July 22 (Friday)
We got an early start, we had to be out of our apartment by 10am. We ate all our leftover breakfast foods and packed up all our stuff. It was quite the adventure carrying our luggage down the never-ending driveway to our car.
The ride from Sorrento to Rome was about four hours total. We stopped about halfway to have a picnic lunch in our car at an autostrada car/truck stop.
Once we reached the outskirts of Rome, we had to find our way to the car rental return office. That was an adventure. We had to drive through some pretty intense Rome traffic to reach the return office. After about an hour of waiting and signing papers, we said goodbye to our trusty Volkswagen van.
A taxi took us from the car return office to our apartment; about a 15 minute drive.
Everyone got settled and unpacked. My mom and my sisters made a grocery store run. When they got back, everyone rested and napped for a couple of hours. We made dinner around 19:30.
We left to go to a nighttime tour of the Colosseum at about 20:15, the tour started at 21:00.
On this tour, we started at the main level where all the entertainment happened. We were also able to go down to the lower levels of the Colosseum to see where the gladiators quarters were, as well as where the animals were kept. Another interesting thing that we got to see on the lower level was the pulley system that was used to operate trap doors to send animals into the arena. It was a really unique opportunity to get to visit the Colosseum at night, with only about fifteen other people.
After our tour was finished, we headed to the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is an iconic, beautiful, must see sight, but the huge masses of people take away from its beauty. It was about 23:00 at night and the steps surrounding it were still packed with tourists.
Once we had weaseled our way to the front to take a picture, we headed to find gelato (at Giolitti’s of course).
Around midnight, bellies full of gelato and heads full of images of the Colosseum in its heyday, we headed home to crash.
July 23 (Saturday)
We all enjoyed sleeping in after the late night before. We lazed about until about three, when we left to find the Circus Maximus (per Peter’s request).
Peter had read about the Circus Maximus and the intense chariot races and other events that took place there thousands of years ago, so he really wanted to see it for himself. It was about a twenty minute walk from our apartment. When we arrived, we were standing at a pretty shabby looking dirt track. Dad said “Alright, we’re here!” Peter, in disbelief, said “No way! Siri must have taken us to the wrong place.” She hadn’t. In its prime, the Circus Maximus sat more spectators than the Colosseum and was an impressive place of entertainment for the Ancient Romans. Today, it is nothing more than a dirt track. Despite the appearance, Peter really enjoyed running around the track, picturing the people and chariots that had done the same so long ago.
After a couple of laps around the Circus Maximus, we explored around for a couple of hours.
We stopped into the Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva. Built in the late 1300s, it most famously houses Michelangelo’s Christ Carrying the Cross statue as well as the tomb of Saint Catherine. Although it was not one of my favorite Michelangelo statues, his work is always impressive. An interesting feature of this statue is a bronze loincloth that was added to cover up Christ’s parts some years after the statue was completed.
We then made our way to the Piazza del Campidoglio. This piazza, designed by Michelangelo for the pope, served as the religious and political center of Rome. While we were there, there was a military band performing an outdoor concert, as well as several weddings. We sat in the piazza for about an hour listening to the music and people watching.
For dinner, we went to the Trinity College Irish Pub. Some of us got fish and chips and some of us got burgers. My mom, my dad and I got Kilkenny beer to drink.
After dinner, we headed home for the night.
July 24 (Sunday)
We got an early start, we left our apartment by about 8:30. Our first stop was the Pantheon. We got there right as it opened at 9, so there weren’t a ton of people there-which was nice.
After about an hour of walking around the Pantheon and watching the light change on its dome, we headed right around the corner to get cappuccinos and pastries at the one and only La Casa Del Caffe.
We made our way to our apartment and chilled there for about an hour before we had to leave to go to the Borghese Gallery. We had arranged for a guided tour of the gallery and the gardens, which started at 14:00. The Borghese Gallery is most noted for its collection of Bernini sculptures, as well as paintings by Caravaggio and other Renaissance greats. Some of my favorite pieces in the gallery were Caravaggio’s “David with the Head of Goliath” and Bernini’s “Rape of Proserpina” and “Apollo and Daphne” sculptures. The way Bernini was able to use detail and movement in his work to transform hunks of rock into lifelike sculptures is mind blowing to me.
Once our two hour time slot in the gallery ended, we walked with our guide Francesco around some of the Borghese gardens. After parting ways with our guide, we walked around the grounds for a couple of hours.
We then made our way to a nearby gelato place, Gracchi, that our guide recommended. He claimed that it was better than Giolitti’s! It was good – but not that good.
With gelato in hand, we made our way back to our apartment. We cooked dinner and went to bed relatively early.
[click here to read part two of the Rome blog]