In case you’re wondering what 22.3 is, that’s the total number of miles that I walked in 2 days in Roma. Yes, I’m probably a little bit crazy, but every step was worth it. Here’s how I used these steps…
I arrived in Roma around 4 p.m. on June 18, and had to take a train from the airport to Roma Tiburtina train station. Anytime I can navigate the insane transportation methods here, I feel accomplished. I did it! From the train station, I walked to the Airbnb (after stumbling around trying to find the street) and met my travel buddy, Ingrid! She is a fellow Greenheart Traveler, and an amazing person. We both had trouble finding the street for the apartment because Italy doesn’t believe in making proper signage for anything. We met our host, and she made us a traditional Roman pasta! After this, we headed to the city around 8 p.m. This is when we had our first bus ride, and realized that absolutely nobody buys bus tickets. I’m not sure why they even have ticket station. You’re “supposed” to buy them, but no one does (also read – free transportation for those who are smarter than average tourists). We made a friend on the bus who told us to wait until really late at night to go to the Trevi Fountain because the tourists are gone, and he told us other great information.
So, when we arrived, we saw the Trevi Fountain. We didn’t stop for long because we knew that we would be back there late. We walked all around the center city, and saw the Republic Buidling, Pantheon, the Colosseum (from afar), and everything in the center. Ingrid and I have similar views on traveling, and didn’t want to only do the tourist things. We walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere, music, and people. Around 11:30, we stopped at a nice bar in the center city. The bartender made me the most incredible drink that I’ve ever had. I asked for an Aperol Spritz (they aren’t very sweet here), but he asked if I would try his new invention. I told him I don’t like anything too sweet, and this was perfect. From what I remember, it had ice, Amaro, St. Germain, and it was topped with Prosecco. I know there was other alcohol in there, but I can’t remember what it was. It was so refreshing, not too strong, and not too sweet. Ingrid and I ended up talking to another bartender for two hours. He was so interesting and insightful, and truly cared that Ingrid and I enjoyed our time in Roma. The best thing about the people in Roma is their vulnerability. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, love when the love, fight when they fight, and live to their fullest at every moment. This bartender told us about his aspirations, his thoughts on life, his likes, and his dislikes… and we were perfect strangers. I was so amazed by this. I have never had such a deep, interesting conversation at a bar in America. This is what I want when I say I want to do more than be a tourist.
After the bar, it was about 1 a.m. We went back to the Trevi Fountain, and it was nearly empty. It was breathtaking and peaceful. We were able to get wonderful pictures, and stop to truly enjoy it. After this, we took a taxi back to the Airbnb. Our taxi driver was nice, but my god. The drivers here are CRAZY!!! I thought that we were going to die in this taxi from his driving. It’s all drivers here, though. This is something I can never get used to.
On the 19th, we set out on a death march through Roma (but in the best way). We started the day by taking the bus to the Vatican City, but without high hopes of getting in. The lines to get into the Vatican City are asinine, and we didn’t want to spend half of the day in line. So, what did we do? Family, cover your ears for this one… we did what you’re not supposed to do, but we had a good feeling about it and took a chance. A little Pakistani man approached us (he spoke some of the best English that I’ve heard here), and told us that he could get us into the Vatican immediately if we went with him. Ingrid and I discussed it, and the price was great. We said OK. We followed him down a street near the Vatican to his office and paid him (in cash, obviously), and he led us to a big group of people who did the same thing, and the tour guide. It turned out to be the perfect decision! We literally walked right into the Vatican with no issues, and had an amazing tour guide! She was so knowledgeable about the art and history inside the Vatican City, which made me appreciate everything so much more. I can’t decide which area was my favorite, but I really loved the Sistine Chapel. I learned so much about the significance of the people and placement of each detail in the paintings of Michelangelo, so I was even more in awe of the beauty once I was inside.
Two fun facts about the Sistine Chapel…
One – You have to be quiet inside of the Sistine Chapel. It’s pretty easy to stay quiet because you’re so amazed by the beauty. As soon as you walk in, everybody’s heads turn towards the ceiling and they stop talking. You’re also not allowed to take pictures inside.
Two – The short story of how Sistine Chapel came to be is basically because of a bet from the Pope at the time of Michelangelo. Michelangelo was pissed at the Pope because he hired Rafael for another important art project, and he thought that he could do better. The Pope told him to prove it, and he created the Sistine Chapel. The Pope’s secretary actually told Michelangelo he hated his art for the chapel in the midst of his work, but I think Michelangelo proved him wrong. Pretty cool, right?
After the Vatican City, we decided that we wanted to go back towards the Colosseum. Now, this is where we were both crazy. No one ever tries to walk this because it takes about one hour, but we made a plan. We wanted to stop at Peroni Antique Brewery for lunch because of the recommendation from Ingrid’s host mother, and go to Campo de Fiori. Peroni Antique Brewery was off of the tourist path, so we definitely wanted to stop here! It was perfect because both of these were about half way through the walk, so it gave us a chance to rest. The beer at Peroni was incredible, and we both ordered pasta carbonara. I was absolutely stuffed, but somehow made room for iced coffee (it’s basically a gelato and espresso smoothie) at Campo de Fiori.
We arrived at the Colosseum around 7 p.m., and walked around the Roman Forum, a necropolis, the cat sanctuary, and the Roma Republic Building (Google Maps told us that it was the Sports Hall of Fame for Roma… I think it was wrong). The cat sanctuary is such a good idea… it keeps the cats safe and away from tourists who will bother them! It’s really funny to see the sanctuary because it’s an ancient Roman amphitheater, so it’s basically an ancient playground for cats. I was so excited when we arrived at the Colosseum because I was fascinated with it when I learned about it in school, and have dreamed of seeing it. It is just as incredible as you would imagine it to be. I could actually feel the presence of the people who once gathered there for joy, or to witness gruesome events. One of the best aspects of my travels was the perfectly blue sky. It made for incredible pictures, and the perfect backdrop to these experiences. Around sunset, the sky was the most perfect deep blue, and it was epic as the background for the golden tones of the Colosseum.
After relaxing at the Colosseum for a bit, we walked back towards the Trevi Fountain to eat dinner. During our first night in Roma, we passed so many restaurants that looked great, so we wanted to find one of them to eat something small. We stopped on a small side-street to eat cheese, salumi, and wine outside. This is when the most ironic experience happened…
Ingrid and I were enjoying dinner and having a wonderful conversation when I stopped her mid-sentence. I saw a family walking towards us, and the husband was wearing a Cleveland Browns shirt. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There’s only about 10 of us left in the world, and to see one in Roma? Crazy. I stopped him and asked, “Are you a Cleveland Browns fan????”, and he said “Yes…. why?”. This led to an hour long conversation with the family about our ties to Cleveland, why we are all in Roma, and why the hell we still cheer for the Browns. If one thing is true about the Browns, it’s that the fans have sheer dedication and want this team to succeed. That was half of our conversation! We got pictures together to remember the experience. I was so surprised and pleased by this crazy chance of finding a Browns fan in Roma! After dinner, we took another insane taxi ride back to our Airbnb (around 1 a.m.) to get ready for our travels to Firenze.
Stay tuned for the Firenze blog tomorrow! Congratulations on making it through this death march of a post.