As I mentioned in my first Italy post, my travel to Italy was not ideal. I left my house at 2:45 am to catch a very early flight to LA, where I spent about 2 hours before heading on to Chicago. What should have been only a 45 minute layover turned into 4 hours. When we finally got on our way to Rome I was exhausted. I tried my best to settle in for some sleep after dinner was served on the plane, but it just wasn’t happening. When we finally landed in Rome I was so eager to get off the plane, but we had a 30 minute delay in deplaning because paramedics needed to take someone off first. When I finally made it past passport control with my luggage I had missed the second shuttle to the hotel (provided by the tour company) by 10 minutes. This meant a 3 hour wait for the next one. Those were the longest 3 hours EVER. When I finally did make it to the hotel it was 5pm and I had been up for about 30 hours, and I had about 10 minutes to get dressed and head out to the first dinner of the trip.
The “welcome” dinner was held at a restaurant near the hotel with a prefix menu. We had a choice between sea bream and beef and I went with the fish. Honestly it wasn’t very good, but I think that might have been partly because I was so overtired. At the welcome dinner our tour director gave us some information on what to expect for the upcoming days and I just tried to stay awake. After the dinner there was an optional “Rome by night” excursion. My grandma decided to head back to the hotel but my mom, Kim (her friend also on the trip with us) and I decided to go.
Our coach bus took us around different parts of Rome to see the city at night. I wish I remembered more about this excursion but I was having trouble just staying awake. The most memorable part was stopping at St. Peters. It was beautiful at night with the lights. It was also crazy to see huge lines of people waiting to get into museums after 10 pm! Our tour director explained that it was a special weekend when all museums were free and they would be open until midnight. I couldn’t quite imagine visiting a museum (and standing in a line that was several hundred people deep) that late at night for a museum.
All of the hotels we stayed in were 4 or 5 starts, and they were all VERY different. The hotel in Rome had the worst room by far. The highlight of the hotel was the breakfast room that was on the top level with a beautiful view. The bed in this hotel was also extremely hard. All of the beds during the trip were more firm that I am used to, but this one was the worst.
There was an optional excursion in the morning to see some of the fountains throughout the city, but we did not partake. It was nice to sleep in a little (until like 7:30 am) before getting a start to the day. The first organized destination of the day was to the Coliseum. On that particular day Rome was quite busy as there was a marathon and breast cancer walk going. Additionally four nuns were being canonized at the Vatican. Because of this many streets were closed and there were people everywhere. Our coach was forced to drop us off a 20 minute walk away from the Coliseum, which wouldn’t have been a big deal, except pushing my grandmother in the wheelchair was very challenging for that distance through such a thick crowd. I will just say, Italy does not have the provisions for wheel chairs like the US does. Thankfully my grandma is able to walk short distances with assistance or we never would have made it through the trip.
The Coliseum was very impressive. It really blows my mind to think something that was built that long ago is still standing. Thankfully this attraction did have an elevator so grandma was able to go up to the top level. It is also really weird to think that people would go there for day long events to watch people get killed in front of them and it was considered entertainment.
After the Coliseum we headed back to the hotel with the group. It was quite hot out so we decided to venture down the street to a snack shop and get gelato! IT WAS SO GOOD! And also really refreshing. After taking a little time to rest and freshen up we headed to a local restaurant recommended to us by the hotel a few blocks away. It was supposedly family owned, but I guess we came a little too early because they told us many of the menu items were not available yet. I ended up having lasagna which was VERY good and a glass of house red wine. The house wine was actually cheaper than buying a coke (which I am all for).
After dinner we decided to go for a little adventure. My grandma had always wanted to see the Trevi Fountain and I really wanted to see the Spanish Steps. According to my phone app the Fountain was only a ten minute walk away so we decided to go for it. Well, it turned out to be more like 20 minutes, mostly straight downhill. We quickly found that pushing the wheelchair in the street and dodging oncoming traffic was actually easier than trying to go on the sidewalks that were crowded with people, very narrow, and had random curbs in the middle of a block. When we did finally make it to the fountain it was surrounded by scaffold because it was being cleaned, and had no water. My grandma was very happy to see it none the less. We stopped shortly for another Gelato (because you know…When in Rome) and then headed for the Spanish Steps. This walk was easier only in that it was mostly flat, but the sidewalks were no less challenging. We made it to the steps right before the sun went down and there were hundreds of people just sitting on the steps hanging out. I had wanted to climb them but there were so many people there was just no way. We headed back toward the hotel, which was basically all straight up hill. Let’s just say I got a serious work out in and I realized that running up the hills with the wheelchair was much easier than walking. The long skirt was wearing posed another challenge to this method but eventually we made it back to the hotel. I definitely burned off my pasta that day. It was an adventure I won’t soon forget.
The next morning we had to set out by 7:15 to get to the Vatican. Because it was closed to visitors the day prior because of the special event it was very important that we be there early so not to get stuck behind other tour groups. We were fortunate that everyone in our group was on-time and we basically were able to walk right in once we go there. Because of the wheelchair we could not do the same route as the rest of the group so we did not get to see much of the museum, but we did get to walk through the library which was pretty fascinating. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pieta. The inside of St. Peter was also very inspiring. I wish I had more to verbalize about it but honestly it was kind of a place to just be quite and reflect (despite the masses of people everywhere). I also loved seeing my grandmother brought to tears by the Pieta. That was very moving as well.
After our time in the Vatican we had a little bit of free time to wonder around and grab a much needed drink of water. Anywhere outside of the big tourist attractions could be a little unnerving. Aside from the increased risk of pick pocketing there were also very aggressive street vendors selling various items such as sun hats, scarves, and selfie sticks. They would often come right up to you and aggressively try to get you to buy there item and even come back after you forcefully declined. I am usually very polite, but it was clear after our first experience with this that they did not respond to a polite no thank you. We were told that the actual shop owners hate these people because they do not pay taxes. I just found them extremely annoying and relentless. I certainly did not want to buy anything from them!
After our coach bus picked us up were headed off to Naples to catch a boat to the Isle of Capri, but more on that in my next post! Enjoy these photos of Rome!