Rome, Italy

We took a 40 minute ferry from Amalfi to Salerno and then trained from Salerno to Rome. It was a short two-hour train ride, and it was such a relief not to go to an airport again. After 18 flights in our first month, we are quite content to not go through security lines or be squished into tight airplane seats and rows. The train cost the two of us together easily half as much as any one plane ticket also. Just because it’s funny, I will say though that we couldn’t read our ticket that was printed in Italian, so we had no idea there were assigned seats on this thing, so for the first five minutes before the train departed and about five minutes after, we sat in a very luxurious and empty first class area wondering how these trains were so nice! haha Thankfully we put the pieces together on our own before anyone else had to correct us, and went back to our actual seats several coaches back. But that’s okay, and it was still really nice and more spacious, clean and comfortable than any airplane ever is.

We arrived in Roma Termini station and walked the ten minutes over to our airbnb on the 5th floor of an old apartment with its own private balcony overlooking an area of Rome that apparently houses a lot of military, or so our host told us. It was 3pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch so we ate at the closest place we could find to our airbnb and then attempted to get the most out of our day. We took a tourist map and let it guide us to a number of historical sites we really didn’t know anything about. hahaha I have to make that joke because Robbie and I constantly were laughing in Rome saying things like, “Keep your eyes peeled for something that looks historic!” because it’s the eternal city and everywhere you turn there’s something from like the 6th or 8th century. And most of it you’ve never even heard of, but even if you have, you have no idea what the story is behind it. Like, “Wow! The Pantheon is amazing and huge and so incredibly old– but wait, what’s the Pantheon again? I’ve heard the name of this, but I have no clue why it’s important?” It made us really wish we had a personal history nut with us. But so as not to make us sound too terribly uneducated, dumb, or unappreciative, I want to say, we looked up a great many facts about things along the way, read a lot of signs, and truly TRULY appreciated the culture and beauty and history this amazing city had to offer.

To be honest, I ended up adding Rome to the list of places we’d visit because of peer pressure. I had no interest in being in an enormously touristy city, but every time I mentioned to people back home that we were going to Italy, almost everyone who had been before said something like, “You HAVE to go to Rome!” or “You can’t make a trip to Italy and not visit Rome. That would be crazy!” and I have no shame in saying they were right and I’m so glad peer pressure got the best of me. Robbie and I had two and a half days here that were so vastly different than anywhere else we’ve been on this trip so far, in the best way. When I say our legs hurt after these almost 72 hours, I mean every muscle from our hips to our ankles hurt, and then even our heels. My oh my did we walk a lot. But no regrets. We made the very most of Rome and were genuinely in constant awe of this historical city. Walking on ground that the book of Mark was written in, being in the place where Paul had his letter to the Romans delivered to. You could touch, see, walk on and emotionally feel the history here. It’s unlike any place we’ve been– can you imagine just walking down a road, just a random road that seems like any normal street, and then turning a corner and seeing the Colosseum, a structure that was built 2,000 years ago and is still mostly in tact, at the end of it, in all its glory, taking you by complete surprise? Well that’s what happened to us the second day. Utterly amazing!

We got to see the beautiful Trevi fountain (and got scammed by a man acting like he just wanted to take our polaroid picture in front of the fountain, yet turns out he was an aggressive guy who demanded money after we took the photo– even going so far as to snatch the money out of Robbie’s palms after Robbie fished for some coins in his pockets. ugh!! 5 dollars for a stupid polaroid. Lesson learned!), and even walked by again at night after dark to see the fountain lit up. It really is stunning. We went to the Pantheon (and got to go inside this pagan-worship-building-turned-Christian-church), and ended the night walking a pretty darn long way over to a Terrazza lookout point that allowed us to watch the sun set over all of Rome. You could see the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica’s cathedral top towering over most of everything else in the distance. We felt so happy to be there, to see the glow of the sun tumble onto the orange roofs of the Roman city buildings.

That first night Robbie booked us a ticket to get inside the Colosseum the next day. I cannot stress this enough– if you visit Rome, BOOK A TICKET IN ADVANCE! We had no idea how much time this would save. We felt like VIP’s when we walked up and saw lines with hundreds and hundreds of people standing in the heat of the day waiting to buy a ticket to go inside, and we got to bypass it all, going right up to the entrance! And it’s not even like we got there at 8:30 at opening– we got there at 11am and we still were able to skip the chaos and go right in. It was amazing!! We wasted no time, and I couldn’t have been more grateful to Robbie for reserving us those tickets last minute!! Right away we were blown away by the Colosseum. It really is a mighty structure. We realized we could get in on a tour guided trip up to the third floor that most visitors are not allowed access to unless they buy this tour. It only costs 12 dollars to get into the Colosseum and then it was only another 7 to have this tour, so it was more than worth it in order to gain a lot more understanding of why the Colosseum is so amazing.

We seriously LOVED our tour guide. He was this exuberant Italian man that made some of the funniest jokes and really knew his stuff. The tour lasted an hour and a half and we learned so so much about the Colosseum (or I should say, the Flauvian Amphitheater– its true original name). It was built in 70AD and for 500 years it was used primarily for “the Games” or so they called it– hunting exercises, executions, and gladiator fights. These events would last all day, with nearly everyone in Rome (along with their children) would come to watch! Can you imagine bringing your children to watch 48 gladiators (usually criminals–but “criminal” is loose here because said criminal could just be a person who didn’t pay their taxes. Yes, it’s not great, but no they shouldn’t be deemed punishable by death for it! But sometimes, less commonly, they were just men eager for fame and fortune) fight each other to the death until there was one man standing? Apparently it was common for parents to bring their children to a standing area that didn’t have a view of the stage during the executions, because they felt like that was worse for their kids to see than the gladiator fights. (Executions consisted of releasing a mighty and wild animal [beast] onto the stage to attack and eat one victim]. Brutal! Our guide told us that sadly The Hunger Games movie depicts a more accurate portrayal of these historic events than the movie “Gladiator” does. Isn’t that crazy? I guess the Colosseum was once completely covered in marble that had been impressively and expensively imported from exotic places like Egypt and Morocco, but some time in the 1500’s the popes in Rome saw the Colosseum as an old building that wasn’t getting used anymore so they decided to hire a ton of hands to basically get the marble off of it and “recycle” it by putting it in their churches and other official buildings. This is obviously really sad because we only get to see today the material that was under the marble, but the tour guide joked that we could see most of the South side of the top tier of the Colosseum (that is completely not there anymore) in the lower court building in the Vatican. hahaha (because all the marble from that section of the Colosseum is along the walls of that court building that’s still in use today, and apparently free to go visit). Anyway, we learned a ton of amazing facts (that I won’t be able to do justice to by remembering it all). This tour really allowed us to appreciate this place for what it should be appreciated for– and being able to better imagine being a spectator at one of these ancient “games” held here at the Colosseum.

We spent the rest of the day walking the huge stretch of land that is the Roman Forum and the Palatine. This whole area offers so much history that you can literally walk right up to and touch and see first hand. It is so expansive that even though there are a ton of tourists here, it never felt over crowded. We walked among giant columns and ruins and gardens and statues, felt small and grateful. Why is it that things were built with so much more character and attention to detail back in the day? Even though most of this area is half the structures or less of what they were originally (because of weather and time), it’s still some of the most beautiful architecture we’d ever seen. Robbie especially loved it all, and soaked up every sign he could read of all the history lessons we were getting. We found a tree that offered some nice shade over a bench and read the first three chapters of Romans out of the Bible out loud to each other. Maybe it’s cheesy, but it certainly had a specialness to it, taking on an even greater meaning just being in the place that the very first people to ever read these words were in. We loved it so much.

Our last day we trekked over to  Scala Santa, or the “Holy Stairs.” These are said to be (with quite a lot of evidence to back up the claim) the stairs that led to Pontius Pilate’s Palace in Jerusalem– which would mean they were the steps that Jesus stood on the day he was put on trial in front of Pontius Pilate. They were brought to Rome in year 326 A.D. for whatever reason. These 28 marble steps are mostly encased in wood now to protect them, but with slots in the wood that expose the marble underneath. You are not allowed to scale the steps, unless you’re on your knees. Robbie and I got there and it was such an emotional site to see so many people climbing them on their knees, crying, kissing the steps, praying, and being so respectful. We decided against climbing them, and instead just knelt on the second stair and prayed before standing and looking at the stairs for a long while, letting it soak in. I cried a great deal, thanking Jesus for His sacrifice that day He stood there– and thanking Him profusely for the fact that I don’t need these stairs to be in the presence of where my God has stepped, for He has been everywhere I’ve been, He’s everywhere I am. What a mighty and kind and loving God we serve that we don’t need relics or objects to be near to our God– we don’t need to be a priest or a pope or a pastor (spoiler alert: We have the same access to God as the Pope!! We do! That is the truth! He holds no special power or authority. We hold the same authority in Jesus Christ with His Holy Spirit living inside each of us who believes!!). Praise God!

We then walked clear across Rome to a museum and crypt of old Capuchin Friars that lived and died in Rome hundreds of years ago! It was nuts. We got an audio guide and learned a lot about Friars and what their lives looked and look like. And then we traveled down into the crypt where thousands of skulls and bones from thousands of dead friars are held and remembered! Creepy, right? Even creepier is they’re preserved and honored by putting the skulls/pelvic bones/arms or legs in designs on the ceiling and walls! So crazy!! I’ll be sure to post a photo.

We ended our last night with phenomenal 2.5 hours-long conversation over some amazing pizza at a restaurant called Alle Carrette (seriously eat here if you’re in Rome!!) and then finishing with a cappuccino and a slice of the best tiramisu we’d ever eaten. Seriously I could relive this meal and special time with Robbie over and over again. I told Robbie the other day, “I can physically see and feel the way you love me more today than you even did a month and a half ago when this journey began.” and He smiled at me and said, “Good. It’s because I do.” I love this man with such a passion. He is my best friend, my soul mate. We are better people because of each other. There is no one I would rather be on this adventure with than him. (A couple silly cheesy love things I want to remember is how Robbie never stops holding my hand, how he does this thing where he lightly pokes parts of me while we’re walking somewhere and makes a kissing noise when he does it indicating just a cute little way of giving me “kisses” even though we’re in public, how he is the king of kisses on the cheek, how he prays for our families at night before bed, how he daily tells me I’m his best friend, how he never tires of telling me he loves me. This is the man I married, except better. Because it really does just get better and better being with him. Oh and we read this advertisement for nachos on a bicycle in Amsterdam that read “He drove me nachos,” so we have been saying that to each other for a couple weeks now– “you’re driving me nachos” even when the other person is truly doing nothing. It’s just funny to us and it stuck. <3).