{Colosseum and the Roman Ruins}

We had lunch on the other side of the Tiber River in a district of Rome called Trastevere. The area is very picturesque with its cobble stone streets, colorful buildings and overgrown greenery. We found a quiet restaurant with seating outside where we stopped to enjoy an amazing Italian lunch. I had gnocchi with alfredo sauce (heaven!) and Adam had seafood risotto. Lunch was perfectly delicious and gave us enough energy to venture off into the hot (HOT!) summer sun to explore the Colosseum and Roman Forum.
Like the prepared travelers that we are, Adam and I pre-purchased our tickets for the Colosseum before hand and once again, boy are we glad that we did! The line was incredibly long and I couldn’t imagine how miserable it must have been to stand in that torturous heat waiting to just purchase your ticket (especially while watching others fly by you joyfully waving their pre-purchased tickets in the air).
Soon we were in the Colosseum. Adam couldn’t control his excitement of walking where gladiators fought so long ago. I couldn’t get over its size. The Colosseum is massive and ominous. We walked around the arena drawing in our mind how it looked in its heyday.
After the Colosseum, we made our way to the Roman Forum. I had pre-downloaded Rick Steve’s audio tour and we followed that while exploring the area (The audio tour was great. We learned so much and it was really easy to follow!). It was amazing to be in the heart of the religious and political center of Ancient Rome.


{Rome//Exploring the Streets}

We started our first day in Rome eating sandwiches on the Spanish Steps. It was early afternoon and the steps were absolutely packed with people eating, talking and enjoying the hot Italian sun. Next we walked around the city, stopping at places like the famous St. Andrew Church, Piazza Colonna (and its giant column depicting Rome defeating the Germanic tribe that has been there since the year 193), the Temple of Hadrian, Sacra Largo di Torre Argetina (where Julius Caesar was killed), and the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuela (a massive war monument- you can go to the roof for free and see views of the city!).
One of the highlights of our walk was visiting the Church of St. Ignatius. The ceiling of this church is painted using an illusionistic technique, and it is extremely well done! It is impossible to decipher between actual architecture and artistic deception. The church actually has a flat ceiling, but you would never know, even after squinting or staring at it… and the dome near the front of the church is actually painted on, but from the back of the church, that’s something you would never know either!
After our necks started hurting from looking up for so long and our eyes strained from trying to solve the optical illusions, we headed over to the Pantheon. This building, much like a lot of ancient buildings in Rome, just kind of popped out of nowhere in between apartment buildings and street traffic. I couldn’t get over how big the structure is and how large and wide its iconic columns are. The inside of the Pantheon is amazing with its numerous arches, gorgeous dome (and large hole in the center for light), and well-preserved marble floor that the emperors of Ancient Rome even walked on.
Of course, we ended our walk around Rome with a trip to the Trevi Fountain and a coin into the water to ensure that we would return to Rome one day. A tip to anyone going to Rome: The proper technique for this tradition is to stand with your back facing the fountain and throw the coin over your left shoulder with your right hand. It is a bit harder than it sounds!
We finished our day with some delicious gelato (biscotti, stracciatella and pistachio-the biscotti was my favorite!) from a place called Gelateria a la Romana… and when I say delicious, I mean delicious! Upon walking back to our hotel, we noticed that there was an incredibly long line of locals waiting to get into the store, and we figured that if locals were crowding there, then it had to be good. The line seemed to never end, and every time people would leave with their gelato, more locals would line up! I would 100% recommend finding this place if you are ever in Rome!