Doing what they do...

Trip Start May 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
Papaya Hostel

Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh wow, I was actually in Rome! Even as I make my list of things that we saw, I can't believe I was actually there... it all seems so surreal. This has potential to be incredibly long, so I will try to be succinct.


We arrived at Roma Termini (my new least favorite station ever) and quickly found our hostel, The Papaya, which was really more like a flat. Once we got ourselves checked in and settled we were off to quickly see what we could with the remainder of our day (it was already 2pm). We set off for Vatican City, and decided to start with the museum. So, the Vatican museum is filled with artistic and historic masterpieces, and was actually quite interesting! I especially thought of my brother-in-law Trevor when looking at their Egyptian and Ancient near Eastern collections (I saw some cuneiforms Trev!) The main point of the museum is the final stop - The Sistine Chapel!!! That's right folks, we got to see the frescos of the Sistine Chapel up close and in person. It was so amazing, especially since I had studied them in my Liturgy and Artistic Expression class (actually, that class has been quite helpful... wish I hadn't fallen asleep so many times, maybe I'd remember more!). We were only able to tear ourselves away from the chapel with the knowledge that St Peter's Basilica was waiting. Wow. Seriously. That place is SO amazing! We were even there during a service, and got to hear nuns singing chant. There was a large beam of sunlight streaming through the church and I was seriously beside myself with happiness! We also got to see the sarcophagi of the past popes, which was pretty cool. As an aside, I should add that Angels and Demons is one of my favorite books and movies, and so I was appreciating the Vatican on several levels! 

After this visit we were super tired, hot, and hungry. We found a tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza cafe and got ourselves some pizza. I had zucchini pizza, which was actually delicious! Such a nice change from tomato/mozzarella paninis!

Our last stop of the day was a visit to the Spanish Stairs. Truthfully, this was one of those "obligation visits"; we knew we were supposed to go see them but couldn’t really remember what the big deal was. Also, at this point we were thoroughly exhausted and really just wanted to sit down with a glass of wine and chill. We took tourist shots where we put on the most mockingly excited faces we could muster, which we of course thought was hilarious because we didn’t even really know why we were there! Oh well, it was a memory :)


We got an early start and took the Rome metro to the Colloseum. We walked out of the station and just stood there gasping... it was breathtaking! We went inside and got to wander around two different levels, again taking pictures until we were blue in the face. We didn't go on a tour, but used the downloaded audio-guide that I had put on my iPod. It wasn't perfect, but it gave us the info that we were looking for! Our next stop was the Roman Forum. I'm not gonna lie, I had never even heard about the Forum before Friday. So, just in case you haven’t either, I will tell you that the Forum is a ruined site that was basically the city center of ancient Rome. It is where there were markets, shops, trading, and temples to the various Roman gods. Immediately beside The Forum was Palatin Hill, which I understood to be a residential area but since we didn’t have a guide and there weren’t any plaques the details are unclear. Regardless, we wandered around amidst the various ancient ruins quite happily for several hours. The last thing we saw at this site was the Circus Maximus, which is a large field where Christians were executed before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan legalizing Christianity in... 316AD I think? So, just in case you assumed, as we did, that this happened in the Collosseum it in fact did not. Only criminals’ executions and Gladiator games occurred there. Our remaining stops of the day were Trevi Fountain (the fountain where you are supposed to throw a coin over your shoulder and wish to come back to Rome) and the Pantheon. Did you know that the dome of the pantheon is the biggest brick dome in the history of architecture and was constructed from one big cast that was filled layer by layer with progressively lighter rock, so that eventually the rock at the top of the dome was super light while the bottom was the heaviest and most dense? Well now you do! Also, we were both interested to find out that the pillars on the exterior of the building are made of solid marble that was imported from Egypt. No small thing considering when it was built around 2000 years ago. What!?!

On the walk back to the hostel from the Pantheon I just HAD to stop in at the Chapeli de Santa Maria to see a famous statue that I had studied in clas, (and one that appears in Angels and Demons fyi) called St Theresa in Ecstasy. It is such a weird experience to see famous works of art in person... its both exhilarating and underwhelming. Regardless, I was very happy that we had stopped in, and we continued on our way to the hostel, picking up ingredients for dinner on the way. We made ravioli with basil pesto, a yummy dinner that cost 1.50 per person! I don’t know which we savored more, the ravioli or the price ;)


Vanessa and I had both heard about the Catacombs, but had forgotten to put it on our list. Thankfully, Nessa was looking through our travel book and was reminded of them. So early Saturday morning we packed ourselves up and braved the trip (which involved both the Metro and the Bus service) and found ourselves on the Via Appia Antiqua (Aks: The Appian Way... that’s right, the same one as is mentioned in the Bible). Catacombs were the ancient method of burial. They are basically underground ally ways with holes carved into the walls where bodies were placed and then sealed over. So the walls are at times over 20 feet high, because they would keep digging and creating new levels, and so you can look up and see all these levels of empty slots where bodies used to be. There are 4 levels altogether, and I remember the guide saying the over all depth is 20 metres. These particular catacombs were used almost exclusively for burying martyred Christians; there are half a million people buried there, from a period of 250 years. Christians also used to go there to have their church services in secret until the Edict of Milan. All in all it was obviously an exceptionally moving visit that was well worth the hour’s journey.

 After the Catacombs, and a quick picture of us on the Appian Way, we continued on to find Castel Sante Angelo. Unlike other castels we have seen so far, this one was just a straight up fortress of security. No palace frills here, it was all about protection. The most beautiful part of this trip was the amazing views from the top of the castle, as well as the beautiful Ponte Sante Angelo that is covered with sculptures of Angels and leads to the castle door. The sky was bright blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds, which allowed for some beautiful photography. We love sky :)

We had good intentions of going to see a recommended quarter of the city, away from the tourist traps, but i was just too pooped to do anything else, and so we retired to our hostel for the night. Well, not quite, we did have to pop out for a quick trip to Roma Termini to wait in a 2 hour line to get our ticket for the next day... did I mention how I feel about Roma Termini?


All in all, our general impressions of Rome were that it was a beautiful city. Everywhere you look there is some sort of super ancient awesome thing, be it a bit of the Roman wall in the middle of a traffic circle or the public drinking fountains that are still in use and are everywhere in the city. There are easily 20 beautiful churches that we didn’t see, tons of museums that we didn’t get to, and of course a rich city life that is there underneath all the tourism if you have the energy to seek it out. Please put Rome on your dream list, we think you’ll like it :)
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Colleen on

Wow - its surreal just to look at PICTURES of you in those places... I can imagine how wierd it must've been to see all that. How crazy!! So far, I think that is the stop that I'm most jealous of of yours... well, maybe tied with the Mediterranean... :)

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