In this blog, I will only cover one day – our day in Rome. I’ve been to Rome before, but it has been over 20 years ago! What has changed? The ancient sites remain the same, but there are a LOT more tourists visiting now. Locals will tell you that during Covid lockdowns things were quiet, but since re-opening, there is never really an off-season.
After a quick breakfast, I took off on my own again. Many of the other students were there for the first time, and wanted to do certain main sites. I really wanted to have a different experience, and to have the freedom to explore.
On my way to St. Peter’s Basilica, I:
- Stopped by the Trevi Fountain, enjoyed this magnificent carving, and took some photos
- Toured the Pantheon, this time, particularly looking for the resting place of the painter Raphael.
- Wandered small cobbled paths with antique stores, and small piazzas
- Grabbed my morning macchiato at a coffee bar, next to Italian businessmen on their way to work
- Upon arriving at the river, I was happy to see the Castel Sant’Angelo. The last time I was here I didn’t even see it. I would tour this later.
St. Peter’s Basilica:
I had enjoyed this magnificent site years ago, including climbing up the dome to the top viewpoint. This time, I planned to go inside and spend more time looking at the Pieta and other works. When I arrived, however, it was a made house. There were police and military guards everywhere, and i couldn’t figure out why. Maybe this is just the new way things are, post covid? I was turned away from one entry point, and tried another. Then I went through a metal detector security stop. Weird.
Well, the mystery was solved when I saw, through the crowds, that the Pope was there! Each week he gives a blessing and greeting to all in attendance in the courtyard in front of St. Peter’s. I knew this was a thing, but didn’t realize that it was every Wednesday. So I joined the crowd to watch, and wave and take videos of the Pope as he waved goodbye and drove away.
After St. Peter’s, I walked back to Castel Sant’Angelo and toured this massive fortress. Originally built as a tomb from the Emperor Hadrian in the first century, it was made a fort in later years, then papal rooms were added on top. If you can imagine, it is like the levels of a three-tiered wedding cake. Anyway, it was incredible! I spent over two hours there.
Then I joined the massive crowed crossing the bridge, going towards the Colosseum. I took a detour to the Jewish Ghetto, visited a church, found a different Roman amphitheater, saw the Mouth of Truth, the Circus Maximus site, and walked all the way around Palestine Hill. My last and final stop was the Arch of Titus, the Forum, and the Colosseum. It was crazy busy there, so I just took new photos and got out of there.
On the walk back to the hotel, I tried to take in the experience of my last moments in Rome, noticing the people, the shops – life, as I walked through normal, residential areas. I treated myself to a gelato, and heard a choral performance emanating from the open doors of a beautiful cathedral.
Rome is a mix of dirt and grime, but also amazing Roman-era ruins tucked in practically at every turn, stunning palaces, many religious sites, and street after cobbled street of restaurants, cafes, shops, and piazzas. It is a crumbling, but vibrant city – a true joy for the lover of history.