The Eternal City Day 1 (Summer Sailing 2018)

Although we were upset about the adventure on the Oosterdam coming to an end, our 4-day adventure in Rome was just getting started, and this was one that I’ve been looking forward to all voyage. Last time we had come to Rome, it was 2014, and it was one of the ports of call on another Princess Cruises Mediterranean line we did. Since it wasn’t the beginning or ending port, we only had a day’s time in the city, which is not nearly enough to explore the entirety of the open-air museum that is Rome. On our last visit, we had only visited the Colosseum and took a trip to the Vatican – we had skipped everything in between. That is the very reason we had left Rome thinking that it was overrated; we hadn’t actually seen the gems of Rome in the first place.

            We arrived in port bright and early in the morning and after a pretty swift disembarkation process, we were officially off the boat and standing on the port of Civitavecchia with our luggage in hand. We had found a private hire beforehand from the All Around Italy company and they were scheduled to pick us up directly from the port, and drop us off at our hotel. From the port to hotel, which was around a 90 minute journey, it was around 140 Euros, but worth every Euro because of the excellent service we had received, and the personable nature of our driver. Fabrizio entertained us the whole ride, gave us some background on his favourite parts of Rome, and never stopped smiling. We found out halfway through the ride that he was actually the owner of the company, which made the service feel ever more personal.

The hotel we had booked was the Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, which was in part chosen for A) its ridiculously close walking distance to many of Rome’s best attractions and B) for its rooftop terrace/restaurant (This was probably a bigger factor for me). We found our way to our room, dropped off our luggage, freshened up a bit, and got ready for a day of sight-seeing and lots of walking.

The first thing on our hit-list? The Spanish Steps. We walked there, which took around 20 minutes or so (not the easiest thing to do in the sweltering heat), and got a ton of pictures. The cherry on top? We purchased a gelato from a nearby shop and we ate it on the steps, just like how Audrey Hepburn did in Roman Holiday. We were playing the typical tourist, but we didn’t mind. After all, we were in Rome. The Eternal City. And we wanted to do it all. Her adventures actually gave us a few ideas for when planning our itinerary, which you’ll see later on.

After walking up and down the stairs more times than one, we decided that it was time to move on, so we headed down Via Corso, which had some of the most expensive shops in all of Rome. This is where the tourists flock if they came to Rome to do some high-end shopping.

We found our way to the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s treasures and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain, which is at the junction of three roads, marks the terminal point of the modern Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo, one of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. This, and the aqueduct system, served Rome for more than 400 years. At the center of the fountain is Neptune – the God of Water and the Sea. The tradition is to throw a coin using the right hand over the left shoulder and this is supposed to ensure a return trip to Rome. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.

It was so hard to get a photo of the fountain, or of us throwing coins into it, without having strangers in the back or standing right beside us. It was probably one of the most crowded tourist attractions I’d ever seen; everywhere you turned, there were people. I guess everybody is hoping for another trip back to the city.

The next stop on our list was the Pantheon, which was a former Roman temple and now a church. What’s so amazing is that almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. It’s incredible how the architects and people of the world thousands of years ago were able to construct such an architectural feat.

The dome has a central oculus and serves as the Pantheon’s main source of natural light.

Even if you forget what the inside looks like, the outside is stunning all just the same.

We were a little tired after the morning’s adventures so we chose to walk back to the hotel to get a bit of rest and recharge ourselves for the plans we had scheduled in the evening.

We took a bit of a long way back, which I’m glad we did because I always like to be where the tourists don’t tend to crowd.

After our quick power nap, we walked to Piazza Navona, which is perhaps the best ‘piazza’ in Rome for evening walks. In Italian, a passeggiata, which translates to a pre-or-post dinner stroll around any piazza or park, is a common pastime for residents.

On our walk there, we passed by a lot of photo-worthy sights and things.

We got to the Piazza at dusk, which was the perfect time to walk around and start taking photos. At the center of the Piazza Navona is the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Bernini. The Piazza has two other fountains – the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four tritons at one end and the Fountain of Neptune at the other end.

We chose to eat dinner at Tucci Restaurant in the Piazza, as that would allow us to people-watch while eating. We ordered a good amount of pizza, Italian beer, and sangria that was made in house. It all left us satisfied, not because we were full from the meal and inebriated from the drinks, but because we were in Rome’s famous Piazza, just having dinner, with not a care in the world. How many people can say that?

To burn off the dinner calories, we wanted to continue our evening stroll. We walked back to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps again for the night view, but it was just as crowded as before. What I’m just realizing now as I’m writing this is that it would’ve been smart to wake up at 5 am one morning to get to the sights while the city was still asleep. This is definitely what I’m going to aim to do next time I’m back in Rome (which will hopefully be soon after that coin throw). During our walk, I realized that Italian people are very friendly, which I was able to see through the behaviour of the street vendors. They’d come up to you, strike up a conversation, invite you to check out their booth or store, and if you said no (which we typically did), there were no hard feelings. They’d give you a smile and wave you off, saying good night.

By the end of the day, when we made it back to our hotel, we had taken a little over 20,000 steps. It was a tiring first day, but I knew the days to follow would be just as tiring because of all that we wanted to see. You could stay for a month in Rome and still not see everything – it’s that expansive and that rich in history, sights, and culture.

Our plans for the next day were to actually take an organized tour out of the city and to a special place that has a beauty like no other. But don’t worry! We’ll be back in Rome soon 🙂

~Julia

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