Veni Vidi Vici Rome

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” – Giotto di Bondone

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Passing by St. Peter’s Square

Nothing like a visit to Rome to make you feel insignificant amidst the massive structures left over from a mighty empire. Hail Caesar! The history is just amazing. Like getting roundhouse-kicked by Chuck Norris in the face. Everything makes your jaw drop. Massive stone structures and buildings and sculptures. It’s too much for someone to take in just a few days.

We arrived by train at the Roma Termini Station. From there we took a taxi to our hostel which was in a quiet neighbourhood outside Vatican City. You can easily take Bus 64 to/from Termini and Vatican City and it’s surrounding area. Well, you don’t really have a choice because that’s the only bus that goes there to our ‘hood.

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A very early and blurry morning shot of Roma Termini Train Station.

Given our experience with directions, we took a cab to make sure that we won’t be getting lost again. Our apartment was very accessible from St. Peter’s Square with an awesome view of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at night. We loved our quaint, quiet neighbourhood without the hoards of tourists. Also, there was a convenience store about a block away that sold fresh fruits, yogurt, cold cuts, cheese and Lucky Me Instant Noodles in Bulalo flavour. What?! A Filipino can only have so much pasta and bread before the cravings start. Anyhow, read more about our accommodations here: Where To Stay In Rome

Rome is a massive city. With the heat and the cobblestones and the crazy drivers, I don’t recommend walking around. If you can take the bus to save energy, do it. The 24 hour pass is 6Euros per person and is totally worth it ‘cos most of the sights and attractions require a lot of walking up and down flights of stairs and long corridors. Take care of your feet, you’ll need them for the rest of the trip.

10411132_10203576507885304_7955668398084300362_nCase in point, steps upon steps upon steps under the heat of the sun

So this time, I had a checklist but even that was incomplete. It’s impossible to see everything in a week. Of course, I would never disrespect or belittle a place by spending only a few moments to bask in its glory. There’s just too much of everything.

Carla’s Rome Checklist:

√ Trevi Fountain

There is no possible way to get close to the Trevi Fountain unless you go at 6am in the morning. There were so many people. Like I can’t even begin to describe the mass of humanity in the area but it’s still worth the visit. It’s so horribly crowded so you better watch your bags because pickpockets are everywhere. Good thing that the Fontana di Trevi is so massive ( 85 ft. high and 65 ft. wide) that from any angle you can take a decent shot.

History Lesson: Under the Trevi flows one of Rome’s ancient acqueducts – Acqua Vergine. Completed in 1762, the fountain shows a figure called “Oceanus” riding a giant clam shell. He represents all kinds of water forms. To the right side is Triton, Poseidon’s son (Roman mythology people) blowing a conch shell. Why they’re riding winged horses escapes me.

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You’ve got to hand it to the Romans, they sure know their fountains

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Ain’t that a beauty? Totally awesome!

√ Threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain 

According to legend, if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder with your back to the Trevi, this will ensure your return to Rome. Since I would rather not elbow my way to the front, I did my own version of that legend by throwing a coin from the second level over the heads of hundreds of tourists. Thankfully, I did not hit anyone in the face.

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Obligatory selfie with a huge smile on my face or should i call it a Fountain-fie? 

√ Pantheon

This hulking structure dates back to 126 AD and remains one of the best-preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. Before the current building was a structure commissioned by Marcus Agrippa (whose name is on the building now) at around 27 BC – 14 AD. Now that’s old.  Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. Today it’s a Catholic church with regular masses and all.

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Weee so many tourists! Falling in line is awesome…

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Fontana del Pantheon with an Egyptian obelisk from the time of Ramses II

√ Selfie under Pantheon Dome

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. So this thing is definitely a big deal.

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But first, let me take a selfie or dome-fie…

√ Climbed up and down the Spanish Steps

This monumental flight of stairs was completed back in 1725, which is probably also the same number of tourists sitting on the steps at any given day. Since it’s located in Piazza di Spagna, one of the main shopping districts of Rome, it’s a stroke of luck if you can find a spot for yourself. Also, since it’s so hot during the day, it doesn’t make sense to hang out here. The steps are really steep so climb with care, you don’t want to fall face first in someone’s gelato.

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So, you wanna hang out up there?

√ Traipse Around the Roman Forum 

The Roman Forum is a large plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings. Since it’s at the centre of the city and was the heart of Ancient Rome, it used be the most happening place in the world back in the day. The Forum is also a mini-city in size. Wear comfortable shoes ‘cos the terrain goes from rocky to grassy to cobblestones in like no time.

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We’ve got a long way to go…
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The Arch of Titus, completed in 82 AD, is the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe

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My feet hurt, my back hurt, I was sweating buckets but hey, the view was worth it. 

√ Had Grom Gelato

I probably ate worth my weight in gelato while going around Italy ‘cos it was hot and there was a gelato store in every corner. Who am I kidding, I just wanted to eat ice cream, lots of it. Everyone kept raving about Grom so off we went looking for this store in one of the side streets. The line was long. The staff friendly. The gelato real good but expensive. Everything in Rome is expensive, like seriously. Oh yeah, the Crema de Grom (made from egg cream, biscuits and dark chocolate) was hella good.

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Excuse me, are you guys in line?

10552619_10203576480404617_1902749364527293541_nSicilian Lemon and Crema de Grom

√ Walked across St. Peter’s Square

The Forum Sancti Petri is the large plaza outside St. Peter’s Basilica where the Pope holds audience. Designed by Bernini, the space is surrounded by colonnades that according to him “embraces visitors in the maternal arms of Mother Church”. In the middle is a large Egyptian Obelisk that dates back to 2494 BC – 2345 BC. It’s humongous, like the size of about several football fields. Walk slowly and take in everything. Take pictures too.

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√ Night shot of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Right outside our apartment, you’ll find a awesome sight. Zero tourists and the beautiful view of the Basilica Dome against the night sky.

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√ Climbed the steps of Il Vittoriano

Il Vittoriano or the Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. So being a stranger to Italian history, I have no idea what this building was about. We just followed the crowd and ended up here.

10488386_10203576509405342_8631344145507792534_nAncient Roman architecture – the bigger the better

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10420263_10203576510005357_1093561117659509645_nThe goddess Roma (Rome’s deity) who holds in her hand the eternal flame. 

10403651_10203576508485319_4472423078962688825_nLook! That’s me. 

√ Colosseum

Built in 72 AD, the colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. Back in the day it could hold an estimated audience of almost 80,000. Ancient romans used to head down here to watch gladiator fights, executions and other public spectacles. Over time, earthquakes and stone robbers have broken down this iconic structure that symbolises Imperial Rome. After lining up and climbing up, the first glimpse leaves you open-mouthed and speechless.

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√ Did a Russel Crow Gladiator speech at the Colosseum “Are you not entertained?!?!?!”

Yeah well, as an extreme movie geek, I could not resist. Ehem,

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Still one of the best movies ever.

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10502460_10203748614907872_2526707381065170308_nBrothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.”
– Russell Crowe as Maximus, The Gladiator

√ Had Pizza…a lot…

Like most pizza places in Italy, the bake it in large rectangular slabs, cut slices, weigh them and charge you by the gram. We stumbled upon this place accidentally and ended up clearing the joint. One small square slice is not enough. The cook and cashier loved us.

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One slice is not enough!!!!

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The super friendly staff at Alice. 

√ Had even more Gelato

Right around the corner from the pizza place was another Gelateria with a long line. What did we do? Lined up too. My god, ice cream in this part of the world is TO DIE FOR.

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Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…again.

√ Ordered some Porchetta

Porchetta, or a huge slab of boneless pork belly, is considered by some department of the Italian government as “traditional agricultural-alimentary product”, one of a list of traditional Italian foods held to have cultural relevance. In other words, this piece of meat is a big freakin’ deal. On the way back to the apartment, one of the restaurants had a huge display of this beautiful creation. After being away from home for almost a month, visions of Lechon Belly were dancing in my head. So I ordered a sandwich  from the Italian lady who loved it when I called her Mama. She liked me so much that she gave me a plate of skin to try. While very tender and crispy, it did not have any taste at all. I am so used to the juicy, salty, spicy and savoury Cebu Lechon flavour that this Porchetta could not live up to. Plus, they serve it in a crusty bun with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was definitely something new. I am so sorry to Italians all over but oh well, it is what it is. Still, it was super cool to have tried this dish.

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Not bad but can I have some soy sauce and vinegar please?

√ Did as the Romans do

After all the eating and sightseeing, I could generally say that I did good on my first visit. They say when in Rome, so I did. Haha inside joke. I’ll tell you all about it next time.

√ Left Rome

I came, I saw, I sort of conquered.

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