|Ben at the Colosseum|
We started by exploring ancient Rome. We saw:
- Colosseum: Opened in A.D. 80 as a gift to the Roman people, the Colosseum hosted gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights for four centuries. The building seated more than 50,000 spectators, all of whom could exit the building in under 10 minutes. Unfortunately, those crowd control skills didn't carry over to modern Rome, and it took a lot of pushing and shoving to enter the building (even though we had reserved tickets ahead of time).
- Imperial Forums: Public squares built by a succession of emperors starting with Julius Caesar. The forums were the center of city life during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.
- Roman Forums: Originally an Etruscan burial ground, the Roman Forums served as the center for trade, religion and politics in ancient Rome. Many important buildings were located nearby, including the former royal residence, the Temple of Vesta and the complex of the Vestal Virgins.
- Arch of Constantine: A triumphal arch erected in honor of Constantine's defeat of Maxentius in A.D. 312.
- Palatine Hill: One of the seven hills of Rome and home to patrician families and early emperors. According to Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa in a cave on Palatine Hill.
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We followed up our tour of ancient Rome with an evening stroll through the Historic Center. Sadly the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovations. The Spanish Steps were overcrowded with tourists (a common theme in Rome) and we watched a couple get engaged while everyone cheered them on. After dinner, we walked along the Tiber, admiring the Castel Sant'Angelo and the Vatican from afar.
|Pantheon, meaning "every god"|
|Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi on the Piazza Navona|
See more photos of art and architecture in Rome
Despite my normal good planning, I had neglected to reserve tickets at the Vatican, leaving us to stand in line early the next day. We spent an hour and a half standing outside, hoping our tiny slice of shade wouldn't disappear before we made it inside. Tour operators harassed us the whole time, trying to get us to buy a tour and skip the line. They were aggressive, annoying, expensive and often dishonest and it bothered us that Italy allows/encourages this sort of thing. We eventually got in without their help and spent most of our time in the Egypt exhibit, the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel. We skipped St. Peter's Basilica because it would have required waiting in line yet again.
- The tiny neighborhood restaurant below our hotel: The food was incredible. I ordered linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams). On Cape Cod, my family picks our own clams and then makes linguine alle vongole according to my Italian grandmother's recipe. I have high standards for this dish and I mean it when I say it was amazing. The clams were small and tasty, the sauce was flavorful and coated each string of linguine. I wanted to go back a second time, and was willing to forego trying every other restaurant in Rome it was so good, but unfortunately they were out of linguine alle vongole on our second try.
- A restaurant a few blocks from the Colosseum: I was worried about eating so close to a tourist attraction and insisted that we wander a few blocks away, even though we were starving. This turned out to be a good decisions because our spaghetti alla carbonara and penne al salmone (penne with salmon) were delicious and reasonably priced.
- Tavernaccia: We had a really enjoyable dinner at this out-of-the-way restaurant in Trastevere. The house wine was excellent (and wine in Italy was cheap, which made dining out comparatively affordable). Ben ate maialino arrosto cotto a legna (suckling pig), I ate pasta with eggplant and artichoke and we had cassata siciliana, a very sweet Sicilian dessert to finish off the meal.
- Da Enzo: After the Vatican, we didn't have much planned other than eating at Da Enzo, a small pasta shop in Trastavere. It was definitely worth planning our day around. I ate cacio e pepe ("cheese and pepper," which was basically fettuccine alfredo) and Ben ate amatriciana. I preferred his, and he kindly switched with me.
- Cacio e Pepe: We grabbed Negronis at a bar in Trastevere before enjoying our final dinner at Cacio e Pepe. The linguine alle vongole wasn't quite as good as the other place, but it was a nice festive atmosphere for the last night of our trip.
cute little B&B near Trastevere, we enjoyed learning about all the history, despite the crowds, and we loved the food.