The day finally was here. I was packed and heading to Rome to start my 45 day trip around Europe. The night before I felt a pretty awesome high, a euphoric blend of happiness, excitement, and success. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt only a few times in my life and is hard to explain. It’s been a dream of mine to travel and see Europe and I was on my way.
I was supposed to fly from JFK to Dusseldorf and then to Rome. But the flight to Dusseldorf was delayed for two hours, causing me to miss my connection. The fastest way in to Rome was then to go to Munich and then into Rome. I had to grab my bags and go through the check-in process again so while I had access to my bag I grabbed my USA jersey and threw it on. I definitely made myself a target wearing a USA jersey in Germany on the day the two were playing in a World Cup match and I rightly got my share of dirty looks from the Germans sprinkled in with “Go USA” from a couple American soccer fans.
The flight to Munich was fine and so was the flight to Rome. I was in and out of sleep on what was starting to feel like an endless journey but I eventually grabbed my bags in Rome and grabbed a taxi to the Pantheon, where my hotel was next to. I was planning on catching the USA game out in Italy since it was on at 6 PM Rome time and I was supposed to get in at 10:30 AM, but I had to settle for following the game on my phone, getting to my hotel just as it ended in a 1-0 loss which was fine as the US was able to advance out of a very difficult group.
My hotel was the Pantheon View Bed and Breakfast and it was way above my expectations. Don’t let the fancy name fool you; it was pretty much the cheapest place I could find in the area. But I was greeted by a very nice lady with a glass of champagne.
And the room came with a balcony, which had a nice view.
I met up with my girlfriend’s family, and grabbed some dinner that night. The food in Rome can be tremendous; generally simple dishes that are executed with freshness and flavor. The prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, king prawns, and some red wine made for a delicious first meal.
Finished dinner with an espresso, which was very rich. There was a gelato store next door and so I had to go with the pistachio and hazelnut.
The rest of the night was spend strolling around and catching the World Cup matches to find out who the US would be playing. The game was accompanied with some red wine. It was an early night as we had a lot of exploring to do the next day.
The Pantheon was a minute walk from the hotel. The area around the Pantheon has some good restaurants and places to hang out at. It’s a good place to people watch.
We hopped a taxi to the Coliseum for our tour, which was given by a very knowledgeable lady who was a history teacher. She was brilliant and a joy to have for our tours of Rome. Like many things in a city with history that spans thousands of years, the Coliseum was under construction. If the people who built Giants Stadium built the Coliseum, this is what it would look like.
The Coliseum is an engineering marvel. Built in only 8 years the size, importance, and beauty of the building is all around you on the tour. I learned a lot on the tour and won’t bore you with the details but it’s an amazing place.
After the Coliseum we walked around some more ancient Roman ruins. Our tour guide had before/after pictures of the area so it was remarkable to see what the place used to look like. The scope and scale of the history in the area is incomprehensible. Just walking a couple feet and there is some new remarkable fact. The history of Rome is layered upon the same space. The Coliseum sits on top of the location of where Nero’s palace used to be. A couple feet further is the hill of where the legend of the founding of Rome took place.
After touring the area we stopped for some lunch. We also grabbed coffee and a pastry at this little cafe. Freshness, quality, and simplicity are strongly represented in all good Italian food, including desert and drinks.
After lunch we went to the Vatican to see some more amazing sites. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, which I respected. There is no need for me to take pictures of it as you can find them all on Google. It was nice to see Michelangelo’s work on display and to see the world-renowned painting of the creation of man in person. It’s the picture where God is reaching out to touch man and the fingers are just almost touching. What I liked more than the Sistine Chapel was the hallway that we saw before going in to the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling is painted with beautiful gold paintings and the walls are covered which some brilliantly designed maps, which for the time were a marvel.
We ventured out in Saint Peter’s Square. It was pretty cool to see where the Pope speaks from every week and the chimney with the smoke that announces whether the new pope has been selected or not.
Saint Peter’s is stunning in size and detail. It’s the biggest church in the world. It has some tremendous artwork inside.
Here is a world-renowned Michelangelo sculpture. His work is impressive to see. It’s in another league when you compare it to the other work that you see on display pretty much anywhere.
We walked past the tomb of Pope John Paul II. I had to take this picture for my grandmas because they were unsure of where he was buried. He’s off to the right when you walk through the main entrance.
There’s a mummy of Pope Innocent XI in the church, which is amazing. The history and holiness of Rome and the Vatican can be spooky at times.
In the church is a statue of Saint Longinus. He’s the soldier who pierced Jesus when he was on the cross. Apparently a tip of the spear is in the column above the statue, behind the angel sculpture on the little balcony above the statue. My grandma told me many times that if I ever made it to Rome that I would have to see the statue. Longin is my grandfather’s name so it was critical that I saw this statue. The tour was over but I asked the tour guide where I could find this statue and she helped me to see it. It was an amazing moment for me to see that statue that I heard my grandma talk about so much. My grandma’s husband was very important to her and my grandfather is very important to me too. I never knew the man but I wish I had. Seeing the statue was very profound for me and I teared up a little when the tour guide asked me why the statue was important to me and I explained the story to her.
After the tour was over we left Saint Peter’s. We stopped in gift stores because I wanted to look for a gift for my grandmas. Nothing really stuck out. Both of my grandmas have been to Rome and to Saint Peter’s. My one grandma has met Pope John Paul II two times and she gave me a rosary that was blessed by him. They’ve seen it and done it all. There’s nothing there that I can buy them that would have any significant meaning really so I opted to not get anything. I’ll keep an eye out to see if I can score something maybe from the Notre Dame in France or something from somewhere else. But I really just want to sit with them and show them pictures and we can compare our trips to Rome, maybe over an espresso.
We walked back to the hotel, stopping for a Peroni. We grabbed dinner at this awesome Italian restaurant called Santo Padre. They kept bringing out all of these appetizers and pasta dishes and deserts until we couldn’t eat any more. There were many dishes that tasted so good; among them were the roasted peppers, an eggless carbonera, and oxtail pasta.
After dinner we went back to the area around the Pantheon and grabbed some drinks. This is a view from the table of the place that we grabbed drinks at.
After another night’s sleep, it was off to the airport to get rental cars and head to the villa. My girlfriend and I stopped at a gas station for food and had delicious pizza. They had all sorts of fresh food there like pastas and salads and chicken, and as they were leaving they brought out some fresh tortellini pasta which looked so good. It’s a major contrast from the food in the United States, where if you go out to a restaurant you may find yourself eating a frozen meal.
We drove out to the villa that we would be staying at for a week. It was a little tough to find but eventually we got here. This is a view from the backyard of the villa.
The villa is gorgeous inside. Definitely a nice place to be able to call home for a short while, and probably by far the nicest accommodations I’ll have on this trip.
There are flowers all over the place. There’s a groundskeeper who is working on the land throughout the day and a lady who has been helping us with things inside the house. She has baked some delicious cakes already.
We spent some time looking for a grocery store but they were all closed. For night we grabbed some brick oven pizza and spent time hanging out and having some pizza and wine.
Today we are off to Sienna and I’ll be hanging around the Italian countryside for the next few days. It will definitely be a nice and relaxing few days.
Until then, ciao!