I realize this post comes to you all one full week and several others trips past when we got back from Rome, but it’s better late than never! I’ve been toying in my mind the best way to present to you my 4 days in Rome, and the easiest solution I found is to simply list the names of all of the places we went and then add in a couple anecdotes to tie it off, so here goes nothing:
Day 1: We boarded a train in Florence at 8:19, arrived in Rome at 9:52, and hit the ground running. As part of our Humanities class, each student was assigned a location and topic to teach about on site in Rome. Luck of the draw, I was the first at bat at the Circus of Maxentius located on the Appian Way. We actually started off with the Catacombs of St. Sebastian with an official tour guide, and I learned that catacombs are really creepy but also pretty neat. After the catacombs, someone made the mistake of handing me the tour guide headset, and after presenting some knowledgeable knowledge about the Circus of Maxentius (the best preserved circus in Rome), I decided to keep my listeners entertained and offer some sports commentary on an improptu human pretend chariot race down the field and also potentially inaccurate history information on any sign or wonder that caught my eye on the bus from the Circus to our next stop… The next stop was St. Paul outside the wall where I handed off my headset and rejoined the land of the peasants to become an avid listener and notetaker. The power of the mic definitely got to my head and I was a tad sad for the remainder of the day (just kidding, the whole day was wonderful). We stopped for lunch at a cafe that was part of St. Paul’s and then moved on and covered the coat of arms of the popes, Circus Maximus, Republican Period temples, mouth of truth, St. Mary in Cosmedin, and the Island of Tiberina along with a host of other sights that we drove by along the way before stopping at our hotel for a moment of rest before heading back out. We saw the Largo Argentina old temples, Piazza Navona and fountains, the Pantheon, and the column of Marcus Aurelius before being set free to roam Rome on our own. My group headed to the magnicently scaffolded Trevi Fountain–we threw coins in anyway. We then stopped at a restaurant for some genuine Roman cuisine and then enjoyed a leisurely evening at the Spanish steps and a stroll up a hill for a breathtaking view of the city at sunset.
Day 2: Early start to our day, we saw St. John in Lateran, talked about the signs and symbols of the apostles, saw St. Mary of the Holy Steps, St. Clement, St. Peter in Chains and the tomb of Pope Julius II, the Colosseum (AMAZING), the Arch of Constantine, Arch of Titus, Palatine Hill, Basilica of Maxentius, Roman Forum, Temple of Antoninos and Faustina, Legend of Romulus and Remus, Legend of the Rape of the Sabine, Dioscuri, Temple of the Vestal Virgins, Curia, Arch of Septimus Severus, Mamertine Prison, Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Capotoline Hill, and Piazza Campidoglio, Trajans Column, Piazza Venezia, Venetian Palace, and monument to Victor Emanuel II. If you are wondering, yes it is possible to see all of these things in one day. No, it is not possible to remember everything about these places when seen in one day. Yes, my feet did fall off at one point. Yes, I am very grateful for the plethora of public water fountains that kept my water bottle full all day. Yes, I am grateful for the overcast day that gave us marvelous weather. Yes, I was dead tired that night. But the touring did not stop us from enjoying potentially the best burger ever at The Perfect Bun and a wonderful evening in Piazza Navona constantly turning down “I give you small price” vendors and laughing at funny caricatures and finding gelato and playing with lasers and soaking up the fun atmosphere of Rome.
Day 3: Rome was taken over by the Scouts of Italy. Everywhere we looked, we saw light blue button downs, corduroy shorts, knee high socks, and little neck scarves akin to the colors of the different groups of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. We were unable to start our day off at St. Peter’s because the swarm of Scouts were headed there to be addressed by the Pope himself. Sadly, we owned no corduroy so we couldn’t join, but instead headed to the Vatican Museum where we wandered around for hours and tried to see all that we could see, but holy moly, that place was crowded! Unfortunately, some of the splendor of the masterpieces at the Vatican (Sistine Chapel, Laocoon group sculpture, etc) was underwhelming due to the overwhelming crowds of American and Japanese tourists alike with their whisperers, tour guides, and body odor. A self-diagnosed, crowd-induced claustrophobic can only handle so much, but I enjoyed the visit as long as I could endure it. At the time of our departure, I was more than ready for some fresh air and personal space. Sources told us that St. Peter’s line was ridiculously long, so our group headed to Castel Sant’Angelo which may have been my favorite part of the visit to Rome. The castle itself had lots of little winding pathways and we worked our way up to the top for a view of the city in all directions. The weather was perfect and the view was awe inspiring. From there, we headed to St. Peter’s, which is magnificent and in a league of its own in terms of extravagance and grandeur. Some of us tried to figure up a price to put on a place like that, and we were at a loss. It is simply priceless. After another long day, we ate some pasta, saw the Pantheon at night, and enjoyed our last in Rome.
Day 4: Another early start took us to the Villa Borghese, where I could gawk at the masterpieces of Bernini for days. He is my favorite sculptor and I loved looking at his David, Apollo and Daphne, etc….we had the remainder of the day free up to our train departure at 4. We walked through what I would compare to New York’s Central Park, guided by a nice old man on a bike who potentially followed our group solely to guide us in the right direction. He was probably chuckling to himself at our inability to grasp a sense of direction, but he kept us on the right path which led us to yet another breathtaking view of the city and down to the Piazza de Popolo where we listened to a man sing some opera in the square. We dined at a cafe for lunch and then roamed along some streets and in and out of shops before meeting up at the Spanish steps and heading back to our hotel to grab our bags and go to the train station. I navigated the bus system and made it to the station where we wandered through the Moleskine shop wondering if Robbie is in heaven every time he enters such a shop, and then boarded our train and came back to the villa.
This was really the first time where returning to the villa offered a warm sense of welcome and familiarity after a wonderful but whirlwind trip. Our days in Rome were marked with many Lizzie McGuire references–namely singing every song from the movie regardless of where we were or what we were doing. I have a feeling I’ll be returning to Rome one day. Even a week later, I write this still in awe of the mix of ancient history and modern hubbub of the great city of Roma!