Ah, Rome. I heard so many different things about Rome while we were planning this trip. Some guy on Jeopardy said Rome smells. Literally smells. My friend, Krysta, who was a huge help in my planning process, LOVES Rome. I really didn’t know what to expect!!
Since I’m blogging this part of our trip WAY later, I don’t have quite as much detail to share. My memory is foggy, and I didn’t get a chance to do much journaling! Such a bummer. I’ll definitely be journaling differently on our next trip. And I think I’ll blog about the things I want to differently to see if that helps or inspires anyone else who is traveling soon!
I can give you my overall feeling on Rome though: it wasn’t my favorite. Obviously I still loved getting to see so much history and architecture and culture, but man . . . going from sweet, car-less, calm Cinque Terre to Rome was a shock to the system! I truly believe I would have warmer feelings toward Rome if we had gone there first, but Venice, Cinque Terre, and Florence just set the bar so high. It is also possible that after 11 days of non-stop travel and all the proposal excitement . . . we were exhausted!
I learned a big lesson about my travel style on this trip. I love getting to see the big, famous cities that I’ve always read about (Paris is still on my bucket list — I HAVE to see it for myself), but I also I love to mix in smaller, more quaint towns. I think that’s where you find the best restaurants and coolest people. 🙂
Even if it wasn’t my favorite, you can’t help but love Rome. The best part about this city is that it is endlessly fascinating in its mix of ancient history and modernity. This first photo sticks with me in that. There, at the end of a bustling street with buses and restaurants and tourism centers, is one of the most famous and oldest pieces of architecture in the world.
I mean . . . wow.
After getting the lay of the land around the Colosseum, we visited “the Wedding Cake.” Its real name is the Altare della Patria also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or Il Vittoriano. It’s a HUGE monument for the first king of unified Italy.
I was slightly obsessed with how the Colosseum looms so huge in this city. AND LOOK AT ALL THOSE PEOPLE! The most crowded place we’ve visited by far.
This bird was really into Robert.
The best part of Rome is popping into dozens of churches and cathedrals. They’re EVERYWHERE, and they will blow you away.
To get our bearings, we walked a LOT in those first two days! I wanted to see Circus Maximus and the fountains and the Pantheon, EVERYTHING! Our feet paid the price, but it was worth it.
SUCH interesting juxtapositions in Rome, always. The Vatican . . . and Samsung.
Pretty sure there’s an ad campaign in this September’s Vogue that was shot in this exact spot.
After debating a lot about buying tickets to go inside the Coloseum (they’re expensive!!), we decided that we had to. We bought tickets for the next day with the audio tour because we had heard so many legends about the long lines! But we actually slipped around to the entrance of Palatine Hill and bought tickets there. We were in line for about 10 minutes. Easy. 🙂
After trying to eavesdrop on all the guided tours at the Colosseum (they told way more detailed [read: gruesome] stories), we headed up Palatine Hill. This is where all the rich Romans lived because it’s primely located right above the Roman Forum.
One thing is for sure: you have to GO to Rome to understand the scale of these buildings. Everything is BIG, and when you start to think of the tools they had building these enormous structures . . . it’s pretty mind-blowing. (Can you guys tell that Robert’s family is in construction? haha we go to Rome and discuss how they didn’t have man lifts then.)
See those cuts in the pillars there? Back in the day, no one seemed to think that these buildings were important parts of history, so they would always tear them down to make new stuff. Some people thought they would just grab these pillars by . . . cutting them across the top. Then they realized they would bring the entire structure down with it. So . . . they stopped!
After all of our audio touring, we headed to a sandwich shop that our friend Miles recommended. We never had trouble finding good places to eat until we went to Rome — so many tourist traps! Remember, Yelp is your friend.
Anyway! We got some tourist recommendations from the owner of this place. He sent us to this orange grove that was like a hidden oasis. He said we had to go see it because there some sort of optical illusion here that makes St. Peter’s Dome (part of the Vatican) get SMALLER as you get closer to it. And it’s true! It really does appear to shrink as you walk toward it.
This little orange garden was also one of my favorite spots we visited. You can see there were a lot of people, but it was still so green and quiet.
Next up, the sandwich shop owner said we had to go look at the Secret Key Hole. We waited in quite the line, but we were so busy wondering where the heck we were that it didn’t matter! I mean, look as these cars!
Later I Googled that we were actually in the Piazza of the Knights of Malta, home of the Priory of the Knights of Malta. This is the oldest remaining chivalric order (a fancy term for a club for knights), and they are basically their own country. The have their own passports and coins, and they can enter treaties on their own.
When you look through this keyhole, the Il Buco Della Serratura, you are actually looking through 3 countries: the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, Rome, and the Vatican. What you see is St. Peter’s Dome perfectly centered in this gorgeous, perfectly landscaped tunnel of greenery. It was worth the line to see all that and learn about the Order!
The next day, our last full day in Rome, was VATICAN DAY. Everyone told us to take our time in the Vatican, so we did! And we still worried that we wouldn’t get to see St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of the day! We started with an audio tour of the Vatican Museum and all the sculpture gardens.
Tip: we did go super early to avoid the entry line. We got there right as it was opening, and we would have been there even sooner if we had gotten off at the right metro stop!
This thing was my favorite. How cool is it?! And it TURNED! A tour guide walked up and just started spinning it. I would never have touched it to know it moved, so I’m glad he was there! haha
That red door there? That’s the entrance to St. Peter’s. See how far away we were?! It was closing in like, 2 hours. I was horrified that we wouldn’t get in.
I squealed when we saw the Swiss Guard. I tried to play it cool though because remember how serious the Queen’s guards are?!
I can’t even convey to you how big this altar was.
It’s hard to get a photo with all the people (because seriously, ALL THE PEOPLE), but there are markers on the floor to show the size of the aisle in other huge churches. It’s basically to show off how much bigger this church is than any other in the world. This is the marker for Westminster Abbey.
Squealed again. THOSE OUTFITS!! It’s so neat.
^^ This is where I had dreams of taking engagement photos! haha
The next day, we caught a morning train back to Venice for our very last night. I chose a “fancy” hotel because I had dreams of sitting on their terrace overlooking the canals for dinner, but of course, it was raining! Such a bummer. But still, we had a lovely last night wandering the streets and eating pasta with Prosecco.
On our final morning, we had breakfast and caught the bus to the airport. I felt SO SAD! I get that way every time we leave any kind of vacation. I mean, I literally cry driving away from the Outer Banks. In Europe though, I’m usually too anxious about flying to cry! haha LUCKILY, we had a smooth flight back to Heathrow, where I distracted myself in the Harry Potter Shop (bought a Deathly Hallows charm keychain, obvi) AND with buying some U.K. wedding magazines for the plane . . . because I’m bride now! I’m still upset that I left those magazines on the plane!!
Hotel Ariston (our Rome hotel) — I think this place was perfectly located and reasonably priced. It’s SO close to the train station. I don’t think Robert liked it as much (it was pretty noisy and hot), but hey, I say go see for yourself. Also, I’m glad we’re in love because the way the room was set up and with how thin the walls were . . . you had to get that TV/music on if you were in the loo! hahaha In my opinion, the staff was SO KIND, and the complimentary breakfast was a great value.
Hotel Principe — I wanted our last night in Venice to be extra special since we would be flying home the next day, but I think we were both a little disappointed in this splurge. We waited in line forever to check in AND out, and the rooms weren’t as nice as I expected.