When in Rome…

This last week, in honor of our daughters first birthday, we celebrated by taking a trip to Rome for a few days. This ancient beautiful city is only a mere two and a half hour drive from where we live in Naples. It was kind of planned last-minute as we weren’t sure if we wanted to go to Rome or Paris. Rome ultimately won out for two reasons, One, it was cheaper, and Two, it was closer and involved less organizing. Because we are a military family, we have a great resource available to us, the United Services Organization, or USO for short. This well established non-profit organization has been supporting the troops since 1941 and is an extremely useful tool when planning trips overseas. I went to the USO Rome website and luckily found a last-minute package available to us for the right price. What was awesome about our package is that it was only 159.00 euro per person, and it included a two-night stay at a three-star B&B as well as two group tours. Booking our trip with the USO took out all of the hassle of researching places to stay and signing up for the right tours.

The plan was for us to check-in to our hotel on Monday at 11a.m. then head over to the USO office to pick up our documents for the tours, one of which started only two and half hours after we arrived. Our trip involved the Imperial Tour (Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Arch of Constantine, Imperial grounds, etc.) on Monday and Tuesday the Arts & History Tour (Roman Forum, Old Churches, Michelangelo’s Moses Statue, etc.) and ended with attending the Papal Audience (more on that later) on Wednesday.

Getting to our B&B was SUPER fun. If you’ve never driven overseas before, let alone in Italy, you haven’t lived. I am from Southern California, land of the gridlock, traffic jams are not new to me–but let me just tell you, it is NOTHING compared to navigating the city streets of Naples or Rome. In America, people stay in their lanes (for the most part), and despite the rare stories on the news of road rage, we’re pretty respectful of each other’s “bubble” on the road. Not so much in Italy. In Italy, those white dotted lines that distinguish one lane from the next, yeah, those are optional. So are speed limits, stop lights, stop signs, parking “spaces”, and pretty much every other safety precaution on the road that you can think of. The only thing you can’t escape (or ignore in this case) as a driver in Italy are the ridiculously expensive tolls. It cost us roughly 16 euro each way going to/from Rome or around $22. That is pretty expensive for American standards and that doesn’t even begin to compare to the cost of gas in this country.

Back to the B&B, once we found it (thank you GPS), we stayed at the Residenza Risorgimento . Now, when you think of a Bed and Breakfast, typically, you think of a quaint little home in the country, or something similar. This is not the kind of B&B we stayed at. Ours was directly across from the Vatican City walls, in an old historic building, five flights up, and included one creepy old-fashioned elevator. Probably circa 1912, the year of the Titanic (if you get my drift).  There was no getting around the use of this elevator either, not when you have a stroller and baby in tow. So even though it made some noises and probably needed a good dose of WD40, it worked, and we lived, and really folks, like many things, that’s all you can ask for when you’re in Italy.

The room was bigger then I had expected and had a portable crib and even an extra bed, along with a decent bathroom. The decor was pretty eccentric for my husbands taste, but I found it charming. The B&B’s website boasts that it has reproductions of all of the famous paintings in their rooms, and they aren’t joking. They even had a 110v outlet in the bathroom so we could charge our phones. My favorite part though had to be the fact that the owner parked our car for us, and brought it to us when it was time to leave. Apparently, Rome is riddled with parking garages, and if you’ve never been there then good luck trying to find them! If you are ever in Rome and you are looking for a place that is clean, friendly, and quiet, then I would highly recommend them.

This is how we found our room, lovely isn't it? There was a mandatory maid service every morning at 10. No "do not disturb" signs for us, but that was ok, we had great big city to explore.

This is how we found our room, lovely isn’t it? There was a mandatory maid service every morning at 10. No “do not disturb” signs for us, but that was ok, we had great big city to roam (get it? hehe).

Our "view". My husband, the prankster that he is, was whistling down at people below and then quickly popping his head back in the window when they would look up.

Our “view”. My husband, the prankster that he is, was whistling down at people below and then quickly popping his head back in the window when they would look up.

Sadie's "play prison". She had never been in one of those before, she thought it was fun until she realized it's purpose

Sadie’s “play prison”. She had never been in one of those before, she thought it was fun until she realized it’s purpose

So, like I said before, after we checked-in to our room we had to hurry up and head over to the USO office. We set out on foot to navigate our way to the USO office, which, is kind of in a conspicuous location and anyone could easily walk right by it and not know any better, like we almost did. They gave us our documents and explained the directions to our tour and how to use the metro, to which we said, “Thank you, but no thank you!”, and opted to pay for a taxi. You see, my husband and I get easily frustrated when it comes to directions, we just don’t have the patience required. We didn’t want to chance getting off on the wrong stop, or missing it entirely. So, for our sanity, we paid a little extra for the taxi. It was only an 11 euro taxi fare, so it was relatively cheap compared to the bad mood we would have been in all day if we had missed the meeting time/point for our tour. We even had enough time to enjoy a Cafe Americano at the Royal Art Cafe, before our tour guide arrived to round us up.

Look at our cheesy smiles, we were totally stoked to be lounging at a Cafe directly across from the Coliseum.

Look at our cheesy smiles, we were totally stoked to be lounging at a Cafe directly across the street from the Colosseum.

Naturally, our tour started with the Roman Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheater. I can honestly tell you that touring the Colosseum was one of those “OMG, I can’t believe I am here!” moments. It’s beautiful and captivating, but has a horrendous history. For those of you who don’t know, it is one of the seven wonders of the world. Depending on who you ask, it took a mere eight to ten years to construct, and ironically, was a symbol of peace. I won’t bore you with some of the gruesome details and I don’t want to make this a history lesson, but I will say, I walked out of the Colosseum that day with a more realistic perspective of what it represents, rather than the slightly skewed idealistic one I walked in with.

There she is in all her glory.

There she is in all her glory.

As you can see, there are holes littered throughout the Colosseum walls. This is because Romans were quarrying the material for other things up until almost 300 years ago when Pope Benedict XIV forbade it.

As you can see, there are holes littered throughout the Colosseum walls. This is because Romans were quarrying the material for other things up until almost 300 years ago when Pope Benedict XIV forbade it.

If you take a closer look at some of the walls inside the Colosseum, you can see names that have been etched into them over many many decades.

If you take a closer look at some of the walls inside the Colosseum, you can see names that have been etched into them over many many decades.

I swear, there is nothing inside of the Colosseum that is not photogenic.

I swear, there is nothing inside of the Colosseum that is not photogenic.

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That's our tour guide, sadly, I don't remember her name. But that red pom-pom she was carrying was a life-saver. Especially since I was stopping every five seconds to take photos.

That’s our tour guide, sadly, I don’t remember her name. But that red pom-pom she was carrying was a life-saver. Especially since I was stopping every five seconds to take photos.

Check out the life of the Colosseum. Two thousand years ago people were there to see other people fight for their lives, and now people roam it just to see the grand structure of it. What a stark contrast from then and now.

Check out the life of the Colosseum. Two thousand years ago people were there to see other people fight for their lives, and now people walk its halls and marvel over the grand structure of it. I wonder if ancient Romans appreciated it the way we do in the present. What a stark contrast from then and now.

Check it out, for a small fee (10-15 euro) you can take pictures with these guys outside of the Colosseum. Or, if you're like me, you would rather just take pictures of them.

Check it out, for a small fee (10-15 euro) you can take pictures with these guys outside of the Colosseum. Or, if you’re like me, you would rather just take pictures of them rather than with them.

My husband will be the first to tell you that if we ever tour the Colosseum again, it will be sans a baby stroller.

My husband will be the first to tell you that if we ever tour the Colosseum again, it will be sans a baby stroller.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. Where the past and present meet.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. Where the past and present meet.

After we toured the Colosseum, we ventured out to the Arch of Constantine, which is VERY close, and then eventually to the Palatine Hills to check out some of the ruins of some of the first palaces of Rome.

I thought it was neat to see the Arch of Constantine and  the Colosseum in the same frame.

I thought it was neat to see the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum in the same frame.

I want so badly to tell you that I paid attention to all of the historical information our guide was providing us, but, if I am being honest, I was too busy taking pictures. I tried to listen the whole time, I really did, but every time I would try to pay attention, my mind would go, “Oh look, you should take a picture of that!” And then my tour guides voice quickly blurred to the background. Which is reason number 678 why that red pom-pom she carried was a life-saver during the tour, because there were many times I found myself left behind.

Off to the Palatine Hills we went.

Off to the Palatine Hills we went.

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At one point in the tour, Sadie was not having it in the stroller, she wanted to be free of her prison so I put on our baby carrier and off we went. Poor dad still had to push the empty stroller though.

At one point in the tour, Sadie was not having it in the stroller, she wanted to be free of her prison so I put on our baby carrier and off we went. Poor dad still had to push the empty stroller though.

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Some of the ornate detailing can still be found in the ruins.

Some of the ornate detailing can still be found in the ruins.

Scattered throughout the ruins are the reminents of a once beautiful floor. Marble of course.

Scattered throughout the ruins are the remnants of a once beautiful floor. Marble of course. Like many places in Rome, these palaces were pillaged for their useful materials. Waste not, want not.

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Believe it or not, this used to be a swimming pool. An ancient, Roman swimming pool. Who knew, right?

Believe it or not, this used to be a swimming pool. An ancient, Roman swimming pool. Who knew, right?

After we toured the Palatine Hills we found ourselves descending to the valley below, we came across the Arch of Titus. Which was beautiful. “Back in those days” Emperor’s would build Arch’s to commemorate victories. Our tour guide put it best, she said that it wasn’t like now where we could learn things on the news and the internet. These Arch’s told stories of victory and bravery for all of its citizens to admire and be proud of.

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus- erected in 82 AD by the Emperor Domitian, to celebrate the victories of Titus, son of Vespasian.

Inside the Arch Pt. 1

Inside the Arch Pt. 1- the inner walls of the Arch reflect the victories of Titus.

Inside the Arch Part 2

Inside the Arch Part 2, this depicts the spoils taken after the Siege of Jerusalem.

After we ‘Oh’d and ‘Ah’d over the Arch we made our way down to the Roman Forum. How can I best describe this place? It is like a melting pot of ancient relics, ruins, and life in general of the great Roman empires of the past.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux.

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Oh, look! Another arch.

We saw everything above in three and a half hours! That was only ONE tour, I know what you are thinking too…..there’s more to this post? No no…even I need a break. When I started this post I did not anticipate it would be this long (or take this long for that matter). I still have to cover another day and a half worth of adventures, and the rest of the story is just riveting I tell you (no, really, it is!).  I want to end this post with saying that I learned something very interesting about the history of Rome on our trip, and that is; the ancient Romans did not value materials the way we do in our society today. This is evident by the many temples, statues, and buildings that were torn down for material to be used for other things. Our tour guide the next day put it best when he said that the Romans understood that,  “everything changes”.

To be continued…

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for When in Rome, part II.

 

3 thoughts on “When in Rome…

  1. Wow, Stephanie! I love this! It’s like I’m in the tour with you as well. Thanks for the history bits as well. It gives a more interesting background to the photos. 🙂

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