Rome, Day One

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It’s been five months since I returned from a trip to Italy and I’m yet to write about it. Now that we’ve got that embarrassing admission out of the way, let’s get started, okay?

I’d originally planned to go somewhere warm, but once I realized I’d be traveling at the height of the holiday season, I consulted my travel partner (also known as Melody, my sister), and we brainstormed. Our stomachs guide us, so we eventually arrived at Rome. Sure, it’d be cold, but it was Italy, home of pasta, pizza, cured meats, gelato and assorted glorious things to eat.

And that’s how we found ourselves at Fiumicino Airport the day after Christmas, held up at the Alitalia airport baggage claim in search of our missing luggage. Five hours and a ton of paperwork later, our bags miraculously appeared on the carousel and off we went to Rome’s Termini Station.

Italophiles, please don’t hate me, but Termini Station was not what I was expecting. It was under construction during our visit, but the poor lighting, bad ventilation, grumpy crowds and sad dining options (Tokyo spoiled me) took me by surprise. No matter. We found our train and once we reached our hotel, we quickly checked in. Wanting to make the most of our time, we went right back to the station and made our way towards Via Appia Antica.

Rome’s public transportation system escapes me, and after an hour of riding a train here, transferring to a bus there, and walking up and down the same neighborhood, we found it. Via Appia Antica:

Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica is one of the oldest roads of the Roman Empire, and it’s also where Spartacus and his army were crucified in 71 BC. Nowadays, it’s lined with catacombs, cypress trees, and the homes of the well to do. The neighborhood started to feel a little eerie as the sun set, so we headed back towards down and the nearby Basilica di San Giovanni Laterano.

Basilica di San Giovanni Laterano

Basilica di San Giovanni Laterano

This is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), and ranks first among the four major Roman basilicas. Oddly enough, there were few people around, so we explored the cathedral in silence. The basilica is stunning, and I learned that its huge, imposing doors were moved all the way over from the Roman Forum.

After a day of travel and half a day of sightseeing, we called it an early night. Finding a good dinner was a challenge (as it would prove to be for much of the trip), so we picked up a quick bite at Termini Station and made our way back to the hotel. I was tired, but like the beginning of any trip, excited at what was yet to come.