Friday, March 30, 2012
So 3 weeks ago now (sheesh I am terrible at writing blogs in a timely fashion) we lost a pretty heartbreaking final in the MEVZA. But, I had to turn my mood around right quick because the very next day I set off for Rome, Italy with my teammate Brittnee Cooper.
Rome was absolutely INCREDIBLE! We booked the trip about a week in advance, found a killer flight&hotel combo and really did this all on a whim! I did my best to research and formulate a plan for the trip, but there is SO much to see and do and experience, whew, it was so overwhelming. But I’m going to do my best to recap one of the best trips I have ever taken!
Wake up bright and early, 6:15 am to get ready quick and head to the airport for our 8:50 flight. We miss the first train from the middle of Vienna to the airport (of course) but end up breezing through check-in, security, and boarding. All systems go! After a quick hour, hour and a half flight we are in Italy! We manage to find the Leonardo train which takes us straight into Rome and the Metro to connect us towards our hotel. One stop on the Metro and BOOM, the first thing I see walking out of the subway is columns 🙂 Eeeek! We came out at Piazza Della Repubblica and our hotel was just 2 blocks down the street. Our hotel was Beautiful and really nice, especially for typical Roman ones apparently.
After checking in we were awfully hungry. So we just walked down the street to see what we could find and spotted this adorable little trattoria. Since it was only about noon, we were the only people in the place but it was so great and the waiter was so sweet (as are the rest of Roman men [you shall see]). I lifted all personal diet restrictions for this trip and chowed on some ravioli right away, then washed it down with limoncello, another thing we got very acquainted with while in Rome! (Limoncello is a lemon liquor the Romans consider a digestive for after a meal).
Next up, Vatican City! Shout out to dad here for getting this tour for us, because trying to navigate the Vatican City on our own would not have gone smoothly. We met the group right outside the entrance, skipped the line and got right down to it! We started with the Vatican Museum which includes so many pieces of artwork you can’t even imagine.
First off- Sculptures. Tons of them. Incredible pieces of marble and stone and who knows what other material. Full bodies, busts, animals, baths, more. Next we saw the Hall of Tapestries and the Hall of Maps. So when I first heard ‘Hall of Tapestries’ I was like “eh, rugs hanging on the walls, whatev.” But then you look at them. And how huge they are. And how detailed they are. And then you remember how OLD they are. There was no computers or machinery involved to punch some info in and output a rug. These things were hand made, each thread woven in with such purpose. They tapestries are hung on the walls of the Sistine Chapel when the Cardinals meet to choose a new Pope for the Catholic Church. Now, Hall of Maps. Again, “whoop de whoop, big maps.” No. Not just big maps. No satellites, no planes, or helicopters, or cars or anything to give someone a clear easy view of the area. These maps are super accurate and yet the mapmakers had no easy ways to scope out the land. I really don’t even know how they could do that!
SIDENOTE: THE CEILINGS. I swear I could have walked around the entire Vatican Museum with my neck craned back just to look at the ceilings in each and every room. They are INCREDIBLE. Different styles, different techniques, but all of them are so gorgeous (ahem Sistine Chapel, the grand daddy of all ceilings).
Then we hit Raphael’s Rooms. Raphael was a painter who frescoed the full wall (and ceiling) murals where the Pope’s used to live. Raphael, along with Michelangelo and Da Vinci, was one of the masters of his period of art.
And Raphael’s Rooms lead us to IT. The Sistine freaking Chapel. I can’t even explain how incredible that stinking ceiling is. The detail and beauty of every section. The religious significance in every inch. The entire place demands your reverence. And to imagine Michelangelo painting in that terrible position on his back for 4 years. Did you know he had never painted a fresco before?? No pressure dude! The Last Judgement is the fresco on the front wall, which took Michelangelo 7 years, has so much detail and symbolism and importance. Oh, the North and South wall frescoes, depicting the life of Jesus and the life of Moses respectively, ain’t too shappy either. I could have spent hours looking in awe at the artistic mastery and religious representations on display. But alas, we were not done with the Vatican yet!
I didn’t think my jaw would drop twice within 30 minutes, but right after the Sistine Chapel, we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica. WOAH. I don’t know what I expected, but I did not bank on the absolutely gigantic and elaborate church of this magnitude. The size was easily the first aspect to make my eyes bulge. Then walking through and seeing the different pieces of art- The Statue of St. Peter, Michelangelo’s Pieta, the tombs of so many religious leaders, and more.
How can I not mention the religious significance of all of this? St. Peter is said to be buried under the very center of the basilica, and there is some archaeological evidence to support that. St. Peter, Simon known as Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, the first leader of the Catholic Church after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now, the Basilica has gone through many changes over the years- starting as the Circus of Nero, to the Old St. Peter’s Basilica, then being rebuilt to what it is today including St. Peter’s Square using indulgences. But the fact that we are referencing Peter. The Rock. My mind being blown is not even the half of it.
After touring around the Basilica and saying some prayers, we headed out and got to see St. Peter’s Square. What a lovely area. The round shape of the outlying columns are to represent the Lord’s embrace. Another really interesting tid bit to me is the significance of the Egyptian Obelisk in the Square. The Obelisk is known as “The Witness” and is the only one that’s still standing after it was removed from Egypt and put in the Circus of Nero in 37 AD. It is called “The Witness” because it was standing at the same place where St. Peter was crucified. The Pope in 1586, during the last rebuilding, decided to move the Obelisk from it’s original place to the center of the new square. Silence was demanded of the crowd while it was being erected, but all of a sudden some ropes began to fray. A sailor noticed the issue and shouted out, “The Ropes!!” and it was enough for the people to adjust and complete the project safely. The sailor was called in front of the Pope thinking he was going in for a heap load of trouble for speaking, yet the Pope wanted only to thank him and grant him a favor as appreciation. The sailor asked for the Church to use Palms from his garden in Germany during the mass at the Basilica on Palm Sunday, and those palms are collected and used every year still to this day.
By that time it was hitting the evening and we were hungry and tired. We ventured onto the streets of Rome, grabbed some gelato on the way (yum!), and made our trek to find the nearest Metro station. Of course, we needed to stop and ask for directions, and this short, older Italian man named Loretto was more than happy to help us. In fact he took us into his restaurant, tried to hook Coop up with his cook, and invited us to come party with him the following evening. We humored him but he did help us get on the right path back to our hotel.
From there we grabbed dinner at another restaurant close to our hotel (got suckered into a tourist trap, darn it) then grabbed a cocktail at our hotel and a bar down the street. We met some other Americans that were there on a school trip, and then met a couple other Italian men who were also super friendly and entertaining. One of them is a lawyer and claims that the Godfather of the Italian Mafia is actually his uncle. After a little googling later on, he at least is representing some people in court that are rumored Mafia. As entertaining and generous as they were, we decided not to hang out with them anymore after that, haha. In fact, we were more than happy to call it a night and get ready for our second day in Rome!
Wow… I was going to just put my entire trip to Rome in just one post, but looking at how LONG Day 1 is, I’m gonna have to break it up. My apologies to being long winded and wordy 🙂 Bear with me and thanks for reading in the first place! I hope you can get a taste for how amazing this mini-vaca was!