As it’s my new personal goal to work for Rick Steves, I had to see for myself what makes him so great. Therefore I signed up for a Rome tour through his son’s company WSA. These tours are geared towards study abroad students during three day weekends.
There are various locations all throughout Europe, but I had my eye set on Rome from the beginning. The tour included a guide, hostel stay for two nights, private tours of the Coliseum and the Vatican and pretty much everything else except for gelato. The itinerary was set from the beginning so for a type A personality like me, I didn’t have to worry about anything and just had to follow the leader.
From the moment I landed in Ciampino at 9:00, I hopped on the bus towards the center of the city. I arrived to the hostel with the group waiting for me! Sorry!! I dropped off my bag and it was off to the Coliseum to start off the day in Ancient Rome. It’s really hard to believe that these attractions and sights are as old as they are. I don’t think I have fathomed it yet and awestruck will be my permanent impression of Rome. I barely remember what 1999 was like, how could I possibly envision the 1st century?!? It’s also amazing to see the contrast in times; thousands of tourists with selfie-sticks, modern construction and reconstruction on 1/4 of the Coliseum, underground metro. It’s like a dual universe, a time we couldn’t even imagine living in all around us.
Next on the list was the Roman Forum. It’s hard to believe that ancient ruins used to be the center of Roman life. I don’t remember exactly everything our wonderful guide said about the history, but here’s the gist. In this area, there used to be several shrines and temples, basilicas and home of the Vestal Virgins.
After a brief stop at Palatine Hill, YES that’s a real place, we ate lunch and headed towards the Pantheon. For more historical information on Palatine Hill, and not the golf course in Palatine, IL, USA, click on this link.
The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient Roman treasures. The concrete dome is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. (thanks wikipedia and Rhianne-best tour guide ever). After Rome became Christian, the Pantheon was converted to a church dedicated to St. Mary.
After a brief gelato stop, we started towards the Trevi fountain. Here are some fun facts about finding good gelato in Rome. First, check the color of the banana flavor, if it’s bright yellow, it’s totally fake! The banana flavor should look grayish-white like the actual inside of a banana. Secondly, if the gelato is piled up high, that means there’s a preservative added to make it last longer. The gelato boy should have to scoop down to get the goods. Lastly, you pay first and show your receipt to the man to receive the prize.
Trevi Fountain. WOW. The Lizzie McGuire movie didn’t prepare me for how beautiful it actually is–especially at night. I felt like I was in a movie. It’s just recently been renovated and restored, so it looked brand new. Well, as new as a 300 year old monument can look.
After dinner and a few glasses of wine, my first Roman day was in the books.
Day 2: the Holiest of Saturdays
After crossing the border into Vatican City with no need for a passport stamp, we wandered around the museums. Did you know that if you looked at every object in the museums for just 10 seconds, it would take six days to get through the entire museum?! (or was it 6 years?!) The Sistine Chapel was truly incredible and something everyone should see in their lifetime. Fun fact: Michelangelo was actually a sculptor and didn’t welcome the celling project with open arms. And now this is what he is most known for. (See everything happens for a reason)
Breathtaking is the only word to describe my experience in St. Peters Basilica. And shorty after posting this I will be sending in my request for it to be made one of the “wonders of the world” because it’s the largest church building in the world. There’s writing all along the celling and the font is 6 feet tall, to give you perspective, but it could easily look like size 10 Times New Roman on microsoft word. Impressive and incredible is all I can say.
Sunday was a catch up day for some last minute sight seeing and souvenir shopping. So thumbs up Rick Steves and to your offspring for creating a perfect weekend getaway. People were concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time in 3 days to see everything Rome has to offer, but I feel confident that I saw everything and was able to taste a bit of la dolce vita.
cheers to coffee shots with a great group