Travel Diaries | Rome, Italy
I recently posted about my trip to the Amalfi Coast (and the truth about traveling alone), but what happened after that? I went to Roma!
This part of the trip is when I met up with a group of strangers that I now know as friends. I hadn’t met any of them before this trip, but we all clicked on the very first night where there may or may not have been a few too many wine glasses poured. So, the remainder of the trip was spent with these awesome people.
We were only going to be in Rome for two full days, so we had to make the most of it. As soon as I got everything fixed with my phone (read more about that here), we headed to dinner which was phenomenal. It was my first taste of a traditional Italian dinner, and by traditional, I mean eating until I can’t physically take another bite. We started with an appetizer of bruschetta with prosciutto, then moved to a pasta dish, then a meat dish, then deconstructed tiramisu. Needless to say, I got used to delicious food REAL QUICK. I also learned to love the time and length of Italian dinners. They typically don’t start until 8 or 9pm and can go as late as midnight.
That travel day from the Amalfi Coast was very exhausting (and a food coma was slowly creeping upon me), so I went straight to bed as soon as we got back to the hotel.
The next day was our only full day in Rome, so we were determined to pack as many activities in as possible – and that we did. We had breakfast at the hotel and then walked over to the Roman Forum to learn about the ruins from a local tour guide. While on this tour, she kept telling us to have an imagination – take what you can see here and imagine what it looked like thousands of years ago. That’s also when it hit me that I was standing in a place, in a city, with so much history. You don’t get that feeling often in the US because it wasn’t “discovered” until the 1400’s (although, yes, I know people were there beforehand). Trying to imagine what these structures looked like wasn’t easy because everything was MASSIVE. A simple door into a church looked like it was 10-12ft. tall and the buildings followed suit.
One thing that really interested me was the House of the Vestal Virgins. The women that lived here were called the Vestal Virgins and they took a 30-year chastity vow, freeing them of social norms of marrying and having children in order to focus on their studies of the rituals of state – something forbidden in male colleges. They also had a laundry list of duties they had to perform, including keeping the sacred fire of Vesta lit and burning. If this ever died out, they were required to take a beating, and if you don’t think that’s harsh enough, if they broke their chastity vow, they were buried alive. The justification for this is that when they become Vestal Virgins, they are no longer daughters of their fathers, they are now daughters of the state, so relations with any citizen of the state is considered to be incest which is met with a punishment of being buried alive – see? Makes more sense now. As crazy and as undesirable as this lifestyle may seem, girls (ages 6-10) wanted to be Vestal Virgins. They were held at such a high regard in Rome and were actually very powerful and influential within the state because they were thought to be free from the impure distractions of the world. After their 30-year celibacy was over, they were free to marry and retire with a sizable pension. For those of you out there excited and interested in this practice, I have bad news for you. The sacred fire was extinguished and the college disbanded in AD 394, so now we can only read about these powerful, perhaps deprived, women.
After the tour of the Roman Forum, we headed over to another “must see” historical site – the Colosseum. For those of you that don’t know, the significance of the Colosseum comes from being a filming site in a 2003 classic – The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Just kidding – although I know there are a few millennials out there who might believe that. While this is true, Hilary Duff did sing her heart out her with her Italian twin/Popstar, Isabella, the actual significance of the Colosseum was the gladiator contests that happened inside. Occasionally, there would be other spectacles such as executions, animal hunts, reenactments, dramas, but people came far and wide for the bloodshed and victories from their favorite gladiators. A common myth is that one gladiator had to die in order to determine a winner (the alive one), but our guide debunked that myth and said, no, if the losing gladiator was very popular, they only had to be very very badly injured as opposed to dead, because spectators were invested in these gladiators and they might stop coming to the fights if their favorite happened to die. Very nice reading and hearing about the softer side of ancient Rome.
I almost forgot, we stopped for gelato after going into the Colosseum. Look at this thing. It was 10 Euros and I couldn’t finish it before our tour started, so it became a community cone and my jacket even got some (RIP white denim jacket).
The third stop on our list was Vatican City. If you only have one day in Rome, I suggest following in my tracks. We saw everything I wanted to see on my first trip to Rome, and I think it worked out perfectly. I’ll preface this part by saying I am NOT a religious person. I’m one of those twenty-somethings that say “well I was raised Catholic, and then learned to think for myself.” I won’t get too far into religion here, but my point is that even if you’re not religious, Vatican City is truly incredible and I highly recommend going anyway.
We had the same tour guide for the Vatican that we had for the Forum and the Colosseum. She walked us through The Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. When she left us, we even climbed to the top of the Basilica to get unreal photos of Rome. I’ll let the photos above and below speak for themselves here. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but it’s something I wouldn’t recommend skipping.
By the time we left The Vatican we were HUNGRY, so we found this little pizza place called Pizza Zizza. They really took care of us with awesome service and a platter of different kinds of pizza that everyone could try. At this point I was starting to catch on that if you go out to eat in Italy, you have to beg your server for the check – they will not freely bring it to you because Italians consider that to be rude. Also, the servers aren’t relying on tips for their wages like they do in the US, so they frankly don’t care how often the customer turn around is. The server at this particular place wouldn’t even accept a tip. We tried to give him a couple Euros before we left and he said “no, this is my job, I love making people happy with my pizza” and handed it back.
The next day, myself and a few other girls decided we had wanted to wake up super early and go get pictures at the Trevi Fountain without thousands of people around – and it worked! We had a section of the fountain to ourselves for about a half hour so we could all get some pictures in. We then needed coffee badly as it was only about 6:30am. So, we stopped in for an espresso and headed over to the Spanish Steps which were ALSO EMPTY! This doesn’t happen – there are constantly people here. So, if you want a solo picture, head over to either of these landmarks before 7am. Worth it in my opinion. Then, coffee round two.
After our second coffee run, it was still before 8am and our train to Florence wasn’t scheduled until that afternoon, so we wandered around the city looking for souvenirs to buy and cute places to take pictures. We stumbled across this old door that had really pretty flowers around it and we started a mini photo shoot by it. There was also a door to someones house left wide open – weird, but we didn’t question it. Well, when Talor was mid-pose, an older woman came walking up, patiently waited, and then scooted past us toward her home. I was bracing for her to yell at us for blocking her way, or tell us to get lost, but she looked up and said “want to see inside?” “umm….ok?” was our response. In retrospect, probably not the smartest decision, but it was very beautiful and she was so nice!
The rest of the morning was spent walking around, admiring the architecture and people watching. We also ended up getting tea at a place called Babington’s off of one of the Piazzas.
After this, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed our luggage, and set off for Florence!
Florence was actually my favorite part of the trip, so I’m excited to write about that next!