Blog by: Dana Gray
Two weeks have flown by and it’s really sad that today was our last day together. It has been an amazing experience and the memories and friendships that I have developed over this short time are something that I will always treasure. There was no better way to finish off our two week Italian adventure than having a free day to explore Rome, one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations and the third most visited city in the EU. Today we played the typical tourist role, visiting two of Rome’s most famous sights, the Colosseum and the Vatican. Tourism is such an important part of Rome’s economy, and today we were part of the 7-10 million annual tourists that fuel this city’s economy.
We arrived at the Colosseum at 8am, early enough to beat the crowds and the heat. Originally built as a place for free entertainment, the Colosseum now brings in a significant amount of money for Rome’s tourism industry with an annual visitor count of 4 million. It was quickly evident to me why so many tourists come to see this ancient structure. Walking around its terraces was like a walk through time, where we stood today was the same place where battles were fought between gladiators. As we left the Colosseum the crowds were just starting to grow, and we were pleased that we had made such an early start that morning. Our next stop was the Papal City State, the Vatican.
With the impression that the subway system was down due to a strike, we made the long walk from the Colosseum to the Vatican. By now it was midday and the crowds were pouring in to see the treasures, relics and buildings of the Vatican. We had been advised to make reservations ahead of time and it was a nice feeling walking right past hundreds of people to make our way into the Vatican’s collection of museums. However, when we entered we joined the hundreds ahead of us that were already walking the hallways of these impressive museums, making for a very hot and confined experience. The museum was like a maze of painted rooms filled with marble sculptors and old relics, and I was taken aback by the magnitude of it all. The highlight of the visit was the chance to go into the Sistine chapel where we were able view Michael Angelo’s famous work spread across the ceiling. The crowds became a little too much for some of us in the group so we shortened our visit and took in some fresh air outside. When we left the Vatican Museum, large numbers of people were still coming in, and once again it made me realize the amount of money that Rome, and in this case Vatican City makes from tourism. With such large crowds it made it very easy to understand how the museums play host to 4.2 million visitors annually.
Our day was finished off with an amazing meal put on by our host university at a lovely restaurant in downtown Rome. With three courses and lots of wine to accompany the food everyone left with high spirits, although a sense of sadness could be felt amongst the group, as this was the last night that we would spend with each other. Exploring Rome’s treasures and enjoying a typical roman meal was a great way to finish off an amazing two weeks in Rome. I wished everyone a safe flight back home and cannot wait to meet again with everyone in Pirate Nation.