We met Aldo at the port at 7:45. He is the owner of Your Tour in Italy, the company we also used yesterday for Naples. He whisked us away for our 1.25 hour drive into Rome. As we traveled, we told him how much we enjoyed Adriano yesterday, and relayed our experiences to him. In turn, he filled us in on the history of Rome, and all that we had in store.
As we drew nearer the city, history began to come alive. We passed through beautiful countryside, and then the old city walls began to appear. We crossed through them into the heart of the ancient city, where we made our first stop at the Colosseum. With such a full day ahead of us, we debated about whether or not to actually enter this ancient site. We decided to go for it, so we made a very daring dash across the insanely busy street. (Imagine in your mind a super-speed game of Frogger.) If we weren’t awake before, the adrenaline rush from that mad dash did the trick!
Inside the Colosseum, we were thankful that we had a guide that allowed us to skip the lines.We entered through the gates and went up a level, where the view was breathtaking. We were immediately awed by the sheer size and splendor of this magnificent place, yet sobered by the reality of the events that took place here. As we imagined the roar of an audience shouting for fighting to occur, or Christians to be executed, we were humbled to stand in that same place, free to believe in God without awful consequences.
Upon leaving the Colosseum we drove to the Circus Maximus, the remains of the stadium where chariot races were once held. There is not much left to the site, but our imaginations filled in the details. Despite the absence of the stadium, it was still a beautiful scene, as the remnants of the real Caesar’s Palace stand in the background.
As Aldo continued to show us around the city, he amazed us with his ability to maneuver through the busy, pedestrian filled streets. It was great having a driver who knew the streets well enough to avoid the traffic areas, and also point out the special sites along the way. At one point we drove up to a hill, hoping to get a great view of the Roman Forum from above. He said, “We’ll see which side of the bed they woke up on today”, meaning whether or not the guards would permit us to pass. We held our breath as we drove by, and were excited to get to the top of the hill. The view was phenomenal, as we could see the Colosseum, Forum, and other amazing sites in one panoramic view. Just wonderful!
Next we stopped for a few minutes at the Trevi Fountain. I threw in my coin, in the hopes of returning to Rome some day. We continued to drive through town, then stopped at a lovely piazza, Here we enjoyed the statues and browsed the street vendors. Dave and I eyed a gorgeous painting of Venice, done by a local artist. Since I had been drooling over a large painting in the ship’s art gallery for a week, we went ahead and bought the painting. A true Italian treasure for our home!
By this time, hunger set in so it was time to stop for lunch. We feasted on tasty pizza: thin crust since that is the way of pizza in Rome. It wasn’t nearly as fancy or scenic as yesterday’s establishment, but the food was delicious.
Bellies filled, we were ready to visit the Vatican. Aldo dropped us off in front of the museum, where we met up with our guide, Phillipo. Phillipo was great, very knowledgeable and easy to understand, yet driven to keep us moving along as necessary. Again, we got to bypass the long line outside, as well as within, and before we knew it we were in the Vatican Museum. From the moment we entered, we were in utter awe of the art collected in the museum. People really think of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, but the museum is phenomenal. The collection is so large that you could spend a whole day wandering through it, but Phillipo did a fabulous job of telling us where to look. Giving the highlights, he kept us moving forward toward the next destination.
We made it through the museum and began to descend the stairs into the Sistine Chapel. While we knew what to expect, nothing prepared us for actually being in that place. It is truly breathtaking, and seeing Michelangelo’s work in person was mesmerizing . We stood in awe of them. Then, we headed into St. Peter’s Basilica, which is also utterly beautiful and awe-inspiring in it’s own right. It is so huge (the biggest church in the world!), that it is easy to feel swallowed up by it. This causes one to lose all perspective on how enormous the art pieces actually are. I am at a loss of words to describe the beauty of the interior, as pictures do not do it justice. It’s one of those places you just have to experience to understand how amazing it is.
Our time with Phillipo ended out front of St. Peter’s, with a beautiful view of the front of the building. We took a moment to also reflect on the obelisk in the courtyard. It marks the place where Peter was crucified upside down for his faith. Again, we were reminded of how blessed we are to have freedom to worship God without physical persecution.
Back in the van, it was time to say goodbye to Rome and reflect on our amazing day. Rome is so rich in beauty and history that one can spend a week there and not see it all. However, Aldo helped us to see the highlights in the best possible way, making the most of our time in that great city. We conquered Rome in a day, and have had our lives enriched because of it.
Lisa is the travel loving, animal adoring, Mickey Mouse hugging owner of Dreams Delivered Travel.