Rome Is Alright

The Tiber River, from about two-thirds of the way up the Castel Sant’Angelo. The Ponte Sant’Angelo is on the left, Ponte Victor Emmanuel is on the right.

Today is Day Five of our six-day stay in Rome. We have tried to feel excited about being here, but both Brett and I currently have mixed feelings about our stay so far.

Overcast, rainy weather has stalked us the past few days making everything feel a bit more gloomy.

Rome was an add-on when we created our itinerary for the Big Adventure – we figured since we were in Italy we really should go and visit for a few days. So, we tacked on a week’s visit at the end of our month in Florence. Also, we knew that it would be easier to get to Lisbon from Rome than it would be from Florence, and cost considerably less, so that factored in as well.

Some of what we don’t like so far is not Rome’s fault. Brett has been miserable with a bad head cold since we arrived. My hip finally decided it had enough of cobblestones. Other than our first day it’s been overcast and rainy. There are crowds everywhere. I have torn two pairs of my pants on hidden sharp objects. Our apartment is almost too big, more than twice the size of our house back on Kaua’i, with a foyer as big as our living room there, and with marble everywhere it feels a bit cold, even with the heat on. There’s been annoying construction going on at times too. The bed is comfortable though, and the apartment is in a good location, especially for visiting the Vatican and getting to the Metro. There’s a nice grocery store and affordable pizza restaurant nearby. Our host has been helpful and responsive.

The architecture of the Colosseum was astounding.

We’ve been thrilled by what we’ve seen so far. Walking through the Colosseum, Palantine Hill and Roman Forum was a dream come true for me. St. Peter’s Basilica was breathtaking; and we thought the nearby Castel Sant’Angelo was fascinating with its interesting history and incredible views of the city from the top of the castle. Still, it mostly feels like all we’re doing is checking things off a list. We’ve been unable to get any sort of feel for the city unlike we did in Florence.

St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica

Two putti hold a basin of holy water.

Interior of the domes over the Bapistry Chapel.

Hopefully things will go better today. We took the day off yesterday to give both of us time to rest and recover, and because the weather was flat-out miserable. It also gave us time to talk about what we really wanted to see and do before we leave on Wednesday. Today we are heading out to check out the Pyramid of Cestius, the non-Catholic/foreigner’s cemetery where the poets Keats and Shelley are buried, the Aventine Keyhole (fingers crossed for this) and the Mouth of Truth. We’ll take it slow and stop when we need to. After that we’ll walk across the Tiber and stroll around Trastavere for a little bit if we feel up to it. We’d like to enjoy dinner there before taking a taxi back to our apartment.

The stairs and paths through Castel Sant’Angelo were almost like a maze, but offered wonderful views along the way. The wall on the right is part of the Emperor Hadrian’s tomb, from the second century C.E.

The original angel to top Castel Sant’Angelo, with his prosthetic wings, now stands watch over one of the interior courtyards in the castle.

On Tuesday morning we’ll once again pack up our suitcases, and then head over in the afternoon to tour the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel. We’ll enjoy pizza one last time for lunch and then finish up our leftovers for dinner. I think we’re going to make it out of Rome without eating any gelato – we’ve stopped and looked at it several times, but the flavors don’t excite us like they did in Florence, and the cold, rainy weather has been a deterrent as well.

Overall we’re glad we came to Rome but the city hasn’t won us over yet. It’s still just alright. Both Brett and I have remarked that we’re seeing things here we only dreamed of seeing in our lifetimes, but we’re missing a connection that we’ve experienced in other places. Hopefully the next couple of days will change that.

14 thoughts on “Rome Is Alright

  1. Barb says:

    Perhaps it’s not relevant to your issues, but my son feels that you can concentrate on the ancient or the religious and not both. The cathedral guy spent his time doing the former….at least partially because it’s all outside and with generally fewer lines.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree with you son, which is one reason I think Rome has so overwhelming for me (plus being sick hasn’t helped). I greatly wanted to see the Colosseum and Forum and they did not disappoint, but overall I think we’ve mostly enjoyed looking at the art while we’ve been in Italy. We are about “churched out” though – we plan to do more museum tours and neighborhood walks when we’re in Lisbon versus visiting churches.

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      • Laura says:

        LOL – for us it’s “Now whose dome is this?” We’ve been pretty selective about the cathedrals and churches we’ve entered, but it’s still to the point of too much for us at this point.

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  2. Tamara R / My Retirement Project says:

    I think perhaps you left a piece of your heart in Florence, and that is actually a lovely thing. We loved Rome, but it was our first stop in Italy, and I think that likely had an impact. Plus, the weather was lovely (April), and we wandered all day and night as we wished. In Florence, conversely, I was very sick and have just ‘eh’ memories as a result. So sometimes it just is what it is. 😊

    I do predict, however, that you will love Portugal!

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    • Laura says:

      We did love our time in Florence, and Rome seems so huge and impersonal in comparison. We almost didn’t go out today because we both felt so miserable (Brett spiked a fever and I had a sore throat), but the sun was out today so we switched up our plans and ended up having a wonderful day out and a nice dinner, and we’re both feeling a bit better about the city tonight than we were this morning.

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    • Laura says:

      Those two have been an unholy combination here. Yesterday was downright miserable, both with the weather and how we felt. We had a better day today though and so are feeling a bit more positive about being here.

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    • Laura says:

      This city is HUGE – like New York or Chicago size – and it has been a bit overwhelming. Neither of us felt very good this morning, but with the sun out we decided we didn’t want to stay inside and went out for a walk and had a great time! Plus, we had a wonderful dinner out: fried artichokes and cacio et pepe for me, fish and chips Italian-style for Brett. We’re looking forward to the Vatican Museums tomorrow!

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  3. tracy says:

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment my Mom and I had an incredible week in Rome in October and wished we could have stayed for a month… or longer. I think a few things contributed to our different experience from yours — 1) we both love big cities 2) the weather was amazing 3) we weren’t fatigued from several preceding weeks/months of travel, 4) we loved our AirBnb which was outside tourist central but still inside the historic walls, and perhaps most importantly 5) we’d both been before so didn’t feel the need to hit the “top sights” and were thus able to spend our time meandering and visiting less touristed spots, thus avoiding (for the most part) the hordes of tourists at the Colosseum, St. Peters etc. And when we did venture to those spots (Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps) they definitely weren’t our favorites, largely because of the crowds. I am so glad you had a wonderful time in Florence and hope you do enjoy your last couple of days in Rome. The places you are going today were favorites of ours!

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    • Laura says:

      We had planned do the Pyramid, cemetery, etc. today, but even with the sun out neither of us felt up to it – Brett still has his cold, and I feel like I’m on the verge of one again. So we looked at the map and instead walked over to Plaza Navona and the Pantheon and had a great time, and ended up happy we had gone without feeling like we’d had to push ourselves. I guess we’re just going to have to plan to come back again because we definitely want to see the Aventine Keyhole and the cemetery, and we definitely want to eat in Trastavere (although the dinner we had near the Vatican was very, very good!).

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  4. Laurel Hill says:

    LOL. My DH was about “churched out” too. We had my daughter with us in Rome, and she and I ended up going to the underground crypts at St. Peter’s while he went outside to St. Peter’s Square to wait. It does look like you had waaaay less people to contend with than we did. Your photo of the Pieta was so much closer than we were able to get without strangers in the shot. And we lost DH in the Basilica when we got separated for a bit. Luckily, he had the forethought to stand with my brightly striped rolled up umbrella in the air until we found him. We also had a warm sunny day, so that might have made a difference in the crowds.

    I hope you both feel well enough to enjoy the Vatican Museums. They are overwhelming but some sections are really fascinating – historically if not religiously. The tapestries and the Map Room were both very intriguing to me.

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    • Laura says:

      As I said before, I cannot imagine being here in the summer! Our trick for keeping track of each other is that I usually wear blue on top, and Brett wears his rusty orange jacket. NO ONE else is wearing orange, so he’s usually easy to spot in a crowd. He says it’s the same with the blue – not a popular color this time of year.

      We’re both looking forward to the Museums tomorrow and think it will be a great way to finish up our time in Rome. Thanks for the tips about the tapestries and Map Room – I will be paying attention. I will probably have to drag Brett out of the Map Room kicking and screaming!

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