Rome in April

I have done some extensive traveling in Europe, but most of the time I have spent out there have been during the Summer months when the crazy crowds from all over the world pack the streets and tourist sights. Once, I was able to make out during Christmas time, but the markets during this time of the year also attract a large crowd. One of the nice advantages to living so close to all of the locations is that I do not need to save up large chunks of money and plan a long flight during my off time of the year to get out here, and the fact that I am traveling during the off-season changed the dynamic of these locations significantly.

The spots that would be packed with people now only have a few that can enjoy it the way it was supposed to be enjoyed, and I did not have to fight through all of the crowds at each of the tourist sights to catch a glimpse of what brought people there in the first place. The weather is also more enjoyable. For instance, I have heard people complain that Rome is hot and dusty, and during the summer months, it probably is. But in April, the cooler spring air makes the environment green and a lot more enjoyable.

It does not mean that Rome did not cater to the tourists that did make it out during this time of the year. The food was still spectacular; it is just not as hard to get into the restaurant that you want to get into, and enjoy the experience that they have to offer for you. There are plenty of food tasting and wine tasting opportunities that will have to be booked way in advance if you find yourself out here during the height of the tourist season.

The options for hotels open up as well. I know that I could have booked a fancier place than the one that I stayed at, but I am having to go back to the more modest accommodations. Now that the world is pulling itself out of the Covid pandemic and things are starting to open up again, the prices of hotels are going back to where they used to be. I can no longer find that five star hotel that is giving out insane deals just so they can remain open. It was fine though because I also went back to my old ways of traveling by spending less time in my hotel room, and more time exploring the city I was in. There are still some great places that are available at this time in great locations that are affordable and still comfortable. I stay in a converted monastery that still had the chapel and old art work still hanging on its walls.

Rome is a great city to explore at this time of the year as well. Every corner that I turned that was another sight to see, each of them boasting the might that this part of the world used to display. If I came back during the height of tourist season, these spots would still be there, but there would be some many people crowding into the sights that I would not be able to get the picture that gave off the lonely feeling that these ruins display, and would have to wait longer to get the pictures that have the minimal amount of people ruining the picture that I wanted to take.

Rome is a great city and definitely worth visiting. I know that many people do not have the opportunity to see it the way that I was able to see it over a long weekend in April, but if you are able to make this possible, I believe that this might be the best way to visit.

The Vatican has a lot of money – Rome, Italy

It is the smallest country on Earth, supporting only 825 people, and settled in the heart of Rome. It is also the seat of power for the Roman Catholic Church, and brings in millions of visitors, and pilgrims every year. Most of them tour the Vatican Museum so they can have an opportunity to view Michelangelo’s famous painting of the Sistine Chapel. But before they are able to make it to this piece of art, they have to make their way through their vast collection of art and antiquities collected from Roman excavations and the surrounding areas. And what a collection it is. For instance, you could ignore the ancient Roman marble statues that are hanging around the room, or the ornate mosaic floor that is over 2000 years old, and just focus on the large bowl in the center of the room. This was a bathtub used by the emperor Nero, and is made of one single piece of a rare red stone called, porphyry. This is not to mention the architectural dome that hangs over this artifact, and is a masterpiece in its own right. All of this combined adds up to a large chunk of change that could be used to create its own museum.

But it is only one of many rooms that hold masterpieces not only from Ancient Rome, and some of the greatest works of art from the Renaissance period as well. This is a depiction of one of the many frescos that are painted on the walls by the master painter, Raphael. There are others as well from Michelangelo that include some of his sculptures, and of course, the Sistine Chapel. I think I even saw a couple of paintings from Dali and Picasso hiding in the corners of the labyrinth of art.

The collection does not only contain priceless pieces of art from Europe. There is also a substantial amount of Egyptian art that was collected during the early expansion of the Roman empire. At first they seem a little out of place among the classical Greek and Roman features, but then thinking about the history of this area, the pieces seem like they should belong with all of the rest of the collection. It demonstrates the spread of the Roman influence and how open they were when bringing in other cultures as long as they accepted their gods as well as their own.

The vast collection of art is not the only thing that will turn your head if you visit this sight. The building itself is one of the few that are featured in the Vatican. It has architectural wonders that date all the way back to the Renaissance. The Church hired the best from this area to create the museum, and one of its greatest features is the dual staircase that leads to the exit of the museum. It sit below a dome and after a three hour tour of magnificent piece of art, it will have people stopping to marvel at it. It is one of the more modern sights in the building, but feels right in place among all of the other classical pieces of art.

I have been to a lot of impressive museums in my lifetime, and I have seen some amazing pieces of art, but nothing like the collection that is held in the Vatican’s museum. I have also toured some of the world’s greatest houses that have gathered a vast amount of wealth, but once again, nothing like the collection that is housed in the Vatican’s museum. It is a jaw-dropping experience, and almost distracts you from the fact that you are standing in front of a great work on art from centuries ago that has long withstood the decaying of time. It is a place that would require a few visits to really let your mind wrap around what it is your seeing. I believe that the best way to think about it during your first visit is to not think about the wealth that is housed here and appreciate the art instead. It will give you a different perspective at what you are looking at.

The Colosseum – Rome, Italy

I know that there are many colosseums around the world, but when someone mentions the Colosseum, thoughts of the one in Rome is the one that is instantly thought of. It may not be the oldest one ever created, but it definitely is the one that brought about the height of the sports as a form of entertainment to ease the passions of those living in Rome. It does not live up to the glory that it once had when it was first built, but it is still the one whose structure and history has caught the imagination of the world.

It is obviously one of the greatest tourist sights in Rome, and now is a great time to visit. Even if you have seen this sight before, they have been able to excavate more of the basement level and discover what it was used for due to the fact that there were no tourists able to visit the sight during Covid. Because of this, we can now take tours through the same tunnels that set the stages for the battles and fights that were staged on the massive arena floor. It is not part of every tour, but there are a few that will take you down there. We were able to combine a tour of the Forum with the underground tour of the Colosseum through a company called the Tour Guy and it was a great experience, and a perfect way to get down to this part of the location.

The underground part of the Colosseum was a series of tunnels that housed the various animals and gladiators, so they could be prepped before they were brought up to the stage for the entertainment of the masses. Many other workers navigated through the hallways to get these fighters ready for their battle, and there were even a couple of longer hallways that led to the training grounds of the gladiators, so the spectators would never see them before a match.

Right before one of these battles, they would bring the gladiator and his opponent to an intricate elevator that would raise them to the arena floor. They would hear the crowds cheering as they rose, not knowing who or what they would face in the battle they were about to have. A trap door would open right before they hit to roof of the underground section and the would be splashed from the sun that could not find its way down these dark tunnels. When their eyes would finally adjust to the the bright light, they would eventually see their opponent for the first time. It could be one of the wild animals that were brought from exotic places, or another gladiator, or even their best friend that they trained with in the training grounds not far away. Whatever they saw, it would be accompanied by the screaming crowd looking for blood.

It was fun imagining the lives of these long ago stars of the Roman era, and it is a great edition that they have opening up the lower parts of the Colosseum so we can go down there and see all that there is to offer. What used to be a must see when visiting Rome has upped its game even more, making it one of the greatest archeological sights that anyone can visit in the world. If you do go though, make sure that you are adding the lower levels of the Colosseum to your agenda because it is not one of the things that you will regret that you have done.

The Forum – Rome, Italy

I have been experiencing the far reaching extent of the Roman empire all year long. Every place I have ended up traveling to the school year has led me to ruins that this culture left behind. Some of them have been well preserved, and some of them have been just piles of rocks that are still being excavated so the world can enjoy them again. But I found that if I really wanted to see the best of what these ruins have to offer, I should go to the source, so I packed up for a quick weekend, took a short three hour flight from Amman, Jordan and touched down in the first of Western Civilization’s empires. I was instantly transported to a land of Roman ruins and some of the most famous are among the landscape of Rome.

I did not have a lot of time in the city, so I had to be selective about the places that I would visit. High on my list was the Forum. I had heard about this location as being a great place to highlight what this ancient civilization had to offer. Despite the fact that I knew that it was the original square of Rome, I did not have much more knowledge about this place. This is why when I finally made it through the gates, I was blown away by what I witnessed.

A lot of Ancient Rome has been preserved, allowing people to walk through the old streets, and look at the places where temples were built, and rulers were murdered. The glory of Rome is brought to life here, all the way down to the architecture, and statues that decorated this place. Time has worn them down a bit, but with a good guide, the stories of Ancient Rome can be brought back to life.

My favorite was the home of the vestal virgins. I have heard of these women spoken about in the past, but I had never heard about how they were forced to live. They were young women that held on to their virtue for the pride of their families. It was a great honor to have a vestal virgin among your children and at least one daughter would alway be asked to take on this task. Our tour guide asked if anybody knew what happened to the vestal virgins who did not live up to their promises, and there was a fourteen year old girl there with her family who knew the answer to this. Apparently, if the virgin did not hold on to their virtue, they were buried alive because it was against tradition to shed the blood of any of these women.

It made me laugh that the young lady was able to answer this question in front of her father. I had to think about what kind of conversations they had at dinner which allowed her to answer this question so quickly, and if her dad would ever let her date before the age of thirty-six.

Rome is obviously filled with a bunch of amazing sights, so it could be very easy to skip over one of them, especially if you are there for a limited time. If there is one place that you should make sure you see though, it is the Forum. This sprawling expanse of Roman ruins is filled with amazing stories and incredible architecture that have stood up over the millennia. It will probably still be around 1,000 years from now, but it is worth seeing the first opportunity that you can.