Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Roman Holiday


I have recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy and am so excited to share all my experiences with you! My mom and I left the States for 10 days and traveled to Rome, Florence, and Milan, seeing the historical sites, shopping at local boutiques, and eating all the pasta. We tackled so much territory over our trip that I'm splitting up my recap into 3 separate posts—one for Rome, one for Florence, and one for Milan—so today, I invite you to read more about our time in Rome!

Spots To See

The Pantheon


Our hotel was located right near the Pantheon, so we kicked off our first afternoon in Rome (our plane landed at noon) with a self-guided walking tour (meaning we searched for landmarks on Google Maps) and headed to the Pantheon.

Built during the Roman Empire as a temple to the gods, this structure has truly withstood the test of time, and it was incredibly impressive to see in person. With a truly colossal dome and giant opening at the top to the sky, it is an incredible architectural achievement. Standing under the dome and staring up at the blinding sunlight, it was the first of many times on this trip that I would ask, "How did people build this?"

It's also a great example of how the Romans constantly repurposed structures to fit their current needs. Once a Roman temple, the Pantheon was converted into a church with the rise of Christianity, and it still remains an active church. It's a little sad to know that many of the original decorations have since been removed and/or destroyed, but this repurposing of structures is also a likely reason why buildings like the Pantheon and the Colosseum still stand. 

The Trevi Fountain

 

The Trevi Fountain is a popular spot thanks to movies, but it is a fairly recent addition compared to other Roman landmarks; it wasn't built until the 18th century! How modern! Still, it's a beautiful plaza featuring dramatic baroque sculpture and makes for a great photo backdrop.

*Pro tip: when we visited the fountain, it was a busy Saturday afternoon and we were lucky to get as close as we did, it was that crowded! Still, my photo looks like I'm the only one at the fountain. The secret? Go to the sides of the fountain (especially the right side, if you're facing the fountain, where there are no steps). There are fewer people on the sides, and it will be easier to snap that gorgeous photo.

The Colosseum and Roman Forum

 

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum. As a USC girl, this landmark was extra sweet to visit, but for true history lovers, be sure to visit the entire Palatine Hill and Forum as well! You'll be able to walk through the ruins of the forum and imagine yourself as a Roman citizen in 100 CE, and the Palatine Hill offers an amazing overview of the city.

If you didn't study the ancient Roman world in school like I did, and even if you did, I highly suggest attending these sites with a tour guide. Not only will you be able to skip long lines at these extremely popular landmarks, but you will also get key historical background that will help these monuments come to life.

For both the Colosseum and The Vacitan, my mom and I booked tours with Context Travel. Each tour is led by a high-level scholar, and they keep their groups extremely small (our Colosseum tour had 6 people and our Vatican tour had 4). I would highly recommend this company!

The Vatican

 

Whether you are devoutly Catholic or have little interest in religion, you should still make a point to visit The Vatican. Especially if you have an appreciation for art and architecture, you will find plenty to enjoy here.

For one, there is much more to the Vatican than the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican Museum houses so much art that it is almost a little gross, thinking about how much property the Catholic Church has amassed over the centuries. But all that aside, there are great works to see, from antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond. Our tour only visited a tiny portion of the museum; I could have spent days traipsing the halls and studying each piece.


Of course, the artistic highlight of visiting the Vatican is the Sistine Chapel, and it did not disappoint. I won't lie—I don't find myself to be a religious person—but I was nearly brought to tears upon entering the chapel and gazing up at the ceiling that Michelangelo obsessed over five hundred years ago. There is so much going on throughout the chapel that it is entirely overwhelming, and incredibly beautiful.

Again, without the context of an art history major, the Sistine Chapel may be too complicated to appreciate. Before entering the chapel, our guide broke down the visual narrative of the ceiling, as well as the paintings on the walls of the room, which was really helpful for getting the most out of the visit. 

Places To Eat


Obviously I ate plenty of delicious food in Italy! Here are a few of the places we visited while in Rome:
  • Ginger: this cute little spot was right down the street from our hotel and featured healthy Italian dishes like caprese sandwiches and even a juice bar!
  • Lion: While walking back from Piazza Navona, we walked by this very chic little spot and decided to circle back for dinner. The drinks were delish, and they had a really cool deconstructed tiramisu as well.
I also ate the most delicious carbonara by the Forum but I cannot recall the name of the restaurant. I'll try to research on Google Maps and see if I can uncover it!

Also, whenever you're in need of a break, be sure to savor time sitting outside and drinking a cappuccino or Aperol spritz. The Italians know how to sit back and enjoy an afternoon break, and it's something I think we need more of stateside! 


 

Where To Stay


Our hotel, The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, was—like the name suggests—centrally located near the Pantheon. It was the perfect starting point for our Roman adventures (seriously, I was pleasantly surprised by just how walkable Rome was) and was a lovely boutique hotel with attentive staff and a great rooftop bar,
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Rome lived up to my expectations and exceeded them. I hope you get the chance to visit soon!

I also want to give a special shout out to Next Page Travel for helping my mom and I arrange this trip! There were a ton of moving parts with us visiting 3 different cities over the course of a week, and she made it so easy for us to plan our days!

Stay tuned for the Florence and Milan guides coming soon! 


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I love hearing your thoughts! Thanks for reading! ♥︎Lindsey

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