Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)

13 April 2010

My Italian Spring Break: Rome

Definitely not Rome...

Our visit to Rome was off to a bit of a shaky start. The night bus was plain awful, and due to sheer fear and exhaustion, we overslept and missed our stop in Rome. We ended up in Formia, about halfway to Naples! Not quite what we had expected... but hey, just another city to add to our list of visited places!

Palm Sunday = PACKED

Our first stop in Rome was "across the border" to Vatican City (cannot believe it is a separate country!!). It was Palm Sunday so the place was majorly busy. We stood in a long, hot line to enter St. Peter's Basilica and met a nice group of American couples. They told us about their trip to Capri and gave very good advice to stay healthy and travel...now...not to wait until we are older.

We were digging their outfits!

St. Peter's Basilica interior... simply awesome.

St. Peter's Basilica was very very neat. Rick was right when he called it the "richest and grandest church on Earth." Everything is massive--the church itself, the statues, decorations, and even the words on the wall!

We decided to climb the dome and take advantage of our beautiful weather. Being the thrifty students we are, we saved 2 euro ("that's one gelato!!") and climbed all the way. There are a ton of steps, and we actually passed many people stopping to recharge and catch their breaths on the way up!

The view from inside the dome of the Basilica.

The view from the roof is amazing! No building is allowed to be higher than the dome, so there is a really clear view of the city. The bell started ringing while we were up there which was a very pleasant [loud] surprise!

From the roof of St. Peter's.

Vatican City mail on the roof of St. Peter's.

The next day took us back a few thousand years to ancient Rome. On Rick's "Roman Forum Walk", we covered Capitol Hill, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would! Rick had some fabulous comments and interesting facts to keep things entertaining.

"Many of the large basalt stones under your feet were walked on by Caesar Augustus 2,000 years ago." -Rick

Oh Rick...

"Mentally replace tourists in T-shirts with tribunes in togas."

"If things still look like just a pile of rocks, at least tell yourself, 'But Julius Caesar once learned against these rocks'."

"Caligula was not a nice person....stole senator's wives and parked his chariot in handicap spaces."

The Forum's main square.

The Colosseum!

The Colosseum was very neat also. They had an interesting museum circling around the stadium that showed a lot of gladiator outfits and weapons. In addition to being a gladiator rink, the Colosseum was also the first domed stadium: sailors would hoist a huge canvas awning over the people for shade.
Colosseum ground level--complete with elevators to lift animals up so the games could begin.

We took a walk in the shopping center and stopped to admire talented street artists and pretty shops. At the end of our walk were the very crowded Spanish steps. Nearby: Italy's first and the world's fanciest McDonald's. We definitely agree with its claim--it even had automatic garbage cans!

Top notch street vendor: carving vegetables.

A nod to my "homeland": the Spanish steps!

Ow ow.. bow chicka bow bow :)

Funny story: while perusing Italy magnets for our lovely senoras, Sora stumbled upon a Sora magnet! We were thrilled but slightly confused about the vintage naked lady picture. Sora asked the vendor to explain and he laughed and said Sora Gemma is a famous Italian prostitute! "Sora" means "Missus or Miss", so the lovely naked woman is Missus Gemma. He thought it was pretty funny we were so interested, and even funnier when Sora said that was her name!

Needless to say, Sora Gemma joined our travel group!

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain is a must see and is on EVERYONE'S list. This place rivaled Vatican City on Palm Sunday in terms of the crowd! Luckily, the fountain itself didn't disappoint. We each tossed a coin :)

Tourists love Trevi Fountain!


Our afternoon turned to evening with a visit to THE best gelato place in Rome: Giolitti's. Seriously. The small gets you 3 generous flavors... what is not to like??

We also lucked out and were able to see the Pantheon right before closing. The Roman gods were on our side!

Rome at night... I love you, camera night setting!

The Colosseum at night.

Drumroll please.......

We attended the Pope's audience on Wednesday and were able to get up close and personal! Sora's camera has the up close pictures and I have a video I will post later. It was awesome!!! We are now a little obsessed with him. I may or may not have a bracelet that has his face on little charms....

Vatican City for the Pope's audience!

The Pope is seriously a super cool guy. He was born in Bavaria in 1926 and joined Hilter Youth when he was 14. During the end of the war, he left his post and went to study theology. He led the Second Vatican Council, and spent every Friday afternoon for 20 years chatting with Pope John Paul II before becoming Pope himself.

The Popemobile: not just a myth.

Pope Benedict XVI (in the white)

Post Pope, we went to the Vatican Musuem to see the Sistine Chapel. It was a windy, tourist trail leading to the Chapel! It was amazing--the detail is extraordinary! I stood next to a tour and was able to hear where St. Lawrence was on the ceiling :)

Obviously not the real thing... but we saw it!

We entered Rome with train problems and left with train problems. We underestimated the time we had, and were running--I mean SPRINTING towards the platform. It was just our luck that the platform was at a special place even farther from the station. We literally made it within seconds of the departure and spent the next hour hydrating and fanning ourselves. Sprinting with heavy backpacks is NOT fun!

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