The 4 days and 5 nights we spent in Rome were filled with typical tourist-style adventures. We went into the Colosseum, walked up the Spanish Steps, and had dinner by the Trevi Fountain. On our first day, we walked over 20km around the city, including entering the different country of Vatican City. Everywhere we turned, there were new shopping alleys to discover, aquaducts to find, and fountains to look at. Our time in the city was long enough to take in the major attractions, but it didn't allow us to get comfortable in the city. We shopped for groceries at local express markets, only discovering a full grocer on our last day. We didn't have time to find a great view of the city or a favourite cafe, though we were able to spend a morning escaping the busyness of the city at Borghese Gardens.
We did spend one full day using our Colosseum tickets, which also gave us access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We started our day walking around the grounds of the Roman Forum. The ancient ruins seemed endless, with so many pathways through the park allowing us to find the ruins of shops, temples, and homes. We tried to visualize what life would have been like there, learning about its history starting around the 7th Century BC where it was the center of Roman life, through its evolving uses over the centuries as rulers changed and each wanted to leave their own mark on society.
We eventually made our way up the pathways to Palatine Hill, where the emperors built their homes and developed extravagant grounds. The old marble floorings, wall paintings, and marble sculpture remnants filled the expansive area. There were views of the Roman Forum and surrounding area as well as the Colosseum from many spots on the hill. I couldn't help myself but stop and gaze out each time a new angle came into view.
We started our tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill at 10:00am to give us plenty of time before our 2:45pm timed ticket entry into the Colosseum. Despite having over four and a half hours between the two, we still found ourselves needing to hurry along at the end so we could have a quick lunch before entering the Colosseum.
Upon entering the Colosseum and learning about its history, I went into a bit of a shock and wanted to throw up. Though I'm sure I once knew the gladiator history, I think I must have forgotten what the details were. Seeing the cages where they brought the animals and gladiators to the stage to fight for their lives and learning about how to emperor ruled on their survival for his entertainment left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. After walking around a bit more and learning about the more recent uses of the space, I started to feel better. Chris and I were able to revel at the ancient architecture and picture where the seating was. Ancient staircases and markings on the upper areas of the Colosseum provided us with clues about what it once looked like.
One of my favourite parts of Rome was all of the fountains. The Trevi fountain was impressive and we were lucky to find one evening were it was slightly less busy so we could sit on the cool marble benches and be mesmerized by the flow of water. I loved Navona Square too, with the amazing details of its three fountains. But there were also fountains on many street corners - intricate works carved into the sides of buildings with water spouting out.
Now we're heading south to Sorrento to check out the coast line and the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and do some hiking around Mount Vesuvius.
The cute little town of Sorrento, located on the peninsula of the same name, is nestled between famous vacation destinations like the Isle of Capri and the Amalfi Coast, and itself has a holiday feel to it. The coastline's beaches are limited but the views from its rocky cliffs are stunning.
The town has lots of little alleys filled with shops selling tourist trinkets and restaurants offering pizza and Italian wine. And though the town feels far away from city life, it's considered part of the greater Naples area and is connected to the city via a metro line that runs every 20ish minutes. That line not only connects you Naples, but also to Pompei (and the archeological site of ancient Pompeii with two "i"s) and the base of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted in 79AD, destroying Pompeii.
While in Sorrento, we took the 40 minute metro ride to Pompeii. The city covers a huge area and we let ourselves get lost in the maze of ancient alleyways. We stepped into the ruins of 2000 year old homes and looked at the remnants of the art painted on the walls and sculptures that stood in the homes.
On a separate day, we attempted to hike up Mount Vesuvius but it was not meant to be, so we ended up taking in the views of the volcano from the base. Video details on this to follow.
Sorrento was our last stop in Italy. From there we took the metro back to Naples, boarded a bus to Bari that was so late we almost missed our ferry, then took the overnight ferry back to Greece. Now that we're back in Greece, we'll be enjoying its Mediterranean Coast for a few weeks. Blog posts on that are here.