Before all these details fade from my memory forever, let’s talk about how to make the most of three days in Rome. Because in our opinion, after so much research and what felt like blood and sweat and tears, we kinda nailed it. Ha!
As a refresher, since it’s taken me a while to get to documenting this last stop on our trip, this was a long-awaited mother/daughter trip. A grand Italian tour that we kind of tongue-in-cheek dubbed “MFMP” (Future Mothers of “Pothierealm”) since it was modeled after a trip my mom took my sisters and me on years ago.
Sadly there were no overalls involved in our “modern” trip, but dang I wish we would have thought about that. Ha!
So we picked up Claire from her study abroad and got to explore her beloved London stomping grounds first.
Then we went to explore Florence, guided by Elle’s art history expertise.
Got lucky enough to stop in Pompeii en route to Rome.
Arrival in Rome
Finally, we landed ourselves in Rome, late at night fresh from our big hike and exploration. That warm evening welcomed us in and we walked through the bustling streets bumping our rolling bags along the cobblestones to find our final airBNB.
…Which happened to be three minutes walk from the famous Trevi Fountain.
For real. THREE MINUTES. We felt like we needed to pinch ourselves as we looked at each other, wide-eyed, joining those throngs of people in that spot.
And guess what? It was just that busy every single time we walked by. Even the last morning when we got up and got there at 5:45am. Sheesh, that is a popular destination. But there’s something so fun about being immersed in a crowd of beauty-appreciators.
We meandered around, found a great little restaurant and of course, gelato, and got all settled in our new “home.”
Speaking of “home,” we loved our AirBNB. Here’s the second green door we took to get into the set of apartments we stayed in.
It just felt so Italian to me and was so close to everything!
Ok, so let’s go through what we did for three days in Rome. That arrival doesn’t count since it was just late at night.
Day One in Rome
On our first full day we got up and headed to the temple first thing.
I talked all about that spot in my post yesterday. Such a good way to start out the day.
Walking Tour of Rome
After the temple we took a little walking tour of Rome to get our bearings straight. We took lots of our ideas from Earth Trekkers, which does a deep-dive into all this stuff.
It was Grace’s turn to be our “leader” in Rome (as Claire was in London and Elle was in Florence). This girl did an awesome job guiding us around…especially after I stopped trying to micromanage. Ha!
At each stop of our walking tour we read and imagined all that history surrounding those spots. History is so fascinating and I’ll share as many tidbits as I can from what we learned.
Our first stop was Piazza Navona. It is such a beautiful spot filled with three beautiful baroque sculptural fountains.
This spot was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X whose palace looks out on the square.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time there because we had a lot of ground to cover!
This place is OLD. And so fascinating. The original structure here was built around 25 A.D. by Marcus Agrippa, most likely as a temple to worship Roman Gods. It has been through so many things since then…from changes in religions to stages of disrepair. It was made a Christian church in the year 609. The dome of the Pantheon is one of the most incredible engineered feats, measuring 142 feet in diameter. I loved reading that when Michelangelo visited this spot centuries after it was built, he claimed it was “the design of angels, not of man.”
You can read so much more about the history of this spot, but one of my favorite parts of this day was sitting outside the Pantheon talking through how Christianity came to Rome with the apostles. I was so filled up with so much in my heart about all that after having just read The Robe and also the very scriptures we were in for Come Follow Me (Acts and Romans).
SO fun for me to put together all those puzzle pieces as we stood in those places where at first Christians were persecuted and then grafted in thanks to Constantinople.
The next day we got to go in that place, but I’m putting the pictures here so that we can have them all in one spot:
Complesso Vittoriano (or “Altar of the Fatherland”)
This place was built in in honor of King Vittorio Emanuele II who was the first king of Italy as a united kingdom. It was built in the late 1800s and dedicated to him as a symbol of the unification. I thought it was so interesting that it was so unpopular from the beginning. Italians were bothered by the “newness” of it in comparison with ancient beautiful relics close-by. Also they were pretty miffed that it took demolishing some Roman beauty to make space for it (I don’t blame them). It has been nicknamed “the wedding cake,” “the dentures,” and “the typewriter.”
But I think it is now settled in to the landscape of Rome and people are warming up to it.
We took the elevator to the top, where, interesting to note, there is NO SHADE.
It was so dang hot up there.
But we sure loved the views.
Interesting to note that the nearby Palazzo Venezia was where Benito Mussolini set up headquarters.
Mussolini gave many of his speeches from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia across the way.
We grabbed a slice of pizza that was recommended in some tour guide somewhere (it was so good!):
…and then we headed to meet Marco at the Colosseum.
A Note about Marco
Marco is this guy I “met” through WeChat highly recommended from my friend who traveled to Rome recently. He had guided me through Rome so kindly for months before we arrived, helped me get tickets to the Vatican and also the Colosseum and booked himself as our guide. I was a little worried at first since I didn’t know him from Adam and was counting on him to really show up after I cancelled our “Get Your Guide” tours I had worked hard to get.
But that guy showed up in every way! He was SO filled-to-the-brim with enthusiasm and knowledge, spoke perfect English, and made all that history come to life for us.
See him there on the right below?
The best guy ever.
I’m so sad because I somehow lost my extensive notes about this place, but let’s see what I can remember.
Marco whisked us around that giant colosseum, filling us with so much background information.
It was built in only nine years by 60,000 slaves. Many lost their lives in the process.
So interesting to see the parts of that spot that are still in tact when it has been around for nearly 2,000 years and has been through all kinds of looting and disrepair. The floor and these column pieces are original:
I love that Marco had these drawings to show us how everything worked way back when this place was used, for nearly 400 years, for gladiator fighting. I didn’t realize there were so many in the arena at the same time:
It is estimated that 400,000 people died here.
Entrance to the events were generally free to the emperor could gain favor with the people. The emperor would sit where that cross is below:
How the gladiators and animals would come up from below:
So many more details about this place, you should look it up. It’s such a fascinating piece of history.
Palatine Hill & Roman Forum
After the Colosseum we walked the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Despite the heat, we all loved it so much. This is the largest and most important archaeological site in the world and dates back to the 7th century B.C. It is filled up with preserved remnants of the old world of Roman glory.
I’m determined to come back and add my detailed notes when I find them, but for now, here are the views:
Arch of Constantine
This arch was built in the year 315 in commemoration of the victory of Constantine. He’s the one who legalized Christianity in Rome in 313 A.D.
In contrast to all that love, we had a frustrating 30 minute walk to dinner, all of us a little grumpy and tired. It is hard to find a taxi in Rome!! At least in the summer when packed with tourists.
But it was such a delicious dinner followed by our best gelato yet to rejuvenate us.
I’d totally recommend both these spots:
Day two in Rome
We started out this day with visiting the Pantheon (pictures above), since we didn’t get to go inside the day before.
We also stopped by this beautiful church, totally off the beaten “tourist” track. Grace had found it on Instagram I think, so she wanted to take us there.
It didn’t disappoint. Filled up with so much beauty!
The thing is, there are so many incredible churches on every corner in Rome. We sat and basked in the beauty of this one for a while before moving on.
The next stop for the day was our long awaited vespa tour.
Oh boy, this was a highlight for sure, so I’m going to let it have it’s own post. There is a LOT to day about weaving in and out of Roman traffic, and all the interesting things we saw. More coming soon about that.
After that exhilarating ride we met up with Marco again at the entrance to the Vatican. Here he is at the exit just to see how fun he is.
Oh man, this is another thing we’re going to have to have a separate post about because wow. I mean, The Sistine Chapel with the Last Judgement filling up one wall? Magnificent.
The Raphael Rooms? Incredible.
Such a grand way to begin to wrap up this trip aimed at art history. I’ll come back and link as soon as I can whip those together.
St. Peter’s Bascilica
Once again, another post coming about this, but boy howdy, how we loved being immersed, incredulous at the detail and glory of that place.
I mean, the Pieta right there in front of us?
We were in Heaven.
We also climbed to the top of the dome:
Loved it all.
A Walk to Dinner filled with Trepidation…and a Surprise
After all that glory at the Vatican, we took a long walk to dinner, along the Tiber River, past the round Castle of Saint Angelo, across the Ponte Sant’Angelo (or Aelian Bridge, completed in 134AD!), so gorgeous adorned with beautiful statues.
This is the part where Claire started getting nervous about all mission stuff coming up so quickly. It was hitting her that it was the end of an era. We had a good talk joining her big sisters into our little huddle to give their own good advice. Oh I love sisters.
We found the best place for dinner in the Trastevere neighborhood bustling with life.
And THEN, as we were walking after dinner we happened, out of all the people in the world, to run into Claire’s dear friend and roommate from study abroad.
Yep, on that little cobblestone street in the heart of Rome. It made her night, as you might be able to tell in these photos:)
Sometimes there are just little “breadcrumbs” to help us remember that God is aware of us.
A Walk back the Colosseum
We weren’t done with walking.
I mean, it was our last night in Rome, for crying out loud!
We walked and walked to see the colosseum all lit up at night.
But first, the Piazza del Campidoglio that Michelangelo built.
…and then on to the Colosseum all list up.
I sat there on the curb with these girls, a wave of pure gratitude washing over me.
I am so lucky that they are mine. And I am theirs. I learn from them every day.
Then we walked all the way home, (sure tried to find an uber or taxi or bird scooters, no luck), past the Trevi fountain so crowded with people again, and then on to our last night in our little Airbnb.
We sat up late on our little beds talking about what everyone is most worried about, trying to eek out every minute that remained of this magical time together.
Day Three in Rome — the last
We only had a few hours this day before we had to get to the airport. So we packed in a few last things.
Early Morning at Trevi Fountain
We got up before the sun to experiment whether we could catch this popular spot without as many crowds.
But guess what?
We did manage to squeeze our way up to the front for a picture though:
The Spanish Steps
From there we headed down the streets, the sun barely starting to show itself, and got to the Spanish Steps:
More about these puppies here:
View from the top:
We found a little spot for breakfast (and cards, of course), and headed to the airport.
It was funny that this ride to the airport was one of my favorite things: all four of us in that van, with benches facing each other, talking through the intersection of feminism and motherhood. A seemingly fitting way to wrap up our first MFMP trip.
Our Flights HOME
Claire was on a separate flight from us since we bought hers before we knew which flight we’d be able to take.
But I scheduled the flights as close as I could together time-wise. Although different airlines our gates happened to be RIGHT next to each other. We thought we were all set until WestJet completely lost Claire’s whole reservation. It just somehow vanished and the flight was full. They had no record of her having a seat. A little stressful I must say.
There was a small team of people working and talking in Italian to each other calling the big-wigs at the corporate office. Both our flights were boarding and we started getting a little stressed. What if we had to take off and just leave her there? She would be fine, but stranded by herself in Italy was definitely not on our plan. At the very last second they magically figured it out, got her a window seat for that ten-hour flight, and we waved at each other as we all boarded those neighboring gates at just the same time.
We both had layovers (us in Dallas and Claire’s was in Canada), and landed back home within 30 minutes of each other. Pretty amazingly orchestrated I have to say!
So much gratitude
I just kept feeling so grateful over and over again for that trip. First of all gratitude that we made it happen. That is a battle I tell you!
But so much gratitude for our safety too.
For that time with those girls of mine.
Gratitude that our flights worked out on every leg.
I felt so much gratitude for Dave and all he did to help from the sidelines.
My heart was so full of gratitude for art.
For the beauty of the world.
And that we got to be there enveloped in the middle of it all.
It was so good to snuggle up Dave, Lu and Bo Jangles and have Claire back at HOME after so long away in London, and debrief a little bit in our jet-lagged stupors.
And that, finally, is a wrap of our Mother/Daughter trip to bask in the glory of art in London and Italy.