So another girl in the immersion program, Emily, put up with my last-minute antics and together we booked a very, very cheap hostel the night (you could argue early morning) before we were planning to go. Then we just jumped on a 3ish hour train to Rome and that's that (buy a map, bring your guide book, and it's really that easy).
Our hostel was right near the Rome train station, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which we immediately started gawking at. We had lunch and checked-in to our hostel and then, around 5pm, started our walking tour.
I have to say that I really can't believe how much we accomplished (and walked!) that evening. Maybe because I'm so type A and we were quickly going from point to point, but we did most of the major sites our side of the Tiber. Rick Steve's scoffed at how impossible it is to do Rome in a day - well just think about how hard it is to really only have 2 full days, if you're really being generous, with so many things closed on Sundays (and being stuck with your backs after check-out)!
We started off in Santa Maria, which was gorgeous! I don't know what to say about churches anymore! After, we found our way over the the Trevi Fountain. It was just the best feeling to see it again and it really is so stunning. There we were, just walking along some small side street, and then you quietly start hearing the sounds of water. Then you just turn the corner and it jumps out at you, right in the middle of the square!
-People have been complaining that I don't take enough pictures of myself, so here we go:
This one is obviously fake, but there's my shot.
So if you don't know what this is about, legend has it that if you throw a coin in the fountain over your shoulder, you will oneday return to Rome (it's worked so far). I was definitely stubborn about getting that "perfect shot" though...
We then walked over to the Spanish Steps. It was strange to approach it from the top and at first, I didn't know where we were. But then we looked down and we could see down the steps onto the whole square. I was amazed with how walkable Rome is. Everything was covered in a golden light and everyone was out on the steps that Friday evening. I have to say, there was a bit too much rome-ance going on for my liking....
(We briefly walked down Via Condotti but, like Florence, window shopping doesn't hold my attention for that long. I wish I had asked where the Monster Door was again Mom!)
Next stop was the Pantheon. Just like everything else we saw so far, it literally just jumped out at us, without warning, as we turned the corner. All of these monuments are right in the center of Romans' daily lives and it's hard to believe they can become so desensitized. I felt bad the Emily didn't have the opportunity to see inside of it, but it really did look much more stunning in the dark. (It was really, really fun being inside the Pantheon, though, when it was raining and it all came through the hole at the top :)).
Continuing behind the Pantheon, we saw the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II. I had never seen it before! Then, in the distance, Emily thought she spotted the Colosseum but it was too far away and I wasn't sure. As we started approaching it (yes, she was right), we saw some ruins to our right and realized it was the Roman Forum! I was really losing any credibilty as a tour guide.
Rome may be better at night. The monuments were all lit-up, everyone was out, and I felt so safe on the streets. It was a much more intimate look then roaming around with tourists during the day.
I felt like such a shy girl in my hostel. Everyone was in the common room drinking and socializing and were from all over the world. The owner sadly ruffled my hair up as I walked past because I was probably being so square. I forgot that hostels are a place that people come to meet other travelers, and not just a really cheap place to stay. I climbed up to my top bunk, in a closet of the room with two sets of bunk beds and barely space to walk in between the middle, and was in bed before 12, as a party was going on two rooms down the hall. I'll never be a troubadour!
We woke up early the next morning and went straight to the Vatican Museum (Finally! Let's get out of this country!). It's very strange, though wonderful, to be here in the off season. What was even more strange is how little I remembered the area the Vatican Museum was in or all of the exhibits that led up to the Sistine Chapel. You really have to earn the right to see the Chapel because you go through a maze of other exhibits. Not that their Greek sculptures and Egyptian artifacts aren't worthy in their own right, but it's all just too much...and you haven't even gotten to the big show yet. I was really starting to get stimulus-overload when all of the sudden I turned the corner, and there I was! (Why must it happen like this every time!?). My roomate said that when she's gone in the past, she thinks it feels like one big gynasium full of people. It is kind of like that. I was lucky to get a seat on the wall and rest (I hadn't sat for several hours in while touring the Museum) and be able to slowly take in all in.
Mom, Dad, and Julie - they still yelled at us to be quiet! But this time, a little announcement was played over loadspeakers. Unfortunately there wasn't any obnoxious clapping. I still couldn't believe how many people were taking pictures when they weren't allowed to there, but that just shows how much of a zoo it is.
Oh! By the way, I also saw the School of Athens and am embarrased to admit that I didn't know it was in the Vatican (some HPS major I am).
What a build up for such a finale. It's worth it, but it's draining.
After that, we got lost trying to find our way from the Vatican to St. Peter's, which seems pretty silly because you can see one from the other. We started walking around the Vatican and got pulled over by some weird French guy who was trying to give us his designer clothes and then asked us for gas money....
And then there we were in front of St. Peter's! I walked inside and just really gave up at that point. In my head I thought "Look Rome...Rick Steves already hailed you [St. Peter's] as the richest and most impressive church on the earth. Give it a break! Stop trying to overdo yourself. You've already won!" I really, really have, just given up. But then I forgot that you could finally take pictures in this church so I quickly turned into this sacrreligious tourist who went around like a camera-happy maniac just to prove a point that I can show people back home what I can't do any justice in trying to describe. It's all a bit ridiculous, and makes me feel like I shouldn't be in the church to begin with, but it is such a museum. We saw Pieta but unforutnately I wasn't able to rub (kiss?) St. Peter's foot (they had him fenced off for some reason).
Next we got to climb to the top of the church. Elevators are for whimps (and I'm scared of them) so we climbed ... oh, I don't know how many there are, 500+ stairs? It really isn't that bad, just terrifying in those extremely narrow spiral staircases with no railings, but I truthfully couldn't have been happier getting a panorama of the entire city.
Finally, we went to a much smaller church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, and between one T(h)eresa to another, I learned the true meaning of her ecstasy.
***What I can't emphasize enough is how nostalgic Rome made me for my family. That was the first place I ever saw in Italy and our memories of sneaking in pizza behind the nuns' backs is still just as funny. Rome just felt like a completely different place when I was traveling with you three and I fear that, because of the nature of my program, I really am forced to zip through as much as I can. I am very grateful for all of the care you put into planning our vacations and I can't wait to see you three when you come to visit in a few months!