Tag Archives: Rome

Rome, Italy (Part II) — Travel Blog #8

After rushing around the streets of Rome all morning, our tour guides arrange for a nice sit down lunch at an authentic Italian pizzeria.

We park our Mercedes mini-van in a space and fall out on to the concrete sidewalk. Our driver informs us that we will be crossing the street. The street where Roman traffic is zooming past us and there is no cross walk, no traffic light, or even a corner to cross.

I should point out that Italian men love to drive and they’re aggressive. To them, traffic lanes are not relevant. Only traffic signals and other cars that block you are relevant. Even pedestrians must be aggressive and walk across streets without looking at the driver’s faces. The Italian drivers feel that if they don’t see your eyes looking at them, then they must stop for you. However, if you do look into their eyes, the drivers assume you can see them so you as the pedestrian should wait for them to go. Sounds crazy but the system seems to work as long as everyone know the rules. Our driver says no one in Rome has road rage. If a car cuts them off, an Italian blows it off because it’s all fair game. The other driver beat them. All’s fair in love and traffic.

So our driver fearlessly leads us across the street and sure enough the traffic stops for us. Hey, that concept of not looking at the driver’s faces really does work! In Rome.

Ah lunch…I order a delicious four (Quattro) cheese pizza on a deliciously thin crust. It’s a juicy blend of mozzarella, provolone, and other local cheeses that melts in my excited mouth. The pizza puts every American one to shame with their tasteless crusts and bland seasoning. After lunch we fearlessly cross traffic again to climb back into the minivan and head for Vatican City.

The Vatican is a madhouse. Outside that is. All of Europe must be here waiting to get in. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but then again not really. Our tour guides have set up a Vatican guide who will take us through the facility. We each get a wireless receiver with earphones and our new guide leads us inside the Vatican, talking softly on his portable wireless microphone and pointing out all the important things that we should be looking at.

The Vatican covers a large area. There’s an enormous amount of art and other treasures inside the many large and spacious buildings.

Many statues that were saved from the Pantheon of Rome are located in their own circular room, much like you would have seen them inside the Pantheon during Roman times.

Another item that interested me was a few old twelve-foot high map paintings of Italy, Sicily, and the New World (North America) hanging on the walls.

Very massive paintings.

Now we go inside the Sistine Chapel

Everyone is instructed to be absolutely quiet while inside the chapel. The narrow hallway we must wait in seems to downplay the idea that something truly wonderful is at the end of this hall. It’s a little anti climactic even, since all the rest of the buildings that we have been in so far have been large, spacious, and a little bigger than life.

Now it’s our turn to go inside…

Oh My God. Michelangelo is a painting GOD. We stare in awe at the ceiling. How could you not resist? It’s beautiful. Wonderous. Overwhelming. But it’s just a ceiling of a church Doug. How really great can it be? Come and see for yourself. And then ask me that question. I must admit that I didn’t expect it to be this awesome. The different little scenes in each section contain two figures on opposite sides of the frame. There are so many details to the work, so many brilliant colors, so many nuances that I’m sure historians and artists have studied every inch of this ceiling in order to interpret every stoke of the master painter’s brush.

We learn that all the fig leaves were added later to the figures after the fact, due to a request from the Church. The portion of the ceiling that impresses me is the work Michelangelo did on the ceiling when he came back years later. The striking dark blue background makes it stand out from the older portion. On a side note, since the Church didn’t allow artists to sign their work, Michelangelo painted his face on one of the figures.

There’s also a mysterious black square that is near one of the corners of this great masterpiece. When the ceiling was restored many years ago, they purposely left this black square as a reminder of how faded the orignal ceiling was. From the black box, it looks like the ceiling was in bad shape. I’m so happy they restored it to its original glory and that we are here to enjoy the work’s beauty and power.

Next we visit St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope comes out to speak.

The Papal apartments are to the right of the Basilica.

I can see the little chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel where the Cardinals gather when they pick a new Pope. They release white smoke when they’ve chosen a Pope and black smoke if they’re undecided.

Leaving the grounds of the Vatican, we feel tired and worn out from a long and active day in Rome. But we all have enough energy to stop and get some delicious Italian Gelato or ice cream. I ask our tour guide what his favorite flavor is. His reply is Spagnoli. My theory is, if that’s a flavor the locals like, I should try it too. So we stop. The gelato place has all its doors and windows open as if to welcome us. Inside the glass case, deliciously colorful treats of rich gelato greet our eyes. I’m glad I asked for the flavor recommendation because there are so many exotic choices. My father and I both get the Spagnoli. Wow. It’s a rich, cherry type ice cream which has such a creamy texture. The cold, gooey substance tastes like heaven, especially after a long day. We resist the temptation to gorge ourselves.

Now our time is up in Rome. I’m sad to see it go but, we board our ship and sail off to our next destination. I’m so glad it’s still in Italy.
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Next stop, we visit the city of Florence, Italy. Home of the Renaissance!

Go here to see all our pictures of Rome!

Rome, Italy (Part I) — Travel Blog #7

ROME…

One of the most famous cities on the planet. A world epicenter for art, culture, food, history…and a list that could go on and on. Today we have one day here. Like Pompeii, a day just doesn’t do this city any justice. You would need a week at least. Yet getting any opportunity, even a small one, to visit this rich and vibrant city is worth it.

Off the ship, we again are whisked off in our private van to experience Rome as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Our first stop is the towering Roman Coliseum which was completed in 80 AD. The size of it is massive. Taking in the view, I’m instantly hit with a total Gladiator movie moment as I look across this massive structure which was built to hold 50,000 people. The floor is exposed, revealing hundreds of stone build rooms and corridors where proud or terrified gladiators waited for their time in the arena. Also pens for tigers, lions, and other wild, exotic beasts which were brought from the far reaches of the Empire to “entertain” the massive Roman audience. Well to do Romans sat on the first level, close to the action. Normal Roman citizens occupied the second level and paid nothing for the privilege. Subjects of the Empire were given nosebleed on the third level.

I marvel at how such a massive thing could be built all those thousands of years ago. The feat in itself is amazing. The fact that many parts are still standing is a testament to how well this structure was designed and built.

Right next door from the Coliseum is the famous Aventine Hills area of ancient Rome.

Roman history is literally everywhere you look.

Next we visit the real Circus Maximus. Only some of the outer wall still remains of the once proud ancient racing facility. The giant racing oval was once featured in the movie Ben Hur. Now, it’s basically a flat city park with dirt trails and not a lot of grass. Yet the space itself gives us an idea of how large the Circus Maximus was. When Italy won the world cup in 2006, thousands of Italians filled this park to celebrate, proving that this ground still holds a place in many Roman hearts.

Next our van sweeps us away from the Circus Maximus to a spot overlooking the Massive Forum, the heart of ancient Rome. The old archways which guarded both entrances to the forum are still standing. Much of these ruins were excavated during the reign of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Much of  modern-day Rome is built upon the ruins of the ancient city.

Unfortunately we only had time to see a view of the Forum. Exploring it would take at least most of a day since the size is triple that of Pompeii’s.  So many wonderful statues. So many ruins. Wish we had more time to see them all.

We hop into our black Mercedes van and weave through some of the narrow streets as we head for the famous Trevi fountain, which is so choked with people, our driver must drop us off a few blocks away. So we walk.

As we amble through the narrow street leading to the fountain, I notice a manhole cover labeled with the famous letters SPQR. The ancient symbol of Rome. It means…Senatus Populus Romanus. The Senate and the People of Rome. It amuses me that such a famous symbol is on a Roman city manhole cover. Shows you how proud these people are of their history. Kinda cool.

Soon we turn a corner and arrive in a closed square that is elbow to elbow with people. The Trevi fountain has been in many movies. My favorite, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Compared to the fountain you see on the screen, the actual Trevi fountain is gigantic. Wow! I didn’t realize it was this big…

Many people around me are tossing coins over their right shoulders. The custom says that if you do this, your wish to come back to Rome will come true. I thought about tossing a coin in too, but the crush of people is so bad, I decide against it. In fact, it’s hard to enjoy the fountain with this many people around. Oh well, at least we got to see it.

This glorious day will be continued…in another blog entry.  🙂

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In travel blog #8, we have lunch in Rome, see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and discover the joys of Spagoli. By the way, a link to all our pictures from Rome will be posted after the next blog entry. Trust me, there’s a lot of them!