Wow, everytime I get on here to write my blog, I'm infested with chat conversations in the other window. Anyway...
The alarm beeped silently as the morning came down upon us. It was a cool Roman morning, and nothing was going to stop us from going upstairs to get breakfast for free. After all, for the 80 Euros we were paying for the small rooms they put us in, I planned on getting my money worth of breakfast.
After breakfast, we took off on foot in whichever direction felt good for us. We decided against doing any paid touring or taking public transportation. In our walk to find a hotel yesterday, I decided Rome was worth every square inch of walking. So walk we did.
I did have the gps, so it wasn't totally random, but as we walked in the general direction of Vatican City, if we ever saw something cool looking, we would just detour and catch up later. In this manner, we ran into the Spanish Stairs and other attractions.
We planned on getting to the Vatican Museum before 10, but we got there at 11. Having been forewarned of long lines, we knew that early and Wednesday was the best time to get there. So it was, as we walked directly into the museum without stopping.
The day was turning into another Italian summer day, hot and sticky. You would think that in stone buildings that the air would be cool, but either the sheer number of people caused that to be false or I just think wrong because it was quite warm throughout the museum.
The museum was great, really. Four miles of exquisite and beautiful art. Frescoes, paintings, tapestries, and, of course, statues. I would recommend touring it to anyone. It really gave you an idea of the majesty of the Renaissance period. Of course, ending with Raphael's rooms and the Sistine Chapel certainly don't disappoint. The Sistine was everything one would want. The only negative is the fact that the deal the Vatican has with the restoration company prohibits photography and videography, with or without flash inside the chapel. I got most everything else though. If you can, look at the detail, such as veins, ribs, etc.
After spending nearly 3 hours seeing every corner of the museum (I am quite determined when I get into places like that) we left to go to St. Peter's Basilica. Once again, amazing. There are nearly no paintings (I'd say none, but I don't know for sure) in it--they're all mosaics. Curt and I went to the Cupola, and even up there, they are just mosaics, but they looks so detailed from down below. Kudos to you Michaelangelo.
Walking around the Basilica, I noticed some grates. Looking down, I could see forever. Seriously, the Vatican really is built upon tons of stuff, and only they know what's down there. Supposedly, if you go far enough down, you'll eventually hit the actual hill called Vatican Hill.
St. Peter's square is just as humongous as you think it is, and the dome on top of the Basilica is probably taller than you all think. The 323 stairs leading up are quite steep, and towards the top the ceiling makes you feel like you are doing a slot canyon in Southern Utah.
The view from the top beats a lot, and since Rome doesn't have a 'modern' skyline, you can see forever. We stayed a bit longer, then decided to get some food and take off for the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is probably more amazing historically than a lot of what we saw at the Vatican. It dates to pre-Christ eras, and it's quite original. The pillars are solid granite, brought from Egypt, and the dome is the largest dome in...could I say the world? (St. Peter's is significantly taller, but about 3 meters narrower...) I seriously enjoyed the plaza it sits on. You can tell that Rome itself is higher than it used to be, since the Pantheon sites on original ground. Rome's risen about 5-8 meters around it. The violin players in the plaza made the experience unforgettable.
We decided, at about 5.30, to try to make it to Palatine hill. The ticket for the hill and the Coloseum are the same, allowing entry to each once within a 24-hour period. We didn't make it, but seeing Piazza Venezzia and the Coloseum itself (not to mention the Roman Forum and the parts of Palatine that are visible) was awesome.
The coolest part, I think, of Rome is that everything is classy, and history and modernity live hand in hand. On the way back, we detoured to Fontana di Trevi, which had an awesome gathering of foreigners and locals alike, enjoying the time together.
That, my friends, is what traveling is all about.
PS - if people want to make orders for anything over here, please let me know. We found some pretty good ties (thick, but could be look alikes...most of them passed my critic-ness, so...) for 6 Euros (9$). Not a bad price in Italy. In Albania, I got 2 for 2000 leke, about 17$.