Italian Adventure: Rome & My Twenty-First Birthday

Rome. It's a city that has been around for over two thousand years. It has seen the rise and fall of one of of the world's greatest empires. It was at one time the center of the commercial and cultural world.

And it's a place I've always dreamed of visiting. I love the idea of ancient Rome. I that it is a city I read about in the Bible. One of my favorite series of novels is set in the city.

So after Florence, I made my way to Rome. That Sunday was a lazy day. After a late breakfast at a Florentine cafe, I hung out in the train station until around noon. Then it was an hour and a half trip to The Eternal City. Upon arrival, I checked into my hostel and got acquainted with my New Zealand dorm mates. Later that evening, my friend, Michael arrived from the airport and we went out to grab a quick bit for dinner. We ate a delicious lasagna! Perfectly Italian. Then we caught up and traded stories about our respective travels.

The next day was my birthday!

First on the agenda, the Colosseum! On our way across town, we stumbled into to Italian version of the tomb of the unknown solider.
Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Solider
As we continued walking toward the Colosseum, we walked past the lower section of the Palatine Hill. It was our first view of ancient Rome.

Remains of Ancient Rome
And then we saw it in all it's glory. Ok, it did have some scaffolding as it's undergoing restoration like a lot of Rome. But still it's a really impressive site.

First view
We're excited!
Floor plans for public library.
On the advice of my dorm mates, we purchased out tickets up the road at the entrance to the Palatine Hill. It saved us a lot of time; plus, the ticket is good for both sites. It only took us a few minutes to walk inside. First we viewed a fascinating little exhibit on public libraries in Rome. It talked about who could use the libraries, when the first ones were built, and where to books came from. There were floor plans sketched on stones and even a few books on display. This was all housed in one of the indoor corridors.

After we finished the exhibit we walked out onto the middle level of the Colosseum. Wow! It is massive! In its original condition it could seat around 70,000 people!

I'm standing inside the Colosseum!
We walked around both floors, took lots of pictures, and enjoyed the view for a little while. Once we had our fill of the Colosseum, we headed out and across the road to grab a quick bit to eat before entering the Palatine Hill. This was an unexpected highlight of the day. It was like stepping back in time and wandering the streets of ancient Rome.

A tunnel road.
Flowers to represent water in a pool.
Old floor tiles
It was a hot day so on our way back towards the hostels, we stopped for some gelato - not that we needed an excuse to stop for gelato. This particular shop had the most amazing fresh fruit gelato I had during my entire week in Italy.

I got to talk to my family during a short stop and then Michael gave me his birthday present! One of my closest friends from my first semester, Kajsa, flew all the way down from Sweden to celebrate my birthday with me! It was the best surprise I could have asked for. Michael arranged it all and I couldn't have been happier. The three of us enjoyed a delicious Italian meal complete with tiramisu for birthday dessert!

I'm not sure I could have planned a more perfect birthday!

The next day, my final one in Rome, we walked around and visited the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain (also under restoration), and the Vatican City.

Vatican City
After a long day we choose to just hang out that evening. My flight was early in the morning and I had to take a night bus to the airport, so we pulled an all-nighter before Michael and Kajsa took me to the bus stop.

Soon I was on a plane home. My twenty-first birthday adventure might be over but it's definitely a week of memories I will cherish for years to come!

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