Extraordinary Rome

Trip Start Dec 26, 2005
Trip End Jan 25, 2009

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Flag of Italy  ,
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To say the least, Rome is an extraordinary place and offers the visitor so much, especially if you're into Ancient Rome and the Catholic Church. It is remarkable that whereever you go, historic relics abound. I've very much enjoyed my time here.

I like the Italians. I like their language and accent, their sense of fashion, their food and their exhuberant forms of non verbal and verbal communication. It's a shame that I don't have the time to spend in the country...

Today I spent 5 hours at Vatican City, including a small amount of time at the Sistine Chapel. On first entering St Peter's Basilica, I was so taken aback, it it is clearly the most amazing church (and even building) I've ever been in. It's hard not to become emotionally drawn into the scale, significance and grandeur of the building. St Peter's Basilica is the most famous church in the Christian World and stands on the site where St Peter is buried. The first church on the site was built during Constantine's reign in the 4th century, and in 1506 work started on a new basilica, designed by Bramante. It is generally held that St Peter's owes its grandeur and power to Michellangelo, who took over the project in 1547 at the age of 72.

After touring the church, I viewed the tombs of past popes, including that of Pope John Paul II, who passed away in 2005... I remember the event so clearly, including his final days at the Vatican. His tomb is simple compared to that of St Peter. Even though I'm no Catholic, I was still nevertheless excited at being only a metre or so from his final resting pace.

The queues were very long today, and patience and a lot of water was needed. It was hot. I waited about an hour to climb to the roof of St Basilica's, which afforded me an amazing view of all of Rome. I paid 4 euro to climb the 540 stairs. You have the option to pay 7 euro if you get a lift to the 240th step.

Once I'd done that, I walked the several kilometres to the Sistine Chapel, the private papal chapel built in 1473 for Pope Sixtus Iv. Michelangelo's wonderful frescoes of the Creation and Last Judgement have been restored to their original brilliance. I broke the protocol of no photos... I had to get a photo to share with all my readers. I was asked once not to take photos... but secretly took more as I was just about to leave. I refuse to travel all this way and not get a photo, whatever the protocol. Hope they turned out!

After a very long day of touring, I devoured a beautiful Italian Gelato (3 scoops) for 3 euro which was absolutely delicious... rates up there with Murphy's Beer as being the most exquisite food or drink consumed. But you had to be quick... because it was so hot, I had to be fast.

In the evening, I met up with Pablo from Los Angeles who has come over to Rome for a 7 day escape from his work on a Kabootz in Israel. Pablo's a highschool teacher by trade. He was able to give me the local run down of the state of affairs in Israel. He doesn't appear to be too concerned for his well being, despite being only 20km from the bombing. Apparently, the Lebanese Southern Government has kind of lost the plot by bombing Israel for some reason which I'm not sure of, hence Israel's retalliation. Being away from the news makes it difficult for me to comment further here. But nevertheless, Pablo's an interesting guy and, after pizza and cheap red wine (5 euro a bottle), we revisited the major sights of the Colloseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Roman Forum which gave an alternative view to that of the day. Shame I did the Vatican yesterday, for I could have joined he and another guy, Adam (from Sydney) who are doing the Vatican today... being on the European backpacker trail makes it very easy to meet up with fellow travellers. It is a lot more social than South East Asia... but different. I'm not meeting as many locals here in Europe as I did Asia. Given that I'm doing this alone, I would not want to do anything other than the hostelling circuit here in Europe. There's a great commoraderie, and understanding, amongst most backpackers I'm coming across.
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