Josh Larson

When in Rome…

This is a review of the trip I took to Rome from July 3 through July 5, sent to my parents and published in The Stratford Courier. Enjoy.

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This is a review of the trip I took to Rome from July 3 through July 5, sent to my parents and published in The Stratford Courier. Enjoy.

View my Facebook Photo Album: ‘Roma’

Last Friday, we left for Rome. It was easy getting to the Valencia Airport (I just had to ride the metro to the end, about 20 minutes). It was easy enough to get checked in and through security, although I forgot that I’d brought my suntan lotion, and they confiscated that because it was over the limit of carry-on liquids. I went with Teresa, and we met 6 other students from our group who were on the same flight. The flight got delayed about 30 minutes, but it didn’t matter. It was about a 1.5 hour flight to Rome, and we landed in the Ciampino Airport. We took a 4 € shuttle to the Termini Station in the center of the old part of Rome, which was quite convenient.

I arrived at my hostel around 8:30 p.m. It was very American and had everything in English. Teresa and I shared a four-bed room with two strangers. It was on the 4th floor of the building and was very hot and muggy, so that wasn’t very pleasant. We were in the same hostel as most of the group at the airport in addition to two other girls. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 4:45 a.m. the next morning to make our trek to the Vatican. We stopped at a pizzeria to eat (I swear, there’s a pizzeria on every block in Rome…very different from Spain). They sold pizza ranging from 3 € to 6 €, which was a good deal in my opinion (not thick American pizza, but still good). After that, we journeyed further to find a Gelato place, which is the Italian version of ice cream. Very, very delicious and it was also pretty cheap, when compared to the gelato places in Spain. We got home around midnight.

After less than four hours of sleep, I met up with the group and we started walking toward the Vatican. It was about an hour-long walk, and we were lucky to have Sam be the navigator (it’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to be the one always looking at the map). I’ve found it’s really tricky getting around old European cities because 1) they don’t lay out their streets in blocks, but instead in random forks and such, with plazas connecting them and 2) the location of street signs is obscure (if they exists, they’re placed on a random location of the building on the corner of that street. In Valencia, they’re metal signs..but in Rome, they seemed to be carved marble blocks. Fancy, huh?). The Vatican was very exciting. After having read and watched Angels & Demons (a novel where Tom Hanks goes to the Vatican City to try to find the four cardinals before the get murdered and find the bomb inside the city), I was pretty familiar with the basic layout (as opposed to very having learned about it before). The first thing I’d noticed was that it was HUGE – you could see the cupula (dome) of St. Peter’s Basilica from quite a distance before getting to the entrance. The basicila was just enormous, and St Peter’s square was huge as well. With an obelisk in the center, the square is actually a circle, surrounded by a large wall (don’t know the term) with statues of angels surrounding it. It was amazing.

View of St. Peters Square from on top of the dome

View of St. Peter's Square from on top of the dome

Having arrived at the Vatican around 6:30 a.m., nothing was open. We walked around the edge of the city, and stopped at the entrance to the Vatican Museum. The museum didn’t open until 9, so we had to sit and wait. Luckily, we were at the front of the line and were some of the first to get in around 8:30. The museum was amazing – there was so much sculpture and art. Mainly sculptures. It was hard to comprehend how much work and time had gone into everything there, and how so many ancient people had touched this stuff. The highlight of the tour was going through the Sistine Chapel (painted by Michelangelo). You weren’t supposed to take pictures, but everyone was anyway. It was just spectacular seeing all of this stuff that was mostly done hundreds of years before North America was even discovered.

We got out of the museum at about 10, and walked back around to St. Peter’s Square to get in line for the Basilica. The line stretched around about half of the square, but it was only about a 20 minute wait. We got through security and paid 5 € to climb to the top of the dome. After nearly 600 steps, we got to the point inside the dome where you could see down into the basilica. The people walking around inside looked like ants. We climbed further up to the top of the outside of the dome, and saw a great expanse of Rome. It was breathtaking. I was also very sweaty, as it was hot and cramped up there.

We went back down through the basilica (which was also amazing…I always thought the other cathedrals I’d seen were impressive…this was better than all of those). Michelangelo’s Pietà, the statue was Mary holding Jesus on her lap after crucifixion, was in there as well, among many other amazing sculptures.

We left Vatican City at about noon. I hadn’t had anything to eat, so we found a little shop with 2 € sandwiches which were pretty cheap. We then headed toward the Trevi Fountain, which is a magnificent structure on the side of the building and, obviously, a fountain. It’s tradition to throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain in order to ensure a trip back to Rome. I only threw in 5 centimos, but normally people throw in 1 € coins. According to Wikipedia, there are an average of 3,000 € thrown into the fountain every day. We also visited the Pantheon (one of the oldest remaining structures in Rome, built around 126 AD). That was really pretty neat. I have photos of most of these that I’ll show you when I get home.

Next, we headed toward the Colosseum. It was everything that I’d imagined it would be since I’ve heard about it growing up. Very huge and magestic. I paid 12 € to go inside (which was probably a bit overpriced) but it was pretty sweet inside. We stayed in there for nearly an hour, and then returned to our hostel.

I took a short nap, and we bought some groceries from the store to survive. It was HOT, and we’d been walking so much that I was extremely dehydrated. We went back to the Colosseum at night to see the sun set and to see the lights. It was really cool seeing it lit up next to the moon. I also walked down to the ruins near the Roman Forum which were lit up by purple lights. We went back to the gelato place again and called it a night.

Sunday morning, we got up at 6 and headed toward the Spanish Steps. It’s basically a big decorated staircase with a fountain at the bottom. We were the only ones there since it was 7 a.m. (besides some street cleaners) but it was still pretty neat. We headed back to the hostel, packed, and headed back for our shuttle back to the airport. No trouble on the way home.

Overall, it was an amazing experience. It’s so hard to believe you’re actually in Rome once you’re there, after hearing about it your whole life and seeing all the references in society to its architecture and legend. My legs are still tired (we probably walked more than 12 miles, according to our map), but it was worth it.