Sad to leave Barcelona, but Serena and I were pretty excited about our next epic destination – Rome!
Before I go on, the age old question: Is Roma Pass worth it? YES, it is, if you’re visiting Rome for the first time. The card only costs €25 for 3 days and gives you free entry for the first two museums / historic sites you visit, as well as the privilege to skip the line on those sites. It also gives you an unlimited access to the public transportation, which we found very very useful. A visit to the Colosseum (that also includes the Palatine Hill and Roman forum nearby) alone would set you back €13.50. Then we used our second free entrance at Musei Capitolini, which was €10 and on top of that we practically abused the unlimited public transport . We were also able to skip a LONG snaking line at the Colosseum, so we think the card basically paid for itself!
Day 5 – November 3, 2011
Rome Fiumicino Airport is located an hour away from the city, and they do have a train that takes you straight to the Termini station at the heart of Rome. We chose to take a shuttle bus from the airport though, since it costs €15 which is just €1 more than the train, and the shuttle takes you straight to your hotel. You can buy the shuttle tickets at the airport train station.
Anyway, we hit a little blunder finding our hostel. Getting to the building was fine since the shuttle dropped us off in front, but we had problems locating the hostel itself since they didn’t list which floor they were at! After about 30 mins of frustrated calling and ringing wrong doorbells, someone finally got us into our room. We were not pleased, but the hostel room itself was nice so iwe were happy again, and would recommend this hostel (called Luxury Rooms in Rome)… just make sure you let them know roughly what time you’re supposed to arrive?
So after setting our stuff down, we eagerly walked out and explored Rome.
The thing about Rome is, if you’ve seen a lot of maps before you’d take one look at the map and freak out because there are a lot to see and the city seems so big. But once you get down to the actual city, everything is actually within walking distance. It only seems big on the map because a good chunk of the streets on the map are actually small alleys, and most of them tend to be close together. It totally threw me off! I’m usually pretty good with directions and can find my way easily, but Rome was a bit tougher.
Another thing is for a city that is said to be 10,000 years old, Rome’s public transportation is surprisingly outdated. They only have two (really ghetto) subway lines running across the metropolitan part of Rome. The locals instead rely mostly on city bus which are not easy for tourists.
Thankfully the city redeemed itself – I would say in terms of sightseeing experience, Rome hands down trumps all the other cities we visited. Rome is an extremely old civilization, so naturally it houses plenty of historical buildings and these buildings are peppered all over the heart of Rome, right where people are living. It’s crazy how the Romans are literally living next door to some 2,000 year old ancient buildings!!
Anyway, we made our way down to Trevi fountain, stopping here and there to take random pictures of the city.
But we got lost on the way there (since I, being the navigator, overshot the distance) and ended up way south from where we were supposed to be. We ended up at National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, which was so grand and beautiful that we didn’t mind being lost.
Eventually we found our way to Trevi fountain, which was possibly the most gorgeous fountain I’ve ever seen! It’s the largest fountain in Rome and dates back to 1762.
From then on, it was just historical sites after historical sites. Best of all, they were public monuments so they were all free! We didn’t even use our Roma pass until the second day.
Temple of Hadrian, dates back all the way to 145AD, which was just a short walk from Pantheon
The Pantheon. This one made us go “wow” when we first turned into the area. It was quite impressive in size, and dates back to about 126AD.
Also known as Santa Maria Rotonda
The Pantheon’s dome still holds the world’s record for largest unreinforced concrete. I’m not sure what this means exactly, but quick google search reveals that unreinforced concrete simply means that there is no reinforcement bar within the concrete itself. Given the sheer size of this dome and the fact that it was build nearly 2,000 years ago, it’s a good indication of how sophisticated roman architecture was!
Despite being used as roman catholic church from 7th century, the inside of Pantheon contains statues of many different gods.
Sant’Agnese in Agone, an ancient Baroque church dating back to the 16th century.
By now we were really tired, and my boss Subha had recommended a place nearby for dinner so we called it quits and walked there. It was La Focaccia at Piazza Navona, and it was so good that I had to make a separate entry here!
Day 6 – November 4, 2011
Determined to see both Vatican and the Colosseum today, we set out from our hostel early. We took the bus down Via del Corso and walked past the national monument again. Pretty during the day :)
Also walked past the Trajan’s market ruins
And finally… at the end of the main road, it’s the Colosseum! I’ve heard so much about this place!
As you can see, the line to the colosseum was unbelievably long. this is how it looks like outside, then you get inside and line up some more. Thank god we got the Roma Pass :x
Took this later that day.. looks so pretty sunkissed!
Inside the colosseum, it was massive! The colosseum was completed in 80AD and has gone through nearly all of the known Roman history, including several great fires which renders some parts of it irreparable.
A horse butt that was found and excavated in 2008. I forgot how old this is but it’s amazing some details of the statue were still preserved!
Arch of Constantine, 312AD.
We walked over to the Roman forum / Palantine hills area, located just north of the colosseum.
Ruins of the Roman forum seen from above. History in this area dates back to 7th century.
It was magical to be standing right on the location where so many Roman history took place!
By the time we were done with Colosseum and Roman forums, it was already too late to go to the Vatican (plus we were tired). We tried to go to the catacombs instead, but it was off the map we had at that time and ended up getting lost instead :(. So we made our way back to the subway and had a quick bite. In Italy, they have this “happy hour” thing where booze comes with a buffet of food. This is called Apperitivi and usually runs from 6:30 to 9:00pm.
The food that comes with my booze. not bad. I really liked the risotto looking thing.
Then we took the subway and visited Spanish steps. We were too tired to walk up the stairs though!
After that, we tried to shop around the area but found that most shops in Italy close by 7:30pm!! how boring. So we headed home instead after a little souvenir shopping
Day 7 – November 5, 2011
Serena mentioned she wanted to see the head of Constantine at Musei Capitolini, so we tried taking the bus there. Except… we didn’t know where to get off and overshot our stop. Wasted 30 mins trying to retrace our steps back.
Also known as Colossus of Constantine, it was this huge statue carved out of white marble and was said to be 12m / 40ft high, likely to be made between 312-315AD.
After that we finally made our way to Vatican. Thanks to this helpful guide on Vatican city, we decided to show up around 1pm. We didn’t know where to go or how to enter Vatican, so we just walked to what seems like a good place to go. We ended up at St. Peter Square.
There was a LONG line and we were getting worried. We thought this was the line to get into Vatican, but this was actually the line to get into St Peter Basilica. The line looks long but it was actually moving really fast so we decided to stay in line despite people trying to sell us “Skip the line” tour tickets.
Inside St Peter Basilica. It spanned almost the entire block! Definitely the biggest church I’ve ever been in, with impressive decor to boot.
After walking out of the basilica, we headed to the entrance of Vatican city. I’m glad we didn’t fall for the “skip the line” tour earlier, since there was practically no line to get into Vatican!
We weren’t very interested in much else, so we made a bee line for the Sistine chapel for Michaelangelo’s work on the ceiling. Sistine chapel itself was a lot smaller than I anticipated though.
We spent some time in Vatican buying souvenir and having lunch before heading out. We basically had nothing more we wanted to see, so we spent the last night in Italy shopping around. I got my new luggage for really cheap, €25, around Vatican. It was of questionable quality but it lasted me through the last half of the entire europe trip and back to Singapore just fine, so I didn’t regret buying that!
Last dinner in Rome. This was a Gnocchi if I’m not wrong.
I think the last notable thing I want to mention from Italy is that they seem to be really fond of Asian girls – or maybe just girls in general? Serena and I kept feeling that we got preferential treatment and curious stares as we walk down the street. Guys are also a lot more friendly and willing to chat with us, though I’m not sure if this is just their friendly culture (and not because we’re asian or girls). They’re always very curious about where we came from!
Next morning we’re off to Florence on italian train! :D