Day 1 of our Italy adventure actually started the day before on a 5 p.m. overnight flight out of JFK. We boarded our British Airlines flight only to realize that it was operated by American Airlines.
With no personal entertainment (for a NINE-HOUR FLIGHT) and limited leg room, I feared the worst. Strangely, our flight was only half full (probably because people bailed once they saw "operated by American Airlines") so every person managed to score their very own row.
We basically had the ideal circumstances for sleeping. Unfortunately, that only worked for about an hour, since it was five-freakin-o'clock in the afternoon. After that, with no in-flight entertainment, we were basically bored out of our minds. There's nothing worse than that feeling of knowing you have to wake up in X amount of hours and not being able to fall asleep.
Once our dinner came out, I cheered up a bit. That is, until Mike accidentally knocked my seat and caused my entire plate of ravioli to spill on me. With six more hours to go in the flight and a lap full of pasta, I did what anyone else would do -- I mopped it up with the airline blanket and stuffed it in the empty seat next to me.
Eventually, me, Mike, and pasta blanket made it to Rome just as the sun was starting to rise -- my favorite time to see a new city. Our cab ride in was filled with Italian stereotypes of crazy cabbie arguments out of windows and erratic driving. It was the perfect way to start the day.
Since we couldn't check into our hotel yet, we dropped off our luggage and set out for a bleary-eyed day of sightseeing. First stop -- the Pantheon. We didn't have far to go since it was literally across from our hotel.
The one thing that I keep telling people is that you really can't get a good sense of scale from history books or photos. Whether it was a building, sculpture, or painting, I was blown away by how large everything was. The Pantheon was no exception -- I think I literally gasped. Since we were the first ones there when they opened (another bonus of arriving at dawn), we got to experience the place practically empty. Fun fact: Did you know that Raphael is buried here?
Next stop was the nearby Trevi Fountain.
Again, the photos really don't do it justice. This fountain is MASSIVE. Mike couldn't stop touching the water, which promoted guards to blow whistles at him. Not a great sound when you're running on zero sleep. Another fun fact: One of the old aqueducts still feeds this fountain!
After our first two landmarks, we decided to take a stroll and just wander around. Since there's some amazing artifact, fountain, or building around every corner of the city, we knew we'd come across something cool. In about 10 minutes, we wandered our way to the Spanish Steps without even trying.
After climbing the famous steps, we continued up the hill and found ourselves at Villa Medici or, as it's also known, the French Academy in Rome. We hadn't planned on taking a tour here, but since we were there and had nothing on the books till 3 p.m., we figured we might as well. The gardens and views were beautiful, but the coolest part was catching glimpses of the artists in residence there.
The tour, while great, lasted a little longer than we expected, and before we knew it, we were way behind schedule. With only about two hours til our Colosseum tour, we rushed back to the hotel to check in, found an excellent spot to eat lunch, and then literally ran to the Colosseum. Who says you can't work out while on vacation?
We could just see the tour leaving as we ran up to the meeting point and managed to yell them down. Thankfully, we made it because holy shit -- the Colosseum is BANANAS.
After getting the lowdown on the gladiators and animals that used to fight there, we headed to the Roman Forum.
At this point we'd been up well over 24 hours, and everything we saw seemed so incredibly surreal. I wouldn't recommend not sleeping before seeing a city, but if you're going to do it, make sure to take in the major sights; every reaction will be heightened.
After the tour, we wandered back to our hotel in a daze past the Tiber and through the tangled alley ways.
We capped off Day 1 at a family-run restaurant near our hotel. It was there that I proceeded to drink all the wine.
All in all, the day was exhausting, but well worth it. Since our time was limited in Rome, we tried to cram as much into every second as we could, while still leaving some time for exploration and wandering. Not sure I would have done Day 1 any differently...except for pasta blanket.