Rome, Italy

After saying au revoir à Paris, we said ciao a Roma! Right off the bat, Rome clearly had a much different feel from Paris. Everything was older, with less modernity amongst the old; however, that meant everything was rich with history and there were literally ruins or monuments around every corner. Our most commonly used phrase was probably some version of, “That old thing looks important! I wonder what it is.”

To prove that point further, the oldest of the four poplar (which means houses the ecclesiastical seat for the Pope) basilicas in Rome was directly across the street from our hotel! We couldn’t have missed it, but we didn’t find it on purpose… we really just walked out of our hotel in the morning and figured we should investigate what the really big and cool building was.

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Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano

After our quick detour, which wasn’t actually off the path at all, we walked to the Colosseum. It was only 0.6 miles from our hotel!!! How crazy is that? We walked through a park to get a good view, and even the park was filled with cool old things. I just looked up what it was called now, and actually found out that it sits on the remains of Domus Aurea, or the Golden House of Nero, and contains the Baths of Trajan and the Baths of Titus. Not that I could tell you what those are, but they sound pretty significant. I just thought this fountain looked nice.

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Fountain in Parco Del Colle Oppio

Then- the Colosseum! Out of all the big and cool things, one of the biggest and coolest for sure. And definitely the oldest. We didn’t go in it (yet) but walked around the outside a little while trying to get to Palatine Hill. My mom warned me it would be smaller than I thought, but again, I was struck by how big it was! Such an incredible architectural feat for 80 AD.

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The Colosseum

Also, a couple people on bikes wearing santa hats and coats passed us on the way. We thought it was cute and funny. Then we got to the bottom of the Colosseum and there was a proper gathering of santas on bikes! Still have no idea what they were up to but it put us in a good Christmassy mood.

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Santa convention?

Tickets for the Colosseum also get you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill or vice versa, and we had read that there are much smaller lines to Palatine Hill. This was apparently a little known fact and we had NO line to get our tickets and enter there (highly recommend if you ever plan on going) versus the crowds you can see above at the Colosseum. Many of them may be santas in that picture, but that was basically what the crowd there always looked like all the time (minus all the red).

I wish, as usual, I knew enough about the history of this stuff that I could share it and this post would be more interesting, but the last time I learned Roman history was 6th grade and not much stuck with me honestly. It inspired me to want to know more, now that I’ve seen so many interesting places, but even while we were walking around Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum we were a little clueless at the significance of them. There were signs often describing certain things, but they were the most unhelpful signs I have ever read. Maybe they made more sense in Italian, because I assume the English was translated, but they were confusing and gave no real information. A lot of them gave the names of certain rooms or buildings, when they were built, and the way they were constructed or reconstructed over the years. While seeing the dates were interesting, I was most interested in the function of the buildings and not necessarily how they were built. Even if the informational signs were a little disappointing, though, the ruins themselves were definitely not!

Also, I loved the trees in Rome. They were so cool and tall with the fluffy round tops and felt really tropical somehow.

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Climbing Palatine Hill

There were TONS of amazing buildings and ruins atop Palatine Hill- I haven’t looked this up at all because I’m too lazy right now, but we gathered that the important people lived up there. There were bathhouses, which only the rich people could have, and there were ruins specifically named as Nero’s or Flavius’. I tried to be stingy with the pictures of ruins, because they probably would get boring if you don’t know what they are/didn’t actually see them, so hopefully all of these are just representative of what we got to see.

Also- this stuff is SO OLD! There’s plenty or buildings and ruins from a few years BC! I thought England and France had old things, but these don’t even compare. It’s incredible that anything is still standing from so long ago, and is a testament to how good the Roman architecture is.

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View from the top of Palatine Hill

All the old stuff was just so interesting when you try to imagine what it used to be a part of! This lettering is pretty darn impressive and this is only one tiny chunk.

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Old stuff everywhere

The (poorly written) description of this space described it as a “so-called stadium,” saying that it really wasn’t a stadium but basically a special garden.

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An old “stadium”

The pillars were all so grand and impressive! There were lots still up, and you could see the amazing marble some of them were made of and the way some were more decorative than others.

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More old stuff just casually scattered about

The Roman Forum was sort of connected to Palatine Hill, so we could see over it and then ended up walking down into it. We figured that’s where the more common people lived and worked. I guess I didn’t have any expectations beforehand what it would be like, but I was shocked how expansive it was! Once I remembered it was literally the city of Ancient Rome, it seemed less surprising, but was still very cool.

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View of the Roman Forum
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View of the other part of the Roman Forum

We then walked down into the Roman Forum itself. I think we walked over 12 miles that day, mostly just from wandering throughout the ruins; the sun for us was great because we were comfortable, if not a little chilly, but I can totally see how it’s unpleasant to go in the summer! It would be sweltering!

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Arch of Titus
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Basilica of Maxentius

We thought this looked like a train station a bit. Obviously it wasn’t and I’m not sure what gave us train station vibes, but these arches were HUGE and so impressive. We were trying to figure out how they actually built this- someone had to be up there, putting bricks on each other, and somehow the actual bricks and stone had to get up there too! Even with modern equipment, this would be a big undertaking.

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Basilica of Maxientus
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Old things lying between other old things

We wondered if JK Rowling got some inspiration for names from Ancient Rome. We spotted Severus (see next picture) and also a few other names I was sure belonged to Death Eaters… How is it I’m not even in England anymore but everything I know about everything still revolves around Harry Potter?

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Arch of Septimius Severus
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Roman Forum ruins

There were so many sculptures/statues/busts throughout Rome (not just in the Roman Forum). It’s crazy to think they all represent actual people who once lived, and were important enough (or rich enough) to have themselves preserved in stone!

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Edge of Basilica Julia

After a loooong time walking around and enjoying the Roman Forum, we headed to the Colosseum to go inside.

There were lots of artifacts on display around the edges- we were directed up to the second floor first. Some of it was really interesting and gave a good setup to see inside. I didn’t know that there were underground tunnels/walls below a removable floor of the Colosseum, where gladiators would wait and be lifted up, or the many animals they fought against or put on display were held. It reminded me strangely of locker rooms below/around sport stadiums. There was quite a complex system to raise people/animals up to the main floor, involving pulleys and such, and it really mystified me that someone had the capacity to create such an engineering achievement for such a barbaric situation.

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Components of the pulley system

Knowing that there was this underground component made me less surprised when we came out into the arena and didn’t see a flat ground in the middle. It’s a little weird to imagine that wild animals were housed between the lower walls, and they were covered with a floor where the actual “entertainment” took place. It’s even weirder, though, to think about what they considered entertainment… up to 80,000 people could fit into this stadium, all to watch gladiator battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of battles, and at one point, even sea battles (when they filled the inside with water for boats)! Most of it is quite gruesome and inhumane. Ignoring that part, though, the building itself was an incredible monument. I could see, though, why my mom it could be perceived as small… I think the outside is big, but the inside is surprisingly small. The outside is big because it really is just a huge and impressive stone monument, but the inside seems small because it’s shocking how many people could fit in the seating leaving a smaller space. It made the gladiatorial and animal fighting tasks seem even more impossible and awful.

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Inside the Colosseum
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Underground the Colosseum
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View from the Colosseum

Something else that was weird/annoying from the Colosseum was the types of pictures people tried to take. I more than most people probably understand wanting to get a good picture, especially if you’re in it, but there were multiple people going for full-on glamour shots. Like, professional camera, fully done hair and makeup, checking the picture and retaking it five times, leaning against the Colosseum wall in different poses… maybe with other monuments I understand more of that too, or even standing outside of it is okay, but this is inside it where lots and lots of people DIED. It just seems uncomfortable to me. My mom and I took a selfie and I felt a little weird smiling (and for the record we didn’t look great in it but didn’t try to fix our hair and try again).

Although we were pretty tired after doing a lot of walking, the day was still young so we headed to watch the sunset (typical) at the River Tiber. Some of the leaves were still colorful on the trees flanking the river and it was really pretty! I also got my first delicious gelato, stracciatella (basically chocolate chip). It was a good thing we walked so much each day for the amount of gelato I ate.

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River Tiber
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First of many delicious gelatos

After sunset, we walked around the other side of Palatine Hill to see the Roman Forum. It was weird seeing it with no one inside! It made it seem more monumental and impressive, rather than just another lively tourist place.

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Roman Forum at dusk

At the top of a windy road we climbed on the far side of the Roman Forum was the Musei Capitolini, which was quite impressive as well. Everything in Rome just had big, grand entrances and statues and fountains!

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Steps up to Musei Capitolini

Then, we walked back down the other side of the hill, looking again at the Roman Forum, and heading back towards the Colosseum. There were street performers and artists along the road between the two, which was fun to see and brought lots of interesting music while we walked!

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Roman Forum at night

The Colosseum looked amazing lit up at night. I didn’t know that was really a thing (obviously the lights aren’t from 80 AD) but it was a great view.

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Colosseum at night

Luckily, after all our other walking, we only had a short walk back to the hotel! It was so great being really close to the Colosseum because we really just started all our planning from there.

The next day, we walked out past the Colosseum again. There are more ruins on the other side of the road from the Roman Forum, and as we walked throughout Rome, we realized there are more everywhere! Like I said, it was so easy to just stumble upon something probably really historical.

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Ruins next to the road

I had done some research and found something pretty cool right in that area as well-Carcere Mamertino, or Mamertine Prison, where Paul and Peter were supposedly held. Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years, as written about in Acts and shown in many of Paul’s letters such as Philippians, and Peter was held before his crucifixion in 64 AD. His burial site was the foundation of St. Peter’s Basilica, which we got to visit the next day! It’s so interesting knowing this is where they imprisoned Paul and Peter, right at the heart of the city; it really shows how important they must have been to need such a significant jail.

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Mamertine Prison
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Entrance to the prison (yeah I know this is an awful picture)

Then, on just the other side of the hill from the prison, there was a beautiful building called Altare della Patria, or Alter of the Fatherland. It was a memorial for WWI soldiers and Italy’s first king.

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Altare della Patria
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Altare della Patria
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Altare della Patria

This whole post probably seems/will be pretty disjointed… I think it’s because we walked everywhere! We did over 10 miles each day! It was so much more enjoyable to walk because we got to see sooo much more of Rome than just the tourist sites. Obviously we went to all of those as well, but it was fun to see the shops and piazzas throughout the city we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. It gave us a whole different taste of Rome (figuratively and literally because it also meant I could stop for gelato more)!

We were enroute to the Pantheon and reached it next. It was also so impressive and large! The pillars at the front are just ginormous!

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The Pantheon
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The Pantheon + cool fountain

Inside was really neat as well. The ceiling was incredible and there was beautiful marble everywhere.

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Inside the Pantheon
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Inside the Pantheon

Also, Raphael’s tomb was inside beneath a sculpture of the Virgin Mary. The picture is clearly awful (thanks weird spotlight) but I thought it was something interesting and unique about the Pantheon.

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Raphael’s tomb

Next, we headed to the Trevi Fountain. Honestly, I thought it was just a normal round fountain in the middle of a square that was large or something. I don’t know how I haven’t seen pictures of it before, but because of my totally inaccurate mental image WOW was I blown away! The fountain was really beautiful and I can totally see why it’s so famous.

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Trevi Fountain

I had to take my gloves off for this picture. I was absolutely FREEZING all day because I was too lazy to go back into the hotel once I got outside and realized the temperature. Good job Nicole.

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One coin to return to Rome someday

Apparently one coin ensures you return to Rome, two coins that you’ll meet a Roman man, and three that you’ll marry him. I don’t know why you would ever put in just two coins over three of them because if you want to meet him wouldn’t you want to marry him too? Unless you just want a Roman fling I guess or are skint but the whole thing just seems strange. Obviously I stuck with one coin. Also I know I’m reading way too far into the power of the coins.

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Gotta get those touristy pics in
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Trevi Fountain

In order to keep checking off our list of Rome things, we went to the Spanish Steps next (they’re surprisingly close to the Trevi Fountain). These, however, did not impress me. I really don’t know why they’re famous. They’re nice steps, sure, and a cute little fountain at the bottom and building at the top, but they’re really nothing special at all. (I hope that’s not offensive or anything??)

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Spanish Steps
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Top of the Spanish Steps (not even a good view?? I don’t understand)

Next, we walked up to a nearby park. This had a view worth talking about. It was so nice overlooking all the buildings of Rome- it was cool seeing all the colorful buildings and domed roofs. I think the one on the far right is St. Peter’s Basilica!

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View from Villa Borghese
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View of Piazza del Popolo from Villa Borghese

After a lot more wandering, some hot chocolate at a cute cafe, and window shopping in nearby designer stores, we ended up back at the hotel again. We’d now passed the Colosseum four times total!

The next morning, after our fifth time walking by the Colosseum, we headed to a market because we were craving cheese and bread after leaving behind the delicious brie of Paris! The market we went to was super cute (although apparently touristy, oops) and we ended up picking up bread and cheese (“like Brie, but this is Italian. Brie is French.”) for our train ride the next day, while getting some super yummy pizza for that day’s lunch.

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Casual ruins we passed walking through the city in the morning
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Campo de’ Fiori Market
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Campo de’ Fiori Market
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Bread + pizza = happy Nicole

Although I mentioned gelato already, we obviously weren’t just eating that to survive- although I did eat gelato two times that last day. There was a really yummy restaurant a block away from our hotel that had delicious pasta and pizza and we ended up going there every night!!! Italy is SO my kinda place. I could never ever get tired of all their pasta.

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Gelato number ???

After a relaxing morning, again just sort of wandering about and enjoying the streets of Rome, we headed to Basilica di San Pietro, aka, St. Peter’s Basilica. My mom said it was one of her favorite places from both times she had been to Rome previously (two times she’s backpacked through Europe- what a life! I aspire to be like her!) and I could definitely see why.

There isn’t much to say about it, except that it was a really incredibly beautiful place! It was quite a spiritual experience honestly, just because of all the beauty and understanding what it represents. A lot of the pictures I’m sure don’t capture how amazing it was inside the Basilica! There was so much gold, so much art, and so much thought put into every detail of the place. A very amazing place.

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Ponte’Sant Angelo (enroute to St. Peter’s Basilica)
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Piazza San Pietro
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Mom & me outside the Basilica
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In line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica
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Inside Basilica di San Pietro
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Love me some ceilings
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Michelangelo
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The Pietà, Michelangelo
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Incredible mosaics (not paintings!) and marble everywhere
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More gold & beautiful ceilings- and look at those statues!
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A pretty neat place
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More amazing art
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The dome’s ceiling
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What an amazing place

The Basilica was HUGE, beautiful, and incredible! We spent so much time in there and enjoyed it immensely.

Also inside, around a sort of hidden corner and downstairs, are the tombs of lots of (all?) popes. Also, the remains/tomb of Peter, the foundation for the Basilica- Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. Matthew 16:18

It was raining as we left the Basilica, but it really wasn’t so bad because that was the only bit of bad weather we’ve encountered the whole trip! Can’t complain about an hour of rain. (And I was properly bundled so I really didn’t complain at all because I was nice and warm!)

Again, we just wandered around a bit more.

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Looking out at Ponte’Sante Angelo

We found this nice piazza and people watched sitting near one of the three fountains. I realized I had started to like Rome more and more the longer I was there! My mom told me that Rome is often described as an old woman; you can see how she used to be so beautiful, and she really still is if you just look past the wrinkles!

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Fountain in Piazza Navona
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Piazza Navona

I was SO glad we got to go visit Rome. I loved the history, even if I didn’t actually know much of it, simply because it meant everything was so meaningful. Nothing was there on accident, and everything, in its time, had been significant. What an incredible, beautiful place!

Also, I loved the food.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Colossians 3:16

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