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When in Rome, you eat copious amounts of pasta and pizza, slowly stroll down ancient alleys, and enjoy the history that surrounds you. It was an incredible feeling to be standing amongst architecture and art from approximately 100 AD. As for our stay in Rome, it was magnificent. I thought Paris was my favorite city, until we arrived in Rome. Italy itself is filled with romantic language, amazing eats, and surreal cultural immersion experiences.

We stayed at a cute, little flat in a quiet neighborhood known as Monti just a few blocks from the Colosseum. Before we entered the tourist infested Colosseum entrance we stopped at a pizza shop in our little neighborhood. At La Boccaccia, pizza could be ordered by the gram. An inventive idea that was an incredible taste bud experience. When we were full, we started on our excursion for the day. As we rounded the corner and the arches of the Colosseum towering above the shops and apartments, the excitement grew. We were about to step foot into almost 2,000 year old history. As we entered, the grandeur did not fall short. As we marveled at the size and architectural genius, we were also remorsefully reminded that this very place was a graveyard, frequently used for execution. It amazed me that such horrific actions could one day be famed occurrences. But like many other events, tragedy was forgotten with time. As we exited the infamous gladiator stage, we headed into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Here we were surrounded by more Roman ruins and beautiful gardens.

From there, we walked a few blocks to another famous location. As we entered into the Basilica that showcased the Mouth of Truth, we were surprised that such a popular attraction could be so insignificant in size. As tales are told, if you put your hand into its mouth and you get bitten, then you're a liar. Thankfully we left with our hands intact. Through travel I've learned immensely about wise tales, cultural occurrences, art history, and more. Did you know there is a pyramid in Rome? I didn't until I saw it. The Pyramid of Caius Cestius was a unique site amongst the Roman architecture. Apparently, it was not the only pyramid that stood in Rome. One was erected near Vatican City but taken apart to build the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.

As we were still fresh with amazement, we stopped at a cafe before our next attraction. While sitting and people watching waiting for our pizza to arrive, over the radio our wedding song played. Thousands of miles away we were brought back to that moment a year ago when we danced to that song. We likely looked ridiculous to others as we held hands and sang along to Ed Sheeran's “Perfect.” And following our duet and delicious meal, we were off to the next spot. We were surprised yet again that attraction we assumed was going to be bustling was almost empty. We wondered around what was once the Baths of Caracalla. We stood in amazement surrounded by what is seen as rubble. Once the largest baths in the world, now almost completely stripped of all it's glory, the baths stand humbly amongst the bustling city. We learned, to our amazement, that it was not just barbarians who stripped marble, statues, gold, and other precious materials from their places, but also anyone with wealth in need of a certain material, including the Pope. As we traveled around the city we pieced together the puzzle of statues removed from one site to another, bronze from the baths to build the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica, and marble to cover the walls of new monuments. Apparently the past was a time of artifact genocide.

After a day filled with antiquity, we made our way to Trastevere for dinner. We found ourselves at La Gattabuia, an old jail converted to a restaurant. The venue was unique but the Italian food was indescribably phenomenal. I wish I could describe the flavors of creamy gnocchi, but any words would fail to depict the experience. Following one of the best meals of my life, we turned a corner to find ourselves amongst the exciting streets of Rome. A world cup futbol game was playing in a small pub. We stopped and enjoyed the thrilling atmosphere as we cheered with the locals. We realized here that wherever the locals were, was the best place to be. Tourists are overwhelming and we are undeniably tourists. But we tried as much as possible to submerge ourselves into the culture, being conscious of the language and traditions. As we headed home along the Trastevere shops, we were determined to get off the beaten path more and experience the area as a local would.

roman streets, italy

pizza at La Boccaccia, rome

exterior view, the Colosseum

roman ruins, the Colosseum

the Colosseum, looking out

roman arch, the Colosseum, Roman Forum

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, posing for portrait

flowers at the Roman Forum

ruins at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

walking to the mouth of truth, italian road

flowers near the mouth of truth

the mouth of truth, tourist attraction

putting hand in the mouth of truth

pyramid in rome, tomb