Another day, another train ride. This time, we were off to Rome!
Did you know that Romans were the pirates of their time?
Did you know that Rome is like a lasagna?
If not, read on! You’ll be entertained and informed as we take you on a trip around the ancient city of Rome.
On the train, we enjoyed a couple cans of Trenitalia’s finest beers. (Ok, they were their only beers, but they were good!)
Someone thought the best place to store their humongous luggage was on the table in front of them.
The “train police” made them move it to another, more appropriate, luggage location.
An hour and a half later, we arrived at the Roma Termini station. The cabs were easy to locate and very well organized. We hopped in a cab and made our way to our hotel. We stayed at the Arpinelli Relais Guest House.
The guest house was an amazing, 6-story family home that was constructed in the first half of the seventeenth century. The parents live on the top story and the son manages the guest house. Everywhere you looked you would see family heirlooms and artwork.
Here is the hallway to our room.
This was the main common area on our floor. We loved the ceiling.
Here is our room. Simple and extremely comfortable. How cool, we had the same wood ceiling! The mattress was so soft and the linens were all top quality. Just what you need after a day of touring in Rome.
Arpinelli Relais gets our vote for the “best bathroom and shower of the trip”.
The shower was really modern with lots of different dials. It took a while for us islanders to figure it out, but once we did? Wow!
The shower even had a disco light that changed colors.
This was the view from our window. So fun to see the crowds of people passing by.
Arpinelli Relais was located just down the street from the Trevi Fountain so we were within easy walking distance to just about everything. That being said, we left our room in search of the Trevi Fountain.
On our short walk to the fountain, we discovered that Rome was actually busier than Venice and Florence! As we walked toward the Trevi Fountain we had to make our way through seas of tourists, selfie-sticks, artists and musicians. It was tough!
When we turned the corner at Trevi Fountain, this is what we saw:
So many people!
We continued walking towards the Colosseum. On the way we discovered the Altare Della Patria and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We continued walking past the Forum and the Pantheon.
Lisa found her dream bike. It had a basket full of wine!
After all of the walking, it was time for dinner. Time for more meat, cheese and wine at La Prosciutteria.
This restaurant was tiny and had meat hanging from the ceiling and loud, crazy music playing.
Since they don’t have a restaurant license you have to place your order at the counter, pick up your order at the counter, and clean up your own table.
You order your meat and cheese tray by the size of the wooden board. We went with the large board and a bottle of wine. That paper Lisa is holding is our ticket.
The large board full of deliciousness arrived!
We devoured everything on our tray, finished our wine and called it an early night. We had to wake up early the next day for a marathon day of touring!
The streets of Rome were empty at 7:00 in the morning.
It was the perfect time for a selfie at the Trevi Fountain!
We walked to the Colosseum for our 8:30 meeting time with our guide. As we were walking towards the Colosseum, we saw the sun rising behind it.
Since we aren’t fans of large groups, we booked private tours for the day through Private Tours of Rome.
Today we were touring the Colosseum, the Forum and the Vatican. Our guide Max was waiting for us outside and he was ready to go!
We walked quickly towards the entrance and were some of the first few people that entered. What a treat to be able to walk around the Colosseum without having to weave through a crowd of people.
Max was a very thorough and efficient guide. He kept our tour moving so we could stay ahead of all of the crowds.
Did you know that the upper decks were for the poor people and the lower decks were for the wealthy? It was very common for the crowds in the nosebleed seats to get drunk and unruly and end up in fights.
Kind of reminds us of some NFL games we have been to.
Things never really change, do they?
Uh oh, seems the crowd has caught up to us. Time to get moving. Next stop, the Forum!
We quickly walked to the Forum.
And walked up to Palatine Hill where there was a breathtaking view of the Vatican.
We arrived so early that the infamous Palatine Hill rabbit was there to greet us.
We continued our tour around the Forum and learned that the Romans were the pirates of their times.
Because if the Romans were building something and they needed marble or gold, they wouldn’t purchase it. Instead, they would just find what they needed from other buildings and “borrow” it.
We also learned that Rome is like a lasagna because it is made of layers and layers of buildings. If something wasn’t being used, people would just build on top of it. And when that building wasn’t being used anymore, somebody else would build on top.
This is where Julius Casar was cremated.
Time to leave the Forum and move on to the Pantheon.
On the way, Ronnie was thirsty and helped himself to a drink. One of the cool things about Rome (and other cities in Italy) is all of the water fountains.
The only thing that would improve these fountains is if wine poured out instead of water.
We stopped in to see the Pantheon.
Such an intricate doorway. Max took us inside for a quick tour. The most interesting thing about the Pantheon is that there is a giant hole in the middle of the ceiling that is 8 meters wide. When it rains, the rain falls inside of the Pantheon and drains into the sewer through the several drains that line the floor. (Sorry, there are no pictures of this engineering feat.)
Next stop, Serafini for lunch! Max got us a nice table outside and he sat inside. It was thoughtful of him to let us have lunch on our own. We each got a pizza and shared a liter of wine. The food was really tasty and while we were eating, a band stopped by to entertain the crowd with live music.
After lunch, Max called a cab and the three of us took a short ride over to the Vatican.
We started our tour in the Vatican Museum.
In the museum, there were halls and halls filled with paintings and sculptures. It is truly indescribable the volume of art that was here.
After the museum, we entered the Sistine Chapel. Being inside, surrounded by the most famous paintings really took our breath away. To see Michelangelo’s painting of “The Creation of Adam” was incredible They didn’t allow you to take pictures, so we borrowed the picture below.
While we were standing in awe of the beauty, Max spotted a priest. He asked the priest if he would give us a blessing. Max moved a red, velvet rope out of the way and we walked up to where the priest was standing. What a once in a lifetime opportunity to be blessed inside of the Sistine Chapel. Our guide was the best!
After the Sistine Chapel, we toured St. Peter’s Basilica.
Here is the altar in St. Peters. Those columns were 66 feet tall! Think about that. The altar is taller than a six-story building! It gives you an idea of how tall the basilica is.
We saw the largest font of Holy water.
And this incredibly ornate crypt. (We are sure sombody is inside of there. We just can’t remember who it is!)
Below is a picture of the Holy Door. These doors are only opened on the first day of a holy year. And that only happens once every 25 years.
When we left St. Peter’s Basilica Max told us to finish our waters.
Because we had to fill up our bottles with water that was blessed by the pope. Now that was pretty cool.
A Vatican guard standing watch.
When we left the Vatican we walked back to the hotel instead of taking a cab. We were so glad we walked because we stumbled upon the Belize Embassy!
Look! The Belize Embassy!
On the walk home, we picked up more meat, cheese, bread and wine. Time to kick off our shoes and relax in our room.
We have no idea how many miles we walked that day, but exhaustion isn’t a strong enough word to describe how we felt that night.
The next morning we had another 8:30 meeting time with another guide. Today, our guide was Tomaso. And we were so excited for the tour.
Today’s tour was called the Underground Tour. Our mission for the day was to explore the catacombs and crypts that were hidden under the bustling streets of Rome.
We met our guide at the fountain at Barberinni Square.
Tomaso was the perfect guide for us. He was an archeologist which meant not only did he know everything about the crypts and the catacombs, but it was his passion.
The first stop on the tour was the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini,Capuchin Museum and Ossuary Crypt.
We went inside of the church and Tomaso taught us all about the Capuchin friars. The Friars would travel the world and seek out those in need so they could provide help.
Inside of the church, there were several altars on each side. Each altar was created and decorated by a different religious family. Every time a new altar was created, they would make it bigger and better by adding more expensive and intricate art. They wanted their altar to be better than their neighbors.
It’s the original “keeping up with the Joneses!”
Next, we walked down the stairs and entered the crypts which were located below the church. In the crypts, the bones of over 3700 monks were used to create altars, decorations and lights. There were several intact skeletons wearing their robes whose skin was mummified. The monks used the bones of the deceased to decorate since they believe that the bones are just the carrier of the soul and when you are dead the soul is gone. Leaving the bones available for another purpose.
Recycling at its best.
We were not allowed to take pictures, but here are a few borrowed ones:
When we walked up the stairs back to the street, we were greeted by singing birds and sunshine. Such an eerie contradiction from the crypts we were just inside.
The next stop on our underground tour was the Catacombs of Priscilla. We had to take a cab and it was about a 15 minute ride to the catacombs.
Since our guide was an archeologist and had studied these catacombs, we didn’t have to join another group. It was just the 3 of us exploring the dark, chilly catacombs beneath the streets of Rome. There are over 18 kilometers of tunnels that were home to more than 9,000 tombs. The catacombs were created in the first part of the 2nd century and were used for a couple of centuries.
Why did they create the catacombs? Because no cemeteries were allowed inside of the city. They wanted to keep all of the diseases outside of the city.
The first level, the one we toured, was 12 meters under the street. Yes, we were walking around under the streets of Rome and we could hear the traffic driving on top of us. We were also under a park. Since the ceilings and walls were mostly dirt, there were roots hanging from the ceiling. Each wall had 5 to 7 tombs stacked from the floor to ceiling. (These images were also borrowed as no cameras were allowed.)
Most of the tombs were empty because people came in and robbed the graves. But, there were still a few tombs that remained sealed and there were some items left behind. During our tour, we saw a doll made from ivory, a leg bone and some beautiful fresco artwork.
The wealthy people didn’t just bury their family in the catacombs. They would decorate the walls. There was plaster on the walls and ceilings that had been decorated with beautiful artwork. All of the tombs in the picture above used to have bodies in them.
The entire time we were walking around the catacombs, we couldn’t stop wondering, “What was going on down there in the 2nd century?”
Picture this scene:
There were construction crews in the catacombs scraping and creating more tunnels.
There were family members plastering walls and ceilings in preparation for art.
There were artists painting masterpieces.
There were people bringing in more “residents”.
Can you imagine the noise? The smell? Were the bathrooms? Were their vendors selling food and water?
As we were finishing up our tour, Tomaso brought us to the restrooms and said the best line: It’s a tour, not a torture.
Back in the sunshine we took another taxi back to Barberinni Square and said goodbye to Tomaso. This was by far the most interesting and informative tour we have ever experienced.
Back to the land of the living, we walked over to the Spanish Steps. We were starving and it was time for lunch!
Thanks to a friend’s recommendation we had lunch at Alla Rampa. It was a hot day so we sat inside. What a treat! They had filet, zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and fried, mouthwatering pastas and of course, wine.
Since we felt we hadn’t walked enough in the past 2 days, we explored some more.
Thanks to another friend’s recommendation, we ended our night with some sweet treats at Wonderful Ice Cream.
A well deserved gelato!
We walked back to our hotel ready to call it a night.
As soon as we walked into our hotel room, Ronnie’s shoe fell apart. As if to say, “I give up! No more walking!”
Ronnie’s shoe tapped out.
This was a sign: time to return to Lake Como!
Rome, we learned so much from you and about your history.
After spending 3 days of non-stop touring, and exploring, we can now finish a quote:
When in Rome……
you will pass out from exhaustion every night!