Before coming to Rome, we had read many horror stories of theives, gypsies and pickpockets, so we were paranoid. We thought maybe if we just tried to blend in and not look like tourists, no one would bother us. Our plan was to walk confidently like we always knew where we were going and that we understood Italian. And to always hold tight to our stuff. We studied our maps and travel guides secretly and out of sight. When our train arrived in Rome, we confidently walked out of the train station and over a few blocks to our hotel. Whew! Made it! Still had all of our belongings, too!
We stayed at the Hotel Kennedy, just a few blocks from the Termini train station, super easy to find and to make metro connections.
Horse and buggy by Colosseum
We had a nice little double room with an awesome bathroom that even had a bidet. We dropped our stuff, rested a few minutes and studied our maps. What should we do first? We decided to do outdoor things because it was late in the day and most attractions were either closed or would be soon. We decided to start at the Colosseum, walk through the Roman Forum, make our way over to the Panthenon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. We bought metro tickets at the Tabacchi store and set off. I gave Michele a quick lesson on navigating the metro system, but didn't want to linger long in front of the map because only tourists don't know where they are going!
We emerged from the metro station to the wonderful sight of the Colosseum looming overhead.
Looking up at Colosseum
Cool! We made our way over and after a few minutes, decided that everyone else had their cameras out and didn't seem too concerned about thieves, so we probably could too. The inside was closed, so we just walked around the outside. We wandered over to the Roman Forum, but it was also closed. We stopped in a little church next to the forum and tried to figure out where exactly we were. I guess we didn't realize that the Forum could close. Fairly recently, they started charging to enter the Forum (happens to be included in the cost of the Colosseum/Palatine Hill ticket). So maybe you could wander the Forum at any hour before this change? Anyway, we decided we couldn't get in so we should keep moving. We passed the statue of Julius Caesar, with wreaths and flowers adorning the statue.
Forum columns and Colosseum
Aww, that's nice, I thought. (2 days later we realized today was the Ides of March - the day Caesar died). We also passed some street statues and it was quite fun to watch the unsuspecting tourists when they found out those "statues" were live people!
We passed a huge white marble building with statues and fountains and who knows what else. We figured it was something, so we took a picture and kept moving. Turns out it was the Victor Emmanuel Monument - a momument for the unification of the country. It sort of sticks out because it is such a bright, no, brilliant, white marble and isn't in a ruined condition like the Forum behind it.
Soon enough we found the Panthenon, complete with a large crowd outside.
We're behind bars
What's going on? Turns out there was a church service inside and everyone was waiting to get in. Some of these tourists were pretty rude. There was only a narrow walkway between people for the church-goers to leave and the tourists kept pushing forward and filling in those gaps. The poor church-goers had to push through the crowd just to get out! All of a sudden it was like a dam broke and the tide of people just carried us inside. We got separated and forced to just go with the flow. It was maddening. I saw a few things on the side, but couldn't get near enough to anything because of all the people. I did look up at the hole in the ceiling. I got pushed over to the center where the service chairs were set up and the preacher was cleaning up the altar after the service.
This was only slightly less chaotic than the rest of the place. I was going crazy. I needed to leave, NOW! I cannot handle such large crowds - the noise, the pushing, not being able to see what we wanted. I grabbed Michele and we pushed our way against the throng just to leave. Wow, that was crazy! I imagine that is what it is like during the busier tourist season. Gulp. I never did make it over to the other side, but I thought I might hurt someone if I didn't get out of there. A quick note on the history: the Panthenon was a church dedicated to martyrs, so it was not destroyed after the fall of Rome.
Next we wandered over to the Trevi Fountain. We heard great things from a friend of ours.
Me by the Colosseum
Go see it at night, its beautiful. Go see it during the day, its so relaxing. Well, we must see this Trevi Fountain! The small streets we walked were filled with cafes and souvenir stands and tourists and maybe a few locals. We arrived at the fountain to, guess what?, crowds of people! We stood near the top and tried to look at it, but it was hard with all the people trying to find places to sit or pushing their way to the front to take photos. And those that throw a coin in to ensure they'd return to Rome. We pushed our way through and found seats on the bottom level on the far right with a pretty good view of the people sitting on the fountain ledge, oh, and the fountain behind them. We tried to enjoy the view, maybe even take a picture or two, but there was so much else to look at.
Forum closed for night
The tourists, of course, but also the street sellers of super annoying toys. They had some little rock-like toy that you play with in your hand and it makes a really annoying loud noise and they walk around and do this everywhere. I don't think we even heard the water in the fountain, but I saw it flowing so it must have made a noise, right? Everytime we'd try to take a picture, there was one of those guys offering to take our picture (for some enormous fee, I'm sure) or sell mini tripods. Just get out of my way! I don't want your stuff and stop making all that noise! How could anyone like this? Sure, the fountain was gorgeous, impressively huge and right in the middle of modern buildings, but it was so chaotic there! We probably sat for about 20 minutes and then left.
Caesar's statue on anniversary of his death
I didn't throw a coin in, because so far, I don't care to return. There's too many people here for me.
The next stop was the Spanish Steps, but first we had to find the McDonald's that was supposed to have a bunch of gold and marble in it. We found it, or thought we did. We made a quick bathroom stop, then hit the gelato shop in the bottom of it. Mmm. Gelato. It was so pretty. Why can't our McDonald's have gelato? I got a scoop of Nutella and a scoop of lemon. We went to the Spanish Steps to enjoy our gelato before it all melted. We sat up near the top. Again, why is this place so popular? There's nothing to look at except the backs of the people below you. And we are so lucky to have those guys here selling noise-makers and tripods again.
Statues butt (Michele's humor)
Wonderful. Why can't we be able to just relax without someone trying to sell us something? Yeah, we weren't impressed here. We finished our gelato and made our way back to the hotel.
In the metro station, I got a view that made my day. I was getting pretty grumpy from all the chaos here, so when we got to the station, we noticed a guy wearing a kilt in front of us. Actually, we'd noticed quite a few guys wearing kilts that day. I think there was a rugby tournament in town. This guy was ahead of us waiting for the train. Just then the train behind us (going the other way) came rushing through and the guy's kilt flew up and started dancing in the wind. He he he, I was staring at his butt cheeks! Totally made my day.
I guess that's what you get when you go without your skivvies under your kilt.