We conquered a majority of Rome on our second day. Victor Emmanuel II monument, Capital Hill, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery. I’m glad to say we hit it all and even called in the night early. The trick is to buy the Roma Pass. It gets you in to your first 2 museums for free and gives you free metro rides around the city.
Although we should have, we didn’t take the metro this day. My legs are still throbbing from walking all the way from Camp de’ Fiori to the Borghese Gallery. If you know Rome, you’ll know that is a crazy long walk.
We started the day with a classic Italian breakfast – pastry with an espresso – at Giolitti’s, the world-famous gelateria. We initially wanted to get gelato, but thought 8:30am was a little too early for ice cream. So, we opted for the pastry. It was probably one of the best pastries I’ve ever had. Think a chewy chocolate croissant filled with Nutella.
First on the sightseeing list was the Pantheon. There are several “pantheons” in Europe, but Rome’s is definitely the first. It was initially built in 126 AD. That’s over 1800 years old! Once used as a church, the Pantheon now houses the tombs of Rome’s most famous artists and kings including Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II.
Next we headed over to the Emmanuel II Monument to take a few photos. This is probably one of the grandest buildings in all of Rome. The monument was built in the 1920s as an homage to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.
Just around the corner is Capitoline Hill. This hill houses a handful of museums filled with art, temple ruins, and statues and paintings from emperor Marcus Aurelius’ collection. The Temple of Jupiter was once ancient Rome’s most important temple and the little remains of this building are found in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The Tabularium was by far my favorite part of this group of museums. Not only because it has a cool name, it gave me my first “wow” in Rome. The Tabularium houses the remains of the Temple of Veiovis and has panoramic views of the Roman Forum.
We headed for the Roman Forum for a walking tour of the most densely populated area of Roman ruins. The forum was the heart of ancient home with the city’s oldest and most important governmental buildings. Just reading through Rick Steve’s walking tour of this site taught me so much about ancient Roman culture and modern day culture. Like, how Star Trek gained inspiration for its names from Emperor Nero, Rome’s leader in the 50-60s AD who was against Christianity, and Romulus from “Romulus and Remus,” the two brothers who founded Rome.
Next on the list was Palatine Hill, the birthplace of Rome. Which is now ruins of a giant palace, Palatine Hill has a ton of history – birthplace of Rome’s first emperor, homes to several emperors after that, the hill in which Hercules defeats Cacus for stealing cattle, etc. Too much to go over here, but very interesting nonetheless.
So, believe it or not, we finished with everything above in the morning. We took an hour break at Cavour 313 for a quick lunch of traditional Italian bar food. K ordered the buffalo platter which included dry, cured buffalo and 2 kinds of cheeses made from buffalo milk with a drizzle of really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I had the spinach salad with pears and some kind of creamy herb cheese. Both were delish, but K’s definitely was the highlight.
In the blink of an eye, we headed for the Colosseum. THANK GOODNESS we had the Roma Pass, otherwise we would’ve had to wait in a line several hours long. We cut through the line in a breeze and began our self-guided tour courtesy of Rick Steves. That’s another reason why we’re quickly going through each destination. Not really because we’re in a rush, but because we’re able to guide ourselves around each site with commentary from Rick Steve’s tour books. The Colosseum is the Colosseum. Not much to say here, except that it was really cool to see in person. If you’ve watched Gladiator, you know everything about this place.
Last but not least, we headed for the Borghese Gallery way up north of Rome. Note: If you want to visit this museum, you must make reservations in advanced. It sells out quickly and you’re only allowed to be in the museum for 2 hours. Borghese was a famous cardinal in Rome and was an avid art collector. His villa in which the museum is housed showcases the works of Raphael, famous sculptor Bernini, and another famous painter Carvaggio. The pieces in this museum are very unique and it definitely stands out amongst other art collections. The most memorable for me is Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne. This statue shows Daphne in the process of turning into a tree as she is escaping from the perusing Apollo.
We were pooped after this marathon of a day, so we rewarded ourselves with some gelato from Giolitti’s! They’re famous for their chocolate gelato, so we got that and I added a scoop of pistachio. Did you know they add home made, unsweetened, whipped cream on top of the ice cream? I’m still not sure if I like the combination, but I was impressed. At about 8pm, K and I headed back home to eat our leftovers from the night before and crashed for our next day of events. Stay tuned!