We arrived at our final destination and the realisation hit me that our adventures were at the beginning of the end! I felt as though I didn’t want our adventures to finish. My husband and daughter were looking forward to this destination as was I especially to one part it in particular – a week with no itinerary down the south coast to relax and unwind. We arrived in Rome and headed for the taxi stand to be taken to our accommodation for the next 3 days. We took everything in with our eyes when we left the airport – it is so exciting arriving at a new destination with no expectations other than to be amazed by the beauty, history and culture!
When the taxi driver arrived at our destination, I was a little underwhelmed as he pulled up alongside an old building that looked neglected, graffiti covering the walls and a little deserted but it was only around 3pm in the afternoon. I had booked online and was a bit worried. The taxi driver stopped and said, the hotel is in there, pointing towards the door in the middle and I asked “The hotel is just here?” He confirmed it, let us out and put our suitcases on the steps.
We needn’t have worried as we walked down the front of the building, finding the hotel entrance towards the middle, as indicated and walked inside. We were greeted by a very friendly concierge, who called the porter to bring us to our room before bringing our bags up for us. We were surprised at the size of the room compared to the tiny room we had in Paris! We had a quick walk around the hotel to get our bearings as we were taken up a lift then up a few flights of stairs. We found the hotel housed some beautiful artwork in the common area which was unexpected. I have included some pictures of the artwork on display and one of the lounge area where a lot of this artwork was displayed. We were quite impressed!
The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Napoleon, it was quite close to the Metro line A and our first major attraction when we went for a little wander after finding something to eat close to our hotel. We stumbled upon the Santa Maria Maggiore, a beautiful large basilica only 5 mins walk away. It is an 18th century building and we found it looming above us and beautiful from the outside. Unfortunately, we had so much to see in our short time here that we didn’t get to go inside the basilica – we came close but realised we were dressed inappropriately. When visiting churches in Rome, your shoulders and knees must be covered and most days, the temperature was quite high (over 30 degrees celcius/ 86 farenheit) and as a result, we were dressed in shorts and singlets. So unless we had planned to visit a church, we would only see the outside of the building. As you can imagine, there are many churches, cathedrals and basilicas to see in Rome so we had plenty to choose from!
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore!
The back of the basilica
We were already in awe of Rome after seeing the Basilica and went exploring around the neighbourhood within a 10 mins walking radius to find somewhere to have a nice Italian meal for dinner later that evening. We walked past many and decided that we’d come out later and see what took our fancy.
We walked into a restaurant we had walked past earlier that was quite nondescript from the street. It had a little sign out the front and steps leading into the restaurant below street level. We entered and were taken to our seats, we realised it was deceivingly larger than first impressions would lead you to believe. The restaurant is called La Vecchia Conca and we found the meals to be delicious! It was cozy and served great Italian food, the waiter spoke English as my Italian is rudimentary at best! It was family friendly and locals frequented it as well as tourists so we took it to be a good sign. We liked it so much, we ate there again before departing. We found out a little later, a tip to eating in Italy is that if there is someone outside the restaurant/ cafe enticing you to eat there then it’s not worth a visit.
After our lovely meal, we walked around a little before heading back to the hotel to settle in for the night. The next morning we walked out to the bus stop near the Santa Maria Maggiore to wait for our bus. When we arrived, there were a few tourists already waiting, some hawkers were there selling hats and scarves. They were particularly persistant even when the two ladies said no, they would put a hat onto their heads. Luckily we were all wearing hats ourselves so were not bothered by them. This we found was a common occurrence where tourists were gathered en masse!
The first stop for our bus was where we also got off to explore as it was the main attraction for us that day – the Colosseum! We saw it from afar and could not believe we were so close to something we had only dreamed of seeing! Once we arrived, we were awed by the sheer size of it! Even if you have seen images before, it pales in comparison to when you are standing in front of and in it! We proceeded to the Roman Forum as that is where the visit commenced. We collected our tickets and proceeded into the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. It is such an expansive area with so many ruins, amazing architecture which we found was a great pre-cursor to the main attraction! My husband studied ancient history in high school and was blown away by the fact that you could touch artefacts that were thousands of years old and be surrounded by so much history!
Climbing up Palantine Hill is amazing, to see how the Romans built their cities, the views, architecture and beauty surrounding them was astounding! There were rooftop gardens, city views, temples and so much more! It really is amazing to see how much history was around us, in front of us, behind us and underneath us! There are still ruins being found to this day as they dig underground – they have been trying to build another metro line since the 1980’s but as they dig, they come across more ruins and have to cease! My husband joked that they have to stop because they keep finding more ruins before we knew that was the actual reason! It is a city rich in history and everywhere you look, you will find ruins scattered amongst the modern buildings – such a unique city!
Our ticketed time for the Colosseum was around 3pm in the afternoon so we headed out of Palantine Hill to grab some lunch at the metro station next to the Colosseum. It was a very warm day and we enjoyed lemon granitas with pizza – they were a refreshing, cool accompaniment to our lunch – when in Rome! We rested and cooled ourselves before lining up to see the Colosseum. This is what my daughter and husband had been waiting for – this was the highlight for both of them (and me too)! It still felt surreal that we were standing in Rome about to see the Colosseum even after being blown away by the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill! We passed through the security checkpoint and then were inside walking along underneath admiring the structures from below only to be blown away once we walked up the stairs which revealed the structure in all it’s glory! Walking around, reading the information, seeing the sheer size and detail makes you realise the engineering and architectural marvel as a testament to why it is still standing there today! Even though we took many photos, I feel the pictures do not do the Colosseum justice. Even though it has a macabre history, I feel it shouldn’t take away from the amazing structure built centuries ago that is still standing in modern times! I hope my photos do not want spoil it for those who have yet to see it for themselves!
After our day at the Colosseum, we hopped back on a bus to see more attractions and see where we wanted to explore the next day but there was one stop we had to make before calling it a day! We got off the bus and walked our way through the cobblestone streets towards the buzz of a crowd. We arrived to the one place I wanted to see with my own eyes – Fontana di Tevi! Yes, it was crowded, full of tourists, noisy and busy but we felt it was so worth fighting the crowds for! The Fontana di Trevi is the largest Baroque Fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. We all threw a coin each into the fountain to ensure our return to this wonderful city! I was advised by a good friend to visit the fountain at night so that was planned for a later date during our stay!
It was also the place where I sampled my first Cannoli in Rome and it did not disappoint! There just happens to be a great Gelateria and Pasticciera right near the fountain, it is called Don Nino and I recommend visiting it if you ever happen to be in the area! Our first full day in Rome – what an eventful day that is forever etched into our memory. We looked forward to more amazing sights in the days to come.
The next day we headed off in the morning and planned to visit Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). It is an ancient chariot racing track which you may be familiar with as it was used in the filming of Ben Hur. It looks plain and dry upon first look but has much history attached to it. We were amazed at the sheer size of the track and how it was used as an entertainment arena by the ancient Romans. From there, we walked to the Piazza della Bocca della Verita this translates to the Square of the Mouth of Truth. This is situated near the Tiber River and was interesting to walk around to view the remains of a temple, the fountain and park. The Mouth of Truth is situated near here in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church. We didn’t line up to take photos, we enjoyed the Piazza and the Tiber river instead.
From here, we got on another bus which took us to the Il Vittoriano. Romans don’t much admire the Vittoriano; they refer to it as ‘the wedding cake’. We decided to stop and explore this monument or ‘wedding cake’ as it affectionately known. It is very impressive due to it’s stature and those who love it for it’s beauty, views and architecture – it certainly delivers! There are great views back to the Roman Forum from behind. There is a museum to visit, galleries to explore and of course the Monument to visit and views across the Piazza Venezia when you get up to the equestrian statue, as the monument itself does not impede the views. There are also impressive fountains in front of the monument as most fountains in Rome. We spent a bit of time walking around, exploring and taking in the sights.
The next stop was Castel D’Angelo, it is built along the banks of the Tiber river – also with a deep history as was the case with many of the places we visited in Rome. It has been a papal residence and has a bridge that you walk across which has the statues of the apostles Saint Peter (holding a book, with the pedestal inscription Rione XIV) by Lorenzetto, and Saint Paul (holding a broken sword and a book, with the pedestal inscription Borgo) by Paolo Romano.
There is so much to see and learn in the city of Rome and we had only begun to scratch the surface! From the Castel, you can see the Vatican City and the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We wondered around the building and markets nearby where we bought some refreshing lemon and watermelon granita to cool down and walked under a water sprinkler to get some relief from the heat. The temperature was above 30 degrees celsius during our visit to Rome, so it was quite warm!
Afterwards, we enjoyed travelling around Rome taking in a few sights and stopped at Piazza Barberini to walk around and view the famous Fontana del Tritone, sculpted by Bernini. This piazza is named after the Barberini family who made their home here. There is also a smaller fountain called the Fountain of Bees which was the symbol of the Barberini family.
Fontana del Tritone
Another full day in Rome, where we did so much walking and exploring, drinking in all the sights with our eyes. We were thoroughly enjoying our visit to this city of fountains! The next day was also a highlight of our visit to Italy. We were up early, catching the metro at 7am to meet at Piazza del Popolo for our day trip to Pompeii! It was an early start but worth every second! There is a house with interesting history called Casa Longus, not due to the family who lived there but for the marble table on display. Servilius Casca Longus who was one of the people responsible for Caesar’s death. This table was auctioned by order of the future Emperor Augustus, as all of Caesar’s followers were stripped of their worldly goods. They are certain that the rich owner of the property bought these things at an auction then brought it back and put it on display as a proud purchase from that auction in Rome.
After visiting the ancient city of Pompeii, we had lunch in a restaurant in Naples (apparently where you can find the best pizza!) and then visited Volcano Sulfatara. We were meant to go to Mt. Vesuvius but due to recent fires, it was unsafe to visit. Volcano Sulfatara gets it’s name due to the sulphur gases you can smell when you visit (smells like bad eggs!) You walk out into the crater of the volcano and see the natural saunas that were used by the ancient Romans – the Mouth of Hell and Purgatory. These are aptly named due to the high temperatures (above 60 degrees) which were believed to cleanse and purify. You are able to sit inside the Mouth of Hell at your own peril!
Our full three jam-packed days exploring Rome were over for as we headed off to our Coastal escape on the Amalfi Coast. This post ends the first part of our visit to Italy, what we had seen and experienced so far had been amazing. We were looking forward to some rest, relaxation and family time to Laugh, Love, Live together near the water – our happy place. Thanks for joining our journey so far, it’s been great reliving our journey by writing this and previous posts, I hope you will join us on the next part of our Italian adventure – Peace and blessings!
Here are links to the previous posts of our European Adventure so you can read and follow in order of our trip: