detailed and gorgeous could have ever even been created. I could have stood and stared at that ceiling for hours and still not memorized every figure, color, and scene captured. I recommend a tour if you’re in a rush or are interested in learning about what you’re seeing. We went through almost the whole Vatican until we had to catch our next bus. We ended up running through part of it, just so we could make sure to see the Sistine Chapel before we had to leave—which was totally worth it!

Rome is a memorizing place of history, culture, and beautiful art. I would love to go back. Next stop, and last of the backpacking, is Pisa, Italy.

Roma, My First Cappuccino, and More Camping

Rome! We had arrived. Our bus left from Venice the night before. For a moment, we thought the bus would never come and that we’d have to make frantic impromptu plans—Milan airport style. But it ended up ok, and that the bus was just two hours late. Something I learned, particularly about Italian travel, is that their polychronic time culture expands to the transportation systems. This means you can’t plan for or expect Italian travel methods to be on time, except the metro. When we got to Rome around 7 am, we still had a few hours until we could check into our hostel.

The first thing we saw, after grabbing a coffee and pastry (the croissants are different in Italy!), was the Altare della Patria. The locals call this The Wedding Cake, because it’s rectangular, white, and tall, but the name reflects a gaudy and frivolous connotation, which the Romans aim at whom the monument is for: Vittorio Emanuele II. Vittorio was the first king of unified Italy, and as our walking tour guide told us, not very embraced by the Romans. To the local, the monument symbolizes Vittorio’s love for himself instead of the promised unity and advancement of the Italian people.

The walking tour that we went on was great. Very informative, spoken in excellent English, and free! If I had known about these sooner I would have looked them up for every city we visited. They’re a great, cheap way to learn the history of what you’re looking at. Which is especially crucial in Rome. On this tour, we also saw the Spanish Steps, Campo Marzio, and the Trevi Fountain.

After our walking tour of the city we checked into our hostel. Two Ducks, it was called. Despite having almost all terrible reviews, we committed to the place because it was cheap and convenient.

It actually turned out to be ok! No hot water in the showers, which was hard to get used to, but we were only there for one night. The view of the city from our room was great and we were near a cute breakfast bar (in Europe many bars will also serve breakfast) where I ended up having my first cappuccino. European cappuccinos, unlike American as I’ve since found out, have chocolate in them, along with the coffee, steamed milk, and foam. Delicious.

Later that day, we also went to go see the Coliseum! —As well as some incredible ruins, a yummy midday meal, and the exquisite Pantheon. The Coliseum was incredible. We waited in line for a good amount of time, but definitely less than an hour. I had my British passport, and that helped me get into the speedier line, also if you have a student ID card or identification proving your under 25 years old, you can get a discounted ticket. Once inside, the structure was so cool. They built a wooden platform over some of the area that a platform would have originally covered, this showed where the platform would have been and where gladiators would have walked, and leaving some of the space uncovered showed some underground tunnels where the warriors and beasts walked under the stadium. You could really imagine where the seats would have been and could even see the big arches where fighters walked through into the platform to be enveloped by the crowd. Much of the structure has been depleted, not because of time, but unfortunately because of stone theft. When the Roman Empire was crumbling, many thieves stole this stone to be used as building materials elsewhere, but the remaining structure gives a good insight into what the Coliseum once looked like.

To keep this article at a decent length, I’ll finish the rest of Rome in the next article, Rome Part #2! Read on to experience the Pantheon, more gelato and pasta, the Vatican, and our campground.