In March, Bob and I had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Italy. It was a great trip! We started in Rome, then headed North to Florence, and ended in Venice. If you’re interested, here are some pictures of our few days in Rome.
After arriving in the morning and checking into our hotel, we walked to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It was mind-boggling to think the buildings and monuments we saw were nearly 2,000 years old. In the first few centuries AD, this area was the cultural, political, and economic center of Rome, and as such, the world. Now, modern Rome has grown up around it.
The next day, we hopped on a train, and headed South to Naples, and then on to Pompeii, which is a doable day trip from Rome. I recommend buying your tickets online the night before. There may be deals to be had for the advance purchase. That said, don’t buy them too far in advance, because you definitely want to see Pompeii on a day when the weather is semi-nice.
Pompeii was much larger than I thought it would be! In its prime, Pompeii was a bustling port city, and was pretty advanced. We saw the ruins of their baths, restaurants, houses, palaces, temples, and even a brothel. Some of the larger palaces had lead pipes for semi-indoor plumbing, the baths had heated pools, and the cafeterias, outfitted with heaters and coolers, offered grab and go food.
After a morning in Pompeii, we got back on the train, and headed farther South toward Sorrento. In Sorrento, we caught a bus to the Amalfi Coast, and got off in Positano. We bought a bottle of wine, walked down the hill to the beach, and took in our surroundings. We didn’t have much time in Positano, but it was worth going for the gorgeous views of the towns and the cliffs.
The next day, we spent a delightfully lazy morning at the hotel. After a long day of travel followed by two (full) days of sightseeing, a lazy morning was exactly what I needed! In the afternoon, we braved the public transportation system. Trains are very easy to navigate in Rome, but buses take a little more effort. We ended up on a bus that stopped near the Capitoline Museum, so we figured, “Why not?” After the museum, we wandered to the Pantheon.
On our last day, we headed to the Vatican. To avoid waiting in line for hours, buy your tickets online the day before you go, and your line will be dramatically shorter. It’s well worth the extra 4 euro per person. Otherwise, this could be you (we stood there, moving at a snail’s pace, for 2.5 hours):
The Vatican Museum was so much bigger than I thought it would be. It’s full of crowded hallways, and a throng of people moving through gallery after gallery. My favorite was Rafael’s galleries, which included this gem:
This is “The School of Athens” (Rafael, 1509-1511), which I studied in one of my art history classes. To see it in real life was breath-taking.
There’s really only one way to go in the Vatican (just follow the crowd), and you will end up in the Sistine Chapel, where photos aren’t allowed. After the chapel, walk back around the Vatican to stand in another security line to get into St. Peter’s Basillica. You can avoid both lines (the Vatican and St. Peter’s) by joining a tour group, if tour groups are your thing.
St. Peter’s was amazing–so vast and ornate. In every way MORE than I imagined it to be. It was an amazing experience to be there-no photos can do it justice.
After taking in the main floor of St. Peter’s, I highly recommend going down the stairs into the crypt, and then climbing to the top of the dome. The climb is a workout, but worth it for the view!
After St. Peter’s, we enjoyed one more meal and Rome, and headed back to our hotel to pack for our morning train to Florence. Good-bye, Rome!
- We went to: Rome
- We stayed at: Hotel Taormina (free breakfast, convenient to Colosseum sights, Termini train station, and a metro stop)
- We recommend: all of the sites we saw, with the exception of maybe the Capitoline Museum. It was interesting, but didn’t rock our world.
- We read: Rick Steve’s Italy 2015, and listened to his accompanying audio guides via his app. Most of the sites (especially the free and the most ancient ones) don’t have great signage. A guidebook is well worth the investment so you understand what you’re looking at. To save space, buy the e-book version and put it on your tablet or your phone.
Check back next Thursday for some photos of our time in Florence!