Italia: Roman Holiday

Okay folks, this is it! The final update of my Italy journal. Really. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. It’s not like it’s taken me a long time to get it done. It’s only been three months since I got back! ūüėČ

Saturday, October 22, 2011

8:24

I grab myself a “healthy” breakfast at the diner across the street from my little Bed and Breakfast. ¬†I kept dozing off while going thru photos last night, so I went to sleep early and slept in a bit. ¬†I’m down to the last of my clean clothes, and I was down to bright pink or leopard print undies today. ¬†Neither seem appropriate for visiting the Vatican, so I put on extra conservative clothes to make up for it.

Yes, folks. That's a Nutella filled croissant. The Nutella makes it nutritious. Haven't you seen those commercials?

Yes, folks. That's a Nutella filled croissant. The Nutella makes it nutritious. Haven't you seen those commercials?

10:22

I had intended to buy my Roma Pass yesterday, but the Colliseum was closed. ¬†The pass grants free entry to the first two participating exhibits and unlimited free rides on the subway. ¬†So, since the National Museum is the second most expensive thing on my list, I arrive first this morning and try to buy my Roma Pass on site. ¬†But, a very grumpy woman inside the museum says she’s sold out and doesn’t know where I can buy one.

Thankfully, in true Italian style, a very helpful man outside the tourist information booth tells me exactly what to do. ¬†That’s Italy.

Sculpture, sculpture everywhere!  Much of it is Greek.  Apparently, the ancient Romans found it more fashionable to pillage their neighbor than to make their own!

Sculpture, sculpture everywhere! Much of it is Greek. Apparently, the ancient Romans found it more fashionable to pillage their neighbor than to make their own!

Minutes later, I’m perusing ancient Greek sculptures inside this museum in Rome. ¬†The first big revelation of the morning: ¬†while the male statues all have six packk abs, Aphrodite had curves! ¬†I am pleased…

Yep.  Those are curves, people.  Nice curvy curves...

Yep. Those are curves, people. Nice curvy curves...

11:08

The National museum turns out to be another great tip from Susanna. I’d love to spend a little more time relaxing in Livia’s painted garden (La Villa di Livia) but I’ve gotta get myself to the Vatican for my 1pm tour. ¬†Yes, I know I have two hours to get there, but you know me and my amazing talent for getting lost!

All four walls of this room are covered in a mosaic of a beautiful garden.  The sun comes in through skylights.  Lovely!

All four walls of this room are covered in a mosaic of a beautiful garden. The sun comes in through skylights. Lovely!

12:16

Found the place where my tour meets with almost an hour to spare, so I snuck around the corner for a sandwich. ¬†The restaurant only sells one kind of sandwich and the waiter tells me it’s a “typical” Italian pork sandwich. ¬†He might be lying, as it seems more Middle Eastern than Italian. ¬†There’s enough fat on the pork to give me a heart attack on the spot. ¬†I don’t care. ¬†It’s delicious.

It's a good thing that this was the best pork sandwich of my life.  It cost me 14.5 Euro.

It's a good thing that this was the best pork sandwich of my life. It cost me 14.5 Euro.

Meanwhile, there’s a Burger King within sight of the Vatican and there was a Ben and Jerry’s across the plaza from the duomo in Florence. ¬†Which is more sad?

13:01

I was the first to arrive at the Roman Odyssey Vatican tour meeting point.  After  a while, a nice American mother and daughter joined me.  Still no sign our our tour operator.  Rahul shows up one minute late and out of breath.  The transit strike is still causing difficulties for those coming into the city center from the outskirts.  No worries.  Time is a little wonky here.

I took a picture of Rahul's business card.  Should you find yourself in need of a Vatican tour guide, give him a call!  His tour was fantastic.

I took a picture of Rahul's business card. Should you find yourself in need of a Vatican tour guide, give him a call! His tour was fantastic.

We spend the next couple hours gazing at the Vatican’s amazing art collection under Rahul’s expert guidance. ¬†Early in the tour he stops us in front of a copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. ¬† We’ll see the real thing later, behind glass and a crush of tourists, inside St. Peter’s. ¬†But, it’s so much easier to study the copy in a corner of a gift shop inside the Vatican Museum.

After hearing someone else being given credit for his work, Michelangelo signed the Pieta on the sash across Mary's chest.  It's the only sculpture that bears his signature.

After hearing someone else being given credit for his work, Michelangelo signed the Pieta on the sash across Mary's chest. It's the only sculpture that bears his signature.

I think I had expected all religious art, but the Vatican has quite an eclectic collection

Wonder why that guy is pulling a sword out of his head? So do I...but I didn't get the chance to ask Rahul!

Wonder why that guy is pulling a sword out of his head? So do I...but I didn't get the chance to ask Rahul!

15:34

We finally arrive at the Sistine chapel. ¬†Rahul has prepared us well for this no talking/no photos zone. ¬†Maybe too well. ¬†After Rahul pointed out that Michelangelo used dock workers as his models, I can’t help but notice that all of the women look like Arnold Schwarzenegger with bad breast implants.

I break the rules and snap a quick pic of the floor. ¬†I find it to be prettier than the much-more-famous ceiling anyway. ¬†I recognize the talent in Michelangelo’s efforts, but I’m not a fan of the mannish muscles on the ladies and the feminine faces on the men.

Believe me.  Looking down is much better than looking up!

Believe me. Looking down is much better than looking up!

18:25

I leave Rahul in a rush, but not before I snap a quick picture of the Swiss Guardsman who’s stationed outside of St. Peter’s Basilica. ¬†Gotta get my tripod for a night photo walk with Pierre and Maureen. ¬†Given my ability to get lost in this town, I’m not liking my chances of finding their hotel.

This turned out to be one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip.  Who knew a guy in a froo-froo shirt could look so imposing?

This turned out to be one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. Who knew a guy in a froo-froo shirt could look so imposing?

19:06

Found Pierre and Maureen’s hotel…and only a few minutes late!

Night photography is not yet my gift, but it was fun to spend the evening wandering the city with a couple of friends from my tour group!

Night photography is not yet my gift, but it was fun to spend the evening wandering the city with a couple of friends from my tour group!

21:30

We start at the Trevi fountain. ¬†Apparently, you’re supposed to throw a coin into it to ensure a return trip to Rome, but I seem to be too busy struggling with my tripod and getting frustrated with my not-quite-wide-angle-enough lens. ¬†Rome is beautiful by day, and magical by night. ¬†After a couple of hours, we answer the call of our growling stomachs and find a nice cafe. ¬†I have spaghetti carbonara for the first time in my life. ¬†It will not be my last.

That's not the look of wine on my face.  That's the look of sheer exhaustion!

That's not the look of wine on my face. That's the look of sheer exhaustion!

23:59

Home seconds before pumpkin time. ¬†Had a fantastic day, but I didn’t find the internet. ¬†Wishing I could send happy thoughts over the Atlantic to those I love. ¬†Italy is beautiful, but I’m definitely missing home.

Sunday, October 23

7:39

My last day in Italy starts with the snooze button and Advil. ¬†I’m tired. ¬†My legs and feet ache from yesterday, and I’m ready to go home. ¬†Luckily, I have one more day and lots and lots to see! ¬†I’ll start at the Colosseum (I hope it’s open!) then I’ll check out the Forum, climb Capital Hill, walk up to the Parthenon, climb the tower at Castel Sant Angelo, do some shopping for gifts, walk over to the Spanish steps, and hopefully be back on the train to my hotel before it closes for maintenance at 9pm. ¬†See why I started with Advil?

8:45

Church bells accompany my morning tea and chocolate croissant. ¬†It’s Sunday in Italy. ¬†I think I’ll hear bells often today.

9:10

I arrive at the Colosseum soon after it opens. ¬†My Roma Pass let’s me skip the line and head straight in! ¬†Thanks Rick Steves, for yet another great tip!

See all those people waiting in line?  They need to read Rick Steves...

See all those people waiting in line? They need to read Rick Steves...

I wander the Colosseum with the Rick Steves podcast playing on my phone.

Lions, and Tigers, and Gladiators...Oh my!

Lions, and Tigers, and Gladiators...Oh my!

On my way out, one of Rome’s famously fake Gladiators offers to take a “free” picture with me. ¬†I ask him for the real price. ¬†He says, “Just a kiss.” ¬†I say, “A kiss?” and point to my cheek. ¬†He says, “No. ¬†A real kiss.” ¬†He looks kinda sketchy, so I politely decline.

10:40

Now I’m waiting in line for the Forum. ¬†I’m being serenaded by two guys wearing cheap costume Plains Indian headdresses while playing South American pipe flutes along to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. ¬†Their manager is wearing a cowboy hat. ¬†There are so very many things wrong with this picture…

Where, exactly, are these guys supposed to be from?

Where, exactly, are these guys supposed to be from?

Once again, I plug in my earbuds for a Rick Steves podcast. ¬†Some buildings that are supposed to be closed are open, and some buildings that are supposed to be open are closed, so I keep having to pull out my guidebook to make sure I’m looking at the correct pile of rubble. ¬†I spot more than one tourist with the same Rick Steves guidebook.

Someone needs to tell this guy about the podcasts. He spent way too much time looking down at his book!

Someone needs to tell this guy about the podcasts. He spent way too much time looking down at his book!

For the next hour and a half, as I wander around the ruins of the Forum listening to Rick Steves talking about emperors and gods and vestal virgins, the flute music continues to drift by.  Wrong.  So very wrong.

At least the views were right. The Forum is really cool!

At least the views were right. The Forum is really cool!

12:00

As the church bells chime noon, I rest my feet on the steps to the Mayoral palace on top of Capital Hill. ¬†Since I’m alone in Rome, I decide to try for a self portrait. ¬†How did I do?

Apparently, I was having a good hair day.

Apparently, I was having a good hair day.

Without even bothering to move an inch, I take one of my other favorite photos from the trip.  I actually tried this shot with and without the tourist.  But, without the man to suggest scale, the whole thing is just not nearly as impressive.

Doesn't he look like a teeny tiny action figure up against those enormous windows?

Doesn't he look like a teeny tiny action figure up against those enormous windows?

12:5o

Found an awesome little cafe near the Parthenon with free wifi. ¬†I ordered a glass of wine, but the waitress brought me a whole bottle. ¬†I swear. ¬†I’m only pouring a glass…

Yes.  I ate a 14 inch pizza by myself.  I walked for 13 hours two days in a row.  This thin and tasty pizza was well deserved!

Yes. I ate a 14 inch pizza by myself. I walked for 13 hours two days in a row. This thin and tasty pizza was well deserved!

For the record, the wine came to 2.5 Euro, the same price I would have paid for a glass of Diet Coke.  And, I had two glasses of wine, not just one.

14:24

I’m listening to another Rick Steves podcast as I marvel at the Pantheon. ¬†I realize I’ve been calling it the Parthenon all day. ¬†I can’t be the only person who’s gotten this wrong…

(I’m not. ¬†Check out Wikipedia.)

Parthenon.  Pantheon.  Same thing, right?

Parthenon. Pantheon. Same thing, right?

14:30

Leaving the Pantheon. ¬†Of all the churches I’ve visited in Rome, this one felt the most holy. ¬†Built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon was turned into a Roman Catholic church in the 7th century. ¬†It’s been in continuous use as a place of worship since it was built in 126 A.D. ¬†I guess all these centuries of praying left their mark…

Like the at Sistine Chapel, visitors to the Pantheon don’t always respect the building as much as they should. ¬†There are fewer guards here than there are at the Vatican, so awkward signs remind visitors that they’re in a church.

There are no words to describe the picture on the right...

There are no words to describe the picture on the right...

15:17

Another humdrum, boring building not important enough to be on my map. ¬†And, yes. ¬†I’m 100% sure I’m reading my map correctly!

Okay, I'll admit it. I stood on this corner for a good five minutes, fiddling with my shutter speed and waiting for a red car to come around the corner.

Okay, I'll admit it. I stood on this corner for a good five minutes, fiddling with my shutter speed and waiting for a red car to come around the corner.

15:30

One more of Susanna’s suggestions before I head home: ¬†Castel Sant’Angelo. ¬†Built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, it later was used as a stronghold for Popes when Rome was under siege. ¬†(Which seems to have happened quite a few times!) ¬†Rome occupied Britain during Hadrian’s rule, and I love the Celtic touches on the building meant to be his tomb…

Wait.  Are we still in Rome?

Wait. Are we still in Rome?

16:39

I saw the apartment the Popes used for hiding out while the city was under siege, but photography wasn’t allowed. ¬†Even in times of war, those Popes lived quite well.

The apartments were covered in frescos and gold leaf.  The stairwell was plain, but beautiful in its own right.

The apartments were covered in frescos and gold leaf. The stairwell was plain, but beautiful in its own right.

I met a lovely Montreal couple on the top terrace who helped me get a fantastic photo with St. Paul’s Bascillica in the background. ¬†I can hear the bells chiming at the Vatican now. ¬†Beautiful.

Solo travel tip:  Look for people who seem like they'd like their picture taken.  Offer to help them, and then you'll feel more comfortable handing them your camera to take your picture!

Solo travel tip: Look for people who seem like they'd like their picture taken. Offer to help them, and then you'll feel more comfortable handing them your camera to take your picture!

17:45

I arrive in the Piazza di Publico to the ringing of bells.  I think Rome is sad to see me go.  She keeps ringing her bells for me!

This place wasn't originally on my schedule, but it was truly magical at dusk.  I'm so glad I came!

This place wasn't originally on my schedule, but it was truly magical at dusk. I'm so glad I came!

18:00

Time for shopping!  I have a list.  These are not on it.

Those are some serious shoes.  I am not a serious shoe type-of-girl.

Those are some serious shoes. I am not a serious shoe type-of-girl.

19:40

I’m exhausted by the time I make my way to the Spanish Steps. ¬†I’m simply too tired to take out my real camera, so a picture snapped with my iPhone will just have to do!

Okay, this isn't a picture of the steps, exactly.  The steps were covered with tourists.  This is the same square, and it's a much prettier picture!

Okay, this isn't a picture of the steps, exactly. The steps were covered with tourists. This is the same square, and it's a much prettier picture!

10:22

I really wanted to go to sleep by 11. ¬†I haven’t started packing yet and the power’s just gone out. ¬†Kinda hard to pack without lights!

As I was waiting to board, the last call for a flight to Casablanca came over the loudspeakers. That doesn't happen back home!

As I was waiting to board, the last call for a flight to Casablanca came over the loudspeakers. That doesn't happen back home!

So, that’s that. ¬†The lights came back on. ¬†I packed and left for the airport the next morning. ¬†I’d like to write a lovely little wrap-up that tells you what I loved, what I learned, and what I left behind. ¬†But, after six posts and 13,872 total words (yes, I added them all up!) I think I’ve said it all. ¬†Except maybe…

Ciao!

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