The final trip of my days study abroad has come and gone. Last, but certainly not least, my friends Jill and Leah and I traveled to Italy, where we ate our way through the lovely and historic city of Rome. We spent three amazing days in the Eternal City, consuming all the food in sight and soaking up that Mediterranean sunshine.
Most of what I know about Rome is from ninth grade history. Here is what I remember:
1. Rome was a democracy, then it became an empire sometime after they stabbed Caesar in the back (literally).
2. Romans had a weird obsession with taking public baths.
3. Roman houses had atriums.
4. Romans ate while lounging on couches.
5. The Colosseum was for gladiator fights, the Circus Maximus was for chariot races. They kept all the people happy with “panem et circenses” or “bread and games.”
And that’s it.
Based on those facts, ancient Rome sounds like it was kind of a strange place, but it’s still crazy to think it was the heart of one of the world’s greatest empires. Even though I can’t remember some of the technical details, it’s still seriously cool to be walking around Rome, picturing everyone wearing togas and speaking Latin, and thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m standing right where the Romans stood thousands of years ago.”
This was especially true at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Like guys, real Romans were here.
The most striking thing about both those sights was just the sheer size of the structures. I’m pretty sure ancient Romans weren’t giant basketball-player sized people, so there must have been a lot of stair climbing back then to even get inside all the buildings. It’s also just crazy to think about the fact that they left all this stuff behind, and even though it’s dilapidated, you can still imagine how grandiose it must have been in its heyday. Kind of makes you think about what people thousands of years from now will say about us. Probably something like, “These people watched way too much reality TV.”
In addition to excavating some Roman ruins, my friends and I took a day to visit Vatican City and Pope Francis himself. I’m not even exaggerating…we got to see the pope! Apparently on Wednesdays, he comes out into St. Peter’s Square to greet the people, and we were lucky enough to get our own personal pope-sighting along with thousands of other screaming fans.
But our day at the Vatican wasn’t over that quickly. We then took a three hour tour of the Vatican Museums, which was well worth it because if we had waited on line, it probably would have taken us about three hours to even buy our tickets. It was perhaps the longest line I had ever seen in my life, snaking around the perimeter of Vatican City, and I will never understand why saving 20 euros is worth that wait. There was also an extreme amount of people visiting the Vatican in general because we inadvertently chose the prime week between Easter and the canonization of two popes to come to Rome, so it’s probably just regular crowded most days, as opposed to the heinous crowds we experienced throughout the whole thing.
Anyway, we saw enough art to last a lifetime, but I can’t even say I was bored of it because everything you looked at was so incredible that you never even had a chance to get bored. The Sistine Chapel should truly be one of the wonders of the world — everyone should go see that once in their life. I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was done in four years, and that Michelangelo was laying on his back the whole time he was painting and that the man considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. That guy had some serious talent, and also probably neck pain.
St. Peter’s Basilica was also amazing and huge and elaborate and breathtaking. Words just can’t describe, so instead, just look at some Vatican pictures.
Aside from those big tourist attractions we just did a lot of walking to the smaller ones scattered throughout the city. The Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo — where we watched a mime perform for about a half hour because we were so exhausted from walking — and the Trevi Fountain, which we actually saw about three times as we went from place to place. At one point, we decided to walk into a random church, only to find one of the most incredible painted ceilings I’ve ever laid eyes on. I bet stuff like that casually happens all the time in Rome.
And aside from all the walking, there was a lot of eating. I’m not even going to get into the food. All I have to say is pizza, pasta, gelato, tiramisu, wine.
To top it all off, the weather in Rome was heavenly. I think living in London has made me a weather-conscious nut because my mood each day now depends of the amount of cloud cover that day. But Rome was honest-to-God humid. Maybe even tropical. And so so sunny. While normally I would be irritated by the expanding mass of my hair, I’ve never appreciated humidity more. I even got a sunburn. It was great.
Overall, our trip to Roma was a perfect finale to the abroad travels. If all roads really lead to Rome, I’m on board.