Our final stop after Venice was Rome. Because it was much cheaper to return to Spain from Milan, we only had about a day and a half to explore Rome. While I had hoped that would be enough time to see all the major things to see, one problem arose: we were there on January 6. While to a non-Catholic like me, this may seem like a normal day, this is the very important Catholic holiday of Epiphany or Three King’s Day. This meant that the Sistine Chapel/Vatican Museums and the Pantheon were closed, two of the major things I’d wanted to visit the most. However, there was still plenty to see in Rome.
First we headed to the part of the Vatican that was open: St. Peter’s Square. The Basilica was closing in two hours and the line to enter seemed it would take that long to wait, so we chose to not waste our precious time standing around.
Walking out of Vatican City down to the river offers a beautiful view of St Peter’s Basilica, with light posts stretching down to illuminate the way.
We headed next to the Piazza del Popolo. Our wonderful AirBnB host had given us a splendid list of things to do, and told us to climb the hill behind the plaza to get a great view of the city down below.
It was certainly worth the climb! We got a beautiful view of the piazza, its famed twin churches (not pictured) and the Basilica.
As the sun set, we headed to see the Trevi Fountain by night. While we had avoided huge crowds for the most part in the other cities, we had to gently push our way through the big crowd that had gathered around the fountain. It seems especially dangerous that the major activity at the fountain is tossing in coins- involving pulling out and opening your wallet in one of the most vulnerable places you could be! Definitely be careful and maybe put your coins in your pocket in advance to avoid doing this.
The fountain is much larger than I had thought, and beautifully intricate. It would be easy to sit and stare at it for hours and find new details constantly. We, however, did not have this luxury.
The next day we began with Rome’s perhaps most famous site: the Colosseum. Thankfully, the line to enter was quite short and we only waited for maybe ten minutes, with the splendid view of the Arch of Constantine.
We entered the Colosseum and though it seemed to be a low-traffic time, we had to strategize a little to get photos of ourselves and not of strangers.
It was incredible to look down and see where so long ago the famous gladiator fights, amongst other admittedly horrible things took place. It’s hard to believe that such a huge building could have been built in the time period it was. Included in the ticket for the Colosseum is entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We next went to the Roman Forum and wandered around the grounds where former government buildings and religious sites had been.
It was somewhat sad to see that all that remained of a few of these buildings was rubble or bits of a foundation. Others had a little bit remaining left to see that was still standing.
The last major place we visited was the Pantheon, a building I’ve wanted to see for quite a long time. However, as mentioned earlier, it was closed as it is now a Catholic church. I did sneak a peek through a crack in the doors, but didn’t get to see much.
We also ate some of the best food while we were in Rome. Our AirBnB host recommended to us two restaurants that were incredible: Le Tavernelle and Al Cavallino Bianco. Both were delicious and not too expensive, and we were glad especially after the mediocre food in Venice.
While I am of course a little disappointed that two of the major places I’d wanted to visit in Rome were closed, we had a lovely time in Rome. I definitely do want to return to see more of Rome that I didn’t get to see, so maybe you’ll see another post in the future about the Eternal City. A day and a half wasn’t nearly enough time, but now I know for sure to cross-check my travel plans against the Catholic Church’s calendar of holidays. I’m glad we saved it for last, as we maybe wouldn’t have been as impressed with Milan, Verona and Venice if we’d seen the splendor of Rome to begin with.