If you have been following the entire Italy trip, then you know that I went out of order chronologically. I was too excited not to post the engagement first thing. Therefore, you’ll have figured out that following the Palio, we travelled to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast and had the most magical and memorable two days. I thought that the trip must be over following our engagement, that there was nothing else he could possibly have up his sleeve. I was wrong…
Matt kept the surprises coming by taking us to one last city before travelling home – Rome. We would only spend one full day there, but that ended up being just perfect. We didn’t get into Rome until late in the evening because we decided to chill in Ravello and take our late check-out. We were hyped following the engagement the evening before, so we decided to have a late brunch, read for a bit on the patio, and I got my nails done (to compliment the new ring of course!). Though we arrived late, we hadn’t eaten and were starved, so we ventured out into the city to find a bite to eat. Luckily, we didn’t need to travel far, because our hotel was literally right behind the Pantheon. The first restaurant we saw looked perfect, as it sat right in front of the Pantheon and the plates of food on other diner’s tables looked fantastic. It was the perfect setting – the food was wonderful and we were able to people-watch as tourists filtered in and out of the square.
The next day would be our last in Italy, so we had a lot on the menu. Matt pre-booked our tickets to the Colosseum and the Vatican, which is always advisable since lines at tourist attractions like these can be hours. We first went to the Colosseum, skipped a massive line with our pre-arranged tickets, and ventured into another world entirely. The neat thing (for me at least) about the Colosseum is that other than the incredible ruins and preservation, I quite enjoyed the museum-like exhibit in the corridors. Though Matt and I are not huge fans of taking tours, we do like to learn new information about the sites we see. There is nothing more frustrating than walking through an exhibit, but having no clue what you are looking at. We were able to skip the group tour, but still learn so much about the history of the Colosseum.
Following our Colosseum visit, we ventured into the city to find the Trevi Fountain. Nothing in Rome is really hard to find, so it wasn’t long before we were standing in front of the beautiful work of art. Seriously, pictures do not do this fountain any justice. Though it was packed with tourists, we were able to enjoy its beauty and throw some change into the waters – and as requested, I threw a couple extra in for family who wished to make it to Rome. 🙂
We then dined at a new restaurant down the street from the fountain. We found out that it was its first day open, because when I ordered the ravioli, our waitress informed us that it wasn’t prepared quite yet for the opening of the restaurant. I wish I could tell you exactly where this restaurant was located, because the food was exquisite. I enjoyed a mushroom pasta in a cream sauce that was so wonderful, I ate every bite in record time. I kept telling Matt that the noodles by themselves had so much flavor that I could have skipped the sauce. Matt had one of the best-looking pizzas I’d seen him eat all week – it was covered in cheese and rocket salad.
With full bellies, we decided to take the short stroll back to our hotel for a little nap and so that I could change into something more appropriate than shorts and a tank top for the Vatican. The Vatican ended up being the most eye-opening experience for me. As a Catholic, I was beyond excited to see THE church to end all churches, however, I was extremely disappointed at how crowded and commercialized it was. I wasn’t surprised at the fact that it’s one huge museum, but I had trouble understanding it – the Louvre is a museum in my mind, not the Vatican. However, as my Mom pointed out later, “They are preserving great art by masters. Think of it as a library of history.” When put like this, I more easily understand it, but I was still not a huge fan of the crowds. Seriously, it felt like we were cattle being herded. It was hot, sticky, and every so often you had to walk through another shop to continue on.
The Sistine Chapel was the most difficult for me enjoy. While the artwork was out of this world (we’re talking 3D-like quality) and Michelangelo’s iconic Hand of God painting on the ceiling did not disappoint, it did not feel like a holy place. When I enter any other famous Duomo or Cathedral in Europe, there is a sense of peace and quiet even amidst the tourists so that people can pray. I always light a candle for loved ones who have passed, and at the Notre Dame, I was lucky enough to enter while the organ was playing. In the Sistine Chapel you are shushed the entire time by Vatican staff, however it is impossible for things to be quiet because those pesky tours are still being narrated by the tour guides. People push and shove because it so crowded; I was knocked into the glass partition protecting the walls by someone overly eager to get inside – a security guard even came over to ask if I was okay. I ignored my frustrations long enough to appreciate what I was seeing – beautiful interpretations of religion – but then Matt and I were out of there quickly. The moral of this story for me? I’m glad I was able to visit the Vatican, but I much prefer the holier experiences of Duomos and Cathedrals elsewhere.
With an early morning flight the next morning, Matt and I decided to have dinner at the hotel. With a beautiful rooftop restaurant that included panoramic views of Rome, this ended up being a great decision. Plus – and as I’ve said many times on this trip – the food was incredible. I ordered a duck ragu that had so much flavor that I declared the meal a successful end to the trip. I can’t quite remember what Matt ordered, but he definitely agreed with me. I can’t believe this is the last post I’ll be writing about Italy. It was the trip of a lifetime, something I will never forget. On the plane-ride home I was able to reflect on how blessed I am to be able to have these experiences. I was not only lucky enough to visit a country I’ve always dreamt of seeing, but to leave with the promise of a bright and long future with the best guy.