There's no stopping Rome from being the best place to experience ancient history, architecture, art, and culture.
There's also no stopping the immense hordes of tourists from taking in everything they possibly can in monstrous, suffocating, slow-moving groups.
And finally, there are no stop signs. Anywhere. There are traffic lights at main intersections, otherwise, pedestrian walkways are their form of stop signs. I'm not sure if this is incredibly efficient or incredibly dangerous, but I felt very local walking anywhere and everywhere I pleased without getting hit by a car or vespa.
I left for Rome on Sunday September 18th (arriving around 1AM on the 19th) and stayed until Thursday September 22nd. It was difficult to leave Malta, especially since I was so comfortable there with great friends. The morning I arrived to Rome (after I slept) I woke up with a jolt at 7 A.M ready to seize the day and go exploring. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was determined to go get lost in what everyone has told me is a stunning city full of mystery and wonder and pizza.
Note: you can click on the pictures to expand them if they aren't full size
Getting comfortable with my new surroundings of a bustling city, I found the Coliseum which towered over me, full of beauty and cruelty at the same time. Throughout Rome, I constantly kicked myself for not studying more about Roman history in advance.
Inside the Coliseum, I took a guided tour which provided a lot of great information as well as skipped the huge line outside. The Coliseum itself is still being restored, but there were a few signs with information indicating what it was you were looking at, and the history that has been preserved.
It is quite impressive and amplified knowing that such brutal acts took place in this place.
It was worth the 30 euro, in my opinion, for the extra information (since my Roman knowledge is limited) and also for the most unexpected benefit: meeting Olivia and Mark.
Olivia, Mark, and I met while waiting for the second part of our tour which encompassed with Forum. They're from Kentucky, and we instantly bonded over the fact that Mark and I have the same birthday! Imagine, you meet a complete stranger in a strange city, and they share the same birthday. It was meant to be. Mark & Olivia, if you're reading this, throw some pics up in the comments!
Olivia, Mark, and I spent the entire day together covering all of Rome in 24km in one day. The highlight was ending our day at small cafe Bar Tabacchi Di Nello, run by Vincenzo and his wife, who we soon became close friends with. Endless homemade snacks and several bottles of his wine later, we knew Vincenzo's was the place to be in Rome. We swore we would would meet up again on our last day together.
The next day I went to The Vatican which was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The amount of people was overwhelming, the artwork, statues, Sistine Chapel, ceilings, floors, everything. I really lack words to describe the entire experience of participating in a tour. The only thing I do want to say is that it's sad that the majority of the Vatican (such as the massive amount of books in the library) is not available to anyone, even scholars. I feel like there is so much to see and learn and they are withholding these treasures from the general public. I understand wanting to preserve history, but in today's day and age, it's a shame we're shuffled through like cattle rather than having the opportunity to fully appreciate where we are and what we are seeing. That being said, I still recommend a private tour for anyone intending to go.
On the last day, I went to see the rest of the sites I wanted to see (and could afford) then met my friends at Vincenzo's. Many hours later, we ended up at another place where we asked for the local wine and he provided us his brother's blend, which was borderline fortified. Phenomenal homemade pizza and a bottle later, we called it a night.
The next morning I had to wake up for a bus, and I definitely missed it. Long gone are the days of meeting locals and drinking wine until the wee hours of the morning then hopping on a bus!
So there I was, in Rome, and missed my bus to Florence because of a great night with Kentucky and Vincenzo. I had come to terms with this when I got on the wrong subway line and had to turn around. When I went to go purchase my other ticket and was waiting in line for 15 minutes for a group of people to get their tickets, this young girl appeared out of nowhere to help them with translation to expedite the line. She then stayed with me, really for no reason, to make sure I got my ticket. She then walked with me, until I found my bus terminal and some food. And without any hesitation, said "Here you are. Safe and sound. I hope you have a great journey." And left.
I don't know about you, but without this mysterious girl, I would have had a very different morning. These are some of the joys and the small moments that you find traveling.
I hope that when you meander through the relentless crowds and overwhelming information, you find great friends for life and others who are just there to help in the moment.