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A European Engagement: Rome

Mike and I had booked a midnight flight out of Santorini, arriving in Athens around 1:30am to save some money on a hotel room for the night, not to mention the cheaper flight option. We had a layover at Athens airport from 1:30am til our flight to Rome at 9:50am, where we figured we could just find some place to have a rest in the airport. We were so very, very wrong about this.
Most of the airport was shut down, as expected but the metal benches and blasting air condition made it a little challenging to get comfortable. After putting on every warm layer of clothing we had, we were able to fall asleep a little bit, until every 20 minutes an extremely loud announcement over the PA system was made, waking us up again. Around 4am, incredibly loud music started blasting through the speakers, making it actually impossible to sleep.
At about 8am we realized this music was an intentional way of keeping people awake since it slowly started getting softer hour by hour. Luckily it was almost time to get out of the airport anyways.
By the time we boarded the airplane, we were both feeling a bit sick from the lack of sleep, we caught a little nap on the 2 hour flight. Flying in to Rome we woke up just in time to see the Colosseum from the airplane, and get us in the right mind set for Italy.

Our air bnb host had provided us with information about taking the Terravision bus from the Ciampino airport straight to the Roma Termini Station near the accommodation location. The trip took about 30 minutes and allowed us the chance to see some of Romes' classical charm.

After checking in at the air bnb (they let us check in about three hours early, thank goodness!), which was located right next to the Ministry of Defense, we grabbed a quick nap and shower, we were ready to start the hunt for food.

Around the corner from the place we were staying was a little sandwich shop called Passione Panino. The man behind the counter was the sweetest little Italian man, who offered us some free water bottles and a soft cookie-carrot cake while we ate our fresh ham and prosciutto paninis.

At about 4pm we hoped the crowds had died down a bit at some of the bigger touristy places and took the short walk to the Colosseum. The outside of this arena is really something spectacular and grand, and it just sort of appears in the middle of the whole city.

Inside of the Colosseum, the crowds had absolutely died down, giving us an easy entrance, especially since we had bought our tickets ahead of time (absolutely recommended because the line to buy tickets was about 1 and a half hours long). It really is an amazing sight, and you can see why so many people flock to it day after day.

Being gladiators!

Near the Colosseum was the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, which is one the ancient parts of the city, and had absolutely stunning views.

By the time the sun began to set, we were pretty ready for a nice Italian meal. Walking back to our apartment, we found a cute little roadside cafe called Hespresso where we had our first Italian pasta, some carbonara and amatriciana (it had bacon on it!).

Our only full day in Rome we started by taking the metro to our reservation time at Vatican City. The metro had a sign pointing to Orlando which only made us cry a little bit.

The Vatican is its own country within Rome where the Pope reigns. We started in the Vatican museum, where we wiggled our way through tour groups to finally get to the Sistine Chapel. Since photos are not allowed in the actual chapel, you will just have to take my word for it that it's pretty incredible (and here are some Google photos to hold you over).

While inside the chapel, it's asked that the people remain quiet and even has a priest in the room for those who would like to pray.

The rest of the museum was beautiful as well, but I would recommend coming right before closing to avoid all the tour groups crowding the exhibits (but absolutely get your ahead of time tickets to skip the entrance line).

 {Pro tip: Always check if there is a dress code when going to museum or chapels, because here at the Vatican, all knees and shoulders must be covered, so yes this means pants when it is 93 degrees outside}.

Right outside the museum is Piazza San Pietro. Being that is was Wednesday, the Pope had a mass service in the morning, so there were way more people around than other days. After the service, the church and plaza close from 12-2pm, which is of course the time we were there. We could still peek through the barrier and see St. Peter's monument (said to be his gravesite as well) and a few other beautiful bits of the plaza.

(Note the man by the car who is one of the Vatican's few citizens)

On the way back to the metro it starting pouring so we decided to wait to storm out by eating some lunch at our air bnb. A few hours later we were ready to continue the sightseeing walking tour.

The first stop was Piazza del Popolo where we climbed to the top for a view of this beautiful city.

From here we walked to the Spanish Steps and walked from the top down into the fountain.

Rome is another city that does not require a lot of public transportation to get around (other than to the Vatican). The Pantheon was also about a ten minute walk from the Spanish Steps so we headed in that direction. The Pantheon used to be a Roman temple but has transitioned throughout the years into a church.

Since we had some extra time we decided to see one of our bonus stops, Piazza Navona.

There are so many beautiful fountains in Rome and you just stumble upon them everywhere. The water in Rome is some of the cleanest in the world, and in almost all the fountains you will see people filling up their water bottles. There are also smaller fountains around to fill them as well but the water is always cold and clean so we took every chance we could to hydrate.

Of course we had to see the most famous fountain of all, which was what I was most looking forward to in Rome. Our first experience at Trevi Fountain was extremely overwhelming. The amount of people around was similar to waiting for the New Years ball to drop in Times Square, and we quickly decided to come back later when it wasn't so crowded.

Since we were ready for dinner anyways, we retreated to Melogrand Cafe, which was right in the square. They had a deal for 6.50 Euros, you got four squares of pizza and a drink. There were so many different kinds of pizza to choose from but what I found peculiar is most did not have sauce on them, only tomatoes. The pizza was delicious though and while sitting here we had the amazing realization that we were eating pizza in Italy!

After dinner we had to have a little gelato (since everyone is always eating it everywhere here). It was so difficult to choose a flavor because they all looked incredible. In the end I got passion fruit and Mike got nutella-vanilla (there is Nutella everything here!), and I think this may become a new nightly thing in Italy because it was so good.

We took our gelato and Italian wine we bought up to the roof of our air bnb to dance to popular Italian songs like "Thats Amore" and watch the sunset.

After sunset, we decided to try our luck at Trevi Fountain yet again. It was a little less crowded but still fairly busy. The fountain is so incredible all lit up at night time and I would really recommend going to see it at both day and night time (because hey, when in Rome....)

I really loved Rome and I think it was one of my favorite places of our entire trip, and not just because I got to live out all my Lizzie McGuire movie fantasies, but it was just so exceptionally beautiful. For now I say farewell Rome, but I am sure I will be back here one day because it was incredible! Til then, we are off for our first Eurail train experience to Pompeii.

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