After our regrettable experience in Florence, arriving in Rome was a breath of fresh air. Such a beautiful city! It was definitely the most modern and big in size, yet all the architecture was still historic and well preserved. The streets were a lot cleaner and wider, and everywhere we went was well decorated with fancy fountains or palm trees. I wonder if Spain has a similar vibe to Rome.
We also had decided to splurge on our last stop, so our hotel (Hotel Hiberia) was the nicest (with a view) and biggest our of all three. We were also staying the longest here—4 days. Naturally, I have the most to share about Rome. We visited the Vatican and the Colosseum, but what made our trip here really meaningful was our visit to Apostle Paul and Peter's prison,"Mamertinum".
BUY THE TICKETS BEFOREHAND
Because the sites in Rome are so popular, the lines are ridiculously long, practically endless. So always buy the tickets online and print them before you go. We actually did that throughout our trip in Italy, and that saved us a lot of hassle.
Everything was overwhelmingly large and gaudy here. Not in a bad way. I've traveled across China, Korea, Australia, and part of the states, so I have seen many breathtaking man-made structures. I would have to add the Vatican to the list of the most magnificent sites I've seen in my life. The white marble, the gold details, the paintings...
Sadly, we were not allowed to take any pictures (or talk) in the Sistine Chapel. Here's a secret. Women are not allowed to show their bare shoulders in there because it is considered a holy place, and of course I just happened to be wearing a black strapless dress of all outfits that day. I wore Elias' black backpack, hoping the straps would give me enough cover. And our scheme worked! The security guards were pretty strict there, so I was deeply relieved. I even witnessed someone get caught taking pictures, and the guard watching him delete them all. So don't take pictures there, and make sure to wear a short sleeve shirt or bring a cardigan.
The Colosseum was indeed great. There was beauty in the run-down structure and the distressed texture. I could almost imagine the whole place filled with a cheering crowd, encouraging a couple of other human beings to slaughter each other. Honestly, I couldn't make silly poses like the others were around me, because my brain just couldn't get past what the site was really used for. So barbaric and so carnal. Apparently, the claim that a lot of Christians were executed here is a myth. They were most likely executed near the Vatican.
Speaking of Christian martyrs, our highlight of the entire Italy trip was visiting the Mamertinum, Apostle Paul and Peter's prison. This is the last prison Paul was in before execution. We went in, went down the stairs, then climbed down another set of stairs into the actual prison cell. Traditionally, the cell was also a sewer. It smelled like one. It was a small space surrounded by walls of stone. Prisons have come a long way since then...I just couldn't imagine living in a place like that for years. And to think that Paul would've been writing all his letters there about how thankful he still was...Elias and I were very moved. We spontaneously read out loud the very last chapter of the last letter by Paul (2 Timothy) together, and said a short prayer. What an experience!
As beautiful as everything is in Italy, what meaning would it hold without the Creator and His goodness? And what is more beautiful than the faith and courage of the saints of the old who spread the gospel to death? These were my thoughts in the prison cell.
I recommend this place to everyone, it's only about a ten minute walk from the Colosseum.
THE MOST INTERESTING & EXTRAVAGANT MEAL WE HAD IN ITALY
We never thought we would eat until we bloated in Italy because their portions are fairly small. Not at Scilla & Cariddi. We would definitely go back to this place if we ever had a chance. We found this hole-in-the-wall restaurant online, and it was true that pretty much only the locals knew about it. The owners are a husband and wife duo—the husband cooks, the wife does everything else. He makes traditional Sicilian dishes with only the freshest ingredients of the day, so the menu changes every day. It's a set menu for 25euros per person. Make sure to call and make a reservation the day before or even the day of, because they don't allow people coming in without a reservation. They only make enough food for the number of people they are expecting. And they barely speak English.
Expect about 10 dishes to be put in front of you one by one, including appetizer and dessert. Some of these dishes were just phenomenal and unique. Here are the pictures of the best ones.
I must talk about the ricotta dish above. Oh my gosh. It is nothing like the ricotta cheese we eat here in the states. When I bit into the cheese, it was warm and extremely creamy, slightly seasoned with salt, and the smoky flavor kicked in as a surprise. And then the sweet and tangy marmalade balanced out the saltiness of the cheese. I told Elias that this dish will haunt me for the rest of my life, and I'm afraid it's been true so far. Such a simple dish, but heavenly. Sigh.
On our last day in Italy, we decided to relax, explore a little, and eat. And of course, enjoy some live music. It isn't hard to come across live music in Italy, you don't really have to plan for it. Here are some of the left over pictures I didn't post yet. And notice, I had to wear the same outfits multiple times and also change multiple times a day...
Our honeymoon was unforgettable, even though it entailed many unexpected trials here and there. Like the time when our shower was clogged (not our fault) so we had to shower in five minutes before it overflowed, or the time when we got lost and I had to pee so so badly but couldn't find any free public bathrooms (because you have to pay), or the time when we picked one terrible restaurant that served food that was way too salty so we could barely eat any of it, or even the time when we were patting ourselves on the back for not getting anything stolen until the very last day of the trip and then got our gift-filled backpack stolen right before our train ride to the airport.
We concluded that the trip brought us closer because of the trials, and because it wasn't always comfortable or luxurious. It was an adventure that was challenging but that much exciting, something we will cherish and tell our kids about. But I have to say we desperately missed our bed, spicy Korean food, and cars during the last couple of days.
Here's to many more trial-filled adventures in life!