Rome was awesome. Yes, awesome. It was an incredible trip, both for historical sights and emotional well being. Rhys and I lived it up. Ate loads of food, drank our fair share of wine, walked miles in search of the best sights, of course hitting the majors- Vatican, Colosseum, Roman Forum, St. Peter's Basilica- and even found the time to make out. a lot. because you can do that when you don't have a little toddler constantly craving your attention.
Mostly for my benefit (and that of my parents back home), I am going to divide the holiday into 4 posts, one for each day. I still journal like there is no tomorrow, but on the blog I can add pictures. And I want this record for the times I am feeling low in America- I can read back through and remember the awesomeness that is Rome.
After a 4am start, Rhys and I wasted no time in falling straight asleep on the plane. Usually I dread long flights, but I could have handled a few more hours of sleeping this time. However a mere two and half hours of sleep later, we landed in Rome. Sunny and 15 (60's) a nice change from the crap, rainy 5 (30) we left in Wales. As Rhys and I like to consider ourselves 'seasoned travellers' we bypassed the easy jet offer of €8 tickets to the center terminal and decided to do it the local way. We managed to get around and find the local bus, a measly €1.20 to the center. funny thing? the same people on our flight who bought the easy jet tickets were on our bus. look how excited we are at saving the money....pays to shop around.
45 minutes later we had managed to find the right train and make it to our tube stop for the hostel. Finding our hostel proved to be not as easy. We had directions and street names, yet it took nearly an hour of walking up and down, asking people, and going around in circles to find the right building. No thanks to the shop owner who said "ah, so so, i donta know but kind of where-a to go. this way, no the other way. ah, so so. maybe I dont know whicha way to go" nice man, but not so helpful.
I thought I had booked a hostel. In reality, I had booked a B & B. And by B & B I mean a mans flat with 3 extra bedrooms that he rented out. And he smoked. a lot. The positive side? He was very friendly, we had our own room/bathroom and the flat was close to the tube stop. the down side? He smoked. a lot. As the weather was so nice, we could open a window and the room mostly aired out by the end of the day. ah, crazy smoking Italians....
As soon as we shed our bags, Rhys and I were out the door to explore. Our first stop was St. Peter's Square.
After the square we decided to head over to Castel Sant' Angelo and pay for our first visit to ancient Rome. Well worth the €16 it cost for the two of us to get in, the castle was unbelievable.
Castel Sant' Angelo was originally begun by Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Work started in 128 AD and the structure was finished one year after Hadrian's death in 139 AD. Over the years the building was used as burial grounds, a palace, a prison, and even official papal property. Marble and stone was taken from this building for use in St. Peter's basilica. It was pillaged in the middle ages and elaborately decorated by several popes. In the late 1800's it was occupied by French troops and finally made into a museum in 1930. What we see today is what remains- a really old, historically amazing building.
In fact it is so old that there are signs everywhere like the one below. Age of Hadrian. People that is OLD. Even if you do not enjoy history as much as I do, you can appreciate the importance of this.
Below is a picture of the original burial chamber of Hadrian.
Here I am in one of the top walk ways, you know, just standing in a spot where Hadrian could have stood- 2000 years ago! crazy. Or let me put it this way- this walkway where I am standing is over 1500 years older than America as a country.
The castle provided incredible views of the city. The pictures do not do the view justice, but it was the best we could do with a point and shoot camera. Believe me when I say it was breathtakingly beautiful.
After an extensive tour of the castle and quite a few hours of wandering around the city, it was time for dinner. There was no discussion of where to go, it was already decided. The Hard Rock Cafe.
Hard Rock Cafe is our 'thing'. It started 6 years ago in Barcelona. We couldn't decide on a place to eat and somehow ended up at the Hard Rock. We spent the entire night talking about music. Since then we have tried to hit a Hard Rock Cafe in every major city we have been to. And we still spend the majority of the evening discussing music. It is just as awesome 6 years later as it was that very first night. Barcelona, New York, London, Dallas, Paris and now Rome. Here we are enjoying our traditional Hard Rock Cafe meal.
After dinner we decided to walk back to our flat instead of using the tube. That and the tube was closed from 9pm on due to work. But hey, why not make the most of a gorgeous evening? We walked and walked and walked. And then walked some more. After a few turns down some side streets and a couple funny street names, we were lost. In front of a giant, ancient obelisk, but lost none the less. I, or course, decided to document the map moment with yet another self picture. (yes, rhys did get sick of the pictures. his facial expressions start to show it...)
But we managed to find our way (thanks to Rhys' awesome map reading skills) and shortly found ourselves in front of the Pantheon.
The building, originally built in 27 BC to commemorate victory over Antony and Celopatra, was damaged and rebuilt several times over the years. It is assumed (with quite a bit of certainty) that the building we see today was actually built/modified by Hadrian in 118 AD. It was closed under the first Christian emperor, pillaged by the Goths, eventually restored by a pope and today open to the public as arguably one of the most famous of the Roman ruins. I say 'ruin' but in actuality it is wonderfully preserved and quite a bold symbol of the capability and enormity of Roman skill and architecture. (i have a feeling that I will type that exact sentence several more times over the coming days)The Pantheon is an incredible structure to see.
As we wandered around the streets, we gradually made our way back to the Castel Sant' Angelo and the Ponte Sant' Angelo. It was beautiful lit up for the night, reflecting off the water. It was a sight worth seeing in the day, but well worth the visit at night.
Our last stop of the day, which ended up being our last stop every single day, was St. Peter's Square at night. It was deserted, again off season Rome, and beautiful. Most nights we were the only two people in the square. Well, us and the two Polizia that rode around on a golf cart. It was so peaceful. Our first night we spent a good while just walking around the square, holding hands and enjoying each other. Eventually we headed back to our place. It had been a long day, but an amazing one. First day was a success.