Written by Wesley Klehm
When in Rome? Right now! We arrived at the airport and located our bus. It was a long ride in to the Termini station, but it wasn’t a boring one. We sat next to a friendly Chinese girl that was also living in the Netherlands. She was perfectly friendly and her english was good, but she was kind of a walking billboard for China, talking about how great it is. It was interesting, but weird. After another bus ride we arrived at our apartment. It was really nice and had a great view of St. Peters. The owner was kind enough to leave some chocolates, fresh flowers, and wine out for us. It was quite homey! So we finally made it to Rome. Where all roads lead!
Day 1 in Rome was a walk into the Vatican. Thankfully we decided to go to the Vatican the day we did, because they were setting up for the ceremony to make new cardinals. First we went to the church and I had one impression: SO MANY CHAIRS. Just kidding, opulence would be a better impression. St. Peter’s was very impressive and large. Of note there were lots of unicorn statues.
I barely even realized we were in the Vatican until we were already on the steps of St. Peters. I knew it was small, but the square is so tiny! Entering the basilica was really interesting. Its certainly a beautiful building and surreal to be where so many popes have walked. I managed to also get a picture of a nun taking a selfie!
Because forgot to go to the museum first, we had to stand in a second line to go to the museum. Emily told us that Rick Steves told her there is a secret entrance to the church from the museum. We meandered our way though, looking up at the ceilings the whole time. We got to see Alexander Borgia’s apartments, the Raphael rooms (which were awesome), and the Sistine Chapel (where no photos or talking was allowed, not that anybody cared). The final room in the museum was the Sistine chapel. Pictures weren’t allowed so naturally i took more pictures there than of anywhere else in Rome.
We left and walked over to where the world renowned Rick Steves said to start a great Rome walk. We started at a little market where there was a cute Dauchsund standing guard over everything. Next was a square with a big fountain and lots of restaurants and peddlers. There was an especially interesting guy who was sitting on a little platform that was hidden underneath a cloak. It appeared that he was floating! It was certainly different than most of the others. Next on the walk was the Pantheon! It was big and round! And then we decided to make a detour from the walk and head down toward the Largo Argentinia. This was where Caesar was supposedly assassinated. Now it’s a square with a cat sanctuary.
Sterl became a little obsessed with going into every church we saw. I’m not sure what any of them were called, or where any of them were (other than generally in Rome). Most of them were incredible and incredibly similar, but two favorites stood out. One because it had Mary Magdalene’s foot encased in gold, or so they claimed it was her foot. The other church was unique because of the amazing trompe l’oeil dome painted on the ceiling.
We continued the walk from there and went to a few churches and then went to see the Parliament building. More importantly, nearby was a famous Gelato store. We retrieved some gelato and enjoyed it while continuing our walk. We made it to Trevi fountain and sat and finished off the gelato. It was delicious!
We took a bunch of pictures and watched the water and the hordes of people in the area. And then finally, we made it to the spanish steps. Emily was gifted a rose from a friendly indian man just giving them away! It was so friendly of him to just give that away. but then of course, he asked for money and was disappointed he didn’t get any. So Emily gave him a Euro to go away. Unfortunately the rose she was holding was like a big target on her back. She decided to gift the rose back to Rome and left it sitting on the wall at the top of the steps. Shortly after another peddler picked it up and tried selling it to the couple nearby. It was all extremely amusing.
We finished the day with some dinner at a famous Rick Steves recommended restuarant and headed back to the apartment. We wined and talked and i pilfered through the owners photo albums of her grandparents adventures in Greece. It was a relaxing end to an extraordinary Roman day!
Day 2 Pompeii
We had to rise early in order to head over to the bus for our day tour of Naples and Pompeii. We napped for a while on the bus and stopped for a snack at some Italian snack stop. Along the way the guide tried to say some interesting things, but unfortunately her accent was quite strong. That alone would have been forgivable, but the tour was also being done in Spanish. So we couldn’t really figure out when she was speaking English and stopped speaking Spanish. So we largely ignored the guide part. One interesting thing we caught was that we drove past Monte Cassino, a battle site in WWII.
We arrived in Naples and the first thing we noticed was…the garbage. It was quite filthy. We later found out this is because the garbage collection company was run by the mafia. We stopped in a harbor parking lot where we waited for our new guide which would actually guide the tour. He was an 85 year old italian guy. We quickly realized that Naples wasn’t the most interesting city. So we patiently waited for the bus to move on to Pompeii.
We left Naples and in a short while we arrived at a small store where they try to sell tour groups on carved coral and other jewelry type trinkets. We’d seen this sort of thing before on tours but this one was particularly uninteresting and irrelevant to the tour. Again, we patiently waited to move on to Pompeii.
We arrived at Pompeii! But wait, we get lunch first. Italian food is typically very good. This place was the opposite. It was clearly prepared a long while before we arrived and tasted worse than that. We finished up the “meal” and finally FINALLY arrived at Pompeii. Our old guy guide passed out audio guides so that we could hear what he was saying, but it mostly wasn’t interesting. The site itself was really incredible though. Much of the stone buildings and roads were still there. The encased people were different than i thought though. They were found and casted in plaster, which is different than i’d always imagined. There was also an old brothel with lots of male genitalia pointing the way. After a few possibly inappropriate comments from the guide we left Pompeii and napped most of the way back to Rome. It was probably the worst tour we’d ever been on, but Pompeii is still an amazing place to see. Still awesome!
Day 3 of Roma! We went for a walk down the river. I helped a guy that worked for Giorgio Armani with directions to the Vatican. The girls thought he was handing him his wallet but no, I am smarter than that! After some more walking we reached the south side of the Forum and found the Veritas facemaskthing. We were very sad to learn that there was no entrance on this side and had to walk another half hour up a large hill. It turned out to be a capitol hill and there was a chorus of people singing something beautfiul. We took some video and ventured back down the hill towards the entrance. Eventually we made our way to the Colliseum!
We had to stand in line for a while. It was hardly a line but more of a fenced in blob, but we got in. It was incredible. To be standing where thousands of screaming spectators stood two thousand years ago, was an experience we’ll never forget. We walked around a bit more and walked out into the Forum. There was a surprising amount of it left but it was not labelled particularly well. Walking in the footsteps of the great Romans was inspiring. It’s amazing how huge everything was and how much of it survived.
We left the forum and headed over to the nearest restaurant we could find and had a bite to eat. We headed over to a church that had the Peter in Chains statue. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed for service and we didn’t have time to linger, I was very very sad.
So we walked over to a bus stop near the Circus Maximus. For as incredible as it was to see how much of the Forum was still standing, it was conversely amazing how little of the Circus Maximus was still there (none). So we looked at the big hole where it used to be and shrugged.
Finally we hopped on a bus that headed for a catacomb. When we arrived….it was CLOSED! GREAT! Naturally for like one month out of the year they close it for cleaning or renovation or something. Fortunately there was nother right nearby that was open so we walked down there. It was surprisingly uninteresting. It would have been more fun if we could walk freely but it was a guided tour that just walked us through and then told us a story about Saint Bob and how great he was and how he was buried there. After the tour we went to wait for the bus. The wait was about a half hour and was going in the wrong direction. But since we were tired and wanted to sit, we got on anyway. It was a nice little tour of the suburbia countryside of Rome and eventually circled around and went back. We got to the terminal and hailed a cab and went back to the apartment. We rested for a little while and then went to dinner. We sat in front of a the big fountain we saw yesterday and then went to have more gelato! We went back, the girls enjoyed some wine, and we rested for the rest of the evening.
Day 3 of Italy! We hopped a bus back to Termini and then found the subway that took us to our target train station. So Italy has a really fast bIullet train. Who knew? We blinked and were in Florence. We considered getting off there and exploring Florence but that’s not a city to half-ass so we continued on to Bologna. We walked into city center and found a place to eat. What a bizarre restaurant. It was a weird blend of cafeteria, restaurant, and butcher. We figured out how to eat and then left. We then realized there’s not a lot to do in that city, so we headed back to the train station.
After some discussion with our monsters, we decided to head early to venice. we arrived and….whoa! People! EVERYWHERE! We actually got separated. I was walking behind and got stuck at a line at the ATM while the river of humans forced the girls onward. By the time I was free and got out in front of the station, the girls were gone! It turns out they didn’t go out the doors and after a couple minutes of searching, we found each other. Carnivale is happening. Like seriously happening. Everyone had face-paint and masks and wigs. What an event!
After soaking it in we started walking towards St. Mark’s. It was a twisting and winding trail but eventually we got there. Sterling immediately went bonkers when she saw them. During Carnivale some people get serious about dressing up in costumes.
Sterling was so happy with how beautfiul they looked that she actually started crying. Tired from a long day of traveling and walking, we headed toward the apartment we rented. After an hour of talking to the owner on the phone and walking across and then back across the city, we found the place. Mossimo was very helpful and friendly and we settled into our place. We went to grab a dinner and then rested and went to bed.
We went to St Marks square around 10 in the morning. We didn’t have any huge goals except wander around Venice. So thats all we did. We explored the square, we went into the cathedral, and we had lunch.
We took a ride on the vaporetto. This was their public transportation through the canals. It was a great way to see most of the city. We arrived at the train station and then hopped a boat back to St Marks. We walked around for a while longer and had some drinks in the square.
Sterling was still hopping from excitement from the costumed people and we bought masks to blend in too. The girls bought low-key lace masks. I got a plaguemaster’s mask that was very hard to find. After some more wandering, more food, more gelato, more costumed people, and more spectacular views of the canals and sea, we headed back to the room and ended our day. Venice was beautiful but if you’re not an art fan, there’s not too much more to do.
Mossimo had previously offered to take us to the airport so we took him up on that offer. We swung by with his boat and we hopped on. Some of us took a more literal approach to hopping (Emily!). The ride over to his car was a lovely mini tour of the city and eventually we arrived at the parking area. It was a steep pull up and off of the boat but we each managed to not fall in the water, so that was a big success. Mossimo then went to get his car and he took us to the airport. We thanked him and went to our flight. We had a bit of a scare with making it to the flight in time but it was fine.