We woke up in Sorrento intending to spend most of the day enjoying this coastal town, but some rain showers began during our breakfast (omelets and cappuccinos again) so we decided maybe it was best to move on to Rome. We hurriedly packed up our luggage so we could get on the 9:50AM ferry to Naples, we definitely were NOT taking the Circumvesuvio this time (too crowded and dirty, see Day 6). When we figured out where the ticket line for the ferry was located, there was quite a line formed and only a few minutes before the boat was scheduled to depart. By this time the rain was coming down quite heavily and the ticket line was barely moving, after a few minutes the ferry horn blew and the ticket lady called out for anyone heading to Naples to come to the front of the line. We skipped ahead, snagged our tickets and RAN all the way down the pier (about a quarter mile) dragging our luggage. We were winded and soggy when we sat down on the ferry but we made the boat with only a couple of minutes to spare.
We wanted to see a castle that Pamela had told us about in Naples before heading to Rome but with the rain and our luggage we decided to skip it. We hailed a cab from the marina to the train station and waited about 20 minutes for our train to arrive. We’d had trouble getting WiFi for most of the trip so we had been screen-shotting directions and addresses prior to leaving a WiFi zone, unfortunately we realized we had forgotten to do this in our rush to leave Sorrento so we had no idea where to go when we arrived in Rome. The train ride was just over an hour so we got to Rome about 12:30PM and decided to sit down in the first café we saw boasting WiFi on the entrance. We ordered a couple of Caprese sandwiches since we’d missed trying the tomato, mozzarella, basil combo when in Campania. We got a hold of our Airbnb host who said it would be best if we arrived after the prearranged check in time of 2PM, so we stayed at the café and got busy trying to reserve Rome sightseeing activities.
We wanted to see Vatican City, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and the Borghese Museum. Rick Steves’ book says that in order to do Rome in a short amount of time but still see these sites you must make reservations, otherwise it’s 2-4 hours in line before even entering each site – reservations for each site were all full for this weekend though and we hadn’t realized how far in advance they needed to be made (we recommend, in retrospect, to do this at least a week in advance if able). We finally found a 7:30AM guided Vatican tour and jumped on booking it; no Borghese reservations or guided tours were available so we conceded that would have to be saved for a separate trip. The Colosseum and Roman Forum entry were included with the Roma Pass which also granted unlimited subway and bus access for around 20 euro each so we purchased that while still at the train station.
When we arrived to the B&B we were again very satisfied with the accommodation, another private balcony with great views of the city and just down the block from the Colosseum. We opened our Brunello di Monalcino to let it breathe for a bit and then set out with just our Roma passes and Rick Steves’ guidebook to check out the sites in our immediate area.
The Colosseum and Roman Forum
As soon as we stepped out of our apartment we could see the Colosseum, it’s hard to really grasp how incredibly old everything is in Rome. The Roma passes granted us “skip the line” access, however it still took about 20 minutes for us to get into the site. Once inside we read every placard of historical information and then tried to imagine 50,000 ancient Romans cheering on human death matches. The base of the ring is open so that you can see the tunnels and chambers below where prisoners and animals were kept. The Colosseum really wasn’t too crowded inside and we spent about 40 minutes total reading and exploring. After the Colosseum we went over to the Roman Forum. The Forum was the center of public life for the ancient Romans and ruins of the important government buildings remain here. Rick Steves’ guide came in particularly handy here as there isn’t as much public signage relaying the historical significance of these sites. We read about the Basilica of Constantine, the Vestal Virgins, the Spring of Juturna and even the Temple of Julius Caesar where the former dictator’s cremated body remains. We spent almost 2 hours in the Forum and when we finished, entrance to Palatine Hill had already closed so we will have to catch that on the next trip.
Heart of Rome Walk
We wanted to make sure and see as much of the city as possible since we only had about 36 hours total in the city, we thought Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome walk” would be a good way to hit all the sites. The walk started in Campo de Fiori so we made our way across the city to the starting point. On our way we stopped at a Cathedral (we never figured out the name and there are SO MANY in Rome) we marveled at the opulence and solemnness within the building – it was almost completely empty so it must not even have been a “famous” tourist attraction but it was marvelous to experience such peace in the bustling city. When we made it to the campo we were hungry and sat down just off the square – this was the only bad meal we’d had in Italy, we opted for pizza and it was over-sauced, greasy and soggy. Since we opted for a place just off the square we really didn’t even have a good people watching spot, but one regretful meal in 10 days is not too bad so we chalked up the loss and moved on. A few minutes later we were in the marvelous Piazza Navona with three intricate fountains (one crafted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini himself) and busy with street performers, tourists and locals alike. We immediately wished we’d waited to eat here as we would’ve happily consumed less than tasty food with this crowd.
Next stop, the Pantheon, we were mesmerized by the façade of this 2,000 year old structure and opted to grab some digestifs at a restaurant across from the Pantheon so we could watch the sunset over the building. One obnoxious thing about this view was that there were 15 or so Indian men peddling little light up rocket things that they shoot into the air – it really seemed disrespectful given the history of the piazza. There seemed to be an Indian souvenir syndicate throughout Rome though, there was someone aggressively trying to sell you a selfie stick anywhere you might think had a view, or a little rocket thing anywhere there was space, or a little splat gak-like toy… it was so annoying trying to walk anywhere to have them up in your face selling useless crap – that was probably the only real downside to Rome that we encountered. It makes you wonder who buys enough of that stuff to make them come do it every day… we didn’t see a single transaction the entire time we were there.
After our drinks at the Pantheon, we continued on the walk, which took us to the Italian Parliament overlooking another ancient piazza, then to the historic Zara (hah), then on to the Trevi Fountain. We’re really glad we saw the Trevi Fountain at night because with the lights illuminating the overly blue water it is pretty breathtaking. Unfortunately there was a gigantic crowd covering every part of the railing and every decent vantage point, but we managed to force our way into a spot that had a good view of the entire fountain from the front. We took a couple of minutes to take in the sight – the fountain was built in the 1700s so it was funny to have us both think that it wasn’t “that old” and then realize it’s still older than the country of the United States. We continued on our walk towards the Spanish Steps… unfortunately the Steps were all fenced off due to some sort of construction, so we didn’t really get a good view of it, though the Piazza Spagna around it was huge and very impressive. We took the subway home from there and sat on our balcony for a bit with some wine – there was a bat colony circling the sky not too far from us which was a fun sight to behold as we wound down the night.