Rome Wasn’t Seen in a Day

September 19, 2015 - 9:31 pm 2 Comments

Got off the train and took to the streets in search of my B&B. It was cloudy and humid, and I was dripping with sweat before even getting to the place. It was a challenge finding it, with no signage on the outside and no address numbers for reference. But when I finally got inside, I was greeted by the flamboyant and friendly Laura. She seemed like a great host, but I didn’t stick around. Jet-lagged but buzzing on the adrenaline of being someplace new, I set off to explore Rome.

Rome is about how I imagined it, hubbub of commercial strips, duotone police sirens, giant billboards, graffiti, gummed up sidewalks, and scooters. One thing there’s a lot of is fountains. I don’t know if it’s something that goes back to the aqueduct days of the ancient Romans, but there seems to be a fountain of fresh, drinkable water every few hundred meters. Romans are never thirsty.

Italians have certain sense of style, with seemingly random combinations of clothes and colors that they wear with confidence. Everyone’s thin (so much for low-carb diets) and good-looking, but a bit part of that is their attitude. Everyone is flamboyant and confident and happy. There are also nuns everywhere.

Some pigeons and I visited the Spanish Steps. Kind of cool, I guess, but not much to it.

Spanish Steps

Next was the Pantheon, an impressive structure nestled between more modern buildings. Very cool place.


The Pantheon was crawling with people selling selfie sticks. I’ve always been resistant to selfie sticks for fear of seeming narcissistic and douchy, but tormented by years of disappointing pictures of myself on previous trips, I finally gave in and bought one.

First Selfie at the Pantheon

The Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most famous landmarks, was closed for renovations.

From the Pantheon, I met up with a group for a chaotic group tour of the Colosseum. It’s a very cool structure, and the history of the place is fascinating, but our guide was clearly struggling to keep the group together and deal with the heat at the same time.


Our guide then led us to the Roman Forum, a giant courtyard filled with bits and pieces of ancient Roman buildings. You really have to use your imagination to picture these ruins as a functional city center thousands of years ago.

As the sun was setting, I walked across town to the Vatican for a nighttime tour of the Vatican grounds and the Sistine Chapel. On my way to the Vatican, I stuffed my face with stracciatella (some variation of chocolate chip) and banana gelato. Delicious on a miserably hot day.

Ferdinando, our Walks of Italy tour guide, was fantastic. Knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter, articulate, and funny, he really added to the already impressive history and structures of the Vatican. After a stroll through the Vatican Museum and some of Raphael’s master works covering the walls and ceilings of various rooms, we finished our tour in the Sistine Chapel. Impressive. Every few minutes, the ambient murmur in the room would start to rise, and the guard at the end of the room would yell something for everyone to quiet down. There’s also a strict no photography policy that exists purely for selfish legal reasons, but it didn’t slow me down one bit. I’m slick.

Sistine Chapel

Unfortunately, St. Peter’s Basilica was closed for the evening, so I didn’t have a chance to go inside. But it does look pretty impressive from the outside.

From there, I began the long, painful walk back to the hotel. It was hot as hell, the distances were greater than I had planned for, and I was too proud to take a taxi or the bus or the subway. I stopped at a cafe, where the waiter standing outside laughed at me when I asked if he had some kind of pasta with chicken. He recommended the carbonara. I got the lasagna.

By the time I got back to my room, my feet were wrecked and I was completely exhausted. I was perhaps a bit too ambitious on my first day in Rome.

That was confirmed this morning when I slept through my 6am alarm and missed the pick-up for my day tour to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Oops. In a panic, I called the tour operator, but the lady told me that I had missed it and they were long gone. As consolation, she offered to put me on a Crypts, Bones & Catacombs tour later in the day.

I packed up my stuff and moved to a different hotel this morning to meet up with my group. At reception, I met up with a guy on my tour named Nader (pronounced “nodder”), an Egyptian living in Dubai. Seems like a good guy.

Missing out on my day trip sucked, but being in Rome for another day worked out kind of nicely. I was able to relax a bit and see some of the remaining sites a bit more leisurely. My first thought was to make it back over to St. Peter’s Basilica, but it was closed. Ironically, the pope is headed to DC in a couple of days, and they’re holding some sort of going-away bash for him. Alas, seeing St. Peter’s Basilica was not meant to be on this trip. I will just have to come back.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, just around the corner from my hotel, was magnificent.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

After a quick lunch with Nader (where a line item on our check was a charge for the table cloth), it was time for the Crypts, Bones & Catacombs tour. I’m not normally big on tours that play up the “spooky” thing, but some of the history and underground structures were interesting. Again, photography was not allowed on most parts of this tour, but that didn’t slow me down. I’m going to photography hell.

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Then off to the Colosseum for some late afternoon pictures. Sadly, it’s largely covered with scaffolding and tourists.


Colosseum at Sunset

At last, it was time to meet my group. In the hotel dining area, I met Fredy, our Spanish tour leader who’s skinny, grinny, and has a voice that really projects. Our group is assortment of mostly Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis. Also two sisters from DC and a girl from Quebec. It’s a bit early to say, but I already feel like Nader and I are going to be the life of this party.

After a group pizza dinner, I went out with the guys to explore Roman nightlife, but we turned in pretty early.

So after all the ruins and some tired feet and a couple of mediocre pizzas, I’m done with Rome. Tomorrow morning, we hop on a train and head north to Pisa.

    2 Responses to “Rome Wasn’t Seen in a Day”

  1. Andrea Says:

    I’m so sad you missed the Amalfi Coast, but you’re right — a reason to return! 🙂

    The catacombs look seriously badass! Also, love the fountain image with the modern fashion billboard in the back — such a cool juxtaposition and captures a lot of the Rome spirit.

    And that picture of the Sistine Chapel is going to be my new desktop wallpaper. So nicely done.

  2. Liz VB Says:

    oh no!! Bummer! But, at least you had some energy to meet your tour group that night. And you have no shortage of amazing places ahead.

    Awesome stealth photo of the sistine chapel. What camera do you have?

    Love these updates, can’t wait to hear what’s next!

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