Disclaimer: You’re going to be here for a while. Grab a beverage, cozy up to your screen and get ready to reeeeead!
“Did you bring the camera?” David asked, as we made our way down to the Colosseum on our first afternoon in Rome.
Oops!! Completely spaced that one. Thank goodness for the quality of iPhone pictures these days! But let’s be real. They don’t quite cut it in certain scenarios…
…like when you’re trying to chase a seagull.
…or tiptoe through flour to snap a glimpse of a bakery’s ovens at 2:00 a.m. (IT WAS SO HOT IN THERE!)
…or zoom in on a…uh….a seagull, ahemmm, YES, that’s what I’m referring to here. This bird had no idea it was mocking an ancient statue. What’s quite funny is when we passed this place a second time, there was a seagull on his head again! Must be a good view.
Nonetheless, I think you’ll still enjoy this mini tour and hopefully pack a few tips in your traveling pocket. These are just SOME of the sights, tastes and places I cherished whilst exploring ROMA with the hubs.
Oh, wait! Before you get scrollin’, I strongly suggest you get the lowdown on Suite Sistina. From a disco bathtub to the “Sexy Menu” I accidentally sent my mom to why I’d actually recommend staying at this hotel, go get your read on.
OK, ready? Let’s start walkin’. (When you stay at Suite Sistina, you can walk to practically everything. You walk anywhere from four to eight miles a day, but when you’re crushing pizza, pasta, wine and gelato, it balances everything out.)
We begin near the Roman Forum.
Standing before you are some the city’s most ancient ruins. These are remnants of government buildings, temples and platforms that were once part of the bustling marketplace and town hall that was THE Roman Forum. Elections, processions, speeches and more took place in this area.
Don’t you just wish you could go back in time and see what everyone was wearing, what they talked about and how it smelled?
Another thing you see on your way to the Colosseum and all over Roma:
STREET PERFORMERS. Everywhere. And street peddlers. Everywhere.
THIS guy. I know. Amazing, right?
Unfortunately, he’s tricking us. There is a method to his mad illusion. Can you guess what it is?
…then THIS guy. He’s not darting down the sidewalk like you think he might be. He’s completely still.
Here he his from the back. I love how the folks approaching him aren’t impressed. Boy, I sure was. (It doesn’t take much.)
Here is the Lupa Romana, a famous statue that represents the founding brothers of Rome: Romulus and Remus.
Me: AH! David!! Wait, look! Come here! Do you know what this is?
David: Oh, yeah, I’ve seen this. Romulus and Remus.
Me: Yes! I saw this on Rick Steves’ video! These are the twins who founded Rome. Were they really abandoned as babies and taken care of by a she-wolf?
David: Umm, you know that’s not really true, right?
David: It’s folklore. A myth. Fake.
Me: Oh. Psssh. Yeah, of course I knew that…
OK, I lied. But gosh, the wolf on that statue dates back to the 13th Century A.D. I feel like anything could have happened that long ago. And in my defense, these are ancient Romans we’re talking about here…people who:
- drank gladiator blood because they believed it helped with epilepsy and fertility.
- washed their clothes in urine. Pee was a hot commodity, people. They’d collect it from public bathhouses, sell it and, yes, tax it.
- appointed horses as priests. OK, there’s only one instance of this apparently happening, but isn’t that enough? Oh, Caligula. You silly emperor.
SO, if these things happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if two babies were really suckled by a wolf. HA!
In the distance…
We could see her…
The colossal, magnetic monument that pulls millions of people on this planet to her each year. I gasped. I didn’t expect to see her smack dab in the middle of the city!
We arrived at her doorstep.
This, my friends, is the largest amphitheater in the world: The Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheater.
I can’t believe we were actually standing in front of something that was completed in 80 A.D.
Even more shocking? It took under a decade to complete.
How would you like to be the project manager on this job, eh?
Here’s the inside.
It’s absolutely breathtaking. Literally. It’s been calculated that approximately 500,000 people and more than a million wild animals took their last breath here.
Can you imagine spending your lunch at this place? People did that. Watching humans and animals fight to the death was, ya know, normal.
I’ve been reading all kinds of things on this arena of death since seeing it with my own eyes. I didn’t know enough about it going in.
There are tons of varying facts, stories, investigations and myths floating around out there, but here are some cruel and intriguing tidbits (I’m scared to call them facts!) that have raised an eyebrow or dropped my jaw:
- The Colosseum apparently fit up to 80,000 spectators.
- More than 9,000 animals were slaughtered during the inaugural games.
- It had tunnels and elevators under the main floor so that animals and gladiators could miraculously appear when needed. Remember: There was no electricity, so slaves were the ones man-handling such elevators.
- Many of the animal hunts were conducted by experienced men, but others involved unarmed criminals or prisoners of war. To avoid dying in the arena, many of these men would kill themselves first with whatever they had on hand. One man allegedly stuffed a lavatory sponge (Yes. A lavatory sponge that was shared by in-mates.) down his own throat. There were even 29 prisoners who strangled each other. It was bad, people.
- On the off-chance that a prisoner managed to kill one of his animal opponents (think anything from lions and cougars to boars and wild bears), another wild animal would be unleashed onto the floor, sometimes even before the man had a chance to finish killing the first one.
- Emperor Commodus apparently fancied decapitating ostriches in one swift sprint and chucking their heads into the crowd. I mean, what happened to slinging free T-shirts into the stands?
- It’s still debatable whether they had aquatic fights in here. They’d allegedly bring in boats and specially trained swimming horses and bulls. How they’d get the water in aaand flush it out is beyond me, but Romans were pretty amazing plumbers.
OK. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to lighten up the mood.
HA! There’s David trying and succeeding at being a tourist.
“I love when you make me stand in front of things and take my picture,” said Denver never.
I know I worked up your appetite with all those tales of death and gore, so it’s a perfect time to tell you about Antica Birreria Peroni.
I had two firsts here: 1) my first taste of carbonara and 2) my first exposure to an Italian sink.
Time to break some news to you: It’s hard to find nomtastic, authentic Italian fare in Roma. It’s not horrible food, but your options are quite limited if you’re in touristy areas, which is basically all of central Rome, it seemed. Everywhere you look, you’ll see “pizzeria ristorante.” Get your palate ready for pizza-pasta-salad-gelato-repeat.
We went a little off the path, though, and stumbled across this gem. I already said it, but I’ll say it again: ORDER THE CARBONARA if you go here.
It’ll be a miracle if you find anyone to translate the Italian menu or even speak English to you, so again, just order the Carbonara…all of it. Order it until they run out, then mail me some. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. *nom-nom-nom*
So, now for part II of the firsts. That Italian sink…
After using the oh-so-tiny solo lady loo, I worked up a nice lather and did what any American would do if they didn’t see faucet handles. I waved my hands in every possible spot that would trigger a motion sensor. Nada. I tapped the faucet. Nada. I pressed my palm on the spout, and out came enough water to get a little productive, but after about six more tries of that…nada. Drat.
I grabbed a big wad of TP, successfully made the situation worse, then heard someone finishing up in the men’s loo. I lollygagged. He came out.
Me: Excuse me, but is your sink working?
Italian Man Who Didn’t Speak English: No? ….
Me: My sink…no water! Can I use yours?
Italian Man Who Didn’t Speak English: (motions me to his own sink but looks confused and walks away)
I went back to my mess. A few seconds later, I heard mumbling outside the door. It was him! He motioned me over to his sink again, but this time pointed to the ground. The heavens opened, singing angels appeared and beams of light pointed to my rescue.
Me: Ohhhhh….A PEDAL!!!! Oh my goodness!!! Thank you SO MUCH!!!
Italian Man Who Didn’t Speak English: Hahaha, yes! This is very typical of Italia!
So, yes. LONG story short, if you want water to flow in your bathroom sink in Italy, ya gotta press a pedal. I had no idea!
OK, here are some other random observations, in no particular order.
This is traffic…at MIDNIGHT!
Teensy-weensy cars and ridiculous park jobs…everywhere! It can take HOURS to find a parking spot.
The Tiber River is so charming and romantic at night, even with that mysterious green tint…
If it weren’t for the amazing group of Italian natives our good friend Chad hooked us up with, we would’ve totally missed the magic that happens that Cioccolata e Vino.
This was our first stop in Trastevere, an adorable part of town with tons of bars, cafes and restaurants. This entire area was packed with people, yet everything just worked.
Back to these shots. You basically hop in a long line that moves very quickly and browse a menu of chocolate shots with names that’d be fitting on Suite Sistina’s Sexy Menu. In short, they’re basically “quickies.” Or as one of the Italians put it for me: like having “fast sex.” *blushing*
When it’s your turn, you grab your mini chocolate cup filled with rum, whipped cream and other sinful treats, tilt your head back and drop that beauty in. It was deeeeelicious and deeelightful.
I loved this alleyway!!! Liiights! Travestere is a winding, confusing mess of awesomeness. It’s definitely a place you’d be happy to get lost in.
These are some of the amazing Italians we had the opportunity to spend close to eight straight hours with. We’re so grateful for the new friends we’ve made and that some of these natives live in Cologne! (Grazie, Grazie, Grazie, Andrea, Andrea, Andrea + Team!)
Smoke break on the bridge at 3 a.m. David and I were using all of our energy to keep up with the Italians who were just getting started!
AH. Trajan’s Column.
Can you guess how many carved images are on this massive column? More than 2,000. This thing is TALL…so tall that I had to lay down on my back to capture the whole dang thing. David was shaking his head, and those two people walking towards me were a little confused.
Then, we approached The Pantheon, ancient Rome’s most preserved and influential building. Even 2,000 years later, it’s still a tremendous sight to see.
Some fun facts I’ve dug up for ya:
- It was originally built as a temple for all gods, hence the name.
- It was apparently the first building in the whole world to be built with concrete. In fact, the exact composition of the materials is still unknown, but it’s very similar to modern-day concrete. Whatever the recipe, it was a good one, because it’s stood the true test of time and gravity. Earthquakes and massive raids have nothin’ on The Pantheon.
- Raphael is buried here.
- My favorite part? The oculus, as seen below.
The oculus is that massive circle of light we’re “touching.”
Guess what? It’s NOT covered. It never has been. When it rains, water flows perfectly away thanks to the slightly convex floors and the drainage system in place. I told you Romans were genius plumbers.
The dome is so unbelievably impressive. Pictures don’t do it justice. The Earth stops when you walk in.
It’s still the largest, unsupported dome in the world. It’s pretty wild to think that what you see in The Pantheon is almost exactly the way it looked 2,000 years ago. While everyone’s looking up and taking pictures, are they thinking about how they’re standing on the exact flooring that emperors and some of the world’s most influential artists and kings walked on? Probably not. I had no idea until now. Drat.
It even steals your heart as you’re walking out. Dang. Stop it, Pantheon! You’re too good.
OK, let’s go make a wish at the fountain over yonder…
Excuse me, ma’am? Is that a sword balloon or are you just happy to see that fountain? (Har. Har. I couldn’t help myself. By the way, David took this picture. Perhaps he thought taking it diagonally would disguise his efforts. Oh, David.)
Not much to report here except that I LOVED ALL THE LIGHTS and ALLEYWAYS! Not so much the crowds. 😉
AH! The outside of The Vatican Museum. Thank goodness we signed up to join a tour group in advance. Otherwise, you have to stand in looooong lines.
Our tour guide gave David her “flag” when she went to get everyone’s tickets. He really rocked his duties.
I’m telling you…everything looks better from the cobble stone, no matter how many strange looks you get whilst setting up the shot.
Then, while everyone else was fixated on an informational stop about the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the history and restoration of Michelangelo’s work (You can’t take pictures or video while inside. I LOVED that. It’s such a beautiful moment that you can only store in your memory. It’s so refreshing to be in a room where everyone is just taking it in…in silence.), I was zooming in on this seagull (Ya know, something I never do), and by some miracle, captured it taking flight.
These things are all over the Vatican. They’re ginormous. They’re gorgeous. It’s glorious.
OK, now take in the ceiling of the Vatican’s Gallery of Maps.
See all the people? Apparently, this is considered “off season.” In the summer months, we were told it’s shoulder-to-shoulder everywhere.
Now, take in the all and powerful St. Peter’s Basilica. Do you see the pope in the window?
…BAH! Gotcha. No-go on the pope.
Where are those aggressive street peddlers and their selfie sticks when you need them?? That was most certainly an annoying piece of Rome. If someone wasn’t in your face to buy their little gadget or toy, they were luring you into their restaurant or cafe.
Thankfully, the Vatican was a breath of fresh air on that front. And no, St. Peter’s Basilica is not on a slant. Wish I could blame the iPhone again…
Here’s part of the inside. Incredible, right?
If the dome could take a selfie, this is what it would like:
More views from the cobble stone. More strange looks.
Motorbikes. Everywhere. If you’re not dodging one, you’re likely walking around one.
Next up is the Trevi Fountain, the largest and most famous fountain in Rome.
Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:
OHHHH my goodness. It’s GORGEOUS, right??
Here’s what it looked like for us:
Waw wawww. Gotta love restoration.
Oh, what is that, David? You want me to take your picture again?
You can sit and have a glass of wine, beer or cappuccino pretty much anywhere. The choices are endless. The people watching is magnificent.
BUT as for those random sax serenades? Those are a little harder to find…
Hmmm. These are the Spanish Steps, a stone’s throw from Suite Sistina (up to the top of the stairs, right and down the street). I had much higher expectations for these things, to be honest. Am I missing something?? Too crowded down here!
Ahhh. But the view from the top is pretty great.
More lights and alleyways!!!! We bought a “Roma” clock from that little store on the right.
Last but most certainly not least, I am so pleased to tell you about another restaurant recommendation.
On our final night in Roma, Andrea and Andrea (Yes, that’s a very common name in Italy for men – pronounced on-DRAY-uh.) took us to the most incredible spot. I had, hands down, one of my favorite meals ever. We even tried truffle bruschetta. Who knew truffle was a root???
The restaurant: Traverna Trilussa.
The award-winning dish that landed on my all-time favorite list? Bucatini all’ Amatriciana
From the menu: Rome’s most famous dish. Thick hollow spaghetti with tomato sauce, guanciale bacon and Pecorino cheese. We owe most of our notoriety to this dish. Approved by the Comune Amatrice, home to the original recipe!
It comes to you fresh off the stove in your own pan. It’s perfection.
When asked if we wanted dessert, the Italians didn’t take no for an answer. I wish I knew the name of this divine dessert below (another horrible quality image), but I didn’t order it. Hmm…just make sure you get dessert. They have TONS.
Plus, if you’re not over-indulging or completely overstimulated in Rome, you’re probably doing something wrong.
WHEN IN ROME!
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this post.
Now it’s your turn. Have you been to Rome? Do you want to go? What struck your attention in this post or in Rome?
2 thoughts on “ROME: Organized chaos and the best people watching in the world”
You are an amazing writer!!!
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Awww shucks. Thanks, Momma Stueven. 🙂 Means a lot!