Italian Adventure Part I: ROME & A BIRTHDAY!

There will be four parts to this adventure: Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. And no, I'm not trying to show off. I swear. This is a dream come true for Mike and I to be on this trip, and we are enjoying every second! There has been much planning, toiling, laboring over decisions, research, more planning, more research and count downs. And budgeting. Now we are here and I can hardly believe it.

In an effort to not overwhelm myself with having to post a hideously-long blog update and images of a 10-day journey through four of Italia's finest cities, I've decided to attempt to do them as I go. There's nothing quite like basking in the glow of a successful and wonderous vacation once you've returned home. I mean, being slammed with the reality of your return to the office, piles of laundry and cooking at home isn't always that glamorous a reminder that you were just soaking up rays while sipping wine across the street from the Colosseum. Add a blog update, picture uploads, photo captions and time spent and, well, I'd rather be doing it as I go. So we're back to square one, and without further ado, I present you our visit to Roma!

With its creation firmly rooted in 70-72 AD, the Roman Coliseum (or Colosseum or Colosseo) is the epitome of Rome. Still much of it intact, it's now surrounded by a bustling metropolis of a city. It's striking when you can take a photo of a busy modern-day street backdropped by the looming circular entrancemant that existed before we were even a twinkle in someone's eye. Home to gladiator games, executions, dramas and re-enactments, the Colosseum is so steeped in such a violent yet rich and meaningful history that it literally makes my eyes mist to think about everyone that's taken place there. And many of us conjure up images of Russell Crowe from Gladiator, a powerful representation of the Roman life at its historical peak.

So after Mike and I had made our final flight into Rome and taken two trains to our stop, Colosseo, I was so intent on following the directions to our hotel that I never dreamed the landmark I'd only hoped to see one day would be the first sight to greet me when I dragged my suitcase out of the train station. It couldn't have been more than 100 feet from where I stood, instantaneously appearing in all its glory as if to announce that I really and truly was in Rome. I skidded to a stop, "WHOA!" Then turned around and frantically waved Mike over, like he had already noticed the giant building smack in front of us. As any good husband would, he was grinning at me and so glad to see me happy - he knew how much this trip meant to me and how surprised I was to already be in the middle of it. What better way to make an entrance?

We found our hotel just a few blocks away from the Colosseo, which is why we booked it but I still can't believe it's just outside our door. How amazing! The guy that runs our hotel, the Santi Quattro al Colosseo B&B, owns several buildings in the immediate area and has a variety of rooms to rent. And since we had completely forgotten to let him know when we'd be arriving, and didn't realize the buzzer on the door wasn't reaching him, we were seriously starting to wonder how we'd get to our room. Turns out, you have to call him to come meet you then escort you the rest of the way. But my phone wasn't working. Luckily, folks see newcomers outside his door all the time, apparently, scratching their heads and eyeing their maxed-out suitcases with regret wondering how far they'll have to drag them to find alternate arrangements. A "friend" of the owner that lived nearby came over and told us he'd called the guy and that he was on his way. Nearly 20 minutes later, we were led to our building and up to our room. Which turned out to be pretty spacious for European standards, came with a view of the Colosseo (if you stick your head out the shuttered window) and a working A/C. Praise the Lord!

After a good night's rest, we grabbed some breakfast then headed back to the hotel room since Mike had forgotten his contacts. Then we left, bathed in bright sunlight and on our way to the Vatican. Then we returned to the hotel room since I'd forgotten our tickets. Finally, we arrived at Vatican City. We left plenty of time for lunch there and a walk to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica, since we weren't sure how slow or fast the lines would be. After the slowest-served lunch ever, (but where I got a much-needed map and a Diet Coke) we browsed a couple street vendors, grabbed some of the most delicious gelato, then went in search of the entrance. Fortunately, our pre-purchased tickets paid off and we were into the Vatican in no time.

The art, the frescoes, the marble, the sculptures - it was all so incredible! It is too much to comment on here, but I've posted a variety of pictures to give you an idea of what we saw. It is so amazing to witness the level of detail delivered when these buildings and art works were created. So so so many mosaic-tiled floors and murals, sky-high ceiling domes and giant three-dimensional marble statues.

I wish we could've taken pictures of the Sistine Chapel, but we weren't allowed. I tried to inconspicously snap one, though, but it came out too blurry to even tell what it was. Michelangelo was pure genius, I'll say that. I can't imagine the painstaking work it took to create such a huge masterpiece. And at a killer neck angle too! He painted 12,000 square feet of the chapel ceiling in roughly four years, between 1508 and 1512. It's said that he resented the work, because he thought it only served to humor the current Pope's (Pope Sixtus IV) need for grandeur. But to this day, it's considered one of his greatest works of all time.

After the chapel, we decided to hedge our bets and take on the 320 stairs to the very tip top of St. Peter's Basilica, known as the Cupola. We knew it'd make for some gorgeous views of the city, and Mike's a particular junkie for sky-top photography points. Before the big stair climb, we stopped off at the top of the church's interior for some downward shots of the stunning cathedral.

Then up we went for what seemed like forever. Out of breath and sweating buckets - and a little claustrophobic, since that little space atop the cathedral isn't exactly huge - we welcomed the cooling breeze atop the crowning architecture. As you can see from the images, we certainly got our view.

Once we'd made the 320 steps back down, we grabbed a couple gifts from the souvenir shop then went in search of a cafe... with beer. Every time we stood still for too long our legs started shaking (it wasn't just the stairs, we'd been walking allll day!), so we needed some sit-down time and a couple lagers. Then we opted for the bus as a scenic tour - versus the underground - to get back to our area of town. We hopped off early to grab a couple snaps of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (the giant blue-green guy on the horse in front of the super white building). This massive and very regal monument marks the front of the Capitoline Hill, a building that would be hard to miss, which is located in the busy Piazza Venezia.

We sauntered on back to our hotel for the night, where we enjoyed a convenient in-room dinner of marinated artichokes, fresh olives, salami, local-made bruschetta, ham, cheeses, peanuts and wine. Sometimes I just love snacking on the good things in life and propping up my feet for a few. We opened the windows in our room to take in all the chatter and ongoings of Italian city life right outside.

Our next day - topping 80 degrees and filled with a spotless, sunny blue sky - was the most important of our entire trip: MY BIRTHDAY!!! That's right, folks, I am now exactly in the midway point of my young 20-something years. I wish I could have stayed 22 forever, but unfortunately the call of life beckons me onward so here I am at 25. But here I am at 25 and in Rome. A beautiful city with my even more wonderful husband - therefore I'm a happy girl!

I am even happier still that the day consisted of one of the most incredible sites I'm sure to ever see. The Roman Coliseum. It was truly majestic and moving and passionate and powerful in every way. As we entered the massive building, which in itself blows you away that so much of it is left since it's creation thousands of years ago, you instantly start to picture what used to take place here. The crowds of people that shuffled in to fight for a seat on the concrete steps, and the nervous battle-ready men who waited in angst in the hidden chambers below the Coliseum floor. I am so happy I was able to see such a vastly impressive piece of history with my own eyes!

Next on the agenda was a trip over to the Pantheon, also packing in more than 2,000 years of history since it was built. It was initially made in 27 BC as a temple to all the Roman Gods. The very top of the domed ceiling features an open hole, which allows the rain, snow or sun to enter freely at the weather's will. To this day, it's dome is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome ever made. The marble floor we walked on has seen the feet of ancient Romans and influential beings like the first King of Italy who is buried there and his tomb visible on the right wall.

A McDonald's ice cream crone, a walk 'round the piazza (with Mike showing what happens after three Peronis!) and a couple street markets satisfied our Roman fix for the day, and we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for my birthday dinner. Which is where I leave you now as we walk across the street to the Osteria Il Bocconcino restaurant for our 8pm reservations. It's owned by the same man who owns the B&B we're staying at, so I hope (for his sake) it is good!

Arrivederci friends!


  1. Looks like a blast and happy birthday!! (I live in my same aggie football shirt!)

  2. How wonderful to see this post! The pics on Facebook are impressive....and then the blog posting gives us a personal tour...the best of both worlds! I poured me half a glass of wine and just sat right down to enjoy this blog tour/visit with you!! Happy Birthday!!!

  3. I stumbled across your post from Censational's link up party.

    I did a whirl wind trip to Rome 2 years ago {think 2.5 days} and I miss it SO STINKING MUCH!

    I had no idea about climbing up to the top of St. Peters, and I was on some of Benedryl high when I went to the Colosseum and Parthenon....which still makes me cry, because I was too tired/drugged to do the latter one. :(
    Congrats on going for your birthday, and thank you for letting me live vicariously through you!


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