Venice was floating opulence, the Cinque Terre was picturesque peacefulness, and Rome was epic history. Every street corner, lamp post, church, and water fountain seem to tell a tale in Rome. There are thousands of years of stories stamped into the cobblestones and carved into the sculptures that line museums and streets. We arrived in Rome via train from the Cinque Terre which took us through Tuscany, and the views were lovely. Next time in Italy, we will add Tuscany to the list. As soon as we left the train station and walked to our hotel in Monti, one of Rome's old residential neighborhoods, I began to fall in love with Rome. Grandeur, importance, and beauty run down the streets like rainwater. Our first night there, we walked to the Pantheon, ordered rustic Roman pizza at a quiet restaurant in an old church, and explored the floodlit streets from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum. I think the first night was the best part of our time in Rome. We relaxed and soaked in the splendor.
In addition to undeniable importance, excitement, and romance, Rome also has the qualities that challenge every big city. Difficult, outdated public transportation, hoards of crowds, and heat that radiates off the stone and concrete. We found a peace and retreat away from the noise of the city along the Appian Way, Rome's ancient highway and an engineering marvel of its time. The early apostles would have traveled this way, and we visited one of the catacombs where early Christians were buried. The breeze flowed more freely along the Appian Way, and despite some frustration figuring out the bus system, it was worth the trip. We soaked in all the major sights of Rome. The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (which surprised us by how much we loved it), the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, The Palatine Hill. We wandered around hipster Monti and shopped in vintage clothing stores and leather shops where I purchased an Italian leather bag. We listened to an evening jazz concert on a bench in the Vatican Museum courtyard, we celebrated our trip with a fancy dinner at Ristorante Fortunato on the Pantheon square. We walked for miles and tried to appreciate the history that was before us. We waited in line in the rain and waited for what seemed like forever at bus stops. We missed a concert hosted by the Pope because we didn't understand Italian. Every inconvenience and confusion was worth it for the Roman experience which is unlike any other city or culture. For 1000 years, Rome reigned as a world power, and that power is still palpable.
At the end of our few days in Rome, we reluctantly said goodbye to Italy. Jeremy is always such a good sport about going home; however, I tend to pout about it a bit. I'm so grateful for the adventure and for all that we saw, and I hope someday we can return. Ciao, Italia.