*Please note: This post was first published on the blog I kept in 2011 while studying abroad*
Arriving in Rome
Our next stop after we paused in Pisa was Rome. The train ride was about three hours (I think) but we played cards and took naps to pass the time. Once we got to Rome’s train station we had to make our way through the metro, which was crowded with people probably there for spring break and Holy Week.
In Rome, watch out for people who stand next to the ticket machines for the metro! They will push all the buttons for you, acting as if they’re helping out when you are perfectly capable of hitting “English” and then deciding which ticket you need. After they “help” they then ask you for money.
We took the metro to a spot where we could catch an above ground train to our hostel, Camping Tiber, which was located outside of Rome and in the country. We would be staying in trailers instead of a traditional hotel/hostel building. Although unconventional as far as hostels go, it was a fun experience and a lot cheaper than the hostels inside of Rome during Holy Week.
Once we reached our train stop we knew we had to catch a shuttle to the camping ground but unfortunately we had no idea what that shuttle looked like. Instead a man driving a shuttle van offered to take us where we wanted to go. Normally we would have said no but there was a woman and her daughter in the van and some guys from India that were also going to our hostel soon joined us.
We reached our hostel without incident and were surprised to find that although we had booked a six person dorm we had our own rooms! Our hostel accommodations were two compartments of a three part camper-trailer. In one part we had two beds and the bathroom and in the other compartment was a couch for our third person to sleep on and a kitchen!
We did not expecting to have a kitchen, so that night we went to the little market and bought pasta, corn and unfortunately pureed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. Our dinner was still good though and a nice break from going out to eat. We didn’t realize the heater in our camper needed to be plugged in so that night we were quite cold discovered the next day why the heater did not work.
Day 2: The Vatican, Altar to the Fatherland, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon
The next day we went to the Vatican and got in line for St. Peter’s Basilica. The line was pretty long but moves quickly since St. Peter’s is free. The basilica was absolutely breathtaking and worth the wait! The detail and amount of artwork inside is incredible. There’s really no way to describe it so you’ll have to go there for yourself to see it. We also saw a brief procession of cardinals. I’m not entirely sure what was going on since I’m not super familiar with Catholic traditions and ceremonies
After the St. Peter’s we went to the Vatican Museum which houses a lot of artwork, most of which is found on its ceilings and walls. It’s also where the Sistine Chapel is located (pictures are not allowed).
We then headed to the Colosseum but found out it was going to close at 2:00 for a Good Friday procession. Luckily we had all of the next day in Rome to come back and see it.
Next we walked to the big white building that appears in almost all the movies that take place in Rome. It was the Altare alla Patria, a relatively new building that opened in 1925. It was free to go in and the only thing you would have to pay for is the lift that would take you to the very top.
Afterward we walked to Piazza della Republica and hit up McDonald’s euro menu. We then went to Trevi Fountain and made our wishes while throwing in a coin. It was extremely crowded but we found a niche on the side of the fountain that didn’t have too many people around.
Lastly, we went to the Pantheon which is free to go into and were surprised to find that it had been converted into a church at some point in Rome’s history. We had expected to see a Roman temple. Instead the inside of the building had various Christian art.
Unfortunately, some pigeons at the fountain by the Pantheon decided they didn’t like our clean clothes so we headed towards the nearest metro which was right near the Spanish steps. After cleaning our clothes in our sink we prepared chicken hot dogs and corn for dinner.
Day 3: Colosseum, Palentine Hill, Roman Forum, and People Watching on the Spanish Steps
The next day we checked out of our hostel and checked our baggage at the train station because we had to catch a 5:45 AM train the next day. We couldn’t get from our hostel to the train station that early since the metro wouldn’t be open.
We then headed straight to the Colosseum and stood in a huge line that turned into a mosh pit free-for all that you had to fight through to buy your tickets. The ticket is 12 euros and includes Palatine Hills and the Roman Forum.
The inside of the Colosseum is amazing! And the thing is huge! The Colosseum doesn’t have a floor anymore because it was made of wood and rotted long ago which means you can see into the labyrinth where the gladiators and animals were kept before the show. The steps where people used to sit are also missing due to stones being recycled for other uses throughout the centuries. It is so strange to think that the Colosseum was built around 2000 years ago and is somehow still standing! We paused next to a Spanish tour guide learned that the Romans would put sand over the wooden floor so that it could absorb the blood of the combatants and animals.
In Palatine Hill we saw Caesar’s House and even got to go inside a part of it to see the fragments of frescoes that remain. We also saw the Roman Forum (and some cats in the Forum) and then went to Circus Maximus.
Our last stop before our night in the train station (I’ll talk more about that in my post about Athens) were the Spanish Steps, where we people watched in the intermittent rain for two hours. We were especially entertained by the people illegally selling purses, roses, and “splatter” toys. Whenever the police were near, these people would grab their wares and run off (the purse sellers kept all their purses on a sheet and would then grab the sheet and throw it over their backs), only to return when the coast was clear. The rose sellers were especially fun to watch. They would hand a rose to a girl or to a boyfriend and act like they were giving them the flower. They would then demand money until the victim gave in and gave them a euro or two. We would be exclaiming (not loud enough for anyone to hear) “Don’t take it! Don’t take it!” Luckily no one tried to sell us roses while we were people watching.
We left the steps at about 9:00 or 9:30, at which time it was dark and stopped by the Colosseum at night. We then headed to the train station and picked up our bags before our wait until we could get on our 5:45 train.