It’s been almost 10 years since I visited Rome and while so much of the city felt familiar — the Forum, the Pantheon, the pizza — the experience was very different for one major reason: So. Many. Lines. And they weren’t quick lines either: The wait to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum was more than an hour each. Part of the delay could be from the increased security. I conferred with my friends who I traveled around Rome with in 2007 and none of us remembered waiting to get into any of the sites or having to go through metal detectors. Or it might just be that more tourists flock to Rome in October, when the city still has lovely, mild weather compared to much of the rest of Europe (it’s already quite chilly in Geneva, for example). Or maybe Rome is getting more tourism as visitors stay away from other major European destinations out of fear of terrorism. Whatever the reason, prepare to be patient if you’re headed to Italy’s capital. At least you can grab some pizza or gelato to make your time in line go faster 🙂
Guillaume and I arrived late last Thursday and — after some difficulty finding a machine to purchase bus tickets — arrived at our hotel next to the Pantheon and grabbed a couple of pizza slices to hold us until morning. The next day, we checked out Piazza Navona — the former site of chariot races and now a gorgeous plaza — and then spent the day at the Vatican exploring St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums (home of the Sistine Chapel). Afterward, we pushed our way through the crowds to throw our coins in the Trevi Fountain and then hung out around the Spanish Steps for some people-watching and shopping. Dinner that night was at Il Chianti near Trevi and, despite being so close to a tourist site, was incredible. We shared a bottle of Chianti and I had the simplest but most delicious thick pasta noodles ever.
Saturday we spent the morning at the Altare della Patria and the Colosseum before heading back to our hotel to change for our friends’ wedding (the real reason we were in Rome for the weekend). We stopped by the Pantheon between the lovely ceremony and the party, where, once again, we had to wait in line to enter.
On Sunday morning, we woke up early to hang out with Pope Francis and were super thrilled to find that he was hosting a special event in St. Peter’s Square rather than making his regular Sunday balcony appearance. The highlight came at the end of mass when the pope boarded the popemobile and zipped through the crowds smiling and waving with his suited-up security team jogging beside him. Afterward, we picked up pizza from a tasty by-the-slice joint that we had tried the day before — it’s called Alice if you’re brave enough to face the packed counter chaos — and finished up our trip at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Guillaume was absolutely enthralled, but I was a little bit cranky by the end due to some serious blisters. A few hours later, we had trekked back to Termini station to take the train to the airport, squeezing in one last cone of gelato during the walk. Enjoy the photos!