Rome, Italy

August 5-8:

Our second-to-last stop in Italy was Rome! We were lucky enough to have found a wonderful AirBnB near many of the major sights and sounds of Rome. The AirBnB was nestled in a tiny space, but the layout felt like something straight out of an architectural magazine. Even though it was small, it felt huge and was perfect for relaxing in after nearly 2 months of travel and long walks through Rome during the day.

Our AirBnB base of operations in Rome
Our AirBnB base of operations in Rome

Trevi Fountain

In reading about Rome before arriving, we had read that the Trevi Fountain was best seen at nighttime, both to beat (some of) the crowds as well as to see the fountain fully lit up. To our surprise, our AirBnB was only a 7 minute walk from the fountain! After we arrived, we quickly dropped off our bags at our AirBnB and went out for an evening stroll to see the fountain.

Trevi Fountain at night – no crowds, right!?
Zoomed out a bit – oh there are the crowds!
Trevi Fountain

According to popular Roman legend, tossing a coin into this fountain means that you will return to Rome at some point in your life. We couldn’t pass up an opportunity as great as that!


One of the stops that we were most excited for in Rome was the mighty Coliseum. This was technically Lizzie’s second time seeing the Coliseum after her high school choir trip, but she loved seeing it again. We hopped on some Lime bikes and made our 15 minute bike ride from our AirBnB over to the site of the Coliseum. As with most cities in Europe, the streets of Rome seemed to be set up well for bike riders. It felt both safe and was just a lot of fun watching the city blur by from the seat of a bike – although for future reference, standard rentable scooters/bike don’t fare too well over the rough cobblestone streets of old cities such as Rome!

The scale of the Coliseum is impressive even for today’s standards. We tried picturing ourselves in ancient Rome, perhaps being from the countryside and traveling to the city of Rome for the first time. How absolutely in awe we would have been at buildings such as the Coliseum. It must have truly been a marvel in its day! The might of the Roman Empire illustrated by one structure.

We opted for the Rick Steve’s self-guided tour here again, and were humbled as we read about the histories of the Coliseum as we walked through. This place was a graveyard for so many unwilling souls and as much as it illustrated the might of the Roman Empire, it also showed just how brutal it was as well.

Inside the Coliseum
Inside the Coliseum

After our trip to the Coliseum, we went back to our AirBnB and watched the movie The Gladiator. It was Lizzie’s first time seeing it, and we loved seeing the same sights in the movie that we just saw in real life. It was a great reminder too of how many lives were lost here – historic brutality that we don’t want to forget as time continues barreling forward lest history repeat itself again someday.

Roman Forum

Right next to the Coliseum, and with entry included in the same tickets that we used for the Coliseum, the Roman Forum ruins stood in all of their former glory. These now-ruins were the heartbeat of the Roman Empire, with emperor’s residences, areas of political discourse, and temples all in one central area. Today, there are excavated ruins that you can walk through. We continued our trusty Rick Steve’s self-guided tour through the ruins.

Ruins in the Roman Forum with Latin engraving
Ancient Roman Forum ruins

While we were here, we ran into a family where one person was wearing an App State University t-shirt! We stopped to talk with them, and we learned that it just so happened that they lived no more than 15 minutes down the road from us in Harrisburg, NC. What are the odds of that!? We bonded over how much we all missed Chickfila right there in the middle of the Roman Forum.

Sites around Rome

The Pantheon! We couldn’t go inside due to COVID restrictions (we had to reserve a spot several days in advance)
Arch of Constantine
“Altar of the Fatherland” – an Italian World War 1 monument
The modern mixed with the ancient
A Rome specialty and one of our favorite meals of the trip – Carbonara
Lizzie’s Crema Di Caffè and Graham’s Tartufo!

Vatican City

St Peter’s Square, Vatican City

During our time in Rome, we decided to stop through the Vatican City! Technically its own micro-country, Vatican City sits right in the middle of the city of Rome. It is one of the top pilgrimage sites for Catholic church members, and is a huge tourist destination for tourists like us as well.

My original rather-naive thoughts were that the city just held offices for the Catholic church, and the residence for the pope, and not much else. To my surprise, there was quite a bit to see here.

Vatican City holds one of the largest art and history collections in the world, and its museums are sprawling. In addition to these museums, there is the St Peter’s Basilica, a few restaurants, and St Peter’s Square. We loved walking around and seeing all there was to see!

Inside the Vatican City

The museums here contained so many artifacts from all over the world. The example in the picture below is a bronze pot over 3000 years old…BC! Something that was 5000 years old, right there in front of us. Wow!

5000 years old! Wild!
A hallway full of ancient tapestries
Overlooking Rome from the museums of Vatican City
Stairs leading out of the museums

St Peters Basilica

Next to the museums, and still within the bounds of the Vatican City was St Peter’s Basilica. To this day, this is still the largest church in the world. And it’s also home to the Sistine Chapel!

Inside St Peter’s Basilica

To give you an idea of the scale of this building, check out the gold lettering at the top of the perimeter of the picture above, near the ceiling. That banner of lettering was over 7 feet tall!

St Peters Basilica

Most buildings like this use smaller bricks/statues/etc near the top of the walls and ceiling to give you the perspective that the building is larger than it actually is. In this case however, the builders made everything larger the higher up on the walls you went, to give you the perspective that this huge and intimidating building was actually quite snug and intimate! The statues on the top of the picture above are several feet taller than the statues on the bottom of the picture. Crazy!

They say that Peter, the disciple of Jesus, who brought Christianity to Rome-has his remains buried in this church 23 feet under the marble floor. A gold banner above reads in Latin, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18).

Also according to tradition, the Basilica is over the exact spot that Peter was killed 1,900 years ago. Emperor Nero had him arrested and killed. Peter was going to be crucified like Jesus, but Peter did not feel worthy to die like his Lord- so he was nailed on a cross upside down. The exact spot is roped off for prayer. So we did some praying and were able to see it.

St Peters Basilica
St Peters Basilica – absolutely massive!

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures or videos inside of the Sistine Chapel which was connected to St Peters Basilica. We spent a solid 20 minutes there though staring up at Michelangelo’s handiwork, listening to the loudspeaker bellow every few minutes, “No photo! No video!” We begrudgingly complied.

Visiting Rome has always been on my bucket list, and Lizzie was thrilled to have a second opportunity to see this city again. Rome reminded us of how finite and fleeting life is as we saw the ruins of the Roman Empire around us at every turn – what is here today will not always be. In this spirit of the shortness of life, we hope that the legend of the Trevi Fountain is true and that we find ourselves back in the streets of Rome again one day in the future together!

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