Dreams do come true:  Traipsing around Rome, Italy
Photo taken by the author, Rome, Italy, June 2017

Dreams do come true: Traipsing around Rome, Italy

I didn’t expect anything from Rome, to be honest.  At some point, I even wanted to skip it and just stay longer in Prague.  But, my parents made the decision more set in stone – my mom is a devout Catholic and this is my way of bringing my travels closer to her; and, my Dad is a history buff and I just know that he’d be the most excited when I share with him pictures from Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  So, I searched for things to do in Rome, chose the places I would definitely want to visit, and planned an itinerary given the limited time that we have. After traipsing around the city, I can definitely say that Rome has become one of my favorite experiences. So, here, I share our itinerary. If you only have two full days in Rome and want to have a stop in The Vatican, this list of things to do can help you out. In case you adopt this into your trip, I hope it will give you one fine (and inexpensive) stay in Rome, too. 🙂

Getting to Rome

If I wasn’t too exhausted, I would say that the flight from Amsterdam to Rome was one of the worst I’ve ever had, with the relentless screaming and loud playing of a baby behind us and a toddler in front of us. But then again, thanks to no sleep the night before, I didn’t exactly mind. I was just dead to the world and grateful that I had a chance to recharge from the moment I strapped on that seat belt.

Hello, Rome!

After arriving, we bought our Roma passes and headed to the train station, which was just within the vicinity of the airport.  We took the train from Fiumicino Airport to Tuscolana for 8 EUR, which was not bad at all considering the convenience it afforded us.  We Google-mapped our apartment and walked our way from the train stop.  Since we arrived on a Sunday, most shops were closed.  It did seem like we were settling in the sorta ghost town of the city.  At one point, we were asking, “Where are the people?” Before heading back to the apartment, we went for some bit of grocery shopping at Trodis.  It was interesting because it did seem like they weren’t expecting tourists to drop there.  To be honest, I felt like we weren’t welcome in the place.  The cashier wasn’t that friendly, too.  At one point, Pat and I switched to gay speak, saying “Anong problema ni tey?” because we didn’t want to be understood.  While that experience pinched a bit, as soon as we got out of the grocery, we processed the experience and resolved that we would make the most out of this opportunity.  It’s only our first day in Rome and her near-rude question of “Si or no” will not break our positive spirits. To wrap our first day up, we decided on the things that we want to do on our second day in Rome. Since, Dhika will be leaving a day earlier for Malta, we wanted to maximize our only full day together in Rome.  We used my itinerary, Dhika and Pat plotted the places we’d like to see on the map, figured out the metro and buses we needed to take, and Rina was assigned to look for a tour package to visit The Vatican.  So grateful that they took over! <3

One full day – Things to do in Rome

After getting my first full sleep in two days, I woke up quite early on our second day in Rome.  Hey, so many places to see!  I needed to prepare myself for what would be a tiring and fun day. Our itinerary was from a combination of blogs and other website suggestions.  Rome is a very popular city and you would not really have difficulty finding blogs written about it – it can actually be pretty overwhelming!  While we were plotting our routes, we found out that we were set to tread the Ancient Roman Steps, starting with Piazza di Spagna.

Piazza di Spagna

We started our day slow. Piazza di Spagna is one of the famous spots in Rome and can get quite crowded as the day progresses.  But, visiting it in the morning gave us the opportunity to enjoy the more quiet time of the day, with less people, too.

Trevi Fountain

A few minutes of walk from Piazza di Spagna, you can find the famous Trevi Fountain.  I was not prepared for its grandiose beauty.  I see photos of it throughout my life and it never crossed my mind that I would visit the place as soon as I did. It was so surreal, a tad overwhelming, but genuinely beautiful. We stayed there for a few minutes and took the moment in. As this was only the second spot we’re visiting for the day, I braced myself for what might happen next.

The Pantheon

Our next destination was the Pantheon.  Having read about this place countless times in history classes, I was excited to see its inside. As we walked towards the Pantheon, a busker started playing a Beatles song.  It was heartwarming, as if the universe wanted us to remember the moment. Initially, we were scared to get  in, fearing that there would be an entrance fee that we couldn’t afford.  But hey, we got in for free! The place was super pretty, something I didn’t imagine.  I wouldn’t take my eyes off the very beautiful ceiling.  The perfectly carved details were so enthralling. It’s like being in a different world, a world I was not at all aware existed. We stayed at the Pantheon for a while and took our time appreciating its beauty.  When we’ve had our fill of its grandness, we set off to walk and travel again to a different wonder. While being mesmerized at the Pantheon, I had a thought bubble.  As an Asian, I am super happy and amazed visiting and exploring different countries in Asia, but hey Europe is a different monster!  Ours are interesting ancient designs, theirs are classically beautiful.  Even just walking around makes me realize how different the world I grew up in from the world I’m currently exploring – at least in terms of structures.  With the people though, we’re all equal.  It’s quite refreshing to know that Europeans, in general, are very kind and accommodating to someone who doesn’t look like them at all. <3

Piazza Navona

After Pantheon, we headed to Piazza Navona.  They have this beautiful fountain – Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini – that represents the 4 biggest rivers in Europe.  Thanks to Dhika for sharing this interesting bit.

Castel Sant’Angelo

After doing a round in the fountain, we walked our way to Castel Sant’Angelo.  That is one of the parts I enjoyed most.  We took our time crossing the bridge and strolling at the park, as we slowly took in the experience of seeing the structures and admiring their beauty. We knew that Castel Sant’Angelo was going to be beautiful but we didn’t know that it was going to be jaw-dropping. Entering Castel Sant’Angelo reminded me of the colors of the underground mosque in Indonesia, but its inside was Rome’s own.  The designs were deliberate and well-preserved that even if you’re tired, you wouldn’t notice it. Every floor, ceiling, and wall is unique and beautiful.  We stopped and appreciated each beauty as if we will not see it anymore anytime soon or ever. When you reach the top, you will have a bird’s eye view of Rome.  It made me feel like I’m such a tiny speck in this universe and there’s so much more I still need to explore and discover to experience God’s greatness. We spent the most time here.  We took our moment and sat by one of the benches.  I couldn’t help but feel tiny bit emotional.  Being with this group in exploring this wonderful place make me super grateful and blessed.

San Pietro in Vincoli

I was all for skipping this stop and wanted to just go straight to Colosseum.  I told myself, I’ve already gotten my dose of beautiful ceilings so I can let this one go.  But, Dhika, being the awesome person that she is, said, “We can just do it slowly.” Oh, I love that girl. <3 So, we did.  The church was as magnificent as I imagined.  We spent a few minutes there, admiring its painted domes and, me, just being grateful for the super awesome experience I was having.

Colosseum

The witnessing of amazing things still was not yet done.  With our Roma Pass, we got into the Colosseum super quickly since we skipped the line.  At some point, I wasn’t sure if we made the right decision in purchasing the pass.  But, that moment made it worth it.  We saved a couple of hours, which was super useful.  We were already tired from cramping a couple of days’ worth of going around Rome into one day, so kipping the line was a welcome treat. The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, as expected, was awe-inspiring.  Just being in a place where the gladiators fought in the early days of Rome, gave us a glimpse into the Roman history.  Whether it’s due to tiredness or otherwise, each of us sat in silence on one of the benches, taking in the moment, and enjoying the limited time that we were there.

The Roman Forum

Just within the compounds of the Colosseum, you can access the Roman Forum.  As this was our last stop for the day, we took our time walking around and enjoying the cool breeze.  Rome was so much warmer than (the very) chilly Amsterdam but the evening breeze was a welcome reprieve from that day’s hectic and fulfilling journey. We stayed at The Forum until it was almost dark and was kind of forced to leave the place after the seagulls were getting a bit aggressive and making noises that were not familiar to me.  Despite exhaustion, I pushed my body to walk as fast as I could, while being chill and just finding balance so as not to aggravate the birds.

Preparing for the next day

After arriving at the apartment, we rested while we all put our efforts in finding a tour organizer who can still accommodate us for our planned visit to the Vatican the following day.  We couldn’t find one!  “How committed are we in doing this?” we asked. Following a very brief discussion, we resolved to brave it through – wake up super early and head to the Vatican, even without certainty that we’ll be able to get in or if we were going to take that long line.

The Vatican

We didn’t know where we were heading to, and just followed Google maps, which was pretty much the story of this trip.  At one of the corners, someone approached us asking if we wanted to join their tour for 100 EUR.  Together with it, we will be able to get in 30 minutes earlier than the crowd and we will have our own English speaking guide.  While writing this, I’m thinking – What went inside our heads, that could’ve been a scam!  LOL!  But, you know, sometimes you really have to trust people, be quick on your toes, and stick to your commitment.  You may just be surprised at where it will bring you.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum tour was one of the grandest tours I’ve ever taken part in.  The Roman Catholic Church is indeed super rich.  Before we left Amsterdam, a friend and colleague commented that, after visiting The Vatican, it left him wondering why there was still poverty among the members of the Roman Catholic Church, given the apparent wealth that the Church has. Their art collection was something I’ve never encountered.  So, every stop we made left me mesmerized and awe-stricken.  My neck also kind of hurt because the ceilings were extremely, extremely well-carved and intricately painted. The only downside for me was there was a super huge crowd so we needed to speed things up.  I would’ve preferred for it to be a bit smaller so I could take a bit more time in admiring what I was seeing. Part of the tour was a short stop at the Sistine Chapel. While there was quite a crowd when we arrived, the experience was still so surreal. Knowing that this is where the Papal conclave happens gave me the chills. Add to that, we learned that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while standing on a scaffolding that he built himself. The intricate details of the painting left us amazed and grateful for such opportunity to see it firsthand.

St. Peter’s Basilica

After touring The Vatican Museums, we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica.  One that I’ve only read about in high school textbooks, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be able to see St. Peter’s Basilica in real life. At one point, I just knelt and prayed on one of the pews.  While praying for people dear to me, I was slowly engulfed in overwhelming gratitude.  A spillover from meeting the wonderful team in Amsterdam that I helped build, seeing old and new friends, and bonding with the awesome, awesome HR team, having had the opportunity to visit Europe, visit so many wonderful places, and be inside the St. Peter’s Basilica – all these made me extremely grateful and feel blessed. Funny how things turn out.  At the start of last year, I was already seriously considering leaving.  But, after I came back to my why and saw the blessing that is working for the company, things flowed super smoothly and almost instantaneously.  I realized how fortunate I am to have found my dream job and be given an opportunity to work in this wonderful company.  Now, I’m in Europe, my ultimate dream destination, which also probably wouldn’t have happened that soon, if not for the company. <3 I took as many pictures as I could so I could share my experience with my family and friends through those.  I want them, too, to see that dreams do come true.  You just got to know what it is you are looking for and the universe for sure will deliver.

Roaming around Rome

The Rome stop was almost coming to an end.  On our last day, we did our bit of shopping and visited again the Trevi Fountain.  We had dinner and drinks at one of the restaurants and met up at another with one of my friends, who was coincidentally in Rome, too. It was indeed a fulfilling and experience-packed few days.  The gratefulness I felt in Rome was overwhelming and something I would definitely go back to when things get shitty.  And, spending it with Dhika, Rina, and Pat made the experience more special. I can’t wait to see what Prague has to offer.  And, I can’t wait to just walk around and chill (finally!). <3

Sending you love and good vibes,

Monica

P.S. Thank YOU! And, in whatever space you are in now, I hope that you got something from reading this post. Talk to you soon!

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