ROMAN HOLIDAY

Ahh Rome! Niko, a die-hard fan of Gladiator, was extremely overwhelmed when we step foot in this magnificent ancient city. I, myself was thrilled to see this mesmerising metropolis once again. It’s funny how Niko and I see this city in utterly different perspectives; he sees it as the great empire that ruled almost the entire world, the many battles and wars they have conquered and the numerous countries they reigned. I on the other hand see it as how Audrey Hepburn saw it in the movie Roman Holiday and I was determined to do exactly what she did in that one day she escaped from the palace.

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Accommodation 
Thanks to airbnb.com, we found our place in Rome. I took a gamble when I booked this; it was a bit far from the city center and we stayed in an extra room in an apartment owned by an Italian/Croatian couple. What attracted me most to this apartment was the price, the accessibility to the metro and the quick response of the host. When we arrived at the train station, she met us right outside with a big hug and a few kisses; it felt like we were long-lost relatives and she was even kind enough to look after our bags while we bought a few groceries for dinner.

Vinka Bibic was the best host! She showed us her lovely home, introduced us to her dog, presented to us our “home” for the next 4 days and the best part, we had wine and cocktails at her balcony; we talked non-stop until the sun fully set. Vinka wasn’t only our host, she became our friend, so Vinka, if you’re reading, I want to say thank you again and hope to see you in Croatia.

Day 1
Spagna
As I’ve said a million times before, the best way to explore the city is by foot. Since we live far, we got an all day train ticket for 6 Euros each. We started off in Piazza di Spagna. It gets jam-packed on summer but we were lucky enough to see it just right before the peak season. We walked up the steps to the very top and we got our first glimpse of glorious Rome. The Spanish Steps is a good place to start your walking tour of the city because its walking distance from all the must-see sites. The reason why I wanted to go here first is to mimic Audrey Hepburn’s photo with Gregory Peck. Let me know if you think its good or not. Well at least I tried!

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Fontana di Trevi

We made our way to the most famous fountain of all of Rome, the Trevi Fountain. The name came about because the fountain is in the middle of three intersecting roads. Believe it or not the water that flows in this fountain has been running since 19BC – talk about historic! Legend has it that the water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea so there is a tradition that you should toss a coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain to ensure your return to the Eternal City. It must be true since 3 years ago, I did this and I did return. Naturally, you’ll see everyone doing this while having a photo – a must do when in Rome.

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It was a good one-hour before we got hungry. At this point of our trip any sign that said they served food less than 10 Euros, we didn’t even think twice about it! We ate at La Locanda del Tiempo where the steak was only 8 euros.

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There should always be space for Gelato after every meal! This gelateria is quite special to me. I ate here with my parents 2 years ago before reaching the Pantheon. When Niks and I were walking, my heart jumped when I saw it again. It almost made me cry.— and I still don’t know the name of this gelateria!!

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Pantheon

Found at piazza dela rotonda, this structure is also one of the oldest in Rome as in 1,800 years old and it is still standing to remind us all of how great the Roman Empire was. This is where Raphael’s tomb is found (Not the Ninja Turtle, silly! But no less than the very Famous Artist)

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Behind us is a fountain and an obelisk that’s centuries old

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Any New Moon fans? If you’re crazy about the Twilight Saga as much I am then you’d already know that is where they filmed the scene when Edward and Bella came face to face with the Volturi. 

Piazza Navona

We walked to our 5th site for the day, Piazza Navona. This is one of Rome’s liveliest squares, with many outdoor cafes, restaurants and night clubs in the neighbourhood. If you want to have fun, meet new people and get drunk, there is no where else to go but Piazza Navona.

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Castel Sant Angelo

We decided to walk here since the nearest train station was even farther! it’s a really pretty site to see while walking along the bridge that leads to the castle. You’ll see people selling little trinkets, little Pinocchios, all kinds of souvenirs and a lot of street performers.

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Castel Sant Angelo used to be the biggest building in Rome. It used to be a mausoleum for Emperer Hadrian but now the popes have converted it into a museum. This came out in Angels and Demons and of course, Roman Holiday, where they were dancing and partying at the dock.

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San Pietro

Because we were already at Castel Sant Angelo, why not just continue walking to St Peter’s Square its only a kilometer away. If you want to buy rosaries, buy the ones near the Basilica. For some reason the nearer, the cheaper it gets. Its only 10 Euros for 12 pcs anything more than that, just walk away. We also had to come here to get tickets for the Papal Audience the next day.

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Colosseo

While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; / When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; / And when Rome falls – the World.

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We took the train from Otaviano Station to Colosseo at 4:30pm. When we got there, we were so lucky they still accepted tours. The best part of going really late is missing the jam-packed tourists and the eternity-long lines. We were really the only ones there because we were the last tour of the day. We paid 7 Euros for entrance and an extra 5 Euros for the tour. (the 7 Euros includes the entrance for the Forum)

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I was more impressed with the Colosseum than the Eiffel tower. Don’t you agree with me? I think it is the most impressive building in Rome because it is proof of how great, mighty and powerful the Roman Empire was. This very building sums up the greatness that was Rome; there’s history written all over it that’s why it’s one of the world wonders.

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Although currently it looks like a big chunk of rotten cheese! When you look closely, there are holes all over the structure that makes it look like cheese.

After all the walking that we did all day, I couldn’t wait and go back to our apartment and unwind at the balcony. Wow! you could do a lot in a day, huh! Cocktail time!

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Day 2

PAPAL AUDIENCE

We woke up at 6am to get to Vatican at 8am for the Papal Audience. It wasn’t surprising that we got there at 9am. We panicked as there would be over 300,000 people in the Piazza so we ran so fast from the Otaviano station to the piazza so we could still find space. When we got there, everywhere near the railings were packed (you need to be by the railings to really see the Pope).

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We found a bunch of students from Spain seated on the ground near the barriers chit chatting so Nik and I stood beside them and slowly moved toward the front. We made it! There were only 2, really tall Spanish boys before me. It was the perfect spot but with a catch!! The person in front of me had really, really bad body odor. I swear I was close to fainting! My nose was right smack in front of his armpits and everytime he moved, it would hit my face. – talk about sacrifice!! No amount of perfume and hand sanitizer could win over the smell of this overgrown boy! The Pope didn’t come out for another 30 minutes. – I was going to die.

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People from all walks of life gather at San Pietro on Wednesdays to see Pope Francis. I’ve never seen 300,000 thousand people gathered in one place. THIS is how it looked like. When the Pope came out, the people became very chaotic I was afraid I might get squished. There were cries, chants and cheers! It was such an experience. Seeing Papa Franceso made everything worth it. I was so happy and blessed to have seen the Pope up close. If you’re ever in Rome on a Wednesday, you have to join the Papal Audience.

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THE FORUM

Since we purchased the Colosseum tickets the day before, we had to go back to see the Forum. We didn’t get a tour this time, instead we got an audio guide for the same price (5 Euros) – BIG MISTAKE! I must say, after walking for almost 1 1/2 hrs, I got “ruined-out”. I mean it was good and very educational to see the ancient Rome, the house of Nero and all that but it was too much stones and dust for my taste to handle. We didn’t finish it anymore else I would’ve fainted! I recommend doing a tour for this and do it when the sun isn’t too hot.

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We just had to get out of there. We decided to do some photo ops with the Colosseum and the Arc of Constantine instead.

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Via dei Fori Imperiali

I love this street!! It’s so lively and fun. They have a lot of street performers and artists; you could see the Colosseum from a different angle and a lot of shops and cafes along the street; Walking towards Piazza Venezia was a very pleasing one. The view of the Forum is wayyy better on this street than being inside it.

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Mouth of Truth

We walked almost 2 km from Piazza Venezia in the heat just to see this. I had to see it because Audrey Hepburn had a photo here. I told you I was channeling Audrey the entire time I was in Rome. I even downloaded her photos just so I could follow them – weird, I know!

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Bocca della Verita or The Mouth of Truth became so famous because it came out in so many movies. But if you’re not a big fan of the movies, you could totally skip this off your to-see list. We had to line for 30 minutes for a few photos! It’s really nothing special. I call this sculpture the ancient lie detector since it was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth it would be bitten off.

Day 3

We were supposed to go to Tivoli for a day trip today but we were too tired  so we decided to explore more of the city. We got a whole day pass and made sure to make the most out of it. We went to every stop that had a site-to-see near it.

Sta Maria Maggiore

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Piazza Del Popolo

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Trevi and Spanish Steps

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My Rome Travel Guide App suggested that San Crispino was the best gelateria in the city. It was near the Trevi; it was hard to find but we found it! I wanted to jump for joy ! Their gelato was for 3 euros (yayx!) 2 more days to go before we head home and we were already broke so 3 Euros for gelato was a lot. We ordered one cup and to our surprise, the server was a fellow Filipino and he gave the cup for free! So we ordered another to pay but he still didn’t let us pay. Can you see how happy I was?

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Rome by Night 

We absolutely made the most of our day pass ticket! We rode the train and the bus a million times today. We had to see Rome at night! —even more walking!! We walked from the Colosseum all the way to Piazza Navona passing by Piazza Venezia, Trevi and Pantheon for a few drinks.

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Drinks at La Botticela. I went to this bar in 2010 with my brother and best friend and I kept telling Niko about it. I had to look for it and had a few drinks there. I saw Giovanni, the owner, again and his bar is even better than I remember it to be. Have drinks at La Boticella in Piazza Navona! You wouldn’t regret it. We took a cab home and paid 18 Euros! So much for our Day Pass!! I regret that stupid cab ride home.

Day 4

Vatican Museum Tour

You need an entire day to tour the Vatican. 45 Euros/ person for the tour was worth it since we had a really good tour guide, we skipped the really long lines, and we met really cool people. There are a lot of people offering you their tour but we took the SPQR Tour.

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Let me introduce you to our tour guide, Muscly Monica. She was very educated about everything and she even added a few fun facts. She wasn’t a boring tour guide at all.

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Any idea how big the largest church in the world is? It could fit 2 football fields, you could fit the Statue of Liberty in here, and the height is 400ft high, its like a 40 storey building. Impressed yet? I sure was! Climbing up the dome was the best part of the day although we had to pay extra 12 Euros each to go up the dome and it’s a scary climb. its 470 steps up but if you take the elevator, it saves you around 170 steps. In some spots, the “staircase” is so narrow there’s no room for railings, in some it’s both narrow and incredibly slanted— absolutely not good for claustrophobics. I was so tired! My legs were killing me but there was no backing out. When I almost gave up, we finally made it! It was breath-taking and that’s not even giving justice to it. Simply no words! I was speechless.

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We took a moment of silence and just the let moment sink in. We were on top of the world! It was a view to remember for a lifetime! Perfect way to end the entire trip. It was sad to say goodbye but we threw a coin in Trevi, that means we’re coming back one day. 

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MABUHAY PHILIPPINES!!! 

Xx

Lesty

(June 10-14, 2013)

 

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