Sunday, 12 January 2014

Rome Where You Want To - Part 1

For my birthday last year Liz agreed to send me and David on a trip to the continent; any destination we chose for a few days. 

It was going to be the first time I'd ever gone to continental Europe, and so I really thought hard about where I wanted to go.  Sort of the "which chocolate do I pick first" out of a new box of See's assorted.  I wanted them all, but you can only pick on and you can't really tell which ones you'll like the most, so . . . you're really going to have to guess and hope it's not the mallow-marzipan-pineapple. 

So, where will it be?  Paris?  Berlin?  Barcelona?  Well, it turns out I picked Rome, Italy to be my first big city trip.
There's a lot of reasons why I picked Rome.  It's always been an interesting place to me.  In many regards it was the capital of the world for hundreds of years, and is even today in a religious sense.  Romans made so many contributions to art, science, literature, philosophy, and of course, warfare.
Rome's involvement in the persecution and subsequent adoption of Christianity was also of keen interest.
The trip itself would span four days, two half days and two whole days and two nights in the city to soak up as much art, culture, and history as we could.  Oh yeah, and try to speak some Italian along the way.
The trip was basically divided up as follows: 
Day 1 would be get settled and reconnoitre the area, maybe take in a few shops or random sights. 
Day 2, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel.
Day 3, ancient Rome, Colosseum, and (completely inadvertently, the Altar to the Fatherland).
Day 4, Galleria Borghese and some shopping, the head home.
Monday, early morning flight lands us in Rome on a beautiful afternoon.  Sun shining, about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  In Ireland it was about 40 degrees and raining; I can already tell I'm going to like this place.  OK, first order of business: figure out how to get to the train station and find our hotel. 
 David wasn't used to so much sunshine.  It made him happy, though. 

It didn't take long for disaster to strike.  Our plans to take a train from Ciampino to Termini was a bust.  We couldn't find the connection to the trains and no one obvious (who, coincidently could speak English, but many thanks to those who tried!) to ask.  So, luck was with us and we found a bus on its way to Termini for half the cost of the train.  Disaster averted!

Finally, we arrived!  The streets of Rome; Rome, Italy!  Wow, I still can't believe it.  I have friends who are well-travelled who'd roll their eyes at my boyish exuberance, but I never imagined in my life that I'd ever have to visit Rome like this.  It was (and still is) awesome.  Yeah, I'm going to use that word, what is it? Epic.  Yeah, epic.

 Hey, YOU! Yeah, you down there! You're in Rome!  Whoo-hoo!!

Our first stop for food.  Some fast food joint.  One thing we figured out pretty quickly was that Rome prices are HIGH.  For this small platter of mysterious fried objects was about 8 Euros ($10 USD).  We also figured out that most people speak a few words of English, and those who didn't sure tried to.  We didn't meet a rude Roman our entire time there.

Our 5 start luxury accommodations in the heart of Rome included this grand elevator big enough for David and another person half his size.  I had to go up in three trips.

Our 5,000 square foot penthouse included this 87'' plasma high-def 3D big screen and Dolby 5.1 digital surround sound.

After hoofing around the city for half the day, we stopped for our first true Italian dinner!  This was just an appetizer.  What did we order for the main course? Why, pizza, of course!  Yum!

 David, ever the connoisseur of fine Italian cuisine, relishing his tomato toast.

One of the more famous icons of Rome:  The wolf who nursed Remus and Romulus, the traditional founders of Rome.

Potato chips!  From Italy!  In all seriousness, without them David would have starved to death.

Wow, David.  Don't get tired yet, bro, it's only our first day!

Our breakfast in the hotel courtyard included poached quail eggs, truffles, foie gras, caviar, couscous with a sprig of parsley and lemon spring water (sparkling, of course).

The trains of Rome are well . . . decorated . . .

OK, first stop, Vatican City!  Here it is, St. Peter's Square! 

All the chairs lined up to accommodate the faithful for the Pope's weekly address (I think).

The Vatican Swiss Guard!  In color!

The Holy Door. According to the Vatican website the Holy Door or 'Porta Sancta' is only open during a Holy Year (Jubilee), which occur every 25 years (the last one in 2000).   On the first day of a holy year, the Pope strikes the brick wall with a silver hammer and opens it to the pilgrims.  The message imparted by the Holy Door is that God's mercy reaches out to mankind's frailty.  From inside the basilica, the door is walled up.

St. Peter's Basilica; in a word, amazing.

This poor chap travelled all the way to Rome wearing this terrible shirt.  So. Sad.

A list of all the Popes.

The Dome; where we're going next!

Up the staircase, David!  Follow the light!!

A spectacular view of the square and Rome at large.

The Vatican gift shop.  The hand-carved nativity scene allows you to get each piece separately.  The Christ child is only 802.50 euros (about $1,000 US dollars)!  Hopefully that includes the manger.

David had to stop and think about it all for a while . . .

If you're wondering why I haven't included any photos of the Sistine Chapel it's because THEY WON'T LET YOU TAKE ANY PICTURES AT ALL inside!  Well, I guess I'll just have to take some off the internet.  Just try and stop me, Vatican Policia!

In all seriousness, the Sistine Chapel was one of my favorite stops.  We spent a lot of time looking up and around at the amazing frescos.  It took Michelangelo only about four years to complete the project, only in his early 20's and he didn't even like working with paint! 

The day is done.  We have some time now to take in some shops and see Rome in action in the evening.  This was an Italian grocery store with the quintessential meat section!

Street vendors selling their wares.

And to finish off part 1 of the trip:  whatever the heck this thing is.  A guy with a branch growing out of his head.  I guess even the Vatican museum has a few clunkers in its collection.
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Revenge!


  1. LOOOOOOVE! I've never been to Italy, so I'm with you. I'd be giddy, too.
    And I always know where to start in a box of See's - the nuts and chews. Save the Bordeauxs and truffles for last.