On our way to Rome we stopped in Siena for a few hours to check it out. Siena is a hill town, and was very different from Venice and Florence in that regard. John and Mary took time to go into Siena’s Duomo (which was originally planned to be larger than the one in Florence), and we all walked around town. Note on the last photo: the Italian's ended the breastfeeding in public debate long ago...
We made it to Rome in the late afternoon, and spent the next 4 nights in a huge apartment in Vatican City. We were all surprised at how large Rome is- very different from the smaller walkable towns in Italy we had been in. We walked to the Vatican that night- which is a great time to get some photos without a million tourists around!
During our first full day we went to mass (much longer than Irish mass), then we did a free Rick Steve’s walking tour around parts of the old city. We saw parliament, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain.
Then we met up with our friends Chip and Marie who happened to be in town for a wedding. I told you they would make another guest appearance! We trekked to a little hole in the wall pizza joint that was at the end of an alley, next to a random church. (There seem to be churches at the end of every alley in Italy.) Jeff and I had been wanting to go to this pizza place, called La Foccacia, since we heard it recommended in a travel podcast I frequently listen to. Thank goodness this place had indoor seating, because within 15 minutes of sitting down outside, the skies opened up and it poured! Unfortunately, after relocating inside, we didn’t think that the food was that amazing. It was good pizza, but not as good as the expectations that I had built up after 4 months of first hearing about this place. Anyway- we were really there for the company- which was fabulous! We learned that Chip and Marie have already purchased their tickets for Vietnam at the end of this year, and Jeff and I are planning on meeting them there! So I get to say this again- you will see more of Chip and Marie in future blogposts!!!!
The next day we woke up and met up with a tour group that Mary had previously booked to go through the Vatican. If you ever plan to visit the Vatican, I suggest you take a guided tour. We knew there would be a lot of people there, but I’m not really sure how you prepare yourself for shoulder-to-shoulder masses moving throughout the museums and basilica at the same time. Jeff did the math, and there are roughly 16,000 visitors through the Vatican each day and with over 14 kilometers of museum to wander through, you need a guide. We didn’t walk all 14 km, but we did see some of the museum, the Cistene Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Taking of photographs is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel- a Japanese media corporation paid for the complete restoration a few years ago and owns all the copyrights, but after hearing about this chapel all of our lives, it was a little underwhelming. The famous painting by Michelangelo is relatively small compared to the other frescos he did in that same building. (Remember- we don’t really appreciate art….) In my opinion, the coolest part of the Sistine chapel is that it is built to the exact dimensions of Solomon’s temple as described in the Bible in 1 Kings. I have read 1 Kings, but I suppose my perception was off because I always imagined something much larger. Photos from St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museums:
In Florence all of the art galleries that we walked through had art depicting the Virgin Mary and Jesus. There were a few sculptures of other things, and maybe 1 or 2 paintings of someone other than Jesus. What had happened to all of the other pagan gods that people in the Roman Empire used to worship? Where are all of the random idols they used to worship? Turns out, all of this art is in the Vatican! Popes used to collect it, and it is still housed there. I was a little shocked to see pagan artworks in the Vatican, but I’m really glad it’s preserved and we got to experience some of it.
Our last day in Rome, we took the Metro to the Coliseum. I had only ever heard bad things about Rome’s subway system- but it completely proved us wrong! It isn’t a very extensive system- so you can’t get everywhere in Rome, but for the stops we needed it for- it worked! Everything was well labeled and ran efficiently. If you are ever in Rome- I suggest it!
We listened to another Rick Steve’s tour of the Coliseum upon entering. Listening to some sort of audio guide or having a tour guide is recommended, because there isn’t necessarily information posted about what you are looking at.
It’s kind of disgusting to think about people getting excited to watch other people battle to their deaths, but a very different and important part of Roman history that we hadn’t experienced yet. After the Coliseum, we walked across the street and explored the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill.
After that, we walked to a restaurant that our friend Tom had recommended. It was our best meal in Rome! Jeff and I shared a pepper/cheese pasta dish and rabbit. Of course we had dessert (I guess it was technically 1st dessert, since we had gelato later…). The tiramisu and chocolate cake were amazing! John and I washed it all down with coffee. Italian coffee culture is unique. Normally, if you have your coffee in the morning, you would run into a little café and drink your coffee standing up at the bar and scarf down a croissant with it. Most Italians seem to enjoy coffee after each meal- so we decided to do the same! Coffee is served in the cutest miniature cups I have ever seen. But the mini cup is only about 1/3 full. Trust me- it’s all you need. John summed it up the best- it’s like they boiled the entire pot of coffee down to the 3 thick tablespoons they serve you in your cup. This stuff was strong!!!!! I haven’t had coffee in about 2 years (I converted to tea) and needless to say, I didn’t need my afternoon nap that day.
Very early the next morning, John and Mary dropped us at the airport so we could head to Greece, and they drove back to Munich for their flight home. We are so thankful for the time we got to spend with them enjoying each other and experiencing new countries. Thanks to you both for having a great sense of adventure- we love you!
Italy in Total:
Modes of transportation used: Metro, taxi, gondola, rental Mercedes
Total amount spent in Italy: $1,018.25 USD
Avg.: $113.14 USD per day
*We only paid for one night of lodging (the hotel in Venice), but tried to buy as much of the food for my parents as they would let us*
MILESTONE: When in Rome we hit the 3 month mark since leaving the States! Hard to believe we have been gone a whole quarter of a year!