Over the last few weeks, Chelsea and I have been on holiday around Europe. We made three stops along our way. The first was in Greece, the second Italy, and our final destination was the UK. In this article, we pick up where we left off. At the end of our time in Greece, I took Chelsea to Sounio and proposed in front of the Attic peninsula. The following day, we drove to the airport and made the short two hour trip to Rome.
Palm Sunday & Sightseeing in Rome
Our flight landed in Rome’s FCO Leonardo Da’Vinci Aereoport around 3pm in the afternoon. From here we took the train into Rome, which thankfully stopped only a few minutes walk from our apartment. We had been fortunate with our time in Rome, as the original apartment that we booked had cancelled on us the day we left.
Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement, and check in smoothly despite the slight setback. But, by the time we checked in, we wanted nothing more than to eat and rest for the night after a long day of travelling. It was a good thing we did, because our next day was a very busy first day in Rome!
As we walked past the Vatican on our first morning, we noticed huge crowds gathering. It was clear that something was going on. It took us a while to figure out that we had unwittingly arrived just in time for Palm Sunday Mass. It was an unlikely coincidence, and we figured that we might as well attend. After all, it’s not every day that you get a chance to see the Pope. While we did not stay for the whole service (which was conducted in a hybrid or Italian & Latin), we did stay long enough to see the Parade, and to get a glimpse of the Pope as he made his entrance and speech.
Once we left the Vatican, we crossed the river into the centre of Rome to begin our first full day of sightseeing. Our first stop along the way was the Piazza Navona, and the Fiumi Fountain – an impressive fountain drawn from the rivers that run through Rome. While the square was packed with street vendors selling selfie sticks and sunglasses, we were able to avoid them long enough to enjoy the surroundings (and the much welcomed sunshine).
Next, we walked through the backstreets of Rome, avoiding the most busy areas, to our next destination – The Pantheon. While we were not able to go inside, as it was closed for a church service, we were still able to view the huge building, and its famed roof from the doorway. The roof of the Pantheon is renowned for being an ingenious piece of Roman architecture, the first true dome supported only by its shape.
As we continued through the streets of Rome, en route to the Trevi Fountain, we encountered many street vendors. While most tried to sell selfie sticks, sunglasses or souvenirs, one thrust budgies upon us. This wasn’t unwelcomed as Chelsea used to keep budgies herself, and enjoyed the birds climbing up her arms, eventually moving into her hair. Although after the photos, we were charged €10 for the birds’ company – which Chelsea was skillfully able to haggle down to just €2.
Eventually, we made it to one of Rome’s most famous icons – The Colosseum. The whole area was grand, with wide open streets that provided panoramic views of the monument. The size and scale of it is impressive, and is something that really has to be experienced to be appreciated. Although we may have been excited to get inside, so were many others, as we queued for nearly an hour to enter.
Inside, The Colosseum was just as grand. It may be in ruin now, but it is easy to picture the great stone mammoth at the height of its glory. Was the wait worth it? Probably not. Inside was just as crowded, and it was at times difficult to enjoy. But it is a once in a lifetime experience, and for that it was worth the wait.
Back outside, we realised we had walked quite far from our apartment. It was nearly an hour away. We decided it was time to start walking back, but not before we were distracted by the Piazza Venezia, and a huge marble monument known by the locals as ‘The Typewriter’. Built as a memorial to honour those lost in WW1, the towering marble domes offered amazing views from the top, and a great perspective of just how impressive Rome can be.
The Vatican (And A Lot of Queuing)
On our second day in Rome, we wanted to do a different kind of sightseeing – at The Vatican. While we may have been able to see some of this small city state during Palm Sunday Mass, I knew there was still a lot left to see. And it truly is an impressive place to visit. Unfortunately, many other people thought so too, and we spent most of the day in queues, rather than sightseeing.
Our first stop was the Vatican Museums. This is an area of the mostly private city state that is open to the public, and show’s off the country’s grand wealth. At times it feels more like a personal collection of artefacts rather than a coherent museum. But nevertheless, it was impressive. It was just a shame that the queue to enter took a whole three hours!
After the museums, we queued again for St Peter’s Basilica. Fortunately, this time the queue moved a lot faster, and we spent only about 40 minutes waiting. The view from the queue was most welcome too. Although we had seen the basilica from the outside the previous morning during mass, it was much more impressive without the huge crowds of people gathered in front of it.
Eventually we made it inside the basilica, which was easy one of the most memorable places of the trip. Everything inside was on such a huge and grand scale. The whole building felt as though it had been designed for giants, not people. From the size of the floor tiles, to the towering statues that lined the walls, to the intricately painted ceilings that seemed far off in the distance. We took our time wandering through the impressive artwork, before queuing once more for a trip to the top of the dome, and eventually heading home for the evening.
Our Last Day in Italy
The final day we spent in Italy we were able to take at a much slower pace. While the first two had been packed with as many tourist attractions and sights that we could possibly see, the last day was our chance to relax and soak up a little more of the local culture.
We began by leaving our apartment, and talking a short walk down by the river. Here we passed Castel Sant’Angelo, another popular tourist attraction. But, instead of going inside, we simply enjoyed the atmosphere – listening to the buskers, browsing the market stalls, and spotting some of the local wildlife.
After crossing the river we realised that we were in the busy centre of Rome. So rather than stick to the main routes and follow the crowds, we veered off to explore some of the side streets. By accident we ended up wandering back to some of the places we had seen on our first day – including The Pantheon. But these were much quieter now, and the crowds seemed to have dispersed.
Of course we also discovered plenty of new places just by accident. The picture above shows one of many Egyptian statues that we saw in the streets. This one sits in front of a church, which could rival many of the largest and most grand in the UK. While we never did find out exactly why there were so many Egyptian statues in the streets of Rome, we think a safe guess might be that they are remnants, or at least reminders of the size of the Roman empire.
Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without Gelato. On our way back to our apartment that afternoon, we stopped at a small Gelato parlour we had discovered on our first day, to get one last serving. Chelsea chose a mint flavour, while I went with a marshmallow and fruit combination. They were both delicious, even though I’m not as much of a fan of mint as Chelsea is.
As we neared home, we passed by a small piece of graffiti that we had noticed each day. The graffiti in Rome was minimal, especially compared to what we had encountered in Greece. Perhaps that is why it stood out so much to us. Either way, the small spray painted heart provided the perfect photo opportunity before we left the city. After stopping to take our photo, we went home to relax for few hours before eating dinner at a local pasta and pizzeria.
Eventually, at the end of another long day, we fell quickly asleep. The next morning we woke early to take the train back to the airport, ready for the last leg of our adventure – London. To read all about our time there, click here for part three of our Eurotrip blog.