My friend, Ben, and I took advantage of a cheap flight for a weekend getaway to the historical city of Rome, Italy. We knew before we left that 4 days in Rome could very well not be enough time to see everything, and it wasn’t. (Side note: You will notice Ben from other travels in Salzburg, Austria’s travel guide and my semester in Malta.)
First Impressions of Rome. . .
We arrived Thursday morning to a beautiful, sunny day. We were starving so right away, we stopped for lunch outside our hostel at Topside Restaurant. This place is the most delicious place I’ve ever eaten at. One Italian spaghetti meal has officially changed my appetite for pasta. I’ve never tasted such flavorful food in my life. I had a dish called Amatriciana spaghetti with pepperoni and ham bruschetta. It’s certainly true that no one does Italian food like the Italians. This is by no means a “budget” eatery, but it won’t break the budget either.
We then toured the city on foot and seemingly hit a new tourist attraction around every street corner. My favorite part about Rome is that modern day Rome was built around ancient Rome. It’s not like there are two different sides of the city. The Colosseum is literally surrounded by apartment buildings and markets. The Pantheon is mixed into what seems like a business district of modern Rome.
I was a bit disappointed by the Colosseum, actually. I’m not sure what I was expecting out of it. The building obviously is going to need its fair share of repairs over the centuries and centuries it has existed, however, it seemed over half the structure was under construction. And another part of it had already been repaired with modern day materials. I realize that if left untouched, it will not exist forever. But to me, the construction ruined the Roman feel of it.
We then stumbled upon the Vittoriano. I have to say, this is my favorite structure of Rome. There are no words for its beauty. However, it wasn’t until after I returned home that I found out it was constructed only a little over a century ago. Regardless that it doesn’t date back as far as other Roman architecture, it is breathtaking none-the-less. It helped a lot that we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen over the Vittoriano. It was perfect.
It wasn’t until we got to the Trevi Fountain after the sun went down that we were able to sit down and take a breather to realize we had made it to and were roaming around possibly the most historic city in the world.
Also, the Trevi Fountain is nothing short of awe-inspiring as well. It made for fantastic people-watching even if there were too many uneducated tourists. So many tourists only visit for a matter of minutes, take their photos, and leave. It’s a shame because it is so detailed and there are some things you can’t see in a photo. For example, the atmosphere around the fountain was electric and the crisp and cool fall air gave a new feel to the fountain, but those people will never remember that.
Coming from the self-proclaimed “City of Fountains” back home in Kansas City, even I was taken away by Trevi’s exquisiteness. Obviously, being perhaps the most famous fountain in the world, it was so much more majestic than anything we have in Kansas City.
Highlander Pub Crawl
After taking a breather in the hostel (which was excellent, by the way- Ben and I had our own room which is practically unheard of in a dorm-style hostel; especially in Roma) and time to prepare for our first night out, we headed out to “Roma’s Ultimate Party” at the Highlander Pub downtown.
This was my favorite night out that weekend by far. We met a couple of local girls who are originally from Russia as well as a couple of guys on vacation from San Diego. The guys had excellent stories to tell as they have lived in many different countries, including two years in Tokyo.
The girls were great hosts as they showed us around the city and took us on a personalized pub crawl that had us crossing paths with the Pantheon at midnight and singing too many karaoke songs to a bar full of Italians who were probably laughing at our accents. It was a very fun night. I highly recommend the Highlander Pub Crawl that serves all-you-can-eat pizza and as much alcohol as you can consume all included in the $25 admission fee (as well as a free t-shirt).
Rome is easily the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. It’s obviously just got a different feel to it than any other big city you could ever experience. The entire city, especially St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, is comparable to a project you start on and half way through you realize you’re in way over your head and quit. However, the Romans (or rather the slaves of ancient Rome) actually went through with it and finished it all. Impressive.
Our second day found us spending the entire day in Vatican City. It’s the only part of ancient Rome not within walking distance to other tourist parts of the city. Seeing so many exorcism movies that have scenes that take place in Vatican City had me feeling like I was about to experience a real life exorcism at any moment the whole day. Luckily, I escaped without such an experience. I had no clue Vatican City was actually its own country (the smallest in the world with only a two-mile border) until Ben told me.
St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
We hiked all the way to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome where we got the best view of the whole city of Rome. It was gorgeous, but what stood out the most to both Ben and I was the contrast of colors in the city. Every building was beautifully colored. The recognizable trees of Rome hadn’t lost their color and their style fit the city perfectly. While waiting in the mile-long line to enter the Basilica, we enjoyed eavesdropping into many people’s conversations from all different cultures. The variety of visitors to Vatican City is excellent for this.
We decided to set out on a quest for live music that night. It ultimately led to us being misdirected on a straight path to the Trevi Fountain. We decided to make the most of it and have some gelato while taking in the moment at the fountain. And to our surprise, we ran into an Irish pub with live music on the way home. We got the best of both worlds that night.
On our last day, we were already tired as hell, and the fact that it rained the entire day really sucked the rest of the life out of us. The amount of detail put into the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel is unfathomable. It must have taken centuries to complete.
The saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” means so much more to me now. We decided to take a look at the Pantheon during the daylight, and I must say, it lived up to the tourist hype. It was beautiful and the inside was even more impressive. The dome has a giant hole at the top of it because the building was built for communicating with their gods. So since it was raining all day, the inside was practically a lake in the center. I was amazed that the people of Rome have left that part of the Pantheon as it is in today’s age.
Other Attractions, Bars, and Restaurants. . .
– Roman Forum (middle of Roman Empire)
– Spanish Steps (also will be seen on the Highlander Pub Crawl)
– Palatine Hill (ancient Roman palace/museum)
– Bar San Calisto (CHEAP beer!)
– La Prosciuterria (best place in Rome for the combination of good, cheap food and beer)
– Black Market (cozy atmosphere, decently priced drinks, occasional live music)
When you see so much in just one weekend, it is hard to see every building in its glory, but I can honestly say I am still mystified by all its glory. It was, simply put, a remarkable weekend. When in Rome, we did as tourists would do (and we even learned some local culture while we were at it). It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back for a longer time at some point because there is still so much to see.