Rome, Italy – Europe Day 26 – June 22

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I got up this morning and made friends with my Aussie roommate, Chris, who was sleeping in the bunk below mine. He’d done everything in Rome yesterday, quite literally everything. We talked a bit and he laid out a route for me to take. I said I’d take him up on it and jokingly asked if he wanted to do it again. He did. It was only 9am and I already had a free guided tour for the day. I was getting off to a great start. We ate breakfast downstairs in the bar/common area, I’m finding out this is common in hostels. The breakfast was the worst I’ve had in Europe so far. It was free and I still felt like I was being ripped off. Shrink wrapped croissants with shrink-wrapped bread, jam, butter, the world’s worst coffee and your choice of carrot/lime juice or grapefruit’s foul tasting cousin.

I ate what I could and we headed to the train station for our epic day. We got off at Colosseo, the Colosseum stop. Walking up the steps into the late morning light of Rome, the Colosseum rises before you crowd surfing atop a sea of tourists. This was by far the most tourists I had seen in one place so far. It’s unreal how many people come to Rome in summer to see the sights. I was Waldo, lost in a bird’s eye view of half the Midwest and every Sorority girl in America. The line was outrageous so we went across the street to Palatine Hill, a graveyard of Roman architecture. Twelve euro gets you admission to both the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, a fact we would later exploit.

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The hill was amazing. Walking around you’re surrounded by ruins of ancient Rome, still being uncovered to this day. It’s incredible to think we are still learning about a culture that lived 2000 years ago. Around the perimeter, there was scaffolding unearthing more ruins and revealing more of this ancient culture.

After the hill, Chris and I walked to the Colosseum and skipped the line to buy tickets as we already had ours. I swiped my ticket and went in, Chris’ ticket didn’t work so he hopped the turnstile and a security guard yelled “hey.” We both stopped and looked over. He didn’t do anything. We turned and walked in. I was reconsidering the 12 euro I’d spent on my ticket, apparently hopping the turnstile was a viable option.

The Colosseum is big, really big. Its the size of a modern stadium and it was built 2000 years ago. It was comfortingly similar to modern stadiums with a round corridor leading around outside of the arena and various stairways leading to the seats inside, with a second level upstairs. The stadium was a modern marvel, even today. It had a semi-retractable roof of canvas to provide shade to spectators, and an elaborate elevator system below the arena floor to raise and lower stage sets, gladiators, and animals from around the world. I could go on and on about the Colosseum, or you could Wikipedia it. I suggest the latter.

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After the Colosseum, we walked to the giant white marble monument in the center of Rome, whose name I forget. Beneath it there’s a naval museum, or a submarine museum, or a shipwreck museum. I don’t know because none of the signs were in English but the museum was free and it had submarines in it. Walking towards the back of the museum, we came to a metal gate, another tourist reached his hand through the gate and turned the key from the other side, letting us and the rest of his group through. From there we walked down a long empty corridor, closed to the public, and at the end was a large wooden door about 12 feet high. Our fellow tourist/explorer tried the knob and it was open. Apparently, this guy was just going to do whatever he wanted, and I was keen to see how far he would take this. We all followed him in, ducking under the velvet rope and blending into the crowd of tourists in the museum we had just snuck into. This was another military museum and led out onto a large balcony where you could see most of Rome from.

Like San Francisco and Lisbon, Rome is a seven hill city. It’s beautiful to look at from above the bustle of traffic and tourists below. Numerous rooftop gardens add some green to the mix of red roofs and white buildings that form the color palette of the Italian flag and Rome itself. Across the seven hills, the densely packed houses appear to surf on waves of rounded earth, stretching for miles.

Chris and I stayed on top of the monument taking pictures and drinking in the experience.

From the monument, we descended the many white steps and bought slices of pizza from a runaway carnival vendor, in a brightly painted cafeteria/trailer with dozens of colored lights. We walked and ate on our way to Trevi Fountain. A very large fountain where tourists take pictures and tweens make out. Given those two choices and our age, Chris and I decided to stick to taking pictures.

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After the fountain, we walked over to the Pantheon. It’s a round building and home to the largest dome made of brick. At the center of the ceiling is a skylight that casts a circle of light on the ground, illuminating the otherwise windowless building.

We moved from the Pantheon to Castle Angelo where we took pictures and I walked around the building admiring its unique architecture. Sitting on top of the castle, is a giant round tower. It was neat.

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Next stop, St. Peter’s in Vatican City. Chris and I snuck into the line near the front blending in between groups of cruise groups, one of which was the Disney Cruise Line that carried me to Barcelona. On our way into St. Peter’s, we had to pass through a metal detector, which seemed odd to me. It showed a lack of faith on the part of the Catholic church. One would think if God was on their side he wouldn’t let anything happen to the church, or if he did, then it was part of his greater purpose, and the Catholic church shouldn’t fight his divine will.

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Inside St. Peter’s was incredible. As great as Notre Dame was, St. Peter’s was ten times as great. Everything was marble and gold and ten stories tall. Chris and I took a good half hour wandering around inside the building looking at everything in awe.

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After St. Peter’s we walked out to the bus stop and caught the express bus back to Rome’s central train station. The bus was hot crowded and packed. I felt like a sardine in hell, marinating in a broth of Italian body odor.

Back at the hostel, I checked into my new room, showered, air dried, since I lost my towel, and napped for a bit. I went downstairs at a quarter to pizza o’clock (8:30pm) and met up with Chris and some other people downstairs, one of which was a former tight-end for the Tennessee Titans, he was tall and white and I never got his name, but he lives in Ohio now. If this rings any bells, let me know. After a bit of pizza and beer, I made friends with a Chinese-Canadian by the name of Jerome and two sisters, Laura and Katie. We moved to Yellow Bar, at Yellow Hostel, down the road and stayed out til around midnight, talking of our travels and making plans to rendezvous in Florence at the Plus Florence Hostel on Friday.

I went back to my bed and laid awake for a couple minutes contemplating going downstairs to check and see if I had a place to stay tomorrow night in Naples. I had decided last minute to visit Pompeii and Alexiane knew a friend in Naples who I could stay with.

Actually being organized seemed like a good idea so I forced myself to go down to the lobby and get on Facebook. Marianna had okayed me staying with her in Naples and sent me her address. I had a couple of other notifications as well. Margaret from the Tampa travel group in Gimmelwald, Switzerland had responded to my message and was staying in the same hostel as me. I wish I’d seen this sooner, but it was no big deal. On a whim I went into the bar and low and behold, the entire Tampa group was playing shithead in the bar. We laughed, we cried, we said “hey” and I sat down to play cards. Crazier yet, Margaret and her friend were staying in a different room than the rest of the group, more specifically, my room. Margaret was actually sleeping in the bunk above me. The world works in mysterious ways. After a couple hours of cards, I said goodbye to the Tampa group and we retired for the night to our bunks.