Touchdown in RomaJuly 28, 2013 - 13 minutes read
After a 12 hour travel time I successfully landed in Fiumicino Airport in Rome and boarded a train to Roma Termini. I always knew this time would come but I wasn’t quite sure how the experience would be. So I hit the ground running, perhaps a bit harder than I should have. After arriving at the train station, which was very interesting, much different I would say than a typical American train station. Particularly due to the amount of people smoking in the station. Even if it was clearly posted that it was not allowed.
My hostel was called PopInn Hostel located at Via Marsala, 80. Which was conveniently located directly next to the termini. When I walked into the reception area I was immediately met by a young Italian man and the melody of Eminem’s 8 mile soundtrack. The hostel had a very young and hip vibe to it which made me feel more comfortable considering I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I paid him and he gave me a key, and a map of Rome. We talked for a few minutes and he circled some of the sites and pointed out the various districts worth checking out. This was a complete blessing in disguise.
I thanked him for his hospitality and went up to my room on the third floor. I unlocked the door to my first ever hostel experience and was met with a room, 310 to be exact, no bigger than a corner room in my fraternity house which contained 3 sets of bunk beds and what appeared to be a pair of 90L packs, my worst backpacking nightmare.
I later found out they belonged to two Aussie girls who were also traveling Europe, later when they inquired about my pack and I showed them all I had they couldn’t believe it. Similarly to how I couldn’t believe they were toting two 90Ls like ancient Egyptian slaves building the Pyramids of Giza. At this point all I wanted to do was sleep, mind you it was about 10:30 am at this point or 3:30 am in the US, but the only way to beat the jetlag was to stay up until a normal bedtime.
I grabbed my pack, full and all and hit the road, Via Cavor, down to Rome centre, about 2 miles. On the way I wanted to follow up on some advise from one of my good friends and rent a scooter to see Rome. I went to the shop he recommended, but unfortunately I was unable to feel the wind blow through my locks. As a recently passed law did not permit visitors from the US to drive without an international drivers license. I told him it was ok and thanked him, and he responded by saying it wasn’t ok because he lost so much business due to. I said good day and parted ways.
I continued down Via Cavor to the centre of Rome. It’s such a beautiful city and I was completely mesmerized by the architecture. So much so that I was almost struck by a railcar while crossing the street. Considering I had been in the city for less than two hours it was not looking good. I managed to survive though.
The beautiful thing about Rome is that all of the current infrastructure is built around the ruins, which I knew, but was taken aback when I saw it with my own eyes. When I had reached what appeared to be the centre I spotted the Colosseo and headed right towards it. I guess it was the only point of familiarity thus far. It was breathtaking to see it. A symbol of might and the empire that was Rome, standing strong after so many hundreds of years. Representing a city which once ruled them all. I stood there in front of it for what seemed to be ages and just pondered my life and the moment I was living in.
Throughout the day I did quite a bit of backtracking and walking in circles, getting lost, pushing through tourists, and fighting off gypsies and peddlers. I enjoyed it though. Isn’t that the fun part? Getting lost in a city you don’t know.
I saw many sights. the Palatino, Piazza Venezia, Santa Maria, Maggiore, the Forum Piazza Del Popolo and the Pantheon. Each of these amazing symbols of Rome could be described with the length of this post currently, so I will let you do the research. My mind was sufficiently blown.
I will however speak briefly on the Pantheon. Let me just say a jaw dropping sight. It does not appear to be much from the outside, but from the inside the it is a complete marvel. A dome as tall as it is wide (43m) and the largest masonry dome of its kind it is truly impressive.
One of my favorite parts of the day was while walking through the city I stumbled upon a grocery store where I bought a piece of watermelon and a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich. It was fantastic and exactly what I had imagined the experience to be like. I walked over to some nearby ruins and enjoyed my lunch. Such as peaceful experience.
My night finally ended at the Trevi Fountain. Which I somehow managed to inadvertently avoid for the better part of the day. After plowing through crowds for longer than i would have liked I could hear the water as I approached. When I turned the corner and saw the crowd of people standing there I was blown away. It was absolutely gorgeous. Thousands of gallons pouring out from every spot every minute. It was refreshing just to look at it. It was almost a spiritual experience. Alone I stood in a huge crowd, one with the beauty. I couldn’t help but fill my water bottle from the fountain. It seemed that many people were doing that. I’m not sure it’s what the Romans would have intended on, but it felt right. After I turned my back to the fountain, closed my eyes, and tossed a shiny silver American quarter over my shoulder, making a wish while it happened.
Afterwards I walked for what appeared to be an eternity up a hill back to the hostel to meet my cousin who was to arrive by train in Rome that evening. We concluded the night by drinking couple of half liters of Peroni at the bakery outside my hostel and calling it quits around 10pm. I had been up for nearly two whole days at this point. I slept like a rock, in the heat, and it was great. Italy has treated me well so far.
The following day Danny and I walked to the Vatican City. We walked along the Tiber river to the city and proceeded through the corridor to St. Peter’s Square. I could easily say with confidence that the Vatican is quite literally the most mysterious place I have ever been. Something to be marveled. The Basilica, taking over a century to build, and at the hand of Michelangelo himself it is astounding. As we sat on the steps which make up the corridor to the Basilica pondering life yet once again we decided to make the walk to the Vatican Museum and make out way through.
The Vatican Museum or the Palace of the Vatican as it is properly known as is made up of two parallel corridors with gardens in between, and the Sistine Chapel at the end followed by St. Peters. Each of these corridors are 4km long or 2.48m. It is the second largest museum in the world. Next to the Smithsonian Institute (I think) we made our way to the entrance which was quite a distance away. Miraculously there was no line, not even a small one. Which is insane because the line is typically half a mile long on the short end. I think I was due to a combination of it being 2 o’clock and the museum closing at 4 and the following day was the monthly free day. Anyway it was great. There is so much artwork thousands of pieces, it’s crazy to think that it is all essentially the archives of the Vatican on display.
My favorite parts were defiantly the Stanze of Raphael which containeds the famous School of Athens painting. After plowing through the museum we finally made it to the Sistine Chapel, what a site to see, or should I say a smell to be smelt. It was so tranquil, even with a massive group of people. We were accompamied by security who were constantly telling the crowd to be quite and no allowing anyone to take photos. It was quite an experence to see the creation of Adam in that high ceiling.
When we finally made it into the Basilica itself I was literally overtaken by its massive size and unquestionable beauty. The amount of detail that went into this is simply unfathomable. It makes me think of a very relevant quote by the late great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
In the elder days of art
Builders wrought with greatest care Each minute and unseen part,
For the Gods are everywhere.
It really makes you think about the conceptual details that went into designing as place such as St. Peters
After that day we headed out of the Vatican City and enjoyed some Aperitivi and Pizza at a small Restaurant .
My experience has been incredible thus far. I’ve probably walked close to 20 miles in the last 72 hours and I’ll walk 20 more in the coming days.