Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Weekend in Roma

Yeah, I know it wasn't a weekend, but it was two days in a row that I didn't have to work, so it felt like a weekend.

Jessica and I headed off to Roma (Rome) Tuesday morning with big plans. We arrived at 1pm and were going to see the Colosseum, the Piazza Navonna, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, St. Peter-in-Chains church and the Parthenon all by the end of the day. But first we had to find our hotel.

This is what I have to say about Roma: It is a big city: like LA, it has some beautiful areas and great things to see, but it also has a lot of dirty run-down areas. Our hotel was in one of these. We walked the 1km to the hotel, through the Roman ghetto. There was grafitti everywhere, and the whole place was a mess. The place we stayed at actually required 3 keys to get in. First there was the key to the front door, then a key to the courtyard our room was in, then the key to the room. Luckily we weren't spending much time in the room, really just storing our stuff.

We headed off to the Colosseum, and were sidetracked by the Santa Maria Marggiore church/cathedral. It was beautiful. The sign said no cameras but everyone else was taking pictures, so I did too (I kept the flash off though, because the flash makes the paintings deteriorate quicker). Had to get a move on though if we wanted to see all the things on our list.

By the time we made it to the Colosseum, it was 4:15. That place is amazing. Now I know why you usually see pictures of one side of it. It would be difficult to get a picture of the whole thing without being really far away. We got some great pics standing next to some of the archways, just to illustrate how freaking tall they are. They have some great sculptures inside the upper level too.

We only hung out at there for about an hour, since we had to get to the St. Peter-in-Chains church before it closed at 6pm. It was right up the street, so we should be able to reach it in time.

But the map we had kinda sucked, and the streets there are not grid-like the way they are in Cali, so we walked around for about 45 minutes, looking for the place, which we figured would be easy to find. Not so much. First we walked up the wrong street, then back towards the church, then turned down a street too early, then back up another wrong street.... My feet were beginning to hurt. We sat down and ate some gelato, looking at the map and thinking about what we were going to do next.

Once we had decided, we got up, turned around to throw away some trash, and discovered we were sitting right in front of the church (which you would only know was a church because of the plaque on the wall). And to our surprise, they were open late, so we got to look around anyway. This church holds Michelangelo's Moses and what are two sets of chains that alledgedly held St. Peter. One set is from when he and Paul were held prisoners in the Mamartine prison in Roma, and the other when Herod jailed Peter in Jerusalem. (I'm getting this straight from the guidebook)

We had decided we were too tired to walk around the other stuff, so we headed back towards the hotel. The idea was to do a pubcrawl later in the evening, but when we got back we were too tired to even do that (we had probably walked 5 miles or so, and we are so not used to that).

We woke up early today and met Keith and Tania at the train station. The plan for today: The Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. By the time we made it to St. Peter's Square (which is actually more of an oval shape), there were so many people fooding in we thought there was something happening that day. Didn't know it was right before the pope gave 10:00 mass. Yeah, the Pope does the mass on Wednesday's, and we accidentally picked that day to go visit. So we snapped what photos we could of the Pope, as well as some of the square, the fountains, the columns, and statues, then we decided that then would be the perfect time to enter the museum. Kind of like going on rides at Disneyland during Fantasmic. Everyone else is occupied.

As soon as we got inside, Jessica wanted to take off to see the museum at her own pace, suggesting we meet at a designated area at a designated time. No one liked the idea of splitting up except Jessica, but we also didn't want to prevent her enjoyment of the museum, so we instead suggested she take my phone and we call one another at 1pm.

The Vatican Museum is HUGE! And amazing. They have art from the Egyptians, the Etruscans, stuff from the Renaissance and the Reformation. And they allowed cameras, so I may have a hundred or so photos of all the stuff. Learned some stuff too: the Egyptians decoratied the inside of the mummy coffins, the Vatican made plaster fig leaves to put over the genetalia of many of the statues (but not all of them), the pope that hired Raphael to paint some of the frescoes in the vatican liked his work so much he had the work of other masters scraped off and gave Raphael free reign, and Michelangelo oringinally turned down the job of painting the Sistine Chapel. Apparently the pope pleaded, bribed and threatened Michelangelo into taking the job.

I can't explain how beautiful the museum and it's artwork is. The building itself is art alone. The ceilings are amazing, the floors are beautiful. Even the walls are unreal. I think seeing pictures doesn't do justice, you have to see it yourself. The last room is the Sistine Chapel, which is supposed to be the pope's private chapel. I had heard of the chapel, and I had seen some of the artwork that there, but I don't think I knew what to expect. It is amazing. It is supposed to tell the history of the world before the birth of Jesus, and one wall is dedicated to Judgement Day. The artwork is truely beautiful. Michelangelo was a talented guy.

Next on our list of things to do was St. Peter's Basilica, and there was an entrance directly from the chapel to the entrance of St. Peter's, so we decided to send Jessica a text message telling her to meet us there. It was 1pm, so we were right on time. We tried calling a few times, but it went right to the message in Dutch that says I haven't set up my voicemail for this sim card yet, so she must be in an area with no reception.

St. Peter's is amazing. I know I keep using that word, but it is so relevant. The whole place is built to feel cozier than it is. The church is like 450 feet tall, but it never seems that big. There these huge statues that don't look like they are 15 or 25 feet tall, but they are. It should be a museum itself. Under the alter is what is allegedly St. Peter's remains, and on the side wall you can see the remains of Pope Pious the something (I don't remember which roman numeral he was). It may just be me, but that kinda groses me out. He's in a clear case and everything.
There is Michelangelo's Pieta (a statue of a very young looking Mary holding Jesus' dead body after he has been taken down from the cross), a sacred door you are supposed to tell your wishes that opens every 25 years (ok, not wishes, prayers, and when they open it your prayers are supposed to come true - I want to know why no one has prayed for world peace or an end to world hunger or the end of religious procescution), and all sorts of other artwork. It is truely amazing to think of how many tickets to heaven they had to sell to pay for this church. It really dwarfed the other churches we've seen so far.

Inside St. Peter's there was this couple walking around, him in a suit, her in a wedding dress. They had no family or friends there, just walking around looking like they just got married. Kind of strange.

We haven't heard back from Jessica yet, and are really getting irritated now, it's 2pm. She hasn't called or sent a text or anything. Tried to call a few more times, but it still went right to a message. But now we can't get back into the museum to look for her. And she wasn't in St. Peter's as far as we could tell. What to do? We decided to get something for lunch and see if she calls or texts. She didn't. We went back to the museum entrance, which was closed, then parked by the exit. We asked the guard if a redhead had been looking for a lost party, he said no. Tania and I stayed there while Keith walked back to St. Peters. at 5:15, a guard came out and asked if we were waiting for someone, yes. Jess? Yes.

She was in for a brand new can of whoop ass, but when she came out she had a decent story. Someone had knocked the phone out of her hands, and it had shut off, but since there is a prepaid sim card in it, it was asking for the unlock code, which she didn't have. She tried a few, and blocked the phone in the process. Couldn't access it to make a call, text, or even get a phone number. We stressed that this is why it is not a good idea to split up in situations like that. Good we learn this now, and not at Oktoberfest.

We still had some time before the train, so we headed to the Trevi fountain. It is beautiful! I didn't really expect it to be that big. The front of it really takes up the whole side of the building it sits next to. It was at this point that I learned how to record movies on my camera, so now I have a movie of the fountain and the crowd around it. We also checked out the Spanish Steps, and I got a movie of that area too. I know, I don't need movies of those, but I love this new function I've discovered and I had to play with it.

On the train ride home (to Cortona), we ended up rooming up with this couple. I was nice enough to switch seats with Keith, so I sat next to the guy, who apparently felt he needed his seat and half of mine (even though he was not a big man). About 20 minutes into the train ride, the woman leans forward across the center space and puts her head face down onto his lap. I have to say this is a strange position to see people in on a train. Tania was trying to tell a story, but we all ended up just looking at each other and laughing. It was a good thing they didn't speak English, because then it looked like we were laughing at her story. When we got the chance to switch to our own car, we took it.

We were all exhausted when we got home. If I could get new feet and rest these ones for a day or two I would. We may have walked 8 miles or so today. And tomorrow we are spending the day in Firenze (Florence)...

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