Day 14: Regional train to Rome. We purchased tickets and hopped on a regional train to make our way into Rome Termini. By 11am, we were walking down Via Cavour to find our hotel.
Within 15 minutes, we were checked into Hotel Romano (amazing, by the way!) and headed out to explore the city.
We walked through the National Museum, "Alter of the Fatherland", oggling the immense size of the building, sculptures and statues, and architecture.
We hopped on a public bus to visit the Vatican (last Sunday of the month, fee admission to the museums!). We arrived to St. Peter's Basilica and I was COMPLETELY dumb-struck at it's size and detail.
After a jaw-dropping hour at St. Peter's Basilica, we headed back to our hotel since it was Sunday and the Museums were closed.
Instead of taking the bus, we decided to brave the heat and walk our way through Rome back to our hotel. It was the best decision!
The quaint, black-cobblestoned alleyways of Rome were truly magical and we fell in love with the city quickly.
Soon, we stumbled upon the Pantheon. Built during the reign of emperor Hadrian around 126 AD, it is a former Roman temple, now converted to a church.
"It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to "St. Mary and the Martyrs" but informally known as "Santa Maria Rotonda".
The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon is a state property, ruled by Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism through the Polo Museale del Lazio; in 2013 it was visited by over 6 million people.
Though the Pantheon's large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, is "unique" in Roman architecture, it was much the largest and most accessible complete classical temple front known to the Italian Renaissance, and was the standard exemplar when classical styles were revived. It has therefore been copied many times by modern architects." (Wiki)
Following the Pantheon, we made our way up to Trevi Fountain. What a beautiful structure!
That evening, we ate the best pasta and drank a cold sparkling orange drink at a local cafe on the corner, and headed down the block to see the Colosseum. We decided not to purchase tickets to go inside, due to the heat and overwhelming hoards of tourists. The history of this place is incredible!
Day 15: Vatican City! We took the bus back to the Vatican to visit the museums, including the famous Sistine Chapel.
Note to self: do NOT visit the Vatican in July.... it was like being a sardine packed into a tin can. Shoulder-to-shoulder, walking in herds of tourists. It was almost claustrophobic.
Next up, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and get ready to go to an Italian OPERA! We purchased tickets for the Barber of Seville, an opera buffa that was premiered in 1816 by Gioachino Rossini in Rome. When in Rome...
We enjoyed one last delicious dinner at a local ristorante that was recommended to us by another traveler from South Africa we met earlier in the day. Carbonara a la Oro d'Forchetta, amazing. Oh, and the "house white wine" wasn't too bad either... <take me back!>
As we made our way through the upper city towards the Opera House, we passed one of the Major basilicas in Rome, deemed so by the Pope as one of the highest ranking churches: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
We arrived to the Teatro Dell'Opera, only to find that the opera doesn't take stage at the Teatro during the summer months, but happens at a large open-air theater on the other side of the city! In a panic, we found someone who was incredibly helpful to call a cab for us. Fifteen minutes later (with minutes to spare!), we were at the Baths of Caracalla, an outdoor theater.
At first, we were a bit disappointed we weren't seeing the opera at the teatro, however quickly that disappointment turned into fascination and elation with the incredible structure of the Bath of Caracalla.
We walked from the Baths back to our hotel after midnight that night and Rome was equally beautiful at night!
Day 16: We started our day with fresh cafe pizza and gelato for breakfast, because YES, it's THAT good. We were scheduled to fly out of Rome at 11:00am back to Lisbon, Portugal for an overnight layover. Just one more pizza and one last Italian gelato....
(cell phone pic!)
After a quick two-hour flight, we arrived back in Lisboa, retreived our luggage, and began looking for the nearest taxi or public bus. We hopped on the local bus line and headed south towards the Alfami district where our hotel was.
Mistake #1988309: we thought "oh, no biggie, we'll get off the bus at the Rossio station and walk 3/4 mile to the hotel." Yeah. Little did we know that that 3/4 mile would be in 95 degree heat UP HILLS WITH A LARGE SUITCASE (granted, it was only one suitcase haha!).
Sweaty, irritated, and tired, we arrived to the hotel and enjoyed a little down time. After feeling a bit better, we went out to explore the Alfami district! Our first stop was for afternoon tapas as we were famished. Cold, Portugal beer was also on that list, so refreshing!
Beyond that, we mostly drank and ate our way through the evening, enjoying an incredible dinner at Farol de Santa Luzia and the jaw-dropping flowering trees along the Jardim Júlio de Castilho.