**Disclaimer. Despite being a history teacher, I am not a history buff at all. I do not get excited about a lot of history things. I teach Roman history. I know the basics but I don't care that much about a lot of details. So that is probably why I say you can easily do Rome in a day. If history is your thing.... maybe it would be different.
We arrived in Rome around 9 AM......oops back up....... You see the day we went to Rome was the fourth crazy crazy marathon day in a row for Jason and me. First day we drove out to the Italian Riviera and slept in our car. Second day we drove all the way to France and Monaco and back to Florence, third day we drove up to the Ferrari Museum and factory and got stuck in 5 hours of traffic on the way home so by the time the day for Rome came along we were EXHAUSTED. Our train left Florence at 5:45 am. Jason was in charge of setting the alarm clock. Long story short it never went off, we woke up at 5:20, we threw on our clothes, and ran the mile to the train station and made it on the train. Anyway, after that fiasco we were on the train for the next 3 hours. (We could have gotten to Rome in an hour but we are cheap and so we took the slow train) Anyway we arrived at the train station in Rome where we bought our public transportation pass for 7 euros. The metro in Rome is awesome and super easy to use. The buses are also great although we didn't use them as much because I wanted to walk around and see more. Anyway, right when we got there (after a second breakfast snack at McDonald's in the train station of course) we headed straight to the Colosseum. We started at the Colosseum because it was going to be a very hot day. And the Colosseum area is extremely hot. Little vegetation and no shade. This is literally the view when you walk out of the Metro station. Welcome to Rome.
Because honestly I didn't see the value of it.... we didn't pay to go in the Colosseum. Maybe someday I'll go inside and be blown away.... but honestly, I've seen the pictures and I don't think it's that cool. Especially in the crowds of people and super long lines in the heat of July. But really I don't know if I will ever think going inside is that cool. I think the outside is pretty darn impressive.
After walking around the Colosseum and reading everything our homeboy Rick Steves has to say about it we walked up through and around The Forum. Once again we didn't pay to go inside. When I say inside... what that means with the Roman Forum is we walked above it where you get an over view of the whole Forum. So we sat on a bench in the shade and read Rick Steves walking tour through the Forum. We could pick out all the buildings he was talking about, see everything, we just couldn't walk through it. Once again, I didn't think the price was worth it. We got to see everything. The one thing we missed out on that kinda bummed me out was the fresh flowers put on Caesar's grave every day. Kinda weird if you ask me.... but would have liked to see it.
We decided to walk to the Trevi Fountain rather than go back to the Metro so we could enjoy Roma! I actually love love loved the streets of Rome compared to Florence. They were wide enough for pedestrians, there was a great variety of architecture, and there was vegetation everywhere!
We stopped for delicious pizzaish... sandwichish.... thing along the way that was delicious and just wandered through the streets enjoying all the variety of shops. I loved it. I love Rome.
So we continued on to the Pantheon. Once again we read Rick Steves description of the Pantheon as we were sitting in the shade outside the beautiful building in complete awe. Sometimes I wonder about education. Why oh why does it matter so much. But to me, the Pantheon is the perfect example of why it should matter. The fact that they built this amazing building in 27 BC. And then the technology, the engineering, the knowledge, was forgotten. It was lost. The Dark Ages was real. If there was one thing I learned this trip to Europe it was how real the Dark Ages were. And how scary that is when you think about it. How a civilization can go from so advanced to so archaic. Crazy. What was amazing is how the dome worked on the Pantheon. How it is 23 ft thick at the base and then by the time you get to the top it is less than 5 ft thick.
After the Pantheon we wanted to hurry to the Vatican because my number one priority about going to the Vatican again was to climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica. We had skip the line tickets into the Vatican Museum. (Highly highly recommend these tickets. Like 4 euro extra but save you a TON of time) There are always a bunch of tour guides everywhere around Rome (super annoying) but always helpful if you ask them questions.... I'm sure they expected a tip but oh well :) Anyway, I had a tour guide explain to me how to get to the line to climb to the top of the Basilica because when I went with my family a few weeks previous I couldn't find it! I didn't know how to get there. So I will explain in the post just in case anyone is curious.
But because we understood how to get to the line to climb to the top of the Dome within our time in the Museum we had some time to kill again until we could get into the Museum. So we got a sandwich and sat in the shade against the HUGE wall of the Vatican and waited for our time. Just people watching. Always my favorite thing.
The crappy thing about going to the Vatican Museum in July in the middle of the day is the crowds. They are just nuts. And it sucks. And there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. Nick, my brother, went later in the evening, which would be cool.... but wasn't really an option for us. So it's kinda hard to even enjoy the Vatican Museum with all the crowds. And after a while of seeing so much opulence.... it just gets old. I mean how many Greek Statues can you stare at. Something that I hadn't taken the time to see before that was super cool was the whole wing of the museum of Egyptian artifacts. It's a curious thing why the Catholic church collected so much Egyptian stuff.
So here is where my homeboy Rick came in really handy. And this is very important for anyone ever visiting the Vatican that doesn't take a tour. I guess they really want you to take a tour. Maybe to make more money or maybe to keep the crowds in check.... but here is what's really important. The Sistine Chapel is the end of the museum but the important thing is there are two exits in the Sistine Chapel. Supposedly it is the "self guided exit" to the left and the "tour groups" exit to the right. If you exit to the left you leave the Vatican Museum and have to go get in the stinkin' long line to enter the FREE part of the Vatican... and the most impressive part in my opinion, the Basilica. BUT if you exit left (pretend you are just with a tour group) you go straight down to the Basilica. No line. BUT as you turn right to go into the Basilica you will see a roped off area that says "Cupula" Problem for me before was.... of course I didn't know what Cupula meant. SO I missed it. Anyway, I don't know if Jason and I just had a stroke of good luck or if it is always like this, but there was absolutely no line to get up to climb the Dome and very little crowds at the top. And it was AMAZING!
Here is a view of the "cupula" or Dome half way up. I never would have known from just going into the Basilica what we saw on our hike to the top.
The whole thing is a freaking gigantic mosaic!!! INSANE! It is HUGE! The whole Basilica is a mosaic! EVERY SINGLE THING!!!! (I know you probably think I am being a bit dramatic about it, but seriously. It is nuts. Absolutely nuts. It makes the Sistine Chapel look like a piece of cake. The entire ceiling and walls of the whole Basilica are covered in tiny stones or tiles making a huge mosaic.
And then the view from the top. Oh Michelangelo. You did it again. I'm sure glad you didn't waste your life just making matches.
Don't mind that we look like a little haggard.... remember, we didn't have time to shower, or do our hair or anything that morning.
Then we went down and went inside the Basilica. And of course La Pieta.... speaking of Michelangelo.
From the outside...