As I stood in the sunshine overlooking the Roman Forum and quietly taking it all in, I was entirely overwhelmed with happiness. Throughout the week in Italy there were moments of stress, chaos, and uncertainty, but those small instances were eclipsed instantaneously by the radiating joy of falling in love with a place.
Rome was most certainly not built in a day. On our first morning, Leonora and I awoke early to wander the streets and were amazed by the history and the beauty that surrounded us. On the way to grab breakfast and visit the Colosseum, we passed ruins I have only dreamed of being able to see for myself. Throughout our time in Italy, we were blessed to have beautiful weather that only added to the magnificence of the city.
After our morning wanderings, Leonora and I headed over to the Colosseum to sign ourselves up for a tour group. We joined a group of 11 others and were able to skip the line to see the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum in a couple of hours with a licensed guide. All 3 of these spots blew my mind. Palatine Hill is a slightly underrated activity that was one of my favorite things to see! Our tour guide was a huge guy with a linebacker build from Florida – I guessed that he played American football immediately and I was right! He actually lives part time in Rome so that he can teach American football in Italy. Something about his bellowing American way of guiding the group made me feel right at home. Here are my favorite pictures from the tour! I highly recommend joining one of your own if you visit. Not only do you get to skip the line, but you might make a new friend and having a guide really makes each location come to life.
After lunch, we took the afternoon to explore the city a bit, passing through several famous squares and of course, the Trevi fountain!
This day ended with the best all-around meal of the trip so far at an adorable wine bar where we were able to eat outside. The star of the night was this white chocolate fondue with Italian cookies and my Chianti wine. Pictures do not do it justice!
I spent the entire last day of the trip in denial that it was coming to an end – although I have to admit that I did miss Oxford and Logan House in a weird way, especially after our overflowing hostel shower! After my first great tour experience, I was eager to do another. I woke up early and headed out by myself to explore Vatican City. The tour I joined here included the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. In total, this tour took about 2.5 hours and was, in my opinion, completely worth the money. I also made a new friend in my tour group and was thankful to have someone to chat with as we took in the sights.
Keep in mind that when visiting the Vatican Museum, it is IMPOSSIBLE to see everything. It has been estimated that if you were to spend one minute looking at each item, it would take you 4.5 years to see everything. I am amazed that over the course of hundreds of years, so many priceless items have been created. I could’ve spent a week in Rome just exploring various museums. A pro to having a guide in the Vatican is that they will lead you to the museum’s highlights and tell you all about them. My personal favorite room was a long narrow hallway with an ornate gold ceiling and tapestry maps hung on the walls. Hidden secrets like Jesus’s moving eyes following you as you walk and a double-sided face that look both into the past and the future can be found in every detail.
I also enjoyed both the Sistine Chapel (known for its ceiling painted by Michaelangelo) and St. Peter’s Bascilica! The grandeur of these buildings is unparalleled. It also amazed me to remember that I was technically standing in another country! Vatican City is the smallest recognized country in the world and spans only 2 miles.
Unfortunately, when I made the trek over to the Pantheon later in the day I found that it was closed due to a mass service. However, I was still able to peek inside and appreciate the impressive architecture from the outside. I took a moment to sit on the fountain and enjoy some of my last moments as I listened to an Italian street performer sing his heart out.
The trip wrapped up beautifully as we ended with the best pizza and gelato of the trip thanks to one of Rachel’s friends studying in Rome. My Italian adventures are memories that I will not soon forget. Ciao for now, Italia!