Rome, Italy

Karie on Oct 7th 2007 07:53 pm

Rome is quite different from the other cities we visited, mainly because it is much larger, so you get everything that goes along with a big city.  If we were to compare it to a U.S. city, it would be Los Angeles – loads of attractions, entertainment & culture, but spread out amongst greater distances with some “less desirable” areas in-between.

As it turns out, our Bed & Breakfast happened to be one of those less desirables!  Upon check-in, we were informed that “a toilet was broken” (aka, he overbooked), so we were being moved to a neighboring B&B.  What’s funny is that I had actually seen our new B&B online and consciously decided that I did not want to stay there… and there we were.

It was actually very clean & had all the basics that we needed, so I don’t want to make it out to be a nightmare.  There was mainly just one thing that annoyed me, and that was the owner, Marco.

On the website for this B&B, where most owners would post photos of their rooms & facilities, Marco posted a photo of himself.  He seemed to be quite impressed with himself and his guest houses, to the point where he seemed to believe it was our honor to stay in his place.

To sum it up, he managed to boss us around the entire time we were there, despite the fact that we never even spoke to him.  How, you might ask?  Through little signs.  Little signs posted EVERYWHERE telling you what you can & cannot do.  “Please do not…”, “It is strictly forbidden to…”   There were 5 sets of instructions posted in the bathroom alone.  Seriously?  I’m not going to steal you candles Marco, and I don’t need a sign asking me not to!  It was obnoxious, but we got a kick out of the whole thing.

Luckily, Devon & Jason met us there, and due to some booking error in their hotel, they got upgraded (why weren’t we so lucky?).  So after long days of sightseeing, we would end the day relaxing on their private terrace.  Of course, if you know Devon and her love for planning activities, a relaxing evening was in order.

Our first full day together began with a private guided tour of the Vatican City.  Linda, our guide, has been doing this for years, and seemed to know every guard in the city.  Before we entered, she explained that we would move quickly through the first few galleries to try to get to the Sistine Chapel before it got too crowded.

I had heard stories about what a wonderful journey it is through the hallways, with the Sistine Chapel being the culmination of it all.  I had imagined working our way through slowly, then almost hearing the angels sing at our first glimpse of the chapel.  So at first I was a little disappointed to do things in a slightly different order, but as it turns out, I was wrong and Linda was right!

She planned it perfectly.  We got just enough enough detail going through the initial galleries, but still moving at a consistent pace, so we were probably among the first 20 people to enter the Sistine Chapel that morning.  In fact, the guards “weren’t ready yet” (which we think is an arrangement they have with some of their favorite tour guides), so we were able to sneak a few pictures!

Even though I’ve seen pictures, it still wasn’t what I expected – in fact, I honestly didn’t think it was as impressive as I had imagined… at first!  There is so much going on in these frescos that I think it was just too much for me to take in & appreciate.  Then Linda started pointing out small details, telling us stories they represent, pointing out where Michelangelo had incorporated faces of people that he knew, etc.  Wow.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, you could listen to this room for years.

We later had to circle back through the chapel again, and it was so packed you could barely move.  Then I realized just how special it was to have the private experience that we had, thanks to our guide.

We also toured many other courtyards & galleries, and of course, St. Peter’s Basilica.  St. Peter’s is the largest church in history, covering nearly 6 acres, with the capacity of 60,000 people.  Its enormity alone is impressive, as well as it’s design, which was the product of many different artists & architects.  There is so much going on in there, each corner is like a different art gallery.

As amazing as Vatican City was, I have to say that it wasn’t the highlight for me.  Early the next day we were among the first group to enter the Colosseum. Although I find many of the activities that took place there quite disturbing, the structure itself is amazing.  It’s both massive & old, being completed in 80 A.D. with an estimated capacity of 65,000-72,000.

It was just cool to stand in it, and imagine what it would’ve been like when filled with everyone from the wealthiest Senators to the poorest of “common folk”.  All the events that took place in the Colosseum were hosted by wealthy families & free to the public; but spectators were seated according to status, so those “common folk” had a lot of stairs to climb to the top!

The Colosseum had been used on & off for various purposes, but was also abandoned for centuries at a time, following damages caused by fire and/or earthquakes.  It was later used as a quarry for precious materials to be used for other projects such as St. Peter’s Basilica.  Now it is just a tourist attraction, although concerts & events are still held nearby, using the Colosseum as a backdrop.  Just this year, it was voted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world.  It is incredible, but I can only imagine what a wonder it must’ve been in its original grandeur.

The history in Rome is amazing.  Scott gave me some perspective when he pointed out that when Michelangelo was carving The David in Florence, many of these structures were already 1500 years old.  It’s older than old!  Much of it dates back to the time of Christ, when the Roman Empire ruled much of the known world.   There are still ruins being excavated around the city – sometimes a few blocks or pillars, and sometimes you can recognize the shape of what was once a home to some affluent member of society.

Still I conclude that it’s the people that make the journey.  With all the history we experienced, the best part was creating our own memories with Devon & Jason, which some day we can share with our future godchild (who was also present, but has an obstructed view).  Love you Preeo’s!  Thanks for planning everything!

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