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I’ll start at the beginning and push my way through, as I have no other way to express the experiences of the day.
The night before I attempted to book a taxi on the app, “it Taxi.” I kept getting the message that no taxis were available to book. I felt like that was my problem and responsibility as I had waited so late to try and book one, but still, after our experience feeling desperate for a taxi in Milano, I was hoping for a sure thing in such a big tourist city.
We were up quite early, as we needed to make it to a meeting spot for our group tour of the Colosseum and Roman Senate by 8:15 or 8:30. We had all agreed to head out extra early in order to grab breakfast, so we left around 7 or so to find the place and then eat.
We walked out of the hotel and, lo and behold, a taxi was waiting for us! I checked the app and it said basically that my taxi was there and that I was en route, so apparently the app did work and book a taxi after all. Good to know that it worked, but still, it would make me nervous to rely on it too much!
This is when the crazy day began.
We were almost the only ones at the Colosseum. Perhaps we should have taken more pictures, but we wanted to find the meeting point and eat first. We couldn’t find the meeting point to save our lives. I messaged the person and she texted back, but still, no real meeting point could be found. A group message got sent to me, and others were looking for the spot, too. We decided we needed to eat and would take up the hunt afterwards.
Well, we got a text finally identifying the location to meet, and found a group ready to go. We showed the lady our paperwork after standing there for about 15 minutes waiting for the tour to start, and it turns out that we were with the wrong group. At this point, the area outside the Colosseum had gotten VERY crowded, and many groups were meeting, and we began to feel panicked. It was 8:40 and we couldn’t find our group!
After some texting amongst strangers, we were all able to find each other, but without any guides. We were ready to revolt! No better place than an ancient Roman fighting ring to take up the fight for customer service, right?
I got a message from the group guide saying we weren’t supposed to meet until 8:50, but I messaged her a screenshot that said. She replied saying she’d informed everyone, and I replied saying that since about 15 people were standing around waiting for them for almost an hour now, apparently she did not message everyone, AND either way, it is now after 9 and still no guide.
I’m going to cut a long morning short. We were frustrated, we were getting hot, and we’d already been there since 7:45 waiting. Ultimately, several guides showed up and we got into the Colosseum, but I was NOT pleased.
The tour itself was perfectly good. We had booked the tour because of the skip-the-line opportunity. Between security and group lines we probably still had about 30 minutes before we could get in, but the regular lines were probably close to two hours long at least.
I was impressed with the Colosseum, and, of course, enjoyed learning all about the history there. I enjoyed talking to our guide, Matheus, and was happy to have someone so I could ask questions. I enjoyed our group and we all got along well. Still, the Colosseum itself was packed, so while I truly enjoyed the learning experience and the guide overall, it was hard to get too emotionally connected to the events due to the large crowds of people.
In addition, we were baking in the sun, feeling very dehydrated, tired from standing for several hours before the tour even started, and just drained from the walk the evening before. Did I mention that within the last year both Paul and I had skin cancer scares? So, when the Colosseum portion of our tour was done, we returned our headphones and left. Unfortunately, that meant we did not get to explore or learn about the Roman Senate. We were so happy to make that choice, however, as the delay in the start of the tour meant we had only two hours or so before we needed to be at the Vatican for another long tour. We were tired, hungry again, and hot, so while we didn’t get the full cost of the tour’s worth, I am so glad we decided to leave and not continue with the tour.
We got a cab back to the room. The taxi driver tried to charge us 30 Euro when it was 10 to get there, so we said no. We made the orderliness of the taxi line get wonky and some people got mad, but the guy was ripping us off. Anyway, we relaxed and cooled off, and then went to lunch. We had the biggest, most massive shrimp type of creatures we’d ever seen in our lives, which was quite surprising as we had only ordered scampi! I had the best mozzarella I’ve ever had in my life with possibly the best bruschetta. We also had a dog wander into the restaurant, so between eating and cooling off, we felt much better for what was to come that afternoon: a tour of the Vatican and the Vatican Museums!
We had a bit of a hard time getting a Taxi, which seems to be the theme lately, somewhat. I think we might have accidentally skipped a couple of people waiting at a corner, or at least, they seemed annoyed. Someone got out of a taxi at a busy street corner and we got in, but we weren’t under a taxi sign so perhaps that it was it. Either way, nothing could have prepared us for getting to the Vatican.
He pointed out the Vatican, and there were thousands of people in a long line. Thousands and thousands and thousands in one long, continuous line wrapped around the building.
Two feelings hit me: horror at the length of the line (it turns out TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE A DAY VISIT HERE), and relief that we had a skip-the-line tour. Still, I was worried. One time we had a VIP tour to the White House when I was a kid and we still had to wait in line for hours. I knew that after our day, there was no way we were going to be able to contend with the line.
The traffic was really congested, but we finally turned the corner onto the road where we were to meet our guide, got our, found here, and began our third adventure of the day! (I’m counting the massive lobster-shrimp-beast as an adventure in itself!)
Advice: Get a private tour with skip the lines, or get here at least an hour before they open because between the heat and this line, going to Disney World with a child during a holiday weekend seems like a joke in comparison. I’m not kidding. It had to be about a quarter of a mile long at least.
Unfortunately, even with the skip the line and a great tour guide (she actually trains tour guides for a living), we were still skin to skin with strangers with no AC. It was 88 outside and unrelenting sun. It became really hard moving through the museums to connect in any real way as we were so miserable.
Here is an unedited snippet from my journal that might express my feelings at the time: “Here is that thing you studied in school on cool the Lacaoon okay two seconds lets move Apollo next here is a room of incredible hand painted giant maps with a crazy ceiling probably 200 feet long okay keep moving keep moving excuse me sorry sorry cell phones photos selfies move move move please move trying to find my dad trying to find Paul move trying to find a picture seriously move it is hot I might hurt you it is possible THIS IS A HOLY PLACE I’M TRYING TO SEE IT GET OUT OF MY WAY I’m not kidding sarcophagus I’ve studied probably here is twenty in two minutes tops and here are Egyptian obelisks from thousands of years ago that the romans stole that you could only pray to see but keep moving there are people behind you oh look Sistine chapel holy do not talk DO NOT TALK KEEP MOVING say the guards but here is someone talking loud in my face and I pretend to tell Paul to shhhh just so I could get out the frustration of telling her to SHUT UP PLEASE wow just… just …. I couldn’t admire the art I couldn’t admire the sanctity I couldn’t admire the space or the presence of God or decide for myself how I felt because it was all overwhelming and honestly really annoying”
Yay tour, yay seeing really famous works of art, no bueno for everything else about the experience.
The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, AKA, St. Peter’s Basilica, was better. I think fewer tourists were probably in there, though it was still quite crowded, and as the largest church in the world, there was significantly more space. There was a small service happening behind the altar and I wanted to go. I heard singing and felt moved, but eventually, someone trying to take a photo or talking loudly would interrupt me, so it took me like 3 minutes to say a 30-second prayer. Nevertheless, during this portion of the tour, wherein our guide let us explore around the church for a while by ourselves, we enjoyed ourselves.
When we finished, we went outside to take photos of the square. The Swiss Guards standing and watching the crowd seemed so strange next to the huge chaos of people we’d been in, as they stood there so calmly, watching for anything suspicious.
We took a cab back home and were beat. Once again, a taxi driver tried to charge us 30 Euro we said no. We were honked at furiously by the taxi lane, but we are seasoned Italian taxi riders now, and won’t get bullied into overpaying!
As you can probably imagine, we were exhausted after this whole day. Luckily, our evening proved to be a pleasant surprise!
We were set to meet Clay Ludwig for dinner. He is a relative of several people I know, and is at a special school in the Vatican going through his studies towards priesthood. Luckily, we met him just around the corner from our AirBnB!
Dinner was quite good and we had a wonderful conversation. The experience sitting made me felt the most connected since the beginning of our trip, and I felt like I really could talk with someone who understood me religiously, or at least someone who could help me through some questions. We finally had some good table wine like we experienced in Spain, and the food was nice.
Afterward, we went for a stroll to get gelato. There was a long line but it moved quickly and the gelato was delicious. We wandered to Piazza di Navarro to see Bernini sculptures and suddenly I felt beautifully relaxed and happy and content with the world. The evening was blue and dark, the streets had tables outside and happy eaters. There was music on the street, people playing and laughing, couples dancing and friends reuniting. It was beautiful. I filmed some of the scenes on the way back.
Tomorrow we are leaving Rome. I have to admit that it has not been my favorite city, but I would imagine that with enough time to explore, I’d be in love with Rome.
If you missed the last installment of our trip, which was our first day in Rome, then click here to read Italy Trip, Day 6! You can also start from the beginning by reading Italy Trip Day 1 and 2, and don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter and check us out on Facebook!