Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Europe 2012: Rome

Leaving Santorini we hopped a quick flight to Athens, waited a few hours in the airport then flew to Rome for our final destination.  In order to save money, we decided to take the bus to the center of Rome, rather than the train.  We saved about 20 euros but it took us over an hour to the get to the same spot (only 20 minutes on the train).  Ugh.  Well, we finally wandered along the dark, uneven streets to find our apartment rental.  Once checked in we headed out for dinner then called it a night.

Bus ride into Rome
Our first day we had plans to go to the Vatican Museum.  After searching for a well-rated pastry shop, we picked up some sweets for breakfast then took the metro to the stop closest to the Vatican.  We followed the crowds out of the station to St. Peter's Square.  After standing in line for security, we finally made it into the center of the square only to realize we were in the completely wrong spot.  However, we stumbled upon mass being led by the Pope, so we stood watching for a few minutes then made our way back out of the square and found the museum entrance.  The museum was amazing, filled with art and artifacts of religious and non-religious sources.  Of course there are the infamous Raphael rooms and Sistine Chapel, but there are also Egyptian Sarcophagi and Greek sculpture.  It took a few hours to go through the entirety of it and we enjoyed it all.  Unfortunately because of the Pope's mass, St. Peter's Basilica was closed when we completed our Museum tour.

If you look really close, you can see the pope in red on the steps

Raphael's The Transfiguration


Sarcophagus with a mummy inside

Rome as seen from the Vatican

Gorgeous, ornate and intricate - and it's a ceiling!

After a quick lunch and nap we decided to  venture out for a drink at an Irish pub.  Yes, we went to an Irish pub in Italy - that's my husband for you!  We had a drink, relaxed and chatted with the bartender for a while.  On the way back, we stopped in at Santa Maria Maggiore church which happened to be in the middle of mass.  We admired the architecture and art then sat for a few minutes to listen to the mass (not sure if it was in Italian or Latin).  It was a really cool experience!

The ceiling/wall of Santa Maria Maggiore


The exterior lends no clue to the opulent interior
The next day we walked all over Rome.  We started at the Trevi Fountain which was just swarming with crowds.  Yes, I threw in a coin in hopes to return!  After we wandered aimlessly along the nearby neighborhoods getting lost while looking for a place for lunch.  During our search we stopped off at the Spanish steps and snapped a few photos until hunger propelled us along.  We finally found a little sandwich spot and after a quick lunch made our way to the Pantheon.  Its cool interior was a welcome respite from the sun.  Thanks to our Rick Steves' book we learned a little about the rather interesting history of the structure.  I convinced Corey to continue our walk, cross the Ponte Sant' Angelo and return to the Vatican in hopes of visiting St. Peter's Basilica.  Too bad I wasn't really thinking about the fact that it would be slammed on a Sunday.  One look at the line snaking its way all the way across St. Peter's square and we quickly gave up on that idea!  The walk wasn't a waste though.  We got to see really cute, old neighborhoods and stopped for gelato along the way.

Trevi Fountain 
Spanish Steps


The Oculus of the Pantheon

Streets of Rome

Standing on Ponte Sant' Angelo with St. Peter's in the background
That evening we had our best dinner in Rome.  Not so much because of the food (which was good) but we also met a lovely couple sitting at the table next to us.  We struck up conversation and found out they were from Scotland and were spending one night in Rome before taking a Mediterranean cruise.  We chatted about Texas, Scotland, their travels and our travels.  When we told them about our plans to visit England, Scotland and Ireland in 2013 they got very excited and immediately offered their home to us to stay.  It was an amazing thing!  Without hesitation they said they would put us up in their home, introduce us to their children and grandchildren, or even just meet us for a meal or drink.  We concluded the meal with exchanging our contact information and wishing each other well.

The next day promised rain but cooler weather.  Corey woke up feeling poorly but well enough to trek about the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.  We started at Palatine Hill and were lucky when the rain stopped after about 20 minutes of being there.  By the time we made it to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum the rain had completely stopped and the sun was peeking through the clouds.  I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the grounds were.  There was an amazing amount of colorful flowers and green grass all over creating a stark contrast to the crumbling ruins.  It made it one of my favorite sites of our trip.

Palatine Hill

What a trooper!

Rocking the rain jacket

Flowers among the ruins
Colosseum exterior

Inside the Colosseum

Arch of Constantine
Unfortunately Corey started feeling pretty crummy after all the walking and sightseeing so we stopped off for lunch and went back to the apartment to let him rest.  Turns out we were done for the trip.  He just felt worse and worse throughout the afternoon and slept through dinner time.  We had planned on seeing Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori that evening but it just wasn't in the cards.

After a rather sleepless night due to Corey having a fever causing him to toss and turn all night, we packed our things and headed for the airport.  I said goodbye to my poor, ill husband at security and tried not to cry as I watched him walk off.  He was heading home and I was heading to Madrid.  I couldn't help but worry if he would make it home alright.  In the best of circumstances he can let time slip away and has missed a flight before, so I was worried that being sick, in a foreign country and unfamiliar airport might be disastrous. Thankfully, he successfully made it on all 3 flights it took for him to get home.  And I made it to Madrid to meet up with a wonderful friend from PA school.  More on that next post.

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