Rome merges young and old together in almost every way. Modern technology in shops and cafes can be right next door to ancient ruins that have endured close to 2,000 years. New and old religious traditions come together through the Vatican City. Young and old alike travel to Rome to explore this historical city for themselves. It was also in the heart of Rome that us Topdeckers found ourselves, yet again, with our mouth and eyes wide open in awe.
The powerful Roman empire spanned across history for almost thirteen centuries. So trying to see all of Rome in one day is a lot like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into its tube. Absolutely impossible. With so much time under Rome’s belt, the impressive architecture and traditions abound. So much of Rome’s history is relevant even for today. Every small alley and large building reminds me that the events of yesterday shape tomorrow. Learning how this city grew personally shaped my own life.
After we settled into our camp ground hostel, we set off for an afternoon walking tour in Rome. Stacey, our fearless tour leader, led us through the busy metro and streets of Rome with ease. It’s absolutely unbelievable how world-renowned monuments and structures can just pop out of nowhere. For instance, we turned around a tight alley corner and BAM – there was the Pantheon. THE Pantheon. Right there. I wasn’t even expecting it. I may or may not have jumped up and down a bit. And maybe a bit of squealing. And I maybe even teared up a little. There were a lot of feelings happening, and those feelings just kept resurfacing at every stop. As I threw two coins into the Trevi Fountain – one so that I would return to Rome and the other for a wish – I was just beaming from happiness. We also saw ancient Roman pillars and the Victor Emmanuel II Monument. And of course, the piece de résistance, the Colosseum. I was in history overload in the best kind of way.
The next day a few of us Topdeckers headed out to have a full tour of the Vatican City. Let’s discuss the things I knew about the Vatican:
- It’s where the Pope lives
- It’s landlocked by Rome
- It’s home to the Sistine Chapel
That’s it. That’s all I had. As I person who fancies herself as a minor history scholar of all things interesting, I was seriously lacking in my Vatican City department. After taking the tour, however, I now have more information than I know what to do with. There are so many paintings, sculptures, and tapestries from so many different artists. Basically I just stared at everything going, “wow” or “ohhhh wow” over and over again. I know – I was very intellectual about it all.
Traveler Tip – Get a tour. I mean this. Book a tour and get in early. It’s worth every single cent. The line stretches on and on and on. I pitied the people that wrapped around the small city waiting in line. Also, security for the Vatican City feels a lot like going through TSA. It’s nice to have a tour guide who knows what they’re doing.
Us Topdeckers tried to embrace the Roman life as much as possible. We mastered the metro, which is actually a lot easier than expected (thanks Stace for your meticulous directions!). We went to a traditional grocery store and deciphered everything out of Italian. We also had a magnificent toga party with another Topdeck group which was a major highlight of my Topdeck trip. Nothing says fun like everyone looking like they’re out of clean clothes!
On our way to Rome, we made a quick side trip to a beautiful Italian town called Orvieto. The streets were as big as alleys, and everyone intermingled with cars and mopeds. Flowers were in full bloom, and the sweet smell would follow you down side streets. We got a chance to see a beautiful church high on a hill, and we also got a stunning view of down below. Though the trip was brief, it’s on my list of favorite stops.
What I ate in Rome:
- Wild Boar Sandwich – apparently this is a common sandwich in Orvieto, so I decided to give it a try. My southern side came out in full swing. It desperately needed some BBQ sauce for sure. Some of the Aussies said it needed some apple sauce. I don’t know about that.
- Chicken Fillet with Risotto – this was a meal that the Topdeck on site chefs made, and it was my favorite meal they did. It was so tasty!
- Lasagna – It was so good that I dug straight into it without taking a picture first. It was only halfway through that I came up for air and realized I should snap a shot. So that tells you how good it was.
- More Gelato! – I’m not kidding, I ate gelato every single day in Italy. During the Rome walking tour, Stacey led us to a gelato place that had 150 flavors to choose from. Do you understand how difficult that was?!? I don’t even remember what flavors I got. I just pointed to three flavors and went with it.
- Donut – I picked up a sugar donut in the Vatican City. It was a donut. Obviously it was yummy.
Thanks for following along on my journey through Europe! What’s in store next? Three days sailing through the Greek islands! Stay tuned!