What started out as a afterthought, ended up as one of our most favorite destinations – ROMA!
When we scheduled our trip to the Amalfi Coast we figured that since we’ll be so close we should spend a day or two snooping around the city that everyone says not to miss. Wow! Were they ever right!
We limited our sight-seeing to the core of historical Rome – the city centre. With our trusty “Rick Steve’s Rome” book in hand, we devoted one full day to leisurely wandering around Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and of course, the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is MASSIVE, awe-inspiring and a little unsettling when you think of the violent events that the early Romans deemed as “entertainment.”
The south entrance into the Forum area has a great view of the colosseum from the Arch of Titus.
In the Forum the ruins are puny compared to the immensity of the original architecture that graced this area.
We took shelter from an afternoon rainstorm in a neighborhood cafe huddled in a cozy corner with two cups of cappuccino. And then back to our room at the Sistine B&B to rest up and plan for more sightseeing.
One of the huge blessings to traveling off-peak season is that there are virtually no crowds. We spent an afternoon strolling around St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museum and the Basilica. At one point we stumbled on to a free tour given by young students who are studying to enter the priesthood. They really knew their church history and gave a very enlightening tour.
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Baroque architect Bernini and the interior is even more beautiful than the outside. Among other treasures, it houses Michelangelo’s sculpture “Pieta” depicting Mary holding the dead body of Christ after he was removed from the cross. Rather than creating a figure from a random piece of marble, Michelangelo believed that each piece of marble already had a sculpture imprisoned in it and after carefully selecting his marble, he passionately sought to free that form as he gently chiseled away. The Pieta is a stunning and absolutely stirring piece of sculpture made all the more amazing when you think that its creator was only 24 years old when he sculpted it.
The Vatican Museum is an extraordinary journey starting from rooms that display relics from Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt (think mummies!). A long, vaulted hallway filled with tapestries, statues and maps lead to the Renaissance rooms of Raphael’s paintings and finally culminates with the crown jewel of the Museum – the Sistine Chapel.
No photos are allowed in the chapel but it would be impossible to capture the immense detail of Michelangelo’s creation. A little history here: When Michelangelo was first asked to paint the chapel by Pope Julius II, he declined. He saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. After much nagging and threatening, he relented on the condition that he could have total artistic license (“I’ll do it MY way!”)
“Julius had asked for only 12 apostles along the sides of the ceiling, but Michelangelo had a grander vision – the entire history of the world until Jesus. He spent the next four years (1508-1512) craning his neck on scaffolding six stories up, covering the ceiling with frescoes of Bible scenes.” (Rick Steves)
The wall behind the altar was painted later in 1535 by Micheangelo and depicts “The Last Judgement” with Christ at the center. The few of us in the Chapel that day sat stunned, and gazing up at that dramatic ceiling we seemed to quietly agree – without exception, this must be the greatest work of art created by any one human being.
From the Vatican City out to the streets of Rome, we wandered around and stumbled upon many beautiful fountains – this one in the neighborhood of our B&B.
Our “Night Walk across Rome” included Campo di Fiori, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Colonna (not pictured),
and our favorite night spot – Trevi Fountain.
The streets of Rome seemed quiet and just when we were wondering where everyone was, we heard the excitement before we saw it. Turning the corner we were greeted by a large crowd of locals and tourists all playfully taking in the night life by the fountain.
Ahhh…La Dolce Vita! We WILL return!