Day two in Rome started with breakfast at our hotel. They had a pretty solid spread of pastries, breads, meats, and of course, espresso. We fueled up and met our guide downstairs. She had warned us in advance we would be doing A LOT of walking this day. She really wasn’t kidding. We walked. She talked. It was interesting to see the blend of tourists as well as the local folks just heading out for the day.
Our first stop of the day was the top of the infamous Spanish Steps. There were tons of people in the area. Something we noticed during our entire time in Rome was that there were ALWAYS a lot people around no matter what time of day. It seems Rome never sleeps either. You might notice the orange jumpsuits in the pictures from the bottom. They were actually pressure washing the steps that morning. Apparently, history needs a good cleaning too.
Our next highlight was the Trevi Fountain. This was something we both were really looking forward to as it is near and dear to our hearts. The much smaller version of the Trevi Fountain at Epcot was where we got engaged. It was super special for us to be able to see it in person. We took a few pictures, and tossed a coin in. The legend says if you throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome. Looks like we’ll just have to come back one day…
We had a bit of of a scare shortly after we threw our coins. We heard a huge explosion that sounded like it was the next block over from where we were. After a few seconds, we saw a huge plume of thick, black smoke rising up from over the building. We grabbed each others hands and stuck close to our guide. Most of the folks in the area were just looking at each other with very confused faces. Our guide went and asked the closest police officer in the area and he said it was something to do with a bus. We weren’t really comforted by that at the time, but later found out a Rome city bus had caught fire and later exploded. Thankfully, all the passengers made it off before it happened, but we were assuming the worst at the time.
Our next stop was the Pantheon. I was shocked to see how it had completely been transformed by Rome’s Catholic identity. They left no trace of it’s pagan roots. Standing in the center looking up was unlike anything we had experienced thus far. (Keep in mind the Sistine Chapel was later that day…more on that later) We were still a little spooked from the explosion earlier so we took a little break inside the Pantheon. It was a great spot to rest for a bit.
After the Pantheon, we headed to a nearby church to see a few paintings by Caravaggio. The size and detail of them was beyond what I expected. They were installed as altarpieces and have been in the church since 1600. We also walked through the nearby Piazza Navona which is built on the site of the former Stadium of Domitian. The oval shaped sidewalks were once the perimeter of a venue for athletic contests and periodically gladiator shows.
Next, we walked along the river for a bit heading towards the Vatican. The day was starting to heat up, and we had hiked quite a bit at that point. We stopped for some water and then went in. The Vatican was a strange and beautiful little place. They have their own police, their own embassies, and their own flag. We got the highlights before heading out for some lunch.
Up next in Part Two: Our run-in with the Pope, (I’m kidding) the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica.