Remember that time we went to Italy? Nine months ago?
And I’m not saying Rome wasn’t great—it was beautiful and full of more history than any one person can consume in just three days—but the vibe was somethin’ else.
We’ll start from the beginning: a frantic sprint through the train station because for some reason the board didn’t feel like updating with our track number.
But that was old news by the time we sat down and realized the gentleman across the aisle wasn’t one for deodorant. (Fortunately we opted for the fast train and didn’t have to suffer beyond those 90 minutes.)
Once in Rome, it was a 10-minute walk to our hostel where we hit up the Wi-Fi to connect with our new traveling buddies, the Shamblins.
Jordan and Brett were traipsing around Italy and Greece on their honeymoon. I’ve worked with both of them for nearly five years, and Drew has spent the last four football seasons coaching alongside Brett, so the opportunity to link up for some overseas exploration got a resounding yes.
Of course our first order of business was lunch. With no particular eatery in mind, we just started walking—and wouldn’t ya know it, we found ourselves smack in the middle of one very popular stop.
How Lizzie managed to work her way to the front and toss that coin is beyond me.
To nobody’s surprise, we found a cutesy restaurant not too far from the chaos. After consuming plenty of salad (lol just kidding), we took off for an afternoon of sightseeing.
This place was nuts. It was literally ruins upon ruins, all so well maintained you could tell which “walls” belonged to different buildings. And it all sat in the shadow of Palatine Hill, which I 100 percent plan to go back and truly explore. (We didn’t stick around this time because it was late in the day, the ruins were packed and the Colosseum was calling.)
((Also there were a lot of cats.))
So on we went!
And when I started typing this next sentence I realized you could say this about any corner in Rome: Literally a stone’s throw from one ancient site was another.
But this one was next level.
I feel like enough people have gone to the Colosseum or have read about it or can read about it, so I won’t go into the history or anything like that. What I will do is suggest a time of day to go.
You should visit the Colosseum as close to dusk as possible.
That’s not to say you should go so late you only have 10 minutes to walk around before it gets dark and they kick you out, but definitely wait until after dinner—assuming there’s plenty of sunlight left.
Not only are the lines nonexistent, but there are even fewer people wandering around inside.
It was surreal. The thing is 2,000 years old and still towering over a city that’s plenty modern in its own right.
And because I know you’re wondering: No. You can’t not think of Russell Crowe while looking down into the hypogeum.
A couple hundred Maximus references later, we began venturing back toward the Trevi and I gotta say, it’s pretty amazing in the dark.
Yet somehow even more crowded.
But that’s fine. We were ready to get back to our beds—the next day would be the focal point of this stop and we’d need plenty of rest.
YEAH, IT WAS VATICAN DAY.
And when I say I’d do it a million times over, I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
Jordan had close ties to two priests studying at the Vatican who were kind enough to spend a good chunk of their afternoon giving us a private tour of St. Peter’s.
And this is where I nominate Drew and Jim for sainthood.
You guys, they were AMAZING. It was AMAZING. We were beyond fortunate to have those two show us around, spouting facts I couldn’t keep straight even then. I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t jot down notes as they talked, but it was all so interesting, I had no choice but to shut up and absorb.
They started with the history of Rome and why the Vatican sits where it does before diving into architectural details and crazy facts about the tombs and artwork inside.
We took at least two, maybe three hours of their time. You can’t put a price on that experience.
Looking back, it’s easy to forget we sped through the Vatican Museums that morning and climbed the dome later that afternoon.
Be still my Catholic heart.
And I’m sorry Duomo, but this view takes the cake.
Every time I look back at the pictures, I feel so incredibly blessed to have seen and experienced these places. They’ll never cease to take my breath away.
Which is why I need to talk about food again, otherwise I’ll start crying that I’m not there anymore.
Now please pay attention because this is the single most important recommendation I will make in this entire series of blogs.
MAKE A RESERVATION AT RISTOCHICCO AND MAKE SURE AT LEAST ONE PERSON AT YOUR TABLE ORDERS THE NORCINA.
It was the best meal of the entire trip. Every other person at my table can and will confirm.
And I’m still typing in bold because this isn’t so much a recommendation as it is a command.
Honestly the perfect end to an already perfect Vatican Day, followed by a bittersweet goodbye to the Shamblins—they were off to Santorini while we hung back for one more day of Roman adventures.
It was mild in comparison, but worth the extra time.
We woke up, grabbed a quick breakfast and made our way toward the Spanish Steps.
The Steps themselves are pretty incredible, but I was much more interested in what sat at the top.
See that gorgeous church? That’s the Trinità dei Monti. Attached to that is Instituto Sacro Cuore—a Sacred Heart school just like Duchesne.
And in that school is a tiny little chapel with the most beautiful fresco a child of the Sacred Heart will ever see.
It’s one thing to read about and celebrate Mater Admirabilis. It’s another thing entirely to share a room with her.
Also can we talk about these windows?
I’m making jokes because it was actually very emotional. It might’ve freaked Drew out a little bit, but I like to think he’s better for it.
After a few quick prayers and a scribble in the guestbook, we took off for the Pantheon—weirdly tucked away and relatively unassuming compared to everything else we’d seen—and a caffé granita con panna from Tazza d’Oro.
Shoutout to my freshman theology teacher, Mr. Krakowski, for this suggestion. Way better than a hundredth helping of gelato.
Also this is now 1,200 words long, but I guess that’s what I get for downplaying the greatness of the Eternal City.
It really was amazing, but the crowds and big city feel threw me off. I’d go back if the opportunity presented itself, but with a much tighter itinerary.
Next stop? Cinque Terre.
Take a Vespa cruise to Lizzie (obviously).