We last spoke at the end of Roma, Part 1, and I ended it right after we saw the Papa Francesco. After he concluded his audience, my friend Dani and I walked down the street to the Vatican Museums. The museums are housed in an old castle/palace, probably dating back to the days when the Popes were more like Kings. They are located in the Vatican, but you can’t access them from St. Peter’s Square. You must exit the square, go back into Rome, and walk around to the back of the Vatican City where there is a separate entrance to the museums.
The lines were around the block. I consulted my handy dandy Rick Steves Italy 2016 Guidebook and Rick noted that it’s better to make a reservation online, and then you can skip the line. I went onto the Vatican’s website and booked a spot for 3 PM. It cost an extra €2 but it was well worth it.
We devised a plan to walk around the heart of Rome for a few hours, seeing the Trevi Fountain and other landmarks, as well as getting lunch. We’d then loop back to the Vatican on the subway just in time for our reservation.
We began to walk leisurely through the streets of Rome. It was the first time we had the chance to do this, since I arrived at night, and in the morning we rushed over to the Vatican. The buildings used shades of colors like pink, orange, yellow, and purple. There were the famous Vespas parked on some of the streets, something you don’t see much of in the chillier Turin and Milan.
The Vatican sits across the River Tiber from the center of the city. We were headed back towards the river in order to cross a bridge back into the center, but for now, we walked through a quiet residential neighborhood.
We stopped for some gelato. You can get a small cup of gelato (piccola coppa) for about €2. It’s oh so smooth and hits the spot every time. I stick to flavors like chocolate and coffee, but they have lots of fruit flavors as well.
We walked for another hour or so and made it back into the center. Then we stopped for lunch on a narrow street. I remember this restaurant’s host as being a very nice guy. A lot of times you walk by stores and restaurants and the people try to get you to come in and they are your typical overly aggressive salesmen. This guy came up to us as we walked by but he wasn’t like that at all. He gave us a minute to look at the menu and then we decided to sit down. I had “Penne Siciliane” which of course was very good. It was a tomato sauce but also with some zucchini in there. Or maybe it was eggplant… I don’t remember which.
The proper way to eat in Italy is in courses. First you have primi (usually pasta), then secondi (usually meat), then possibly contorni (possibly vegetables). Insalata (salad) can be placed somewhere in between. Then dolce (dessert) and then you usually end with a coffee. In restaurants the price of these courses adds up quickly, so I had only the pasta. It is very affordable to just have one course. The pasta was probably 5 or 6 Euro and you don’t have to tip. But at home with my host family, we usually have most of the above courses for each lunch and dinner. I’ll eventually go all out at a restaurant, I just haven’t felt the need to yet.
The view from our table (forgot to say, we sat outside) is below. The host I was talking about is the guy standing up.
After lunch, we walked around the city. The first item of note was the Pantheon, which was just down the street from the ristorante. It’s the most preserved Ancient Roman building still in existence. It was originally a Roman temple but has been converted to a Catholic church.
Around the corner we stopped at a coffee shop (“bar”) for a quick espresso. According to the Rick Steves book, this particular coffee shop had a storied history and apparently the guy who started Starbucks got his idea from visiting here. That’s a bit confusing to me because Starbucks is nothing like Italian coffee (there’s no such cup as large as a “grande” or a “venti” in Italy), but whatever. He just took all the Italian words and used them.
Next was the Palazzo Montecitorio which is where the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, meets.
Next was the Trevi Fountain:
If you throw a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain, legend says you can be sure that you’ll one day return to Rome.
For those of you who’ve been to Las Vegas, Caesar’s Palace’s knockoff is technically pretty good, but the wow factor just doesn’t compare. This fountain in Rome is huge! And old! And there’s tons of people and it’s crammed into otherwise narrow city streets.
Here’s a throwback to me being a dumb college kid in March of 2010. I remember it was about March 10-14. I was in Rome March 11-13, so it was almost six years to the day between my visits to the two Trevi fountains.
After the fountain, we made our way back to the Vatican to go to the museums. We’ll talk about those in Part 3.
Remember to look at my flickr for more photos. Go to the menu bar in the upper right and click “Photos.” Rome’s pictures are found from March 11-13, 2016.