As we boarded the plane to head to Rome, I was filled with excitement. (Which also could have been from the adrenaline that was pumping through me after being sent back through security right when we were about to board our plane, then having to go back through it all again in hopes that it didn't leave without us. But that's a whole other story...)
I didn't really know what to expect when we landed, but the anticipation was killing me. We arrived late at night, and shuttled into downtown by bus, and were greeted by the hustle and bustle of the city.
We tried to quickly orient ourselves with our surroundings with the help of a map, and with no help from the locals, who so eagerly told us to go in the complete wrong direction. Luckily, I - and by I, I mean Sebastian, can tell when people are bullshitting us and we found some nice policemen to help instead. (Be warned, fellow travellers!)
Even though we arrived late at night, we were eager to see the city. We wined and dined, and explored as much as we could.
The only way I could possibly explain how I felt about our experience in Rome is that... I was in awe of its beauty, and I was completely fascinated with its history. There is so much to do and see, and you will most definitely need a new pair of feet by the end of it.
But it's totally worth it.
(I apologize in advance for the length of this post, and the amount of photos used. But c'mon! Cut me some slack. It's incredibly difficult to choose a select few from the hundreds taken. Soooo I did pretty good:)
Our game plan while visiting Rome for the first time, was mostly to get out and explore the city by ourselves. We booked a couple of scheduled tours (which you'll see in future posts), but really didn't want to have to be anywhere at certain times.
This was probably the best thing we could have done. We only had four days to really get a feel for the city, and wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture and lifestyle. It was our own great adventure! (And one that involved what seemed like an endless amount of carbs and gelato, so you can imagine how happy I was!)
When we first arrived at our hotel, the staff went over a map with us, letting us in on great sites to check out. One being Victor Emmanuel. "It's a huge white building that you can't miss."
While on our nightly adventure the first night, we passed a white-ish building and Sebastian exclaimed, "I think that's it! That's so cool!"
Then we saw the actual building the next day. Just by looking at it, you can tell how wrong we were, and how hard we laughed upon discovering this massive, incredible structure located in the heart of Rome.
Victor Emmanuel is actually relatively new in comparison to the rest of the city (which, in some areas, dates back nearly 2000 years). It was built around 100 years ago, but that doesn't take away from how epic it is. Including the statues on the top, stands 81 meters tall. That's about 266 feet. That. Is. Massive.
Not to mention the elaborate sculptures surrounding the building.
At the centre of the building, guards protect the eternal flame of the unknown soldier.
Even the inside is gorgeous.
But the view? Breathtaking.
Here you can see from the front of the building (above), and from the back (below). The Colosseum is in the distance.
And set out to see the magic of Trevi fountain!
Legend has it that those who throw a coin into the fountain ensures their ticket back to Rome. Mine was of Polish currency ;)
... Random fact, did you know that an estimated 3000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day?!
I can see why...
One thing I loved was that music filled the air.
Looking down the Spanish steps (above), and back up at them (below).
Notice the massive Egyptian monument at the top of the stairs, which is called an obelisk. (That tall, narrow monument covered in hieroglyphics.)
These can be seen all around Rome. They were taken from Egypt after Roman conquest, and were originally displayed in the centre of chariot stadiums like Circus Maximus and where Piazza Navona now sits. They were, essentially, trophies and were a show of power. (As in, we're Roman, don't mess with us, we can do whatever we want.)
It wasn't until later, around 1500 AD that when Rome was being rebuilt, that they placed them around the city in points of interest.
Egyptian monuments and other statues can be seen all over Rome, and there's also a large collection of Egyptian works that can be seen in the Vatican museum. (More on that later:)
One thing to know: fountains are plentiful around the city. And it's okay to indulge in. And I say indulge because Rome is hot. Like, two showers a day kind of hot. And spending 2 euros on bottled water is just ridiculous.
Our sore feet enjoyed the water too.
This was once the grand entrance to Rome. It was a traveller's first view of the city and was intended to leave an impression on whomever visited. The Piazza del Popolo translates to "People's Square" and is surrounded by lush fountains, churches, and more Egyptian monuments, with an obelisk directly in the centre of the square. It was even used for public executions for centuries. And if you look straight down from the gate, you will see the incredible Victor Emmanuel staring back at you.
Up on Capitoline Hill; the double staircase designed by none other than Michelangelo himself. Little of the design of this area - the Piazza del Campidoglio and the surrounding palazzi, was actually completed until after Michelangelo had died, but his original designs were used faithfully.
Like I said, the history alongside the architecture seen all over Rome is beyond breathtaking. It's unbelievable to hear the stories, but even more incredible to see it all before your own eyes.
...And there's nothin' like some good old gelato to keep your spirits up too. :)
Like I said, to say that Rome is hot is a bit of an understatement, and to say that the sun will get to you is putting it mildly. Having one of these umbrellas is guaranteed to make you look extra touristy. But at that point, you'd be willing to wear a fanny pack and a hat with water bottles attached if it would help.
Naps in the park are also a must.
Coolest part - you can see old arches sticking out from the ground. It's not every day that you can say you slept on ancient ruins.
This fountain was one of my favourite places in the city to go to. There's no grand history that I'm aware of but it was one of the most relaxing places to go and hang out.
To the right of this photo, is a little shop where you can buy wine and beer (cheap wine and beer at that!) We walked in and picked up a bottle to share. After we paid, the store clerk simply asked, "Would you like me to open it for you?"
So we got some pizza to accompany our bottle of wine, sat by the fountain, ate until we couldn't eat anymore, and sipped on wine like it was going out of style. It. Was. The. Best. Thing. Ever.
Locals came and hung out with their friends. They brought their guitars and played. Kids came with their parents, running around the fountain, laughing. People kicked around a soccer ball. There were even puppies.
That alone made me fall in love with the city. There's just something about being in that type of environment that immediately makes everything else disappear, not a worry in the world. Europe totally has my heart. (Side note: Canada, how about becoming a little more socialist? Wouldn't hurt, ya know.)
Our meals always consisted of either pasta or pizza. No complaints here.
(This photo was taken after one of our tours. On a day that I unfortunately forgot sunscreen, which then resulted in one of the most awkward sunburns in life. And yes, people stared.)
How close we were to the street. Space is limited. Hahaha.
And of course! There was music!
... But when in doubt, there's always more gelato.
... And sword fights.
Stay tuned for a tour around the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Prepare to be blown away, friends.