Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back from Rome

My mom is good at sorting photos.

I wrote down a first draft of almost everything that happened while we were in Rome. I wrote it all on the train back solely so I could remember it sharply later, so it's not grade-A blogger material (and I couldn't remember the exact names of lots of things), but if you're bored, you can skip it - I might add some photos here later too:

Rome Day 1:

We leave Florence and arrive in Rome early – there by 9:30. After some confusion about where the b&b was located, we finally manage to find it, only about 15 minutes late – not too bad! After dropping our stuff off, we turn out left out of the hotel and right onto via Nazionale – we stop a few blocks up to get tickets for the bus so that we can go to St. Peter's later that day.

We turn around and go back down Nazionale, and turn left at a church where some very fancy priests roll in inside a Volvo. We turn around and cross Nazionale and head towards a huge walled building – apparently there is a wedding going on inside, as there are guards and cameras near the entrance. We continue down this street until we reach Quattro something, where there are 4 churches with statues that face each other. We take a left down this street and head for another fountain, then head bak down this street because we need to get to Nazionale so that we can hop on a 64 bus and make it to St. Peters. Grabbed a sandwich.

So we get on the bus, and I have no idea where it's headed, only that it will get us close to St. Peters. I figured that once it crossed this bridge, we would be within 5 blocks and could just walk the rest of the way, as we had been walking all afternoon. So we get off the bus and have to cross a fairly busy street – of course, my mom is worried about this and wants to head back to the bus stop so we can take the bus a little further. I try to convince her that if we just cross this street, we will be able to see the Basilica. No go. We're plenty early for the tour when we got off the bus (30 minutes), so I figured another one would be along soon. After waiting for 15 minutes at the stop, one finally shows and takes us to St. Peters Holy Metro Subway stop, which is still about 5 blocks away from St. Peters Basilica. We hustle across the plaza and meet up with our tour group, only about 5 minutes late.

The tour is quite amazing. And it's not just because of our gorgeous Australian tour guide, though that didn't hurt. Got a pic with me and Bacchius, God of Wine. There were lots of sculptures, paintings, and tapestries – someone told me that if you spend 3 seconds at each one, you'd be there for 12 years!

Anyway, the Sistine Chapel was pretty cool – you're not supposed to talk inside and so they have these guards who say “SHHHHH!!!” every minute or so. So right after he shushes everyone, he sees my mom's Obama pin and ays “Obama!” to us, obviously pleased. The guy didn't speak much English, but conveyed his support and promised to keep his fingers crossed (in the Sistine Chapel, you'd think he would say a prayer or something). Cool.

After the Sistine Chapel is St. Peter's Basilica, which I honestly think was much cooler. I mean, mad props to Michelangelo for painting that entire thing, especially when he had other things to do, but let's keep some perspective. St. Peter's had massive statues, popes covered in wax, and a statue of someone whose foot you could rub to get you out of 7 years purgatory. I can't really use my words to describe how grandiose this place was, but it was pretty awe-inspriring.

So after the tour was over, we walked back across the bridge and towards the rest of town. We don't really have any idea where we are, but eventually I see a 64 bus and we run to catch it, since it's headed in the opposite direction and we need to get back before our feet explode.

We get back and rest up for a bit, the head out to find somewhere to eat. Unfortunately, it's about 6:00 and most real restaurants don't start serving until 7:00 or later. We wander around, looking at menus posted outside of restaurants, until we finally decide on one – Oscar's Wine. We start to sit outside, but the thunderclouds are a-rollin' in, so we head inside.

Appetizers consist of veggies, goat cheese, bread, and 3 different types of olive oil. We split a bottle of recommended wine, the name of which eludes me right now, but it was also pretty good. Dinner for me was a pasta with 6 different types of melted cheese – awesome. Can't remember what my mom had, but after dinner was over, we packed it up and headed back to our room for the night.

Day 2:

The next day we get up plenty early, as have a tour of the Coloseum and Roman Forum at 9:00 a.m. We hike down and take a few pictures, and eventually meet up with our tour group. I'll use this opportunity to highly recommend Angel Tours in Rome – not only were both of our tour guides cute, but they also knew their stuff and kept things lively. Many of the other groups we saw (both at St. Peters and the Coloseum) looked bored to tears, which I had a serious fear of going into these tours.

First up is the Forum, which consists of lots of ruins of ancient Rome, much of it still intact. I'll let the pictures do the talking – there are lots of arches, buildings, and random awesome stuff strewn about. Nice.

After the Forum, we head to the Coloseum. It was nice (and huge – it sat over 70k people at one point). There is not tons to see here, other than the majesty of this stadium. Since we visited the Forum already, we got to skip the massive line for tickets. The coloseum is very cool, here are some pics:

After this we head towards P-something Hill, which we can also get into with our Forum/Coloseum ticket. We walk through Nero's Crypt and check out the House of Augustus, in addition to some amazing views from this hill.

By the time we're done with the hill, it's nearly 1 p.m. so we look for somewhere to eat – we make it a few blocks away from the Forum (and all its touristy restaurants) before finding a place – I get a procuitto and mushroom pizza, and it is excellent, though this could be just because I haven't eaten all day and had a terrible night of sleep the previous night.

After luch we continue down via San Giovanni (?) until we reach Piazza San Clemente, which unfortunately is closed for lunch when we get there. We continue down this street until we reach the Basilica of San Giovanni. It's wonderful inside, probably rivalling St. Peter's. Some pics:

After this, we head north on another street, the only street with trees and shade that we found in Rome. We are looking for St-something off of via Leopardo, but we cannot find it for some reason and continue on to San Magglio instead. Meh. It's the third giant church of the day, and also the least impressive. It gets 2 photos.

We head back to the b&b, nap for an hour, then decide to get a taxi and head for Piazza Navona, where Rick Steves promises us “nightlife.” We find a cab stand and get taken for a wild ride – not only was driving through Italy's narrow alleys harrowing, but the dude also ripped us off by giving us a flat rate to the Piazza (he charged 15 Euro, when the way home cost only 6 – oh well).

Piazza Navona was very nice – we wandered around the square for awhile, taking a picture of this statue which was being restored. Eventually we settled on a restuarant, and I had a Peroni and a plate of noodles stuffed with spinach. My mom had some tea and tiramisu.

Day 3: our last morning in Rome. We're regretting not staying one more day here, but that's okay – we missed a huge section of the city that I wanted to see during the day (namely the Pantheon and surrounding areas). Also, Rome is all about shopping, but since the exchange rate sucks, I don't really feel a need to drop a huge chunk of change on shoes or anything like that. We shall see.

Also, I totally found Napoleon Dynamite:

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