Thursday, June 16, 2011

When in Rome...

When in Rome...
Rome is my favorite city on this trip so far. It has a big city energy to it (similar to the reason I love New York so much), but it still has narrow cobbled streets like a smaller town.

I also love that everywhere you look there are magnificent old buildings or arches or obelisks or statues. The tourist sites are crowded and most of the day at the Vatican I felt like I was in someones way (or actually running into people, it happened often at the Pantheon), but walking only a few blocks away from the most famous sites leads you to even better treasures.

The ceiling of the map room in the Museo Vaticani was more impressive than the Sistine Chapel (which is still impressive itself) and I though the Basilica dei Ambrogio E Carlo was just a pretty as Saint Peters Basilica (but smaller).

Gerst has been teaching us all to speak Ab, which is fun, and sometimes useful when you don't want the person next to you to understand you.

Our first stop in Rome, other than train and metro stations, was the Collesseum. Upon exiting the metro, we succeeded in perpetuating the dumb American stereotype by loudly saying "Is that the Colleseum?" while pointing purposely in the wrong direction. Sorry for that.

I realized it has been a very long time since I studied Roman history and have forgotten a lot of it. Somewhere between learning about gladiators, staging lifts, decapitating ostriches, fires, earthquakes and Nero, we lost Matt and Andy. Walking in circles and waiting by the exits proved unsuccessful, so Noah, Chelsea, Gerst, Nick and I went to the Palpatine hill, Roman Forum (which is not a bell), and Campidolio.

Then we began the trek to the hostel. We couldn't find anywhere with room for 7 on the weekend, so we stayed in dorms at a campground, Tiber, outside the city center by Prima Porta. (Travelling with 7 people also means we stop for snacks every hour and by now the rest of the group has realized I'm the slowest eater). It takes a metro, train, and bus and roughly 40 minutes to get to the campground from the Colleseum. We put our Roma passes to good use, they were worth it for 2 free attractions and transportation for 3 days. We were glad to see that Matt and Andy found their way back after being separated and stuck without a map or directions. We were also glad that the campground has a restaurant with pasta, since we never really had lunch and were all grumpy from walking and lack of food. Food makes all travel problems better.

The next day we visited the Vatican. The street vendor selling tours was "very worried for us" that we would wait for 3 hours and then not learn anything. The line for the vatican museums took less than an hour and we rented audio tours instead. The audio tours were a great way to learn more about the art we saw, and they let you actually let you see things because you aren't in the middle of a big tour group (its difficult to escape if you get stuck in one). The Sistine Chapel was nice, but the map room (frescoed maps of Italy on the walls with scenes of people painted on the ceiling) or the Rafael rooms were probably my favorite.

I appreciate frescoes more than sculptures, I like that they tell a story and are more colorful. The architecture and ceilings of the museum buildings were as impressive as the art in them. That afternoon we went to St Peters Basilica, climbed the Spanish Steps and threw coins into the Trevi fountain. 

All of these areas were beautiful, but the massive crowds kind of spoiled them a little. We also wandered into a few other churches around the city, I am in awe of all the buildings. Its interesting that over time buildings and art became more and more complex and ornate, but then have become very stylistically simple again. The best part of all the churches in Italy has been the ceilings. I wish it was appropriate to lay on the floor, becuase thats the best view. I think the mumified remains of some of the popes and bishops that are kept in glass sarcofogi in the basilicas are a little odd, but now I've seen a guy who's been dead for 600 years.

The next morning we had breakfast on the train again (at least one of our meals each day is some combination of bread, salami, cheese, bananas, yogurt, and Nutella) and went to the Pantheon, a 2000 year old temple that is somehow not in ruins. That afternoon we walked to Villa Borghese, the large park in the center of Rome. The museum we wanted to visit was sold out for the day, so while the others went to the zoo, I walked around the park and ate gelato by the lake and found an exhibit about regional Italian culture outside of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and listened to a choir that was singing during their picnic in the park.

 Music on the streets never seems to be too far away here. We finished our stay in Rome with a delicious pasta dinner before catching the train to Florence.

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