It’s a few weeks late, I know. But the holiday craziness is no joke. I couldn’t keep anything straight, so I’m finally trying to catch up.
We spent December 26th in Rome. I had been to Rome, but the Husband hadn’t, and I insisted that he couldn’t spend three years in Italy and not visit its number one city. That would be shameful, right?
We arrived around 10 o’clock and did the entire day on foot. From the train station, we headed straight for the Colosseum and got our obligatory pictures. Then we wandered toward the center of the city, taking in the sights along the way.
You know there are ruins in Rome, but it’s not just the arena and Roman Forum…. There are tons that you’ve probably never heard of. Rome is dotted with excavations, and God only knows how many more sites are under the cobblestones, just waiting to be found.
Eventually we made our way to the Trevi Fountain, probably my favorite spot in Rome from my last visit when I was 16. And it seems it’s everyone else’s favorite spot too. I was surprised at how packed it was until I remembered the restoration – it took 17 months and $2.4 million to finish. It was only reopened to the public in November 2015.
Next it was on to the Spanish Steps, most of which which were sadly being restored. A small section was still open, so you could still climb to the top, but the nice view I remembered was mostly blocked. Here’s all we could see. —–>
The top of the Steps is also a popular spot for street artists to sell their work. With the restoration, a lot of them had clearly moved elsewhere. If you’re in the market for street art, have a sharp eye. A lot of vendors try to pass the art off as originals, but they’re often prints or a combination of print-and-paint. My rule of thumb is if they’re not painting it in front of you, chances are it’s not original. But if you’re just looking for something pretty and cheap, the Spanish Steps are normally a good place to browse.
From there, we found a spot for lunch and then headed to the Vatican. Now the 26th being a bit of a holiday, the Vatican museums were closed. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were still open though. By the time we got there, it was afternoon and we spent another 45 minutes trying to decide if we wanted to go in. The Basilica is free to visit, while the Sistine Chapel requires a ticket (about €16).
Mostly it was the confusion that made us hesitate – where the heck were we supposed to go? In typical Italian fashion, there were no signs to show us which line was which, or ticket costs, or where to enter. I’m not sure if it was the holiday that had things set up so badly, but it was a bit of a mess. It also didn’t help that huge religious tour groups kept swarming the area (one guide was even carrying a large cross). By the time we made a decision, I was thoroughly irritated with Italy and didn’t want to waste any more of our dwindling time standing in a line.
We at least went into the piazza to see the nativity and Christmas tree, and of course the beauty of the surrounding buildings and basilica. I had seen the church and Sistine Chapel the last time I visited, and though I would loved to have seen them again, it was really the Husband who missed out. He said he didn’t mind.
And I have to admit, we did make up for it a bit. During our search for the Obligatory Magnet, we found a Pope Francis bottle opener. Completely hilarious, if slightly sacrilegious. The Husband thinks he’s giving a “Beer me, bro” kind of wave…. I kind of agree.
We’d been on our feet for a good five or six hours at that point, and we were ready to find a place for food and preferably beer. The Husband looked up pubs and found a good one, but on the way we made a few stops, the first of which was a view of Castel Sant’Angelo.
We accidentally bumped into a group of young priests having a bit of a party. Some were playing games (Foosball, volleyball) and taking challengers, while others were gathered around a wooden cross. The cross had pieces of paper nailed to it. One of the priests spoke to us in English as we were about to pass, asking if we wanted to write down a prayer for the new year. He told us that they would read them all at their next service. Being a Christian, I thought that was an awfully nice sentiment and gladly wrote down a prayer.
Thank you Lord, for the blessing of our pets and the joy they bring into our lives. Please keep them happy, healthy, and safe. Clearly I was thinking about our wonderful, stinky basset hounds at the moment.
From there, we went to Piazza Navona, a very popular place with the illegal street vendors. On Boxing Day the square was swarming with carabinieri (a sector of the police force) because a small Christmas market had been erected. So unfortunately, while we were there, there were no illegal vendors. That may not sound unfortunate, but the vendors can be quite a spectacle. When I was there in 2005, it was fun to watch them. They would spread their goods out on sheets, then whip them up and run whenever the polizia did a drive-by.
Finally we made our way to a pub the Husband had found. We rested our weary feet and had some beer and some “Irish” pub grub (as Irish as anything gets in Italy, at least) before heading back to the train station.
While the biggest attractions of Rome can be done in a day like we did, I would recommend more time so you can actually experience them instead of just looking.
Up Next: Scotland in January – good times in Edinburgh and a breathtaking trip to the Highlands.