Day 1: I’ll skip the uneventful flights/airport part and start when the cab driver dropped us off at Campo de' Fiori. This was the moment when the theatics of the cab ride fell away (Us: Is that the Vatican?! Oh wow, Castel Sant'Angelo! Look at that building! Look at that statue! Look at this, look at that. Wow. Wow. Rome is all “wow.” The driver: honking, swerving, arguing with someone on his phone, even throwing in a “mamma mia!” right off the bat). Once he sped off and we were standing there, early afternoon on a Friday, wet pavement and oddly humid air, it started to once again seem like I was stepping into a YouTube video. The buildings – terracotta and yellow and crumbling; the piles of garbage; the sound of seagulls squawking – it didn’t seem real.
We were able to check-in to our hotel early (Hotel Smeraldo) and spent the afternoon/evening wandering around aimlessly. Stepped into the first of many churches - Sant'Andrea della Valle, which was quite ornate and beautiful. It was raining steadily and it turned into dusk as we left and we were walking methodically, trying not to trip on the slippery cobbles, and suddenly we turned a corner and looked up and there was the Pantheon. This was the first of many times during the trip where I would think that the pictures and videos don’t even come close to capturing the splendor of something in Rome. The Pantheon is simply striking to look at. You almost can’t believe it’s there, right there, in the middle of buildings and people. We went in and looked inside but we weren't really absorbing what we were seeing. We’d end up returning to it a few times during the trip and never tired of it.
We tried some pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli near the hotel for dinner. This place was continuously crowded and 95% of the crowd seemed to be under 30 and American. Is there a blog or something hyping this place up? Though it was fine, it was easily the least favorite of the numerous bakeries we tried. The woman at the counter had the exact demeanor you’d expect from someone stuck serving the aforementioned clientele.