Tuesday, October 10, 2006


We started off our trip in Rome. We arrived at night, and got settled in our little hotel room - and I do mean little. But actually, the size of the room was not a big deal - you'll be hard pressed to find a large room in most European hotels unless they're 5-star and even then maybe not - but our particular room was situated on the front of the hotel at street level. Noise was a bit of a problem - and more of it came from within the hotel than from outside. The breakfast was typical European as well - bread, butter and drinks - but not too bad. The hotel itself is situated in the centro storico (historic center) of Rome and therefore was in close proximity to most of the sights. All in all, this was our least favorite hotel as the other two were excellent, but it really was decent.

Our first day, we took a taxi to the Vatican City across the Tiber River to see St. Peter's Basilica. The square and basilica make for quite a sight when you turn down the street that leads to the square - it's quite breathtaking for its sheer size and architecture. We waited in a brief line to go inside, where it was surprisingly quiet and dim. The sunlight streamed in through some windows, which added to the ambiance (see picture). Inside we saw Michaelangelo's Pieta, which is a sculpture of Mary holding Jesus's body after the crucifixion. It's now behind bullet-proof glass due to some maniac attacks in the past. The whole church is enormous and gold and ornate - it's really hard to take in all the details. After we'd spent some time inside, we went to climb the cupola (dome) to the top to get a sweeping view of Rome. Michaelangelo designed the dome and the entire inside of it is mosaic tile - amazing. At the top, as promised, we had a wonderful 360 view of the city.

For our first meal in Italy we had lunch at an outdoor cafe near the basilica. Casey had rissoto with scampi and lamb and I had gnocchi and roman-style chicken, which is chicken cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. We were serenaded by a saxophone and accordian player who play songs together for the cafe patrons along the street and then ask for a donation.

After that, we made our way to Castel Sant' Angelo, which was built as a fortress and also as a masoleum for past Roman rulers. The castle sits along the Tiber River and just behind it there is a park, where we saw some boys playing soccer and where we rested for a while on a bench. I got 7 mosquito bites in about 2 minutes from sitting on that bench, but it was nice anyway.

The next day started off with the Colosseum - also an impressive sight as you walk down the street to meet it. We had reservations for our entrance so, thankfully, we didn't have to wait in the massive line to get in (I highly recommend this, by the way). The whole place used to be covered in marble before the stone was stripped to be used in other places in Rome. It's amazing how much of the Colosseum still exists but the floor is gone, so you can see the tunnels and holding rooms under the floor where the animals would have been kept.

Just across the way from the Colosseum are the Roman Forum ruins, which we visited next. We got a good view of them from atop the Palatine Hill, which overlooks the ruins. It is amazing what has survived of the once-magnificent buildings - at the same time, so much of them are gone. Perfectly preserved blocks of stone or columns lie on the ground and flowers grow up around them. And groups of columns spike up into the air with nothing else around them. It's sort of eerie to walk along the Via Sacra (Sacred Road) that runs through the ruins, which is still crudely paved with large black stones and think of the marketplace and gathering place that was once there.

That afternoon, we went to the Pantheon with its amazing open dome structure, which is only 2 feet smaller in diameter than St. Peter's dome. The Pantheon is the oldest remaining building in Rome (intact). We made our way from there to the famous Spanish Steps, which were covered in scaffolding - completely common, but annoying all the same. At the Trevi Fountain, we stopped for gelato and had a look at the fountain, which is essentially centered around a sculpture of Neptune riding a shell-carriage pulled by horses. It's a beautiful fountain and spans the whole width of the building it covers.

Our general impressions of Rome were that this was the best place to see the sights - there is so much to see and we really limited ourselves so that we could enjoy our time and not be rushing everywhere. The shopping was nothing to speak of compared to Florence but some of the food we had here was quite good. As such a big city, it was busy and full of people and speedy cars. Italians apparently never pay attention to traffic signs or laws, which means you really have to look both ways before crossing the street! The buildings of Rome make it interesting and beautiful, especially at night when they are all lit up.

Well, that's the highlights of Rome - man, this post is long! I really tried to be inclusive and brief at the same time. Next, we traveled by train to Florence - a beautiful ride through Tuscany. Details in the next post.

More pictures can be viewed on our photo website. Email me if you want the link.


Unknown said...

Yes, email the photo link to me please.
Blogger wouldn't let me post photos for a long time the other day- so good luck with that.

LoriLoo310 said...

Wow, sounds like such a wonderful experience. Brandon and I are saving up for a trip to Europe. I'll have to e-mail you for advice when we finally go. It sounds like you know what you're doing!