Posts Tagged 'Italy'

Roman Holiday (Part Four)

[The last of the Italy recaps, finally. Istanbul to follow soon!]

Sunday, 9 Mar: Rome, Sweet Rome

Our plan for Sunday is mighty ambitious. We’ve basically outlined a walking tour of the entire city to see all of the things we’ve missed: we start at the Vatican (where Flatmate Megan attended an early mass – we meet her there), walk over towards the Castello di San Angelo, along the Tiber for a while, across the river, by the Ara Pacis (which is enclosed in a gorgeous modern building with a disappointingly high entrance fee) and the Mausoleum of Augustus, up to the Piazza del Popolo for gelato and a sit at the base of the obelisk, up the adjacent steps and along the outskirts of a part, over and down the Spanish Steps for a quick street-café lunch, to Trevi Fountain to make wishes and throw Euros into the water, back over to the Colosseum and up the Via dei Fori Imperiali to take daytime pictures of the Forum from the Capitoline, then over to the Circus Maximus and, finally, down to the Baths of Caracalla to gawk at the mosaics and accidentally watch seagulls mating.

…For those of you keeping track, we walked ALL OF ROME. All of it. No, really – all of it. It’s incredible, of course, and I’m thrilled that I got to see the rest of the major landmarks (I really don’t think we missed a single one), but by the time we leave the Baths, it’s getting cold and I’m practically dead on my feet. Plus, I’d started feeling kind of ill around lunchtime (the details, you don’t need to know), so I head back to the hostel to lie down for a while, while the other three hit up the Santa Maria Maggiore, the beautiful old church we’ve walked past every day on our way to breakfast. By the time they return bearing dinner, I’m feeling considerably better. We’re all quite exhausted, and spend our last night in Rome on the roof terrace again, huddled in blankets, pondering Deep Things and talking into the darkness.

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part Four)’

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Roman Holiday (Part Three)

Saturday, 8 Mar: There’s No Place Like Rome

Today, apparently, is our Vatican day. We spend the morning in the Vatican Museum, which…well, it goes on pretty much forever. There’s just so much stuff in there – so much stuff – that it’d be impossible to actually study it all, to give it the attention it deserves, and the museum is a constant mass of people. We pick a lovely day to wait outside in the line (sunny, blue skies, finally), and get there early enough to gain entrance pretty quickly. Once inside, I’m totally fine through the Egyptian and Greek and Etruscan collections, but by the time we reach the endless galleries of Christian art, the endless rooms with magnificent carvings and painted ceilings, I’m hungry and I have to go to the bathroom and my body is rebelling against the Museum Walk – you know, the terrible slow shuffling motion that, after a few hours, becomes unbearable. We keep turning corners and seeing more and more seemingly infinite series of galleries, and even though I pride myself on having a greater museum attention span than most, by this point my brain has totally shut off. Even worse, the crowds inside the museum are making it impossible to just rush through to the Sistine Chapel (the anticipation of which is the only thing keeping me sane), forcing us to move at an infuriatingly bovine pace. Let’s go, I want to shout at the tourists, forgetting, of course, that I’m one too.

Finally, just before the Sistine Chapel, we find bathrooms (sweet relief), and book it through the last few rooms to the grand prize awaiting us at the end of the line. The Chapel, of course, is jam-packed with people, but after a couple of minutes we find spots on the long bench at either side of the room. Sitting down, I’m much more able to appreciate the ceiling – which is, of course, incredible, and thanks to its most recent restoration in 2000 (or thereabouts), is exactly as you would hope it to be. The ceiling is impressive purely by its scale, of course, and by association with Michelangelo, but the more I look at it, the more details I start to notice, the more I start to appreciate it. Michelangelo’s sense of humor comes through in the most subtle touches – the expression of a face here, the angle of an arm there – and the overall composition and rendering is textbook Renaissance. Religious art has never been my favorite field, aesthetically speaking, but the Sistine Chapel is really incredible.

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part Three)’

Roman Holiday (Part Two)

Friday, 7 Mar: Romeward Bound (which I really should’ve used for the title of the last entry, but oh well)

Friday dawns grey and…wet. Again. Some more. Always. Great. But we have Big Plans, and I for one certainly don’t plan on letting a little rain stop me – I mean, I usually live eight months out of the year in Syracuse, New York, which is the Unfortunate Weather Capital of the World, so what’s the big? After a croissant and cappuccino from the café down the road (here’s a hint: when traveling, find a hostel that gives you breakfast vouchers) (and here’s another one: Italy makes great cappuccino), we set out to buy a three-day pass for the Metro and head for the Pantheon.

Public transportation in Rome serves as an interesting comparison to other cities’, especially after living in London for two months. The subway system has two lines (London has at least a million) that create a giant X under the city, at the center of which is Termini station. The problem with this? The X, while it’s an attractive enough shape, leaves huge swaths of the city out of convenient reach of the Metro. The Tube in London may seem a mess of lines and stations and buskers, but by golly it gets you where you need to go. I’m sure the buses in Rome supplement the service provided by the Metro, but it’s just…interesting, to see a completely different approach to mass transit. The Metro stations tend to be dimmer and generally sketchier than in London, the trains more…I don’t know, sketchy. It gets the job done, I suppose, but it certainly makes me appreciate (and I’m almost homesick for, in an odd way) the London Underground.

Whoo, tangent. Anyway: the layout of the Metro means we have to get off at some stop that’s really nowhere near the Pantheon. I like a walk as much as the next person, though, and even though it’s cold and wet, we splash our way merrily through the streets of Rome. No, it’s fine. My fingers are supposed to be purple like this. No, really.

Continue reading ‘Roman Holiday (Part Two)’