Having never been to any part of Italy before, I was very excited to be visiting its capital city, Rome. I was taking my Mum and I on a 4 day trip, to explore the city and experience the Italian culture, and of course, the food.
We arrived on Thursday 12th May, after beginning our journey by catching the 2am night coach from Belfast to Dublin Airport. After arriving at our hotel and freshening up, we put comfortable shoes on and stepped out into the city.
After an hour or so of wandering about and trying some of the street food, we happened to stumble across the very famous Roman Colosseum. It was even more magnificent than I imagined and it was huge.
My Mum and I spent an hour in a cafe overlooking The Colosseum and Roman Forum, sipping on Prosecco, it was bliss.
The sheer volume of people that surrounded it at any given time came as a surprise to me. I expected it to be bustling in the middle of the day, but I went back at around 11pm the following night in hopes of taking some impressive night-time shots of the amazing amphitheatre but sadly, it seemed even more crowded.
Still, it's an amazing sight to see and remains one of my personal highlights from the trip.
The following day we grabbed one of the hop-on hop-off buses to take us to famous spots in the city. With only 4 days in Rome we had plenty to see and do.
We arrived at the Theater of Marcellus and the Portico of Octavia first, then walked over to the Spanish Steps.
It felt like we'd climbed hundreds of steps to reach the Trinità dei Monti, but it was worth it. This beautiful church gave us such a great view over the city, and inside it was even more glorious.
Later in the day, we reached the landmark my Mum and I were both so eager to see - The Trevi Fountain. I'd Googled pictures of many tourist spots in Rome for weeks before we set off on our trip, but nothing compares to seeing these places for yourself. The Trevi Fountain is amazing, and again, so much larger than what I'd imagined.
I threw a coin into the fountain and made a wish. When in Rome and all that...
Next on our tour of Rome was Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). It was a very sunny, hot afternoon so we got ourselves some gelato and sat by the Tiber River to enjoy it and listen to the lovely voice of the musician playing on the bridge.
On Friday evening we made our way to a neighbourhood in Rome called Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber River, as I'd booked the Eating Italy Moonlight Food Tour. We met up with our lovely tour guide, Luca, a local who not only had great knowledge about the area and the food, but also a great sense of humour! We were also accompanied by 8 other tourists comprised of Americans, Canadians, Australians as well as a lovely lady from Austria.
We spent the evening wandering the streets of Trastevere, making plenty of stops to sample the amazing Roman cuisine. Luca gave us the history behind each destination and introduced many of the owners of the restaurants, delis and bakeries. We tasted street food, pizza, pasta, antipasti, cheeses, biscuits, gelato and of course, the amazing wines. Both my Mum and I loved every minute of it and by the end of the tour, it felt like we had to say goodbye to old friends as we made our way home.
We'd enjoyed two very warm, sunny days in Rome so far, but the heavens opened on our third day in the city. We scrambled to Termini bus station trying to avoid the rain and boarded the bus to Vatican City.
Seeking shelter from the rain and eager to soak up more of Rome's rich history, we made our way around the Vatican Museums. We read about sculptures and art collected by the Popes throughout the centuries.
The ceilings of the museums were perhaps the most impressive art pieces I came across, the detail was astounding. Upon entering the Sistine Chapel we were told not to speak as we were in a holy place, and it did feel like something special to be respected. The Sistine Chapel's ceiling was definitely something to stare at in amazement. Kudos Michaelangelo!
After making our way around the museums, we decided to get a bit of fresh air and make our way to the Dome on St. Peter's Basilica. Climbing the 551 steps to the top, we were able to look over Vatican City and get a great view of St.Peter's Square, the plaza directly in front of the Basilica.
The interior of St. Peter's (San Pietro) was perhaps even more incredible. Every part of it had been meticulously crafted. The saying "Rome wasn't built in a day" certainly came to mind walking through the Basilica.
With one full day left in Rome, we decided take our time exploring an area we hadn't yet visited. There was one stop in particular that I was keen to make. I'd read about the cats that lived among the oldest temples of Rome, ruins that even included the Theater of Pompey. The feral cats were cared for by many local volunteers, who helped to bring sick or injured cats back to full health and even found some of the cats homes.
Being a huge animal lover, I was so happy to come across this sanctuary and spend time with some furry creatures. Some of the cats were kept in a quarantined unit inside where they'd be given vaccines and neutered/spayed before being allowed out again a couple of weeks after.
We heard stories about some of the cats' histories and how they gotten their names - Check out Elvis below with the curled lip. I was surprised to hear that one of their oldest residents had found a new home, in England! The couple had fallen in love with the cat during their visit to Italy and arranged for him to live out his retirement in the comfort of their house in the UK.
We made our way to the last of the Roman landmarks on our "to-see" list, famous Roman Temple, the Pantheon. On our way we walked through Campo di' Fiori, a popular square where we walked through lots of little market stalls. I took the opportunity to buy some pasta coloured red and green like the Italian flag and of course, more gelato.
Once we'd reached the Pantheon we'd worked up a hunger, so we popped into lovely delicatessen to see what was on offer. We ordered the traditional Italian lunch which was made up of cheeses, olives, various hams and the most delicious porchetta, served with a lovely red wine. The amazing food and wine has to be one my highlights from the trip!
That evening, we packed our bags and prepared to head back to Belfast in the morning. It had been such a lovely a few days experiencing the Roman culture and exploring the city, and I'm so glad I got to share the experience with my amazing Mum.