Roman Holiday

After visiting Florence on our recent trip to Italy, my family and I drove to Rome, passing through the beautiful hilltop city Orvieto on the way. This was our second time in Rome, so we decided not to revisit all the typical tourist sights. Instead, we focused on the attractions we wished we had gotten to see more of on our last trip, like the forum and the main streets and squares. We arrived in Rome on New Years Eve, so after checking in at our hotel, we headed to our dinner reservations. I would highly recommend getting reservations for holidays like this, as many restaurants are either booked up or closed for the holiday. We had a delicious seven course meal at Il Buco with traditional Italian dishes including fresh pasta with truffles and tiramisu. After finishing our New Year’s spumante at the restaurant, we walked around the city, heading to the Spanish Steps for New Year’s Eve festivities. We welcomed in 2017, surrounded by hundreds of people from all over the world, and walked back to our hotel for an early night because we had a very early morning the next day.

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On New Year’s Day, we woke up at the crack of dawn to head towards the Vatican, where we would see Pope Francis give the first mass of 2017. If you plan to attend a papal mass (especially on a special feast day), I’d recommend arriving at least two hours early, as the seats fill up fast. This mass was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I would recommend going even if you’re not religious because the service allows you to experience the basilica as I believe it was meant to be seen. You can really take in the architectural and artistic beauty of the building, and the acoustics make the songs of the Vatican choir sound really incredible.

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After the New Year’s mass, we heard Pope Francis’s address in the square and wandered around the Vatican city.We had reservations for lunch because we were afraid many restaurants would be closed for the holiday, but we were surprised by how much was open. We visited famous squares like the Piazza Navona and threw our coins into the Trevi Fountain, and stopped into the Magnum store, where you can create your own Magnum ice cream bar. I chose a milk chocolate coating for my vanilla ice cream, and I topped it with pistachios, freeze-dried cherries, gold candies, and dark and white chocolate drizzles.

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That night we had some delicious pasta at a small trattoria before heading back to our hotel. The next morning, we did some power shopping before our afternoon tour of the coliseum and forum. Although we’ve been to these places before, we never did a tour, so we opted for a guided tour of both ancient attractions. The coliseum tour was particularly fascinating, as we got to see both the underground area where they prepared both animals and gladiators for the fight, and the uppermost level with restricted access. Then we toured the Roman forum and learned lots of interesting information about the lives of the ancient Romans. We ended our day with a visit to the Pantheon to see my sister’s choir sing before heading to dinner and grabbing some gelato. Our visit to Rome was very quick but lovely, and I hope to return soon!

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