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Roma aerial view of the city, lots of buildings, trees, and monuments

European Adventure Rome

Roma

The following day I board my train for Roma. The train was half empty and it was a short ride so not enough time to really get into any conversations anyway. I only had two days for Rome, and was on a mission to hit up the sights that I’ve always wanted to see within this short period of time. I regret not having budgeted more time but I couldn’t leave Italy without a visit to Rome. It’s just mandatory, like Italian law or something.

My first stops were the usual touristy stuff, the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. I hadn’t bought my ticket in advance for the Vatican and instead took the advice of just lining up early afternoon after the crowds had thinned out a bit. It was also a weekday so that helped.

After just a half hour of waiting in line, I got in! I would’ve gotten in sooner if I hadn’t wasted time talking to those guys out front that pretend to work for the tourism industry but instead are keen on trying to sell you group tours. So here’s your first official travel tip, do not listen to those guys. They don’t work for the Vatican, or for the local tourism board. They’re just there to try to convince you to buy a group tour. I’m really not sure who pays these guys to stand out there. They even wear these fake badges that look official and I’m not sure how that’s legal but it’s Italy so no one seems to care.

I was on a time crunch and had to figure out a way to visit both the Vatican and the Basilica. Those same guys that you shouldn’t listen to told me that once you go into the Vatican you can only exit out the same way you went in and then I would have to walk around towards the Basilica and line up again outside for entry. But again the key here is not to listen and instead come up with your own creative solution.

So here is official travel tip number two: when leaving the Vatican, after taking your time absorbing Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel, do not exit through the regular door on your left but instead exit through the group door on your right. There are so many group tours going on that nobody checks and again it’s Italy so nobody seems to care. Just remember not to take any pictures or video and keep silent, shhhhhh.

After getting into the Basilica, I immediately got my ticket to go up to the Dome. I was offered the option of walking 550 steps for 6 Euros or 320 steps for 8 Euros. Of course, I went with the cheaper option. Not because I wanted to save 2 Euros but because being the avid hiker and outdoor person that I am, I wanted to feel like I earned it. And earn it I did! This climb is actually not that easy and the stairs get really narrow towards the top. It will definitely test those that have a serious fear of heights. A woman in front of me was struggling with this the entire way. Her husband had to help her and kept encouraging her not to look down.

I have to admit I was a bit out of breath when I reached the top and my feet were already sore from constant walking but the marvelous views made it all worthwhile. It really does offer the best views of Rome. You get to see everything! Just as advertised and not to be missed. The Basilica itself was also marvelous, and I actually enjoyed it more than the Vatican. The architecture and sculpture art were simply stunning. What a gorgeous building inside and out!

The next day I head to the Colosseum. This time I purchased tickets in advance for a tour of the arena, the underground and the third ring. The Colosseum was something I always wanted to visit and it required me to do it right. This is the only real way to see the Colosseum. Tickets are hard to come by, and they only sell a limited number. It’s a tour that’s offered by guides who work for the Colosseum and not some third party private tour. The tour had already sold out in English but luckily for me there were still Spanish tours available. So after navigating the sea of humanity outside, dealing with the unorganized ticket office inside and finally printing out my tickets, I’m in and ready to start my tour.

Once inside, I met and started up a conversation with two girls from Spain who were also taking the same tour. Through the course of our conversation, I find out that they’re both from the region of my family’s hometown in Spain, Galicia and Asturias. We end up taking the tour together and taking many pictures in the process. It was a great tour!

After the tour is over, we continue exploring Rome together. Taking more and more pictures and having more and more involved conversations. I end up finding out a great deal about them and they tell me all about life in Spain. We visit all the major must see attractions and eat some tasty Gelato…mmmmm. We took so many pictures that their selfie stick broke.

After hours of walking around my feet just couldn’t take anymore. Now I was starting to regret a little those 550 steps the day before. I still had plans that night and so did they so we parted ways in the evening and continued on separate paths. And yes, I’m sure you noticed I’m not mentioning their names, well that’s because I don’t remember but there’s a good reason for that. We were supposed to keep in touch afterwards but it didn’t happen. Chalk it up to international numbers or missed connections or whatever. It was a fun time! And I’m glad I had a chance to meet them and enjoy their company.

Later that night, I attended a couchsurfing meet up in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. It was a happy hour gathering at a bar that for some reason also included a vegetarian buffet. I met plenty of interesting people there who were visiting Rome from all over the world. We got into some really interesting conversations and exchanged different travel tips and stories. We also exchanged numbers and made a promise to visit each other soon.

It was rather chilly when I visited Rome and I remember asking the host for the event who was also a local if this chilly weather was a common occurrence during this time of year. Through shivers he emphatically responded that “No, it was not common!” in fact he couldn’t remember the last time it was this chilly in Rome in September. I had to catch the last train back to where I was staying so I said my goodbyes and went on my way with hopes of returning to Rome again someday.

Onward to Ischia and Procida

Trip photos

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