How do you see an ancient and historic city such as Rome in less than three full days? You walk fast, have good shoes, can go without sitting for a while, and don’t mind being out for 12 hours.
We did all of the above, and while I was completely exhausted at the end of every day and had sensations in my feet and legs that I didn’t know were possible, we were able to see almost all of the highlights of Rome–the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum (and tour the inside), the Spanish Steps, Michelangelo’s Moses, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We also were able to stumble upon some sites that are less well-known but that we loved, like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Campo dei Fiori, which is a plaza with good shopping and bars.
The major two sites that we did not get to see were the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms in the Musei Vaticani and the Borghese Museum, which has works by Caravaggio, Bernini, and other extremely famous artists.
The Sistine Chapel did not work out because we did not realize that it was a separate entrance for the Musei Vaticani than for St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited an hour and a half (or from the space between the ellipses of the piazza through one whole ellipse) to get inside St. Peter’s Basilica. It was amazing to see Michelangelo’s Pieta and the grandiose church. The gold baldacchino, or altar canopy, that Bernini designed was also really amazing to see. I could have sat in the church for hours and still not have noticed all of the details of the church.
However, when I asked one of the security guards which way to go to the Sistine Chapel, my heart sunk when he told me that you had to go out of the piazza and around the Vatican wall to get to the entrance. Not only that, but he told me it closed at 4 p.m. and it was currently 3:48. Three of us sprinted to try to get in, and Pat made it in but Becca and I got there at 4:03 and were not allowed in. As an art history nerd, I was completely devastated. Who goes to Rome and doesn’t see the Sistine Chapel? We decided to eat our feelings in gelato while we waited for Pat and sat down across the street. Ten minutes later it is a full-fledged thunderstorm, and we get completely soaked. The weather has never reflected my mood so perfectly.
However, after brooding for a bit, I remembered I was still in Rome and tried to cheer up. We found a cafe with free Wi-Fi (an extremely hot commodity when traveling abroad) and I got brushetta and an espresso, so that helped my mood. We then shopped a bit and I got myself an Italian leather bag, skirt, and some jewelry so the retail therapy also helped my mood.
It is impossible to be able to talk about all of our adventures and what we saw in Rome, but it was the trip of a lifetime. It was not very similar to Paris–it also had charm and the people were easier to converse with because of my background in Spanish, but the Metro was not as convenient and the streets were more narrow, which caused us to accidentally bump into most of the sights we saw. Whereas in Paris it’s easier to find the direct route to somewhere, in Rome we had to figure out how to head in the general direction and then hope that we got there. Rome also helped me be more self-sufficient and learn how to navigate a foreign city with nothing more than a Metro map and some common sense. It had pushier street salesmen, but less pickpockets, than Paris. It also had more of a contrast of the old and the new, since they did not have a Baron Haussman to redesign and modernize their city. Buildings are a multitude of gorgeous colors, ancient ruins are tucked within the city, and you never know if the cobbled roads will lead you to a great cafe or a great shop with handmade jewelry.
We had stressful travels and may have gotten separated once or twice (and then had a tough time meeting back up because no one had service or Wi-Fi), but being able to see the center of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church was incredible and definitely the trip of a lifetime.