Roma, Italia

July 20th -July 21st, 2012

The first two days of my Italian adventure were spent in Rome. The large, sprawling capital of Italy, filled with ancient ruins, master artwork, and home of the Vatican, welcomed me with honking scooters as I shuttled from the airport to our hotel with my Father and two brothers.

Traffic rules in Rome are practically nonexistent. Oftentimes intersections did not have traffic lights, but relied solely on the aggression of drivers and lulls in traffic flow. Cars were parked in No Parking zones, on sidewalks, and even perpendicular to the curb.

Our hotel was in the heart of the business district in Roma. This section was wealthy and home to most of the lawyers and business men of Roma. Being right around the corner from an ancient castle and the Vatican, we spent our first afternoon fighting off jet lag and roaming the area.

We wandered over to the Tiber River to find tents of venders selling tourist trinkets, gelato, scarves and jewelry. Following the river to the Castile S. Angelo, we entered the premises and took our time walking through the ancient corridors admiring the art, stonework and views from the top alongside the angel.

After a quick stroll over to the Vatican to admire the basilica and the square, we headed back to the hotel to relax and refresh before a group introductory dinner with our tour group.

Our tour group consisted of 42 people who all managed to get along splendidly. The tour is through Globus, a very reputable company that runs excellent tours with great accommodations, guides and transportation. This specific tour is Italian Treasures.

Day two in Roma began with a very early wake up call in order to make it to the Vatican Museums right at opening. We had a local guide, Marco, take us through the highlights of the museums explaining the history of the art and architecture as well as the symbolism of the art and structures.

Ancient tapestry from the Vatican Museums

Ceiling fresco from the Hall of Maps in the Vatican Museums

Hall of Maps in the Vatican Museums

Detail of painted map in Hall of Maps in Vatican Museums

Marco took us through the museums and into the Sistine Chapel. Sadly no photos were allowed but the work was breathtaking. Michelangelo worked wonders both on the ceiling and his very controversial piece done many many years later above the alter. It would take days to view the complete detail and thought put into every part of the chapel and even then the viewer would still lack complete understanding.

After the Sistine Chapel, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica home to two styles, Renaissance and Baroque, as the construction occurred during both periods.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Michelangelo’s Pienta in St. Peter’s Basilica. Sadly kept behind bullet proof glass after a loon smashed part of her with a hammer.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Bernini’s Alter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

From here we drove to the ruins of ancient Roma where excavation sites have brought forth history from the depths of the earth covered in sand and dirt as time passed.

Arch of Constantine

Colosseum

Ancient Roman Forum – It appears as nothing but a pile of rubble and ancient stones, but our guide Marco painted a grandiose image of what once existed on the sands of the ancient forum. The temples, architecture, and greatness that once took place here. The air was ripe with history and a ghostly presence of things long past could be felt with every breath.

After hours in the sweltering heat and intense sun, absorbing as much knowledge as we could from Marco, we refreshed at the hotel and left in search of a midday meal. Finding a nice cafe a few blocks away with zero tourists, many local Italians, and no menu, we struggled to order by pointing in the glass counter and explaining as best we could. I manged to use a handful of words I learned in Italian and a few minutes later we were seating eating our meals, mine an eggplant tower with mozzarella and tomatoes. Delicious!

Later that afternoon we met up with Marco yet again for a walking tour in the older central district of Roma.

View from the top of the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti)

Spanish Steps

Historic Cafe Greco open since 1760

Cafe Greco

Trevi Fountain – It is customary to throw three coins into the fountain over the left shoulder. The first is to come back to Roma, the second a wish, and the third a wish for either marriage or divorce.

Pantheon

Fontana dei Quattro Fuimi (Fountain of Four Rivers)

Fontana dei Quattro Fuimi (Fountain of Four Rivers)

Our final dinner in Roma was at a ristorante a few blocks over from our hotel that was recommended by our guide, Caterina. I do not recall the street it was on or the exact name, but it was Ciao something. The food was incredible! I enjoyed a dish of homemade gnocchi with a basil pomodoro sauce.

Ciao Ristorante

Homemade gnocchi with basil pomodoro sauce

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