They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well, for the things we saw today, 1,000 words wouldn’t begin to do it justice. As one of our fellow Trafalgar travelers said in the Sistine Chapel, “today we became a part of history.”
From the Vatican Museum to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Plaza Novana, Trevi Fountain and some incredible local eateries, our tired feet covered all the best of Rome and more! And on our first full day with the Trafalgar Travel Director and Local Guide, it brought to life all the sights we’ve seen in the past few days but didn’t know the story to.
We’ll let our photos tell the story today…
We started our day bright and early at the Vatican Museum, where we met our Rome Local Guide, Fabiola. Her name serves her well – she was fabulous! Charming and very knowledgeable, she passionately shared the historical details behind everything we saw.
Above is the staircase that the Pope takes to get up to the Sistine Chapel. In the Chapel itself there are no photos allowed. Fabiola shared that Michelangelo took 4 years to complete the artwork, telling the stories of Jesus and Moses, covering the ceiling and the walls at the ripe old age of 35. When commissioned for the job, he was actually just a sculptor! He hired apprentices to teach him the Fresco painting technique, then dismissed them to do the whole job alone.
Here we are in the entryway of the incredible St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica they are working on restoration projects like the one above.
The massive St. Peter’s Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter and many popes.
St. Peter’s square is where Pope Francis gave his opening address on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, greeted by cheers from tens of thousands of Roman Catholic pilgrims. As some of our fellow Trafalgar guests saw, he also makes an appearance every Sunday.
Vatican City gets over 17,000 visitors per day! The benefit of sightseeing in Rome with Trafalgar – we got to skip all the lines at every major site, which surely saved us hours upon hours. We couldn’t believe we just got to walk right past all those crowds.
Beautiful weather in St. Peter’s square (you can see the entrance line wraps all the way around the perimeter – but no waiting for us, we felt like VIP!).
Next stop, back to the Colosseum. We were glad to be riding the Trafalgar coach after walking all the way from the Vatican City the previous day on our own. Our Travel Director, Giuseppe, filled us in on all the sites along the route.
We were still with our Local Guide Fabiola, who again led us around a line of hundreds of people lined up both inside and outside the Colosseum to get right inside. She told us all about the history, including that it was originally built as an amphitheater and later named the Colosseum for it’s colossal size.
Here’s a view of the original underground structure of the Colosseum (which as you can see from the back, was covered by the main arena floor). There were trap doors that lead animals and gladiators up to the surface, keeping the 50,000 spectators surprised as to what was coming next.
You really feel the immensity of the Colosseum inside, especially when you image the whole thing was once covered in marble. There were originally 5 decks, women and slaves had to sit at the top. Some 2,000 gladiators died in this arena – many slaves or war prisoners, some volunteers looking for their chance at fame.
After a short Italian afternoon nap back at the hotel, we ventured out on our own during our free evening. With our trusty hotel map in-hand, we made it to the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved original Roman buildings.
Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome.
Then, time for a gelato break! We got an amazing local tip from our Travel Director and embarked on adventure to find Giolitti’s, the oldest ice cream parlor in Rome, founded in 1890.
After waiting our turn in the busy parlor and choosing from dozens of flavors from the Giolitti family secret recipes, we both tried the Nutella and Amaretto gelato – almost too rich to finish! (Almost).
Armed with a gelato sugar rush, we were off again to find the famous Trevi Fountain and throw in a coin ensuring that we’ll come back again to Rome someday!
We were both awestruck by the size and beauty of the Trevi Fountain – a favorite sight to see for us in Rome. Just as with the Spanish Steps, the day before we were just a few streets aware and didn’t realize this icon was nearby.
Dinner was at Pizzeria Baffetto, a long-time local hot spot serving up traditional thin-crust Roman pizza. Delish! Good thing we went a little early (7-ish, they don’t open until 6:30p.m.) as there was a line out the door when we left.
Our closing view of Rome was back at the Vatican City entrance, overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica at night. What an incredible few days in Rome…we think we came, we saw, and we conquered the best of this amazing city. On to Tuscany tomorrow….Andiamo!