I haven’t done much traveling in the past couple of months, but it’s one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, thing to write about. So I decided to dig through my archives and I stumbled upon pictures from a trip I took to Rome a few years back. It was my first time in Europe and probably my favorite vacation to date, so I thought it’d make for something to write about until my next trip.
As a kid, I dreamt of traveling to Rome. I’d see it in films like The Lizzie McGuire Movie, learn about its ancient history in school, and hope one day I’d be able to explore the city myself. Going to Rome, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, always seemed out of reach as someone who grew up in the States. But I’m beyond grateful that I, along with my parents, was able to make the trip out there.
We arrived in La Città Eterna in the afternoon, but we were pretty tired from our plane ride so we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. We settled into our hotel, grabbed some pasta for dinner at a restaurant down the street, and took a walk to the Spanish Steps while snacking on some gelato.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early so we could make it to the Colosseum just in time for it to open. Constructed during the Flavian Dynasty, it’s the largest amphitheater ever built with a capacity of 50,000-80,000 spectators. It’s most famous for hosting gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights, and other forms of entertainment. With the original flooring on the stadium gone, you’re able to see the formerly underground corridors where gladiators and animals stayed until being hoisted up to the main stage. There’s an option to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, but I found the self-guided audio tour to be just fine.
Next, we walked to the Arch of Titus, which was built by Titus’s brother, Domitian, after his death. Built in AD 82, it’s been said to have inspired triumphal arches that have been built since, including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
From there, we walked to Palatine Hill. This is said to be the site of the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf. It later became an aristocratic neighborhood home to Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and succeeding emperors as well. The Roman Forum, in a valley a short walk down from Palatine Hill, was the former center of the ancient Roman government.
I would suggest taking a guided tour of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. We thought we could get by with the audio guide alone, but with so many ruins, we spent most of the time trying to figure out if the audio corresponded with what we were looking at and we just gave up after a while. A guided tour is definitely your best bet to get the most out of your visit.
We got lunch at a restaurant nearby before taking a bus tour to the Pantheon. The building we see now is actually the third version of the Pantheon — the first two burned down and had to be rebuilt — but it is also considered the most well preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. Originally a temple to Roman gods, it is now a church that contains the tombs of Italian Renaissance poets, kings, and the famous artist Raphael.
We spent the next day at the Vatican, the sovereign city-state within the city of Rome. As a Catholic family, it was important for us to stop by the center of the Roman Catholic Church.
On our way there, we were approached by a group of pickpockets. We had been warned about pickpockets before reaching Italy, but we had no idea how creative they could be! One lady pretended to hold a baby and asked for money while two others tried to reach into our pockets. Luckily, we were able to fend them off and left with all of our belongings.
Once we got to the Vatican, there was a long wait to get into the walled city. Finally, we got in and started our guided tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
No picture are allowed inside the Sistine Chapel, but that didn’t stop a few people from sneaking a photo. Still, pictures don’t do the frescoes justice. The Chapel is covered in incredible artwork, depicting the stories of Genesis, Christ, and Moses. At the far end of the Chapel is Michelangelo’s famous “Last Judgment,” showing Jesus ascending the faithful to heaven and condemning sinners to hell. Unfortunately, some previous paintings were destroyed when Michelangelo created the “Last Judgement,” such as the early panels of the stories of Christ and the stories of Moses, the remainders of which continue on the north and south walls, respectively. Nonetheless, the entire room is a breathtaking masterpiece.
From there, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and perhaps the most intricate example of Renaissance architecture. Named after the saint who founded the Catholic Church after Jesus’s death, the basilica contains the tomb of St. Peter, Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture of Mary holding Jesus, and holy relics such as the True Cross and St. Veronica’s veil.
I’ll admit I’m not the most devoted Catholic. Especially in recent years, I haven’t been going to church as often as I should. But being in that space, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by a sense of reverence and gratitude.
Before leaving, we took an elevator to the roof of the basilica and from there walked to the top of the dome. Be warned: the trek is not for those who are claustrophobic or easily winded, as it is about 500 steps (only 200 if you take the elevator) up a very narrow staircase. But if you’re up for it, you can take a breather while taking in the beautiful view of St. Peter’s Square and all of Rome.
Of course, no trip to Rome is complete without making a wish at the Trevi Fountain. We thought we’d be able to avoid the crowd by going late at night, but there were still plenty of people. Plus, we weren’t able to get very good pictures due to the dim lighting. Your best bet would probably be going early in the morning just as the sun (and the rest of the city) is rising.
We only spent a few days in Rome, so we were only able to get a superficial look at the city. I’d love to return one day and explore the city more in depth.