Day 12-13: Rome
Off to Rome
On our way to Rome we stopped off at another Autogrill. Our guide Jennifer surprised us with a Boccetti, a kind of Hershey’s kiss with hazelnut inside and a fortune. Summer’s read “How can my love die while I am alive?” Very Italian!
Arrival in Rome
Our hotel, Hotel Nardizzi Americana was located on the fourth or fifth floor of the building. There were many flights of steps, but it did have an old style elevator with a cage and wooden doors.
Our guide Jennifer gave us a lesson on how to use the Rome metro. It was very easy since there were only two lines. The rough part was how packed it gets! When our group took the metro to the Colosseum, we had to split up into multiple cars. There were so many people jam packed in each one, Summer and I almost did not make it in.
On our car there was a woman with a baby strapped to her chest. After a stop or two she started making her way through the crowd of people. It struck us as odd and seemed like a pickpocketer. After we got off at our stop, Jennifer confirmed that she was probably a pickpocket, because what woman would push through a crowd like that with her baby for no reason.
Colosseum and Roman Forum
Stepping out of the metro and seeing the Colosseum was amazing! It was so huge and magnificent. We were excited to meet our local guide, Francesca, who appears on the Rick Steves Rome episode.
Francesca shared with us that the reason we see so many holes all over the Colosseum walls is because it was looted for the iron bars that kept each layer in place. She also said that wherever we saw rough bricks, that is where it used to be lined with marble, which was also taken.
The Colosseum was only used several times per year, mainly to control the masses. People were given free tickets, win and food and would get their aggression out while watching animals and people fight. It is a myth that gladiators would fight animals. Only animals fought each other.
It was interesting to learn that the Colosseum was built in a way so that all 50,000 visitors could exit within 12 minutes. Also, inside was not just plain white. Marble lined the floors and walls.
Rome Was in Technicolor
It was fascinating to learn that Rome was actually in technicolor. All of the statues that were all over Rome were actually painted and not pure white. For example, a statue of a solider would have had peach skin, brown hair, blue eyes, colored shield and a gray sword. This makes sense because Rome was an elaborate and beautiful place everywhere you looked, so why wouldn’t they paint the statues too?
Francesca walked us around the entire Roman Forum and explained how much of it was underground and had to be excavated to find the ruins. After Rome’s fall, its people abandoned the place and others looted it for the marble and stone. The Vatican pondered most of the marble to make concrete to build its own buildings and took most of the statues for decoration.
Rome was built in a way to exude power with scale (huge buildings) and clutter (buildings everywhere). When visitors came to Rome, they knew who was the most powerful by everything they saw. Eventually Rome fell because it produced nothing but consumed everything.
Francesca then took us to the Pantheon, built it 27-25 BC. It was so huge and magnificent inside. The dome has a hole which allows the only light in. There was also a drainage system built on the floor so when it rained it would just wash away down a hole. It is as tall as it is wide in diameter and a perfect circle can fit inside. The columns on the outside traveled all the way from Egypt!
Francesca said that no one really knows for sure what the Pantheon’s purpose was when it was built.
Dinner On Our Own
We had dinner with a few other group members, Chris, Bill, David and Carol in the Piazza Navena, which was originally built as a race track. It was full of artists lining the street selling their work.
Jennifer took the group on a night walk of the city. We saw San Carlo Quattro fountains, the Quirinale Palace, Fontana Di Trevi, and ate at her favorite gelateria.
Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica
We took the metro to Vatican City to meet our local guide, Paulo. He was excellent! He took us to a mural on the grounds that had the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling of Michelangelo’s Genesis and wall with the Last Judgement on it. He was able to explain every part of each painting so we would understand it before going into the Sistine Chapel to see it.
He told us that Michelangelo painted his self-portrait in the The Last Judgement in the skin held in Bartholomew’s hand. Also, everyone in the painting was originally naked. A Catholic pope later ordered the cover up of genitals in paintings and sculptures. Michelangelo felt that these were pure beings and did not need covering up.
Paulo took us to see Raphael’s School of Athens. It was cool to find out that he painted himself into the scene with a self-portrait and Michelangelo, his rival.
We saw Summer’s favorite statue of Lacoon and His Sons (there are copies everywhere around Europe), the largest tapestries ever woven and frescoes on the ceilings that are painted to look like they are 3D!
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica was tremendous inside! The ceilings were finely detailed mosaics. We saw the Pieta, St. Peter’s burial site and toured the Catacombs of buried Popes.
Lunch On Our Own
We ate at an Italian restaurant outside the Vatican City’s walls. We had a very tasty caprese salad, a spicy tomato penne and spaghetti with bacon and sausage.
The ride on the Rome metro back to our hotel was intense! It was jam packed with people. To get out at our stop we had to push through a crowd of people. We could see why it is so easy to get pickpocketed on it, since there is no room to move and you are hoping you can get off before the door closes. We made it out fine.
Impromptu Happy Hour and Dinner On Our Own
At an Autogrill stop, we picked up a bottle of Barolo wine. It is said to be one of the best in Italy. So, we took it to the breezeway of our hotel and found that other members of the group were enjoying wine too. It turned into an impromptu happy hour 🙂
A few of us, including our guide Jennifer and driver Richard, went to a local restaurant. Summer and I enjoyed spaghetti aglio e olio and cannelloni in bolognese sauce. The restaurant gave us all free limoncello!
We then went to a gelateria with Richard and then headed back to the hotel.
We stayed at Hotel Nardizzi Americana. It was a pleasant stay and the room was adequate. The bathroom was a good size and it came with a hair dryer. The breakfast included some delicious pastries and an espresso machine. The area for breakfast was the best so far because it had lots of windows and light coming in. It is on the fourth or fifth floor and there are a lot of steps to take to get to it. It does have an elevator but it can be slow and only fits about three people.