We arrived in Rome after almost a full day of travelling, largely due to a super long layover in Kiev (good thing it’s really cheap there, we visited all the restaurants in the airport). We were lovingly greeted at the airport by my parents, who were either very bored or real worried about our ability to figure out how to get to the hotel. We took the Leonardo Express into the city and the Independent Hotel, where we discovered that our room, despite Ed complaining that it was a bit small, was probably twice as big as everywhere we stayed in China. We immediately went out for some late night take-away pizza, as we were pretty snack-y after the long flight. It was really exciting to get pizza (REAL CHEESE) after two months in China.
Highlights of Rome
The next day, as is Ed’s style, we went on a private tour of Rome. He was pleased because our tour guide, Pietro, had a very nice air-conditioned Mercedes van. Chris was pleased because Pietro was super Italian. Having acclimated to the summer weather in China, Chris and I didn’t actually find it that hot, though it was in the high 20’s and Ed was “dying”. He ate a lot of lime popsicles.
As it was everyone’s first time in Rome (except me), the guide took us to all the major spots, starting off with the Piazza San Lorenzo, the Spanish Steps, and of course the Trevi Fountain. We stopped here for a morning gelato break. There were many many people taking pictures in front so it was a bit too crowded for us.
We then continued on to the Pantheon, a former temple that now acts as a church. Ed thinks the Pantheon is evidence that aliens exists. His theory is that based on how fast society has developed in our lifetime, if the Romans were able to build something like the Pantheon, they should have progressed much farther than they actually did. So he figures that aliens must have built the Pantheon, which is a perfect dome and still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Next it was on to the Colosseum, where being on the tour meant we were able to waltz past the huge line and go right in. The Colosseum is pretty big and crazy. Apparently they were capable of creating elaborate stages, and even flood the whole thing to stage sea battles and other entertainment. Chris and Ed spent most of the visit hiding in the shade of various columns.
After that we stopped for the biggest lunch ever. Our guide took us to a local restaurant and ordered all the appetizers for us to try, which turned out to be like eight dishes. And one of them was a pizza! AN APPETIZER PIZZA. I was full by the time my pasta main arrived.
After lunch we were met by our second guide, Laura, who took us to the Vatican. We started off in the Vatican Museums, which are huge and full of all sorts of art and artifacts. Chris and I’s favourite part was the giant hall of painted maps. Of course the reason everyone goes through the museums is mainly to get to the Sistine Chapel at the end. This is is the obviously the best part, so of course you aren’t allowed to take photos of it. The chapel is basically a room jammed with about a million tourists looking up and a handful of security people constantly telling everyone to be quiet and put their cameras away. Ed didn’t understand why you would paint a ceiling because it’s so hard to look at and hurt his neck.
Then it was onto St. Peter’s Basilica. The basilica was especially busy because it turns out this is a Jubilee year, which means that by walking through the basilica doors all your sins are forgiven. So there were lots of people arriving on pilgrimages, and certain areas of the basilica were roped off and reserved for them. We could have waited in line to go through the doors too, but decided to keep all our sins and enter through the crypts and look at all the dead popes instead.
Coincidentally this also happened to be the week during which the canonization of Mary Theresa was set to occur, so there was a lot of preparation happening. I wanted to go to the canonization, mainly so I could say that I saw the Pope, but it turns out that without buying a ticket months ago you would have to cram into the square outside with thousands of other people, which didn’t sound like too much fun in the hot weather.
On the advice of our guide, the next day we decided to go visit the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum consists of various archaeological sites around the historical centre, where the original Roman city used to be. We made it most of the way through before both Ed and Chris started petering out due to the heat. They rested by some vending machines while Rita and I finished looking around.
Because SOME OF US were dying from the heat we went to the first place we saw with an “air-conditioning” sign for lunch, which ended you being your standard tourist trap-type joint (as we had only made it like two block from the Forum). Ah well. After some quick eats, we went to check out the National Roman Museum, an archaeological museum. Considering how busy some of the attractions in Rome are, this one was pretty quiet. Ed thinks they need better advertising. We looked at a lot of sculptures and sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of their courtyard. And by that I mean, Rita and I looked at a lot of sculptures, while Chris and Ed sat in the courtyard because they were dying of tiredness.
The next day, it was on to the train off to Florence!