I don’t think I’ve ever had a weekend as packed as September 30 – October 2, 2016 was. All three days were full of the best that Rome has to offer, from the Vatican to ancient monuments to some really, really great food.
I started my Roman adventure with SU Florence. Rome is SUF’s “biggest” all-school field trip, as it involves an overnight stay and two days packed with activities. I chose to stay an extra night with a few friends after the SU Florence agenda ended, since Rome is such a huge city and an extra day would give us more time to get a better sense of it.
We left from Florence by train early Friday morning, arriving in Rome at around 10:30. We made our way toward the huge stone walls of the Vatican, where we split apart for a half hour to grab a snack and some coffee. After all, we needed our energy for our upcoming whirlwind tour of the Vatican. Then, we met back up at the entrance to the museum.
Security to get into both the city and the museums looked like that of a large airport. This was my first introduction to Rome’s crowds. Our incredibly talented tour guides somehow got us all through security together and into the museums, where unfortunately, the crowds didn’t spread out. No matter, though – we had art to see!
The Vatican museums were nothing short of incredible.
After the museums, we were ushered into the Sistine Chapel. Check that off the bucket list! I can still remember being at a summer art camp in elementary school learning about frescoes for the first time. My teacher told us about how Michaelangelo painted his masterpiece on wet plaster, piece by piece. At the time, I couldn’t believe it was possible. Now, after seeing it, I’m sure it was impossible. I guess that’s why they call it a masterpiece! (Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the chapel, so I’m unable to show you what it looks like. You can get an idea of it here, though.)
Then came the moment we’d all been waiting for – our visit to Saint Peter’s Basilica. While I do have photos of this one, note that photos alone can never do it justice. The sheer enormity of this space combined with the unmatched extravagance in its decoration simply must be seen in person to fully comprehend.
After that mind-boggling experience, we were given some free time to explore on our own. My friends and I decided to try to see as much as we could. We climbed the 320 steps to the top of dome on St. Peter’s, visited its underground crypt, and still had time for gelato afterwards.
After a very full afternoon came an incredibly charming night in Rome. The school guides brought us to our accommodation, an adorable hotel that looked like it could have been featured in an old Hollywood movie about Rome. Then, since all of our school-trip activities were done for the day, my friends and I set out on our own to choose a place for dinner.
Rome is famous for a few types of pasta, but the most popular are carbonara and pasta all’amatriciana. I decided that for me, night one was going to be carbonara night. It was so good! Full and satisfied, we set off for a walk around the city to see some of its most iconic sites.
The next day was “Ancient Rome” day with SUF. We started at the Colusseum…
…then moved onto the Roman Forum – the oldest part of ancient Rome still visible.
After seeing the Forum, we headed to the Pantheon. The Pantheon, whose name means “temple to every god” in Greek, was, well, a temple to every god. It’s in incredibly good shape for its age – it was completed in 128 A.D.
Then came an optional site visit to the Galleria Borghese, one of the most famous and highly-regarded art collections in the entire world. What an experience! I learned about some of the most famous and talented artists in history, and even recognized a few of the works. It was fascinating to see in person some of the art that I’ve been learning about here in Florence, and to see the subjects reflect what I’ve been studying, too.
I’ve been noticing a trend here in Italy – if the painting or sculpture is not a scene from the Bible, it’s probably a scene from Greek or Roman mythology. If it’s neither, just look closer.
We finished that afternoon with a walk through the Villa Borghese, which is almost to Rome what Central Park is to New York. It was a beautiful and welcome break from the crowds of the city. We had coffee at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè (renowned as the best place to get coffee in Rome and among the best in the world) and headed back to the hotel to check out. Since I was staying an extra night with a few friends, we left the school group as they departed for Florence and headed to the AirBnB we were staying at that night. On the way, we passed something I thought only existed in my dreams – ballroom dancers having a social dance in a piazza. Unfortunately, they were dancing one of the styles I have yet to learn (Argentine Tango) so I was unable to join in, but still, it was pretty cool to see.
We checked into the AirBnB, dropped off our bags, and set out for dinner. Night two, I decided, was pasta all’amatriciana night. Very good, and very spicy! Good for warming up before that evening’s rain came. The rain didn’t slow us down, though. In fact, we all agreed that the streets sparkled even more in the rain. And, as one of my friends so aptly put it, “the rain washes away the tourists.” We had beautiful the streets of Rome almost all to ourselves.
We used the next day to both return to some of the places we felt we wanted more time to see (like the Forum) and to check out a few other sites. We made our way up to Capitoline Hill, to the markets in Campo di Fiore, and to Castel Sant’Angelo. We stopped by Piazza Navona and saw the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (or, Fountain of Four Rivers). We took a little walk along the Tiber River, saw the Ara Pacis, and ended the day in what’s known as the best gelateria in Rome – Come il Latte.
What a busy weekend! I’m so happy to have seen and done all of the things that we did. On our way out, my friends and I came across something that summed up the city pretty well. Here it is:
Little details, big details, and all the details in between – visiting Rome was an invaluable experience.