It is often said that Rome wasn’t built in a day; however, I managed to see it all in only one day. My semester abroad began in Rome at the very end of August when the streets were still full of tourists and the temperature was in the 90s. Our day began by visiting the Spanish steps. From the top of these steps, where a church is located, you get a breathtaking view overlooking the city, where even the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is visible. Walking down the historic staircase will bring you to a marble fountain and the Spanish embassy, hence the name of the stairs.
From here, I visited the Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda, a square that is perfect for enjoying a gelato and listening to the musicians that are always playing here. The Pantheon was once built as a Roman temple and was later converted into a Catholic church. It’s dome was the largest in the world until the Duomo was built in Florence. From here, we walked to Piazza Navona, which is a big square with many fountains, artists, and musicians.
After a quick lunch, we had a guided tour of the Colosseum. As impressive as this famous ruin is from the outside, I highly recommend booking a tour of the inside. The guide will explain the various uses of the amphitheater throughout the ages, including for gladiatorial contests and simulated sea battles, where the entire structure was filled with water! If you plan on visiting Rome during the summer months, be prepared for very hot temperatures within the Colosseum. I would recommend booking a tour in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds. After touring the Colosseum, we walked a short ways to the ruins of the Roman Forum. My tour included both visits and I thought that the ruins were definitely worth seeing. The remains of the entire ancient city center are still visible, including Circus Maximus, the well-known chariot racing stadium, and the homes of several emperors.
Once our tour was over, my friends and I walked to the Trevi Fountain for our much anticipated Lizzie McGuire moment. It was extremely crowded, but we pushed our way to the front and took turns throwing coins into the water. Legend says that if you stand with your back to the fountain and hold a coin in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder, you are destined to return to Rome. There just so happened to be a Venchi gelato shop in the same plaza as the fountain, which remains to be some of the best gelato that I’ve had all semester. After we were done eating, we returned to our hotel to rest before dinner at Centro. This restaurant had the most amazing salads and pasta, and is conveniently located near the Roma Termini station. A quick word about the trains in Italy: make sure you stamp your ticket by inserting it into the validating machines before climbing on board!
The next day we toured Vatican City, which consists of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museums, gardens, and the famous Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. The Vatican is the smallest country in the entire world with only 1,000 citizens; it is enclosed by city-walls, governed by the Pope, and protected by Swiss guards. The Vatican mints its own euros, prints its own stamps, issues passports and licenses, and even has its own flag. When I visited the Vatican, I toured St. Peter’s Basilica which absolutely took my breath away. We only had a few hours at the Vatican before departing for our next destination, but I was lucky enough to visit the Vatican in its entirety when I was in Italy in 2014. I highly recommend arriving to the Vatican early in the morning to avoid crowds and to have enough time to visit all of the sites. The Sistine Chapel is as beautiful as everyone says it is; however, it is usually very crowded and you are not allowed to take any photos. Another tip: Try to visit the Vatican on either a Sunday or Wednesday to experience a blessing or a Mass with Pope Francis and make sure to get there early to secure a spot! Also, if you purchase a souvenir in one of the many gift shops in the Vatican you can have the Pope bless it for you for free… an experience I would not pass up.
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