I have to divide this post up into multiple parts for a very specific reason. You see, all year all our trips were trips. Not vacations. What’s the difference? Well let me tell you. A trip, in my mind, is a visit to a place where the focus is to explore, learn, and most definitively, get as much out of a place as we can. A vacation, on the other hand, is a visit to a place to relax. That’s it. No other purpose. If sight-seeing happens anyway, so be it, but that is not the intention.
Therefore, the two very fast and full days we spent in Rome were a trip (literally and figuratively, hah). We RAN through the city, saw everything that we possibly could, and were spent. A quick breakdown:
Day 1: Arrived, found apartment, and booked it to the Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Spanish Steps. All on our feet. In stifling 35 degree weather. While all of this was fascinating and really
cool neat, in the oppressive heat it became a check-the-box day of attractions. I was constantly drinking water (thank God for those free fountains all over the city), yet still thirsty. I think living in mild Amsterdam has made me a wimp in hot, hot heat. While very glad to have seen such incredible places full of rich history, at the time I could barely stand and just wanted A/C. Which, conveniently doesn’t exist in Rome as our apartment had no A/C and neither did any of the restaurants we ate at. Hmm… At least it cooled off slightly when the sun went down. After an unmemorable dinner near the Spanish Steps, we even got to enjoy a free opera singing performance there! So nice. But then we got lost trying to get home. Then I broke my sandal. And then we hailed a taxi.
Day 2: Took a public bus to Vatican City. Holy crap. Pun intended. (!) What a magnificent place. Regardless of your religious orientation, it’s an amazing place to see. We toured the 11 (!!) museums, craned our necks in the Sistine Chapel and saw the light (as you’ll see below) in St. Peter’s Basilica. We even climbed the huge dome to take in the lovely views of Rome. (As you can imagine, that nearly killed me.) We spent the entire day there. Although we bought time slot tickets in advance, it didn’t seem necessary, shockingly. Unless I blacked out as we passed a huge line to get into the museum (which very well could have happened), we strolled right up to the counter to enter. And despite a huge line to get in St. Pete’s later that afternoon, metal detector inspection and all, it moved really fast. It was surprisingly painless given the massive crowds of tourists and it being hotter than hell. Oops, pun NOT intended! Anywho, it was an incredible day.
Some first impressions about Rome (keep in mind, I was deranged from the heat and this might not be how it actually is at all):
1. The food was “okay.” I know, this is shocking. I mean, it’s Italy! One of my favorite cuisines! Rick Steve’s suggestions seemed to have sold out and become too generic, so we skipped those. And maybe we just wandered into places that were too touristic, too generic, too… microwaved, but there was something about it which didn’t seem very authentic. I wanted that grandma-in-the-kitchen, homemade taste and I didn’t get it. Maybe it’s because Tuscan food (the only other area of Italy I had traveled to til this point) is that much better? I didn’t know. More on this in upcoming posts about the rest of our Italian getaway.
2. People were friendly, but in that I’m-being-nice-to-you-because-I-have-to-since-you-are-a-tourist way. I had a similar feeling in Prague. There is no real intimacy or feeling of an authentic experience. Everyone is a freaking tourist. Everyone speaks English. I’d rather suffer through my terrible Italian than resort to English! In conclusion, I think these places deserve a little more time so you can escape the tourist funnel, get away from the center, and find legit non-touristy areas for that local experience I crave. We just didn’t have the time.
3. Scenery was gorgeous. Italy is very quickly becoming my favorite holiday destination. I love the twisty streets. The paint-chipped facades. And the cool thing about Rome is that you can be walking on a normal street and – bam – there is the Pantheon. Very beautiful mix of old and new.
4. I want to go back. Just not in August.
More on the actual vacation part of this trip coming soon.