Getting to the hotel in Rome was a pretty funny experience. We decided to book a hotel because it was cheaper than paying for two beds in a hostel! After hours of research, we found a little "bed and breakfast" right by the Vatican!
The location was so great-- we only had to ride the metro for 6 stops then walk about 2 minutes to the hotel! The title "bed and breakfast" was a bit deceiving-- it was pretty much a three bedroom flat converted into a dingy hotel with a pile of cookies and instant coffee for breakfast. Oh well, it was definitely worth what we paid for it.
Because we only had two days in Rome, we decided to really make the first one count and see as much as we possibly could.
Turns out that Rome is extremely well organized and we were able to see nearly everything on the list! We started by taking the metro to the Colosseum to take a ton of pictures, then spent a good amount of time wandering around the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
It is so neat how Italy left all of these ruins standing right in the middle of the city! Everywhere you turn is another beautiful and interesting building or set of columns. Excellent! Right on the other side of the Roman Forum was a HUGE white marble building called the Vittoriano.
There were giant Italian flags flying all over the place, and there was even a flag made out of flowers in the front lawn! The Italians are definitely proud of their culture.
We climbed up a ton of giant Roman steps to get a good panoramic view of the city from Piazza del Campidoglio. Rome is so beautiful because every building is so different. The piazza also had a really cool statue of Marcus Aurelius.
Then we went to a little pizza place to get lunch. We ordered a giant (and very delicious) calzone that was filled with fresh Ricotta cheese, salami, and mozzarella. We got so confused when the bill came-- the calzone was 8 Euros, but there was an additional charge of 2 Euros for service.
The service was really terrible and we definitely did not want to give him 25% for a tip. Apparently he sensed our annoyance, because he came over and told us that he did us a favor and only charged us service for 1 person... it was supposed to be 4 Euros for service! That's 50% of the bill! Unbelievable. We paid the 10 Euro and got out of there in a big hurry.
After lunch, we walked to the Pantheon, at which point it started to pour rain. The forecast said it was going to be sunny all day, so we only had one umbrella. We scoped out a little coffee shop and hid from the rain for a few hours while doing research in the guidebook for our remaining time in Italy.
We split a delicious canoli and had two wonderful cappuccinos.
The coffee in Italy is really extraordinary--- very strong but extremely high quality. Definitely packs a strong caffeine punch. The rain subsided after a few hours so we went back out to take pictures of the Pantheon and headed to the Trevi Fountain.
The fountain has been featured in several movies and for good reason-- it is gigantic and amazing. We took about 100 pictures then moved on to the Spanish steps.
Don't know what all the hype is about the steps-- we found them pretty boring. The light was pretty good on the church at the top, but that was about it. We climbed up much more impressive steps to get to that view earlier in the day.
By this point, the sun was starting to set so we hiked up Pincio hill to get some good views of the city. There was a nice square below the hill with a few beautiful churches-- we went in the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto to take some pictures. Then we headed back to the hotel to shower and go to bed.
We were obviously exhausted from travelling from Naples then running around Rome for 14 hours in the sweltering heat, but we had such a productive day! Definitely took the pressure off of our itinerary for Monday (May 23rd). Our clothes were pretty sweaty and we had run out of socks, so we spent the evening trying to wash our clothes in a tiny little sink with a towel shoved in the drain. Then we spent another hour trying to figure out ways to hang the clothes all over our room... it was quite an ordeal.
We woke up early to get in line to see the Vatican museums.
Turns out that the Vatican City is it's own country! Leave it to the Catholics to maneuver something like that... Since it was right by the hotel, we got there really quickly and breezed right through the line. We had been told that it costs 26 Euros per person to get into the Vatican so we were prepared to spend the day being sad about money, but it only cost 8 Euros per person with the student ID! Horray!
The Vatican museums have a few exhibits on Egyptians and modern art (including a painting by Dali, which seemed out of place), but the bulk of the good exhibits involve ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo and Raphael. We were not supposed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but I snuck a few winners in the massive throng of people gazing upwards.
After the museums, we walked around St. Peters's Basilica, which has to be the single most amazing church in existence. It was totally gigantic and every section of wall was covered with something ornate and beautiful. The pope doesn't mess around with his church.
St Peter's Square was also really impressive. There were a ton of chairs set up for when the Pope blesses the crowd at the Vatican when he is in town, and there were beautiful fountains and buildings all around them.
Plus, the outside of St. Peter's Basilica wasn't to shabby either.
It started to pour again, so we ran back to the hotel to rest for a while and wait out the storm. Apparently it rains every afternoon in Rome-- one second the sky is totally cloudless then, all of a sudden it is pouring. We watched a few episodes of Glee, then ventured out to pick up bread, cheese, salami, and Limoncello for dinner before heading back out to take pictures of Rome at night.
We had some logistical difficulties with the night pictures-- apparently they are doing work on the metros so they stopped running at 9PM. It doesn't actually get dark until around 9:30, so no metros for us!
We decided to re-walk the entire route of the first day but about twice as fast. It was easily over 5 miles, but we successfully walked the huge loop and got some really unbelievable pictures. I'll post a few at the bottom of the blog.
On Tuesday morning (5-24), we woke up early to take the train to Florence. Getting to the Rome train station on time was much more successful than our Naples experience, and we had about an hour to kill at the station. We made reservations on the train from Milan to Zurich (we already had reservations from Florence to Milan), so now we are almost set to make it to Paris by the 26th to pick up Adrienne. The train from Zurich to Basel shouldn't require reservations, and cross your fingers that the train from Basel to Paris will not be full. We won't find out until we get to Switzerland on Wednesday! But first, Florence-- will post about Florence tomorrow (hopefully). Addio!
Rome takes the cake for best European city so far. Sorry Budapest, you've been dethroned.