The Eternal City

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June 3rd 2018
Published: December 21st 2018
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Rome, a city of 4.3 million and capital of Italy, is said to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in all of Europe. With a history dating back to at least the 7th century, Rome, also known as the Eternal City, was once the center of the largest Empire the world had ever known and influenced the development of human civilization in numerous ways. And because of this most every corner of the old city can be considered historical and in fact we would find out that one needn't walk far in any direction to come across a relic or ruin from an age long ago.

I was traveling with my brother Shawn, yet again on an Air Canada standby flight, and we had planned a quick visit to Europe having been able to take a short but adequate amount of time off work. We landed in Fiumicino Airport and quickly came through customs. Then we bought a ticket to board a bus heading to the central station in the city center. It was mid-morning but the temperature was rising fast and the sky was as clear as could be. In fact most of Europe was in the midst of a heatwave. We arrived at the central station some 40 minutes later, and it appeared like a bit of a dodgy part of town. We didn't really know where we were but we tried to orient ourselves with the help of some WIFI from a McDonald's. A fifteen minute walk later and we reached Night and Day guesthouse. Monica greeted us at the door and then brought us to the third floor, giving us step by step instructions on how to unlock all the doors and use the antiquated lift, if we chose to. Monica was incredibly charismatic and an incredible host, giving us multiple maps with top attractions, restaurants, as well as an outline of the transit system. She offered us coffee and we spent about 20 minutes going over everything. We arrived in Rome knowing absolutely nothing and now at least we seemed to have a rudimentary grasp on what was worth checking out with our limited time here. We quickly changed and then Shawn and I went outside and down the street to a nearby restaurant that Monica recommended as we were famished. At this point I had a weird rash breakout on my outer elbow region bilaterally and figured I must have been in contact with something my body didn't like too much, but it wasn't too itchy thankfully. We chowed down on pasta dishes, in fact our goal was to eat as much pasta and pizza as possible while here! Once fed it was time to see what Rome was all about. Our guesthouse was a very short distance from the beautiful Trevi fountain, so that's where we decided to head to first. It was a mob around the fountain, covered with lavish statues from the Roman age. We then walked slightly north and saw the Spanish Steps, and walked to the top. I thought we made a wise choice choosing our guesthouse in the heart of old Rome. We had walked for literally ten minutes and had already seen two of the top sites! We carried on heading west. Monica had circled the must see spots so we used her map as a marker to where to go next but took small alleyways and random streets as we went. We passed incredible plaza's quite often. We then came across the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple which is now a church. Light streamed in from an opening at the top and cast at a certain point within depending on the time of day. We walked around for a few more hours, covering lots of ground. It was hot and we were so jet lagged but we knew we had to make our way to one of the most famous sites on the planet today: The Colosseum. I would venture a guess that no visit to Rome is complete without it. We headed south and passed many ancient sites along the way. Finally we arrived and went inside. Completed in AD 80, the Colosseum had a capacity of over 50000 spectators at any one time, and was the largest amphitheater ever constructed. This was the site of famed gladiator battles, as well as re-enactments of battles, dramas, and executions to name a few. We spent a bit of time walking around and seeing place from different angles. Then we headed out and looked out for a restaurant to grab some dinner as the sun began to go down. This time I had a giant helping of lasagna as we sat on a terrace overlooking a square. We walked back to the guesthouse, utterly tired from the day. We passed the Trevi fountain and got to see it in the night "light". I took a quick shower and then was out pretty much once my head hit the pillow.

I woke Shawn very early, the sun wasn't even close to rising yet. Our second and last full day in Rome and we absolutely needed to take advantage. We figured that we would try to get to the Vatican early, before the endless hordes of tourists arrived and created immeasurable queues. Known as the Vatican City State or the Holy See, is considered an independent state and is headed by the Pope, representing the Catholic Church throughout the world. We could have spent 40 minutes walking there but instead decided to try and take the metro so we would get there early enough. We still hadn't pulled out any Euros, having used our credit cards easily for everything else, but the automated metro terminal only seemed to accept cash. We had to scramble and try to find a vendor who accepted cards for tickets. Eventually we did and then were on our way for several stations until we reached our stop. It was a short walk and then we stepped onto St. Peter's square. At this point it was still pretty empty. The sky was as blue as could be and we knew another blistering day was in store. We headed right for St. Peter's Basilica and decided to climb the countless steps to the top. We actually had to backtrack initially and find an ATM outside of the city walls because they only accepted cash as admission to the top. We got to the see part of the Basilica from above which was pretty cool. Then we continued and went outside, getting a 360 view of all surrounding us, including more of the Vatican grounds and the Square, as well as Rome as far as the eye could see. On our way down we found a little cafe that served beer and figured we may as well since it was only fitting to have a beer in each and every different country and the Vatican qualified as such. Once back down, we entered the Basilica and I was blown away by its grandeur. In fact I guess this is where they got the term "gaudy" from. We spent time roaming around, and then eventually made our way through the square and back into Rome. From there we walked towards the Tiber river and crossed back into the old city, walking along places we hadn't see the day before. We stayed close to the Tiber as it snaked along between different neighborhoods. We crossed the bridge again and walked along Trastevere street. We found a place to have lunch and ate a large pizza each. Pizza and pasta was the name of the game while in this town. We then walked all the way back to the guesthouse. Near the Pantheon we found a gelato shop and indulged. We would take a nap, but unfortunately we ended up sleeping several hours too long! Nonetheless we got up and went out for an evening stroll and bite to eat. We went along the busy Del Corso street, lined with shopping and restaurants along the main and side streets. We settled on a restaurant and had more pasta. Then we walked all the way to the Piazza del Popolo and then walked back again. On the way we stopped at a pub near our place and relaxed with some beer. And then back to sleep soon after.

The next morning we had to be up early and walked with our packs towards the Central Station, to catch our bus back to the airport. Once there we enjoyed the lounge while waiting for our flight, which was delayed slightly. I had a first good impression of Rome, and I would definitely like to return to see more of it, and more of Italy in general.

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