After some deliberation, on our last day we decided to explore some additional ancient ruins in and around Rome (as opposed to a day trip to Naples/Pompeii) since we enjoyed what we saw so much on the previous day. Before this though, we tried out Italian McDonald’s for breakfast. As in other European countries that I’ve seen, McDonald’s tends to be much nicer than in the US, and is more of a cafe with pastries and espresso drinks. They only had one breakfast sandwich (eggs, bacon, and cheese on an English muffin), and one other uniquely Italian sandwich (an inside out toasted bun with prosciutto and cheese) that we tried.
We first saw the remains of a Roman bath complex called the Baths of Caracalla, a little further away from the city center. We decided to take the metro there, as the extensive walking has started to add up. The metro system in Rome is not as extensive as you would expect for such a large city. This is because the city is so old that it has been rebuilt many times on top of itself which means there are old ruins basically anywhere you dig (exemplified by the multi-layer church we visited yesterday), so it’s impossible to construct and underground subway line.
Because the bath complex is a bit far away, it was not busy at all, but people are missing out because it is quite incredible. The complex is absolutely massive, and the main walls of the 2nd century buildings are largely in tact along with some marble and tile floors. We rented a VR headset guide which was actually pretty neat; in addition to being a regular audio guide, you could go into each room in the complex and then look at a reconstruction of the what the room would have looked like using VR. It’s nice to see this kind of technology being put to good use (this is Davis if you couldn’t tell)! We saw various rooms that used to be gyms and swimming pools where Romans would exercise and relax. On edge of one swimming pool, you could see an ancient Roman board game carved into the marble where they used to sit along with some jokes written in Latin which was funny to see.
We next continued on the metro to an even further edge of the city to an aqueduct park nicely tucked into a suburban neighborhood. It was just like a normal park – you could freely walk in and there was plenty of green space. It seemed like a popular area for runners and walkers. However, the park is quite unique as it’s littered with a number of ancient aqueducts that used to supply Rome with water. Some of the aqueducts are nearly fully preserved and it was amazing to see the ingenuity that the Romans employed in their civil engineering. Allie had been insistent on seeing aqueducts even before we arrived in Italy, so she was ecstatic to finally get to see them. She says “seeing aqueducts in the flesh….was amazing”.
We wrapped up the day by traveling back to the city center and getting some shopping done (another things Allie was insistent on doing). The city center has a ton of shops and everything was nicely decorated for Christmas with lights and trees everywhere. Throughout the trip we had also noticed many signs for Black Friday or even “Black Week” sales in Italian shops, so I guess this American tradition has become popular internationally.
We tried some more traditional Roman dishes for our final dinner. Allie had ravioli while I had oxtail and artichoke. The oxtail (which is just bits from the tail of a cow) really just tasted like normal roasted beef with a lot of bone to avoid. Artichoke is very popular in Rome and in season right now; it was heavily soaked in olive oil and not my favorite thing, but to be fair I’m not usually that fond of them.
Yesterday we made the long trip home which involved basically every mode of transportation possible (taxi, plane, bus, train, and an Uber). Though it seemed like the longest day ever, we have finally made it back to LA. This trip has been amazing for us, and we hope you enjoyed following along!