Well friends, December has proved to be a crazy month! We went to Rome, came home, the next day my mom arrived, and then we jet-setted around Germany for 10 days. Taking a moment to breath this weekend, and therefore a good time to write about Rome before I forget everything.
That first weekend of December we flew Ryan Air to Rome for another ‘kurz lil urlaub’. Ryan Air has cray-cray-crazy low airfare and sometimes their prices are just too tempting to resist. One way Ryan air saves money is by not having seat assignment software. Apparently the seat assignment software that ALL the other airlines use is just really expensive. So loading one of these airplanes is really a lot like herding cattle into a coral. 200 people moo-ing and shuffling through. When we got on the plane Mauricio decided that the interior of the airplane reminded him of port-a-pottys (the shiny plasticky navy and bumble bee yellow).
We flew south over the Alps as did several other airplanes. Kind of wild to look out the window and see other planes flying next to and underneath of us all in different directions! The Alps are a sky highway intersection apparently.
Unlike Paris, this time we easily found our little hotel. Prima spot just a few blocks walking from the Vatican…I’ve finally redeemed myself from that little hole in Barcelona… Anyway, that first night we dropped off our bags and hit the ground running off to see the Pantheon.
Have to excuse the pictures, it was already dark when we got there. The front letters are Latin, MAGRIPPA LF is the original designer of the pantheon but I can’t remember what the rest means. Above the script in the bare triangle you can notice lots of holes…that is because pagan symbols once decorated that front area. The Pantheon was originally a pagan worship temple and is almost 2,000 years old. It is remarkably well preserved considering how old it is, but this may be partly due to the protection of it by the Catholic Church. It was adopted by the Catholic church in the 7th century and is now also the resting place of the body of the famous painter Rafael.
You can see from the side view here that the interior of the Pantheon is round. Here’s a pictures of the interior.
After the Pantheon we settled down for a bit to eat. I had scouted a ‘non-touristy’ restaurant in the area online but apparently they’re so good that you need reservations every night of the week. So we settled instead for a touristy spot right in front of the Pantheon. We were pleasantly surprised with the experience though and the pasta was fantastico!
After our romantico dinner, we walked a bit to soak up the Roman atmosphere. And then back to the hotel for an early bedtime. I scheduled an almost impossible day for us Saturday. We grabbed an Italian breakfast near our hotel, ie croissants, cappucinno, and an open faced panini (like pizza!) and then walked down to St Peter’s Square of the Vatican.
We waited in line for approximately 45 minutes and found ourselves walking into St Peter’s Basillica.
Can you see the altar at the front that looks to be made of something almost black? Well this altar was made from Bronze taken from the entryway of the Pantheon! Maybe this is where the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” started? At any rate, the Basillica was just as beautiful as expected. Although I felt a more natural reverence in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona than in this Basillica, but I can’t say why. Just a feeling I guess.
After the Basillica we went out southeast to see the Catacombs! There are several catacombs and even 3 in a close geographical location, but on our tight schedule we picked one, the Catacombs of St Callixtus. Sadly no photos are allowed inside the tombs so I’ll do my best to paint a brain pic.
It’s basically a maze of a graveyard all underground. The tomb walls are a hard stone, one that apparently in its original form is almost soft but upon contact with the air it hardens. The Catacombs are incredibly old (I think back to the 2nd century AD) and are/were burial grounds of people of all economic standing. Here ancient Popes, wealthy families, and poor alike were buried. The tombs of the wealthier were in larger rooms with paintings on the walls and gifts of shells or pottery. These rooms would house the remains of family members. All along the maze path there are rectangles dug out of the walls of varying shapes depending on the size of the person who was buried. At some point in history the Catacombs were forgotten, but then rediscovered in the late 1800’s. The area’s we toured were empty of human remains, however our tour guide did say that the very lowest levels of the Catacombs still are still occupied. Although out of respect, those areas are not open for touring. If you google “Catacombs of St Callixtus” you can find images.
Next we went to the Baths of Caracalla. These are the remains of the largest public bath house from old Roman times. Thanks to some misinformation on the website about opening times, we did not arrive in time to enter and have a tour. However, the ruins are HUGE and a person can view with appreciation from walking the grounds around. Would that I could tell you more about them. I suppose there’s always http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baths_of_Caracalla
Here’s a few of our own pictures from the outside:
So after the Bath’s we ate a fantastic proper non-touristy Italian supper. I didn’t remember the whole thing though about Italians being so fashionable, and so I was the only female in the entire restaurant wearing jeans. Good jeans mind you but still jeans. Then I made the mistake of ordering ravioli. Why a mistake you ask? Well if you’ve ever ordered ravioli before in a proper Italian restaurant (NO Olive Garden does not count people) you learn that when you order ravioli you walk away hungry. I guess I was caught up in the whole jeans thing, and so when Mauricio’s heaping plate of YUMMY tagliatelle sat down in front of him it only exaggerated the smallness of my own plate of 5 raviolis. Yea. 5. Ok maybe 6. No. Just 5. Don’t worry though, pretty sure they were the best raviolis I’ve ever had. And we had snacks in the hotel room after 🙂
Our final day started early and after a quick breakfast off to the Colosseum we went. It’s as huge as every form of entertainment today would have you believe. And magnificent. In ruins, and yet impressive. Take a look:
So, you can see the obvious partial false flooring at the bottom where people are standing. Well the original flooring is obviously amiss, BUT this allows you to see the caves and trapdoors that were hidden in the gladiator days. These tunnels and trapdoors are were the animals, or other fighters could come up seemingly out of the floor. After the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, the Colosseum fighting became banned and over time the Colosseum was plundered for it’s marble.
They had different entrances for the wealthy watchers and the poor. The stairwells for the ‘common’ folk were steeper and higher stairs, whereas for the wealthy and senators the stairs were more gradual and not so high. All Roman citizens had a specified seat for the events and it’s capacity allowed up to 70,000. At the peak of it’s use the Roman Empire held events in the Colosseum almost every other day.
Next we went to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. So much of Ancient Rome is compacted together in this area.
Here are the remains of the temple of Vesta, one of the ancient pagan religions of the Roman Empire.
Here the chosen vestal virgins were in charge of tending to the sacred fire that was the symbol of the life of the city. Among these remains dating to 191 AD I found myself wondering something. Is it possible, when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, that the vestal virgin tradition was soo rooted in the culture, that this is where the idea of the Catholic Nuns comes from? Could be I’m waaaay wrong here, but apart from them serving a different religion, they have a lot of similarities. And hey, everything comes from something..?
..A Roman toe?
Here you can see the ancient Roman columns, and inside of them is a church.
After hours in ancient Rome wonderland I was cold and grumpy hungry. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a bad combination. After some super pasta and pizza (yes again!) we came back to life and decided we just hadn’t walked enough and went to the meeting point for a walking tour. The walking tour was two and a half hours and ended at the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain, was once frequented by the Roman soldiers who threw a coin in before departing Rome in hopes to return home safely. Now it’s custom to turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin in over your right shoulder and make a wish. If you look closely at the fountain you will see two horses, one on either side of the man in the middle. One horse is wild and dangerous, and the other gentle and calm. According to our guide, these horses were symbolic of the two natured-ness of water. Also noteworthy is that there are people living in this building. Can you imagine? Where do you live? Oh you know, that famous fountain in Rome? Yea, that’s my bedroom window behind it. whaaaat?!
So that was the end of our Rome trip. Just left out the parts about eating more pasta, or croissants, or pizza… Bada-bing. What a great city. Dare I say, my favorite so far?
To all of you I wish you a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
German: Frohe Weihnachten und Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
Spanish: Feliz Navidad y Feliz año nuevo!
Italian: Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!