Sunday, September 9, 2012

Italy 2012: Rome - Day Two

On our second day in Rome, we participated in a super long tour .  It was broken out in two smaller sections: during the morning, we saw the Trevi Fountain, a bunch of other lesser known fountains, the Pantheon, and the Vatican/Saint Peters.  During the afternoon, we saw the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel.

Our first stop in the morning was the Trevi Fountain.  Tourists typically throw coins in to the fountain, and if you do, the legend says that you are ensured to return to Rome.  (We threw in three coins - one for my parents, one for Scott's parents, and one for us).

As we were walking towards our next stop - another old and beautiful fountain - we passed a huge obelisk.  Rome has the most obelisks in the entire world - several from ancient Egypt, and several from ancient Rome.  This particular one was 3,000 years old - can you believe that?  The thought just boggles my mind.  3,000 years old!  It was from Egypt and was brought by river to Rome.  If you look closely at the picture, you can see markings etched in to the side.  Seeing this was definitely a highlight of my trip.

From there we moved to the Pantheon, which was beautiful and fun to see.  

After that, we moved on to Vatican City, and St. Peters Basilica.  The first thing you notice is that it is just overwhelmingly beautiful... and that's just from the outside.  The twelve apostles and Jesus across the top of the Basilica, the Papal Residence to the side.  It's literally the center of the Catholic world.  

After waiting in a line to go through security (tip: if you're planning a trip, get to St. Peters early in the day, or wait until after 4pm... organized tour guides can't come after 4pm), we entered the church and it was just breathtaking.  Ornate details in every corner, every inch from the floor to the ceiling was beautiful and detailed.  Scott used the word "opulent" and that really describes it well.

Since I am a Catholic (though I've mentioned how much of the Catholic faith I disagree with), I expected some emotion at being in St. Peters Basilica, and I did feel emotion.  I'll be honest - I felt a little disgusted.  It is so unbelievably over-the-top, and I couldn't help but think that it's contrary to everything that Jesus stood for (giving all of your money to the poor, humility, sacrifice).  St. Peter's was truly remarkable, and beautiful, and breathtaking.. but to me, it wasn't what being a Catholic is supposed to be about.

And I suppose you could argue that if it wasn't as spectacular, that it wouldn't be such a tourist destination or wouldn't provide the pull that Catholics feel toward it, and I get that.  Admission was free, and I think they could easily ask for a "suggested 1 Euro donation" and raise a ton of money each day.  That money could be used to pay for Priest's retirement, or giving to the hungry of the world, or any number of things that would make a real difference in the world, and align with what Jesus was about.

Anyway.  We then went on to lunch and then started the afternoon portion of the tour - the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel!  

The Vatican Museum was something that Scott and I had both kind of rolled our eyes at before going in - but it ended up being very cool.  The Vatican has an insane amount of artifacts from Roman history - the floors are comprised of Mosaics from the late 100s (not a typo) and there are rooms full of tapestries, full of ornate  paintings, and full of carved stone.  They were crazy cool.  (But again, it made me a littttttle crazy to see how much wealth the Vatican controls).  

As we were walking through the museum, we got a view of the Pope's private courtyard.  Pretty spectacular, huh? 

After walking through the museum, we found ourselves at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.  I was really anxious to see it, and it didn't let me down.  I keep using the word "breathtaking" but it really does apply.  Our guide told us about how Michaelangelo painted the entire ceiling in six years, standing up with his head angled back (like, stand up, and look up at the ceiling above you).  Plus, he did it iby candlelight on scaffolding!  It was crazy being in that room, and knowing that Michaelangelo had been in that same room for ten years of his life (six on the ceiling, four on the back wall).  I loved the Sistine Chapel.  Visitors are told not to take any photos, as the room is still the private Chapel of the Pope (where Papal "elections" are held!) and the flash from photos could slowly cause the paintings to deteriorate.  Many, many people were taking photos (which was kind of disappointing) but we decided to follow the rules, so no photos from that part.  It does cost something to get in to the Museum/Sistine Chapel - I'm not sure what amount, as it was included in our tour, but if I was back in Rome, I'd pay to see it again.  Very worth the money.

That night - after ten hours of walking! - we were completely wiped.  We went to a Roman grocery store, and bought crackers and cheese, peppers, wine, and bottles of water.  Then we sat in our hotel room and snacked, and downloaded the movie "In Time", starring the one-and-only Justin Timberlake. Surprisingly, we LOVED the movie, and it was nice to be able to recharge.  

At this point, we had a little over 24 hours left in Rome.

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