Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Trip continued:

Friday Day 9 - After leaving Il Dumpioli II we motored down to Rome with a brief travel centre stop for breakfast.  We didn't have any issues until about thirty minutes from Termini when all three lanes of traffic stopped for about ten or fifteen minutes.  When the lanes started up again we couldn't figure out why they had stopped as there wasn't an accident or construction site anywhere in the road.  Very puzzling.  Must have been a family of ducks crossing the road.  So we get close to Termini and the fun of driving in Rome starts.  I had checked on travel forums and they said driving to Termini wasn't bad so I thought why not?  It is inside the ring road but not in the centre so I figured it wouldn't be horrible and wasn't until I misread the SatNav about eight minutes from Termini and missed my turn lane that it became a little hairy.  I tried getting off in the opposite direction of the turn lane thinking I'd just do a loop and get in the right lane when we saw a Maggiore car rental sign so instead I curbed the car and Lori went to check on directions to Termini.  The SatNav hadn't been our best friend so far so we figured why not ask for help?  Turns out they insisted we return the car there instead of Termini so we didn't need any more encouragement.  I backed into the road Italian style (stopping both lanes of traffic and receiving a horn) to perform a two point turn around and we were dropping off the car.  And the reception even called a taxi for us - how can you beat that for service?  Pleasantly surprised to say the least.  We had the pleasure of experiencing central Rome traffic on the taxi ride to our apartment.  A few pointers for the future people driving in Rome centrale - passing lanes are not marked and passing is allowed anywhere except on sidewalks, horns must be used liberally, motorbike riders do not follow any traffic laws, and parking is allowed wherever it can be found.  I can see why they tell you not to drive in Rome.  Driving around the ring road was easier than driving in Pisa but I am glad I didn't try driving any closer to the town centre.  Those people are nuts!

Waiting for the person to come and let us into the apartment.  We chose Relias Rome Sweet Rome in Navona but weren't sure what to expect after our earlier apartment experiences.

And it's pretty nice.  Another place that is rough looking on the outside but new on the inside.  We were very pleased with it since Rome was a five day stay.  To make it better there
 was a coffee shop on one end of the street and a grocery store on the other end.

Here's the kitchenette and two single beds.  And "breakfast included" meant they actually supplied us with food here.  The only downside was the lack of a clothes washing machine (not a surprise as they didn't advertise having one) as we only packed enough clothes for a third of the trip and planned on washing them as needed which worked according to plan in Florence.  For here though we ended up washing a few required items in the sink and waited until Barca to wash the rest. 
After picking up Roma Passes for the group, 120 Euros as Kalle and Karl are both "adults" while travelling in Italy, we are off to one of our few pre-booked attractions on the trip.  I was sweating it a bit as it took longer to get to the apartment and check in than I had anticipated.  We have to make it up to the Borghese Gallery quickly because our tickets are only good for entrance and sightseeing between 3-5 PM which means at 5 PM they'll kick us out.  We are not near a tram or metro stop and are to far away to walk there.  The bus stops by our apartment do not go near the gallery so Lori finally spots a bus stop between us and the gallery that goes by it so we start hoofing it.  Good thing as I did not see it on the tiny transport map.

Bernini's "elephanto" (Wiki link) sculpture on our walk to the bus stop.  Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Wiki link) was one of my favourite sculptors in Italy and is credited with starting the Baroque style.  Definitely worthy of being the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (TMNT) in my opinion.  I had read up him before the trip and had high expectations of his work but was still astounded by it.  Lori loved his work as well so I know it wasn't just personal taste.
So we find our bus stop, hitch a ride and make it in a few minutes after 3 PM.  My buddy Steve recommended the Borghese Gallery (link) so we booked a tour and were amazed.  You can read the official link above or this Wiki link to see the collection as photos were not allowed.  The art is from their family collection and is another who's who of artwork like the Medici collection in Florence.  Bernini, Caravaggio, Canova, Raphael, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, etc.  Amazing paintings, sculptures, room woodwork trimmings... this place was stunning.  Bernini again had us stopping and staring in here.  David, Truth Unveiled by Time, Apollo and Daphne, Rape of Prosperina... he had some amazing works here.  One of my favourites was a bust of an old woman with a billowing cowl which didn't have a tag identifying the sculptor.  I can't say much more of the place as I don't have the pictures to show but my recommendation is to see it if you are in Rome.

Villa Borghese which houses the gallery.  The Borghese Gardens were huge and suppose to be beautiful but we weren't in a grounds exploring mood so we passed.

Of all of the incredible pieces in here this was one of my top five.  The mattress and pillow creases gave the sculpture a life like quality.  We saw Canova's Monument in Venice and I can now see why his students made it so impressive.  Canova was one of the many sculptors on this trip I didn't know much about beforehand and then saw their work and just stared at it.

Typical small car parking in Rome.

The 1700 year old Aurelian Walls (Wiki link) encircling Rome.

Dana Johnson Pic - The Old Faithful spaghetti carbonara which was very good.  The foodie tour continues although we would hit a rough patch soon.

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori's cheese-less mushroom and sausage pizza.

Dana Johnson Pic - Tiramisu. Mmmmmmmmm.
Slight miscommunication after our late lunch when Lori looked at the map and said it doesn't look far, we can walk.  Halfway back and she's not happy that we are still walking and is even unhappier when she finds out we are only halfway back.  That's when I find out she was asking a question at the restaurant and not making a statement.  Oops.  On the plus side we did walk past a Hard Rock Cafe where KJ picked up a HRC Rome shirt.  We also walked past the American Embassy which brought up a few more questions from KJ.

Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) in Palazzo Barberini which is a Bernini designed fountain.  Appears to be under restoration.  Maybe we'll see it the next time we're in Rome.
Next up is our continuation of Italy's UNESCO World Heritage Sites with the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain).  The world famous fountain (Wiki link) was completed in 1762 and earned its name from being at the junction of three roads (tre vie) per the Wiki link.  Another great WH Site, this was an amazing masterpiece.  When my buddy Steve went to Rome they went back to see the fountain which I thought was odd. Well Steve, now I understand.   As you can guess we'll be back here later in the week as the thick afternoon crowds make good views of the fountain almost impossible.

This was another of the amazing sights in Rome and was one of my favourite sights on the trip.

Neptune and his horses showing the two moods of the sea, calm and wild.  The rough rock fountain combined with the refined Palladian building backdrop was a surprising visual contrast that worked amazingly well together.  Throw in some statues since we are in Italy and it's MAGNIFICO!   

The Temple of Hadrian (Wiki link) which was built in 145 AD.  All that's left is this wall.

Next up was the Pantheon but there was a service in progress which meant we had to postpone this for another day.  We'll be back.
Our final stop of the day was Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Wiki link), a Dominican church that was built between 1280 and 1370 per the link.  This is the only church with a Gothic interior in Rome so I wanted to see it.  Plus there's a Michelangelo sculpture, body of a saint, and some Lippi frescoes inside but we're in Rome so those last three aren't that rare.
The plain facade with elephant and obelisk.

View down the nave.

Just some side chapel dedicated to some bishop.  What amazing stonework and sculptures.  This is a third of the side chapel.

The altar.

The Tomb of Saint Catherine with her body is under the main altar.  Her head is in Sienna however.  Even creepy is kinda cool in Rome.

One third of a Pope's monument in an alcove.  There were so many of these magnificent monuments I just lost track after a few churches.

The main Pope's monument in the alcove.

The Chapel of St. Dominic.

Just another amazingly detailed sculpture.

The Tomb of Pope Leo X, one of the Medicis.

The Risen Christ by Michelangelo.

After a while the monuments start looking alike.  Then I see something like this Bernini funeral monument to somebody hanging off of a column and I think "I want to see more churches".

After the church was dinner at a poor place which started a bad couple of days of restaurant choices.  We liked our apartment for its central location for the attractions but it was pretty poor for restaurants.  After a couple days of hit or miss food places we started picking places with the Trip Advisor logo in the window and the food returned to its well deserved Italian reputation.  I guess since Rome is so big and so touristy the bad places have enough business to survive.  
Saturday Day 10 - Happy 14th Birthday KJ!  Our resident teenager moved one year closer to being a human today so we celebrated by bringing him to Rome.  He didn't complain about the present but also didn't accept it as his birthday present either.  Kalle did find something to complain about however.  Last year we went to the US on his birthday and this year we are going to Rome/Italy so she whined about how lucky he was.  So I told her that is because he is our favourite which led to a disgusted "Daaaadddd" followed by a disdainful sigh.  For some reason it didn't help when I told her I wasn't kidding.  Girls are so difficult.

Largo di Torre Argentina (Wiki link), more Roman Republic ruins which were by our apartment.  If you look in the back left of the ruins you can see that street level has risen about 12-15 feet in the last 2,000 years.  These ruins were discovered when they were excavating for some project so they preserved them as is.

Teatro Argentina, an opera house and theatre from 1731, is the white building in the background and is the site of Julius Caesar's assassination.

Chiesa del Gesu, a Jesuit church we'll come back to later.

Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, the monument to united Italy's first king Victor Emmanuel II.  You can read about it on Wiki here.  This was so huge we didn't bother walking around it.  If you look close you can see people on the steps and in front on the grass.

Close up that isn't really close up because if I was close up all I would do is break my neck trying to look straight up at everything.  The tourist literature says the Romans don't like it because it is obnoxiously large and part of Palatine Hill had to be destroyed to build it.  During our Colosseum tour the next day our guide told us they built it from white marble (in the early 1900's) to reflect how the ancient Romans built monuments then found out that the ancient Romans painted everything they built.  Oops.  Obviously politicians involved in that project. 

Trajan's Column (Wiki link), it commemorates the victory of Trajan over the Dacians. 

Column close up.  Nice detail for a column that was completed in 113 AD.
Obviously we are walking to our first destination today, or were walking to the bus stop that took us to our destination when we saw the bus we needed pull away before I could figure out if that was our bus or not.  Yup it was so we kept walking.  I will definitely pay for that later.  Since we are walking now we might as well walk past Ara Pacis (Wiki link) the 1st C altar to the Roman Goddess Peace.  On line travel forums rated this as expensive and not worth the money so we didn't go inside.  Plus she was only a minor goddess per KJ. 

View from the windows which is what the travel forums suggested to do.  No one really wanted to go inside anyway.

Reliefs on the altar, hard to tell from the pic but these people were about four feet tall.
We make it to Piazza del Popolo which was mostly uphill walking.  At least we are here now.

The nave of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, one of the plain 17th C twin churches on Piazza del Popolo.  This was one of the very few ho-hum churches we visited.

One of the fountains on Piazza del Popolo.

Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo (Wiki link), an Augustinian church.  Another church with awesome monuments. 

An obelisk between Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto.
Bernini also designed the Porta del Popolo although I liked his sculptures better than his gates.
Interesting skull and bones in the floor.

Looking down the nave.  Plain ceiling which was rare.

A plain side chapel.

The main altar.

A view looking across the church.

I didn't see any names but I was guessing this is St. Jerome and his lion.

Another amazing monument, this one with a lion and an eagle.  Both animals were common here but rarely on the same sculpture.

Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti, or The Spanish Steps (Wiki link) would more appropriately be named The Tourist Steps.  Maybe one of the more overrated stops in Rome thanks to the masses sitting on them or milling about obstructing the view.  We stopped for a couple of photos and then moved onto lunch.

Barcaccia, the sunken boat fountain by Pietro Bernini who is the father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Dana Johnson Pic - We found it Shirley!  BHC member Shirley's husband eats a gluten free diet like Lori so she told us about this place named Taverina Barberini which has gluten free pasta.  I tried the sampler which was good although some of the veg was soaked to a mushy consistency which I didn't like.  In a not so funny twist Lori opted not to try the pasta and instead have the sausage and beans dish she has had such good luck with and was disappointed.  The sauce was spicy and sausage had a different taste to it.  Should have had the pasta.
Next up was one of the "this is so unique we have to stop here" stops.  The Capuchin Crypt (Wiki link) is in the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini which more informally known as The Bone Church.  We've seen some creepy stuff on our travels but this may be the Heebee Geebee Award Winner.  You pay admission which is good for the average museum and the small but morbid crypt.  The crypt dates to the 1730's and was the work of a single monk although the history is a bit iffy as one source says one monk created the crypt while another source gives credit to another monk (per the pamphlet).  One fact not disputable is that the bones in the crypt are from almost 4,000 monks that were buried then exhumed when cemetery space became precious.  Very much a unique attraction that was worth the price of admission. 

Sarah Anderson Pic - Who would think to do this?

Sarah Anderson Pic - Yup those are skeletons.  I guess the connective tissue hadn't fully rotted away yet otherwise they'd be 206 pieces of jigsaw puzzle fun like the rest.

Sarah Anderson Pic - Okay, they said no pictures but how can't I take pictures here?  This place was equal parts revolting and fascinating.
So now its decision time.  I had planned on one more church then knocking off early but we were pretty well rested thanks to our relaxed pace so far so I suggested we metro out to the farthest church and hit another one or two churches as we work our way back.  Lori voted with me and the kids didn't have a vote so off we went.  The Roma Pass covers all transportation and the metro stops were closer than convenient so everything worked out for us.

We left the metro stop but I didn't see the church so I walked into a traffic island.  Yup, there it is.

Facade of Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno (Wiki link) which is the oldest church in Rome.  It was consecrated in 324 AD but the existing structure was damaged a few times over the years so its a jumble of renovations.  This was the Pope's main place of worship until the 14th C, is Rome's official cathedral and is the Pope's seat (cathedra) as Bishop of Rome.  All the info thanks to my Christmas present from Karl, a Lonely Planet pocket Rome book that I used throughout our trip.  Compact in size and concise in detail with maps, pictures, restaurants and itineraries included; it travelled in our backpack all over Rome.  Great present, thanks Karl!

The portico. 

And walking in looking down one of the four side corridors.  This place is as big on the inside as it looks on the outside.

One of God reaching out from His cloud.

A side chapel that is as big as the church I grew up in.  Okay not really but you get the idea.

Just another amazing sculpture.

Looking at the main altar and baldachin with apse to the right.  Baldachin and apse are you Words of the Week Auntie "B".

One of the walls in the transept.

Nice organ decorating the doorway.

Looking down the nave and one of the side corridors.  The main altar and baldachin are on the right.

Looking down one half of the cathedral keeping in mind that the apse and transepts are behind me so this isn't actually half of the whole building but only half of the nave/body of the cathedral.

St. Philip with his cross.  He was one of the Twelve Apostles.

St. Simon the Zealot, the patron saint of bucksaws.  Statues of the Twelve Apostles lined the nave.

The nave with the Apostles on the sides and altar under the baldachin in the distance.  Note all of the chairs, the Pope was making an appearance here the next day so our timing was pretty good I think.  It would have been neat to see the Pope in person but I don't think we would have even gotten close enough to see him however.

Ceiling artwork in a side chapel.

Tomb of Pope Leo XIII (Wiki link).

Pope Leo XIII with the apse to the right.  Beautiful mosaics, paintings, stone decorations, etc. in this area of the cathedral.

Even the geometric floor pattern was neat.  This is one of those block patterns that make the farther away blocks looks smaller than the closer ones even though they are all the same size.

Slight confusion as we walked out onto the piazza looking for the street that takes us to our next church.  After a few minutes of looking at the street names and not seeing them on the map we decided to start walking the other way as the road we wanted looked to be leading that way.

It starts sprinkling and then we get around the cathedral side and see the street and this obelisk.  Oh, this is the face of the church I guess.  I would say I misread our map but Lori agreed with me so we both can't be wrong.  At least we are on the right street now as the rain starts falling.

Dana Johnson Pic - Break time.  The rain has us almost soaked so we ducked into this cafe for drinks and a snack.  I opted for a cappuccino and tiramisu which was more of a cake but still good.
Our next stop was Basilica di San Clementine (official link), a 12th C basilica on top of a 4th C church on top of a 2nd C pagan temple on top of a 1st C building.  How can you not stop here?  Very interesting archaeological excavations with some info boards explaining what they found and how they determined the age of the different layers.  From the pamphlet since I wasn't supposed to take pictures:  Four meters below 12th C basilica level (which was 3-4 meters below modern day street level) is the mid 4th to early 5th C Christian basilica.  This level also was the upper floor of the Roman house.  On this level was the basilica narthex, three naves and apse which was abandoned when the 12th C basilica was built.  There were 9th and 10th C frescoes here as well as a modern mosaic that kind of turned me off.  The modern mosaic and altar took away from the history in my opinion.  From this level you descended a staircase to the 1st C house that was then used as a 2nd C temple to Mithras.  As we walked between the temple rooms and the building rooms we found a spring and quite a few smaller rooms that were unidentified.  Very neat place and worth a stop if you ever make it to Rome. 

In the cloister.  The rain had slowed down so we left the cafe and the sun had come out by the time we reached the basilica.

Sarah Anderson Pic - I took this picture of the basilica before I saw the No Pictures sign.  Sorry.
Sarah Anderson Pic - A 2,000+ year old spring emptying to a modern day tunnel.  We'll see where this spring connects to the Colosseum tomorrow.
Sarah Anderson Pic - I did take one picture to show the impressive Roman construction.  Herringbone stone floor with layers of thin stone blocks, diamond shaped stone, thin stone block, and large stone block walls supporting a large stone block arch.  Hard to believe that the Roman construction has lasted 2,000 years in so many places then you tour a place like this and see it and say "oh, now I get it".  The walls are straight vertically, the room corners are square, the block seams are all offset, even the masonry joints are all still full of mortar.  Such impressive workmanship.

After our walk through time we passed by more ruins and the Colosseum on our way to the final church of the day.

The Colosseum from the hill next to it.  We'll be there tomorrow.

Our final church was Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (Wiki link) or St. Peter in Chains.  The claim to fame of this church is they have the chains St. Peter wore before his crucifixion.  Not sure how they can prove that but if you need more doubt they also claim the chains magically linked together after his death.  And another Michelangelo <yawn>. 

View down the nave towards the main altar.

Monuments along the wall.

Monument with a picture of St. Peter being visited by an angel.

Oh yeah, this is Michelangelo's Moses and it's AWESOME!  It had a railing around the sculpture and a second barrier further back.  Quite a few monuments or mosaics in Italy have a light system where you feed coins into a box to shine lights on the monuments/mosaics.  This was the only one on our trip where as soon as the lights turned off someone else was feeding the box.  This is actually the Tomb of Pope Julius II.

Moses with Rachel and Lea.  If Leonardo didn't design the flying wings Michelangelo would be my favourite TMNT.

St. Peter's chains.

Close up of Moses.  The horns are intentional, Michelangelo made this sculpture based off of Vulgate per Wiki.

Fresco of St. Peter leaving his cell and waking up his jailers.

St. Peter's chains, altar, baldachin and more great paintings.

Odd winged skeletal reaper monument.

The crowd and lights are always a give away to the popular spots.

Not sure you can have too many pictures of the Colosseum so here's one more.  Note the rain is gone and we'll have great weather the rest of the trip.
Stretch Goal Time!  We walked past Basilica di S. Andrea Della Valle (St. Andrew of the Valley) so I stepped inside for "a couple of pictures".  Karl foolishly kept walking while smart Lori stopped the train and brought everyone inside.  You can about it on this interesting link.  For the non-link readers St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and introduced Peter to Jesus.  Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before becoming one of Jesus' first Apostles.  This basilica is the seat of the Theatines.

Looking down the nave.

A side altar.

Side altar scene related to Andrew's arrest if I remember correctly.

Main altar area.  Behind the altar is scenes of Andrew being arrested then crucified on the X then buried.

Looking at the entrance door.  This is yet another beautiful church that doesn't show up on any of the travel sites Top Places to Visit in Rome because it is "just average" by Rome standards.

Dana Johnson Pic - Karl's birthday meal was at a local place.  I had thick spaghetti noodles with cheese, Kalle had cannoli filled with cheese, Lori had pasta cups in tomato sauce, and Karl had spaghetti carbonara.  Average meal for Lori and I while the kids liked theirs.

Dana Johnson Pic - Gelato in lieu of cake.  Fair trade off I think.
Random Rome street pic.

Sunday Day 11 - Ancient Rome day.  Today was scheduled to explore Ancient Rome and the Capitaline Museums.  We woke a tad earlier than usual on the trip so we could be at the Colosseum (yet another World Heritage Site) when it opened to beat the crowds.  Plus I had scheduled an underground and third tier tour through Pierecci per Karl's request so I wanted to make sure we were inside the Colosseum (Wiki link) with time to spare.  My plan ended up working great as there is about five people in line when it opened at 8:30.  We freely walked around for 45 minutes and saw as much as we wanted which was a nice change.  If you want to see the Colosseum go at opening time when most people are still waking up.

Info board on the Flavian Amphitheatre.  Note the foundations are 14 metres (46 feet) deep in the ground.  Also interesting was that the 70,000 seat capacity amphitheatre shows were free but had numbered seating based on Rome's class system.

In the outer ring on the ground floor.

From the second tier.  You just stand here and look around and your brain kinda shuts down.  It is so massive and so impressive that I couldn't even imagine what it looked like it its prime.  I had an even harder time trying to figure out how they built it.  Obviously the work of slaves but even still.  How far away did they have to go to accumulate all of the building materials?

It was a tad brisk in the early morning but seeing this without the sardine can tourist crowds was priceless.  The balcony with red railing was the floor level.  The floor was wooden with a series of trap doors to be able to hoist people and animals onto the "stage" at multiple places as part of the showmanship.  It was also covered in sand so that blood would be absorbed and not make the stage slick.

Gladiator info board.

The Arco di Constantine from the Colosseum.  We'll check that out later.

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, we'll be there later as well.

The stage from the second level which would have been the middle class citizens (working man) of Rome. 

It's tour time now so we start on the stage where she tells us about the history of the Colosseum and the battles.  She was quite knowledgeable and interesting.

What the combatants would have seen except the top tier has been partially removed by the Roman conquerors for other construction projects.  The Visigoths were not impressed by the Colosseum and ended up plundering it.

There was a maze of passageways underneath the stage to move the combatants and props around so they could be raised onto the stage at different locations. There were human fights (gladiators, slaves, enemies, group battles, etc.), animals fights (lions, tigers, bears, wolves, deer, boar, exotic animals), human vs. animal fights and even sea battles where they flooded the stage so ships could battle.  It was also used for executions (by people or by animal) and public burnings.  The men being burned wore tunics soaked in a flammable liquid to help them put on a better "show" as they burned.  Not a real pleasant history here.

It didn't say how many trap doors there were but one of the main corridors had twenty trap doors in it.  The Romans were all about putting on a good show.

There were four main entrances into the Colosseum that were used for entry and exit.  This was the loser's exit which often meant being carried out.  One of the other entrances was reserved for senators and other such important people and was ornately decorated per the guide.

Looking down from the stage at the underground doorways and passages.

Roman square doorway construction with wedged blocks in the middle of the doorway.  I did not see any lintels in the ancient Roman buildings.

Looking down one of the underground passages.  Per our guide the white stone is how the underground would have looked in ancient Roman times.  Apparently they didn't paint the places that no one saw which may have led to the white marble Victor Emmanuel II monument mistake.

Remember the spring from San Clementine?  This is one of the Colosseum waterways that connect to that spring.  This was also how they would flood the amphitheatre for water shows.

Looking down one of the underground passageways.

Four post base of one of the hoists.  The raising and lowering of the cages to the stage was as much work as the show was per our guide.  All shows were planned and synchronised so this had its own production below the stage.  I couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like in this dark underground as people and animals were shuttled up to their likely doom while 70,000 people are cheering and roaring overhead.  

We are up on the third tier now.  The people are filtering in so I was pretty happy that we showed up early.

The important people were on the first tier.  The lower class people and women were on the third tier while the middle class was on the second tier.  See the arches to the left and stone slabs in the middle?  Those slabs used to be open and were used as skylights.  The light would shine in through the arches, through the skylights and into the second tier seating. 
There was a skylight for each arch. 

View of Arco di Constantine and ancient Rome from third tier.  The foundations on the grass were the foundations for Nero's house.  The Colosseum's name derived from the 120 foot tall colossal statue of Nero outside his house.

Looking out from the cheap seats.

The stage from above.  You can see a few people on the platform which gives you a little idea of the size of this place.

Artistic interpretation of the Colosseum in its day.  The bronze colossal statue of Nero is on the right.  There was also a red cover that could be moved into place during inclement weather.

A 2,000 year old stadium with three tiered seating for 70,000 people, a removable cover, a stage with trap doors from below, an underground maze of passageways to transport people/animals/props out of sight of the spectators, the means to flood the stage, skylights to allow sun into enclosed spaces, a seating numbering system - if this isn't the engineering marvel of all time I want to see what is.  It was the kind of place you walk in and say "wow, that's big" then go on the tour and think "that's incredible".  So far ahead of its time. 

A Colosseum history info board.

This very much had the feel of an American football stadium once it filled with people.
After the Colosseum we walked past the Arch of Constantine (Wiki link), the triumphal arch built in the early 4th C to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 per Wiki.

Relief of Hadrian hunting on the left.

Final shot of the Colosseum from the outside.
We had a snack lunch at a place picked more for its location than its rating and it tasted like it.  Stale bread and rubbery eggs was not a good combination.  After the poor lunch was the Forum Romanum or Roman Forum (Plaza) which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It took us three tries to find the entrance, we actually walked by it twice.  The good news was the lack of a line for our Roma Passes so we buzzed right in.  You can read about it on Wiki here.  By now its warm and sunny in the afternoon which was a nice change for us.  Or was until we walked most of the Forum and the Whiners started their motors.  At least there are water fountains around Rome and in here so we followed Rick Steves' advice and brought a water bottle with us that we kept drinking and refilling throughout our stay.  Overall we were disappointed here.  Lots of crumbly ruins to see.  Fortunately we could move through at our preferred pace which was rabbit-being-chased fast.  Lots of great sights to see in Rome but this wasn't one of them in all four of our opinions. 

Info board.  Not only was this the heart of ancient Rome it was also the setting for historical events such as the Rape of the Sabine Women.

Looking at the Temple of Saturn on the left (columns with connecting top member), the Arch of Septimus Severus (Wiki link) in the middle and a bunch of scaffolding covering up the Lapis Niger (Black Stone).  The Lapis Niger (Wiki link) predates the Forum and is supposed to cover Romulus's grave so I really wanted to see it but apparently no one can see it right now.  Figures. 

A bunch of rocks pretty much sums up my view of the Forum.

The Temple of Antonius on the left.

The House of Vestals which was the home of the Vestal Virgins (Wiki link).  The Vestals were physically perfect girls between the ages of six and ten that were selected for thirty years service.  Once their service ended they were allowed to marry and have families but most did not start families.  It was an honour to be selected but if they lost their virginity during their service they would be buried alive and their lover would be flogged to death. 

Looking at the Imperial Palace complex on Palatine Hill from the House of Vestals.

Statue in the house with the round Temple of Romulus in the background. 

Fresco inside the Tempio di Romolo (Temple of Romulus).

Arco di Tito (Arch of Titus) was the inspiration for Napoleon to built the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  It was built in 82 AD to commemorate Titus' victory over Jerusalem which we learned about in Jerusalem as Titus was who destroyed the Second Temple effectively ending the Jewish revolt.

Jewish slaves would not walk under this arch because of what it stood for.

View of Arch of Titus and Colosseum from Palatine Hill (Wiki link).

The huge Basilica of Maxentius (Wiki link) was the largest building in the Forum and was built in the early 4th C.
After walking through Palatine Hill for a while and being thoroughly unimpressed we came upon The Romulean Huts.  Romulus and Remus are the twin brothers in the founding of Rome myth that were found by the she wolf Lupa who suckled them to keep them alive.  The brothers grow up, quarrel on where to found their new city, Romulus kills Remus, founds his new city named Rome on Palatine Hill in 753 BC, and the rest is history.

Thought to be the place where the shepherd Faustulus raises the twins after he find them in the cave where the she wolf was suckling them.

The outside of the Romulean Huts with the House of Livia.  Karl is into Roman and Greek mythology/history so he told me about Livia.  You have to read about her here.

Interesting mixture of Roman construction.  Stones haphazardly mortared together with a typically fine Roman tunnel underneath.  I am guessing the tunnel was put in after the wall but am not sure. 
See the height of the stack?  Remember that for the next picture.
The Domus Flavia or residence of the Flavian line of emperors that you read about at the Flavian Amphitheater.  Although this is ruins now I thought it was quite impressive when you read about how it was actually two stories tall.  You are looking at about half of the footprint so double this for the footprint.  Now raise it up to the height of the stack in the previous picture and remember this was constructed 2,000 years ago.  This area included reception rooms, living rooms, and a peristyle (a bonus word for you Auntie "B").

It's getting warmer and the Whiner's motors are hot to the touch but we walk to the stadium anyway.  I'm thinking stadium, maybe a small athletics type arena?  Maybe the precursor to the amphitheatre even?  Nope it just remains of the royal garden.  So here it is.  Not impressed.  
So after taking a shade break we pass the ruins once more as we walk to the Capitoline Museums.  Yup, still looks like rubble.
The Musei Capitolini or Capitaline Museums (Wiki link) were the last item for the day.  They date to 1471 and are the world's oldest national museums.  The museums had a lot of fine sculptures but the paintings were only okay.  In an odd twist the docents in the sculpture areas allowed pictures while no pictures were allowed in the paintings areas.  Especially odd since the museums are advertised as no pictures but that doesn't mean a whole lot in Rome. 

The Capitoline Wolf, a statue of Lupa suckling Remus and Romulus outside the museums.
The copy of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza del Campidoglio.  Michelangelo designed the piazza.
Equestrian bronze Marcus Aurelius from 175 AD which used to be outside in the piazza.  This was moved inside to preserve it while a copy was put outside.

Painting of San Sebastian.
Brief museum break for an early supper or late lunch which depends on if you count the bad snack we had between the Colosseum and Roman Forum as a meal or not.  Probably shouldn't count it as it was pretty bad.  So we ate another very good Italian food meal (note 95% of our meals were Italian meals as we like eating local food on our travels) but I won't bother with pictures as you've seen a lot of those from me already.  Sorry Dana.

This unknown soldier was impressive.  I liked his boot tops.  Lion heads - FIERCE!

Another statue we see so much I don't know if anyone knows where the original sculpture is.  This is Venus caught coming out of her bath or something like that.

The Dying Gaul, one of the finer pieces here.

This was odd, a child playfully wearing a man's head.  The man's beard is in the boy's right hand and the face is looking skyward.  Very creepy.

We met an American lady from Maryland in front of this massive statue (probably twelve foot tall standing) and talked with her for a while.  It was a tad awkward when she said she had originally planned on doing this trip with her mother but then she got sick so the lady came anyway.  Lori was being kind and said something about being able to tell her mother about the trip when she returned to the US when the lady said her mother had actually died.  Cue awkward moment of silence.  

Overlooking Roman Forum from museums.

Interesting stone work on display.

Side view of the historically inaccurate Victor Emmanuel II Monument.  It looks even bigger close up as you can see from the people walking along its base.

I wonder why McDonald's doesn't sell mayonnaise in the US.  The mayo-ketchup combo next to it sounds just as appetising.

View down our street.  Time to rest the dogs.  It was kind of a tiring day so we didn't look at Circus Maximus (chariot racing grounds) or the Imperial Forums.  The Forums are just more ruins so I don't think we missed much there.
Monday Day 12 - Our rest day.  We walked a lot yesterday so the plan was to take it easy.  Our first stop was back to the Trevi Fountain to see it without the crowds.

We arrived before the fountain turned on.  It was just as spectacular the second time as the first.  Lori and Kalle are on the left for a size comparison.

Portrait view of pool, fountain and backdrop.

And the water starts.

Last few minutes of drooling over it.   

Coffee Italian style or standing up at the counter.  Some places charged more if you sat at a table and since we were after a caffeine jolt instead of a foot rest we stood at the counter.
After drinking our European sized coffee/latte/cappuccinos we moseyed on to the Pantheon (Wiki link).  We tried stopping earlier in the week but it was closed for mass so now it was open.  It technically has been the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyrs (St. Mary and the Martyrs) since the 7th C but I think everyone knows it as the Pantheon.  Add this to the list of amazing Roman architecture.  It is almost 2,000 years old and is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome using a coffered design to lighten the load.  The height from the floor to the oculus is the same as the diameter of the interior circle.  The floor has drainage holes for the water coming through the oculus and also slopes to the walls where there are larger drainage holes.  An earlier structure was here but this version was built in 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian.  And the dome design has been copied more times than I can count.  Factoring in age and wow factor this and the Colosseum have to be the two big guns in Rome and they are both deserving of world wide acclaim although I liked this slightly better than the Colosseum.  And this is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I've lost count on how many WH Sites we visited in Italy. 

The morning light ready to illuminate the interior for us.  Thanks sun!

Nice doorway.  We've seen a lot in the last 18+ months so we've become hard to please tourists but there were quite a few places in Rome that we just walked into and said "WOW".   This was one.

The famous coffered dome with oculus.  I remember watching Angels & Demons as a way of previewing our Rome trip and they were in here at one point but it didn't even compare.  I may have to watch it again now that we've been to Rome.

I'm not sure I have any descriptions left.  I'll just say everything is awesome. 
Tall shot of entrance. It's awesome.

Tomb of Victor Emanuel II (first king of Italy).  Tomb in here, massive monument by ancient Rome - little excessive don't you think Italy?

Main altar area.

TMNT Raphael's Tomb.

Tomb of King Humbert I (second king of Italy) and Margherita Savoia.  Margherita's affinity for cheese and tomato sauce pizza led to it being called a margherita pizza.
Thanks to KJ's Lonely Planet guide book we squeezed in a stretch goal church on the way to Piazza Navona.  Chiesa di San Liugi dei Francesi (Church St. Louis of the French) which is Rome's French national church houses three Caravaggio paintings.  By the way, we are walking around Centro Storico or Historic Center of Rome now which is also designated as a World Heritage Site. 

The facade.

Looking down the nave.

I liked the opera box overlooking the altar.  Seating for the King and Queen of France?

Main entry doors, organ, and cherubs eternally holding up the balcony.

Caravaggio's The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

Caravaggio's The Call of St. Matthew (on left) and Matthew and the Angel. 
After our brief stop was Piazza Navona.  Boromini's Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone (Church of St. Agnes in Agony) was closed this day which was a bummer as we could have seen St. Agnes' skull.  You can read about the church on Wiki here.  We could see Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) though.  The fountain (Wiki link) represents the "four major rivers of the four continents through which papal authority had spread: the Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Gagnes representing Asia, and the Rio de la Plata representing the Americas."  As with a lot of Bernini's works this was funded by Pope Innocent X.

Bernini's fountain with Boromini's church behind it.

The other two rivers.

The fountain with the Egyptian obelisk on top.
Between Piazza Navona and Campo de' Fiori was this tiny church.  It was pretty nice but not worth more than one picture.

Monk Giordano Bruno (Wiki link) was burned at the stake in 1600 here for his Copernican like views.  It's best not to anger the Roman Inquisition I guess.

Camp de' Fiori is a market by day and pub by night.  The market was packed and we tried some fruit cups which were pretty good.  We didn't bother coming back at night to check out the pub set up.
It's lunch time so we navigated our way to Da Francesco on Piazza del Fico which was recommended by Steve so we gave it a go.  The food was very good and we discussed coming back for supper but we weren't in the neighbourhood.  Great suggestion Steve!

Kevin Coleman Pic - Another house blond that was good.

Dana Johnson Pic - Their take on tagliatelle carbonara which was very good.  Everyone chose pasta and enjoyed their meals.
So now it's decision time.  We were going to follow the Steve Frey plan for tomorrow which was St. Peter's first thing in the morning then the Vatican Museums in the afternoon but we had a couple of variables in the equation now.  One - the day's weather was great again while tomorrow's forecast was rain all day which reminded us to much of Venice.  Two - We had to be out of our apartment by 11 AM the next day so needed someplace to store our luggage if we were gone all day.  We had to leave it in apartment lobby which meant it was accessible to the other people on our three room floor.  Not exactly a great option as we had purchased some Murano glass in Venice so we were planning on bringing that bag with us wherever we went just in case it looked to tempting to someone.  Our afternoon was free as I had San Clementine and San Giovanni in Laterno on the itinerary but since we moved those up on the list we had some free time.  Decision?  Let's head up to the Vatican and squeeze in as much as we can today.  And we're off!   
Vatican City was one place we all wanted to see with St. Peter's Basilica (World Heritage Site), the Vatican Museums (World Heritage Site), and St. Peter's Square (designed by Bernini).  Lori and I watched the election of the new Pope and saw the pictures of the throng of people backed almost all the way to the Tiber River so were curious how it would look in person.  We are also visiting the world's largest church in the world's smallest country - that sounds kind of odd doesn't it?

St Peter's Square and Basilica.  Beautiful day to enjoy the sights.

One side of Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square) colonnades.  Here's the Wiki link for the square.

The security line was five people deep so we opted to see the basilica first.  Listed as the world's biggest church I can see what they mean.  If you look close you can see the ant sized people walking up to the entrance.

View of the square from the basilica steps.  The obelisk was used as a turning point for chariot races in Nero's reign but has since been moved to its current location.

You don't walk into the middle of the church, you walk into a side corridor and this is what you see.  It may take us a while to get through this monstrous church.

TMNT Michelangelo's La Pieta.  It's behind a bullet proof glass wall and the pile of tourists.  You have to work your way up to the front of the tourist mob like you're at a rock concert trying to reach the stage in order to get a picture of La Pieta.  Per my guide book he sculpted this as a little known 25 year old and is the only work he ever signed. 

The monuments are nice here as well.  This is for Christina, Queen of Sweden.

Another Pope monument.
The group in the middle of the church.  This church is living up to its enormous reputation.  This may not make sense to you but this church is so big it doesn't register how big it is compared to other places we have toured.  I'm just in awe of it.
Since we are in April it's time for a new Facial Hair of the Month.  This month's winner is the William Shakespeare who died in April of 1616.  Hard to see on the picture below but Shakespeare is thoroughly impressed by the church.

Will thinks thye baldachineth is quiteth impressiveth.  Almoste breathtakingeth in facteth.  Or something like that.  I never did understand Shakespeare. 

I think this is the left transept.

I love the Pope monuments that wave at you.  Hi-yAAA Pope!  (You have to had lived in England to get that last greeting reference.) 

Prayer chapel off to a side.  Kal is loving the church.
The doorway decorations in Versailles were incredible but don't compare to these. How do you describe this?
Bernini's 29 meter (or 29 yards for the American football fans) tall baldachin which is made from bronze taken from the Pantheon.  Wow.  The papal altar is above the site of St. Peter's grave.
I used a Rick Steves' trick later and eavesdropped on a guide explaining to his group that Bernini was a "good" Catholic and when he completed his work he placed his rosary beads in a box at the top of the baldachin.  Not sure if the guide meant to imply it or not but Bernini liked to have a good time and enjoyed the ladies per a show I saw on him a few months ago.

13th C bronze St. Peter was very popular.

St Longinus (Wiki link) who pierced Jesus in the side while he was on the cross.  I had to look him up online as I didn't recognise his name.

I'm pretty turned around by now so I am not even sure where this picture was taken.  I've been in shopping malls smaller than this church.

St. Helen (Wiki link) was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great.  We learned about her in Jerusalem.  Constantine is the emperor who converted the Romans to Christianity and his mother Helen travelled to Jerusalem and "found" the cross Jesus was crucified on hence the cross above.

Bernini's Cattedra di San Pietro and throne of St. Peter (the wooden chair in the middle).

Saint Veronica (Wiki link) with her veil used by Jesus to wipe his brow while carrying his cross along the Via Dolorosa.  I'm not sure which were more impressive, the papal monuments/tombs or saint statues.

St. Andrew who we learned about a few days ago.
After trying to wander around the church for a while and follow some sort of pattern so we don't miss anything we come across the Vatican Grotto.  The grotto is the final resting place of many popes and has both plain and decorative tombs although they were much smaller than the tombs above.  There is also the entrance to the ridiciously ornate Tomb of St. Peter which is now a room that houses St. Peter's tomb and is thought to be part of the original 4th C church but it is only open for guided tours on certain days so we weren't able to tour it.  There was also some of the massive original church columns in there but no pictures allowed so I didn't take any nor did any of the other tourists.  After touring the grotto we popped out by the gift shop and briefly browsed it.  The gift shop was right next to the cupola line so we decided to climb the cupola now.  When we walked into the church initially the cupola line was down the hallway, around the corner, outside the Grand Atrium doors, and down the ramp.  Now it was only a fraction of that size and we only stood in line for 12 minutes.  So far so good.  A lot of people told us we would be standing in line for hours but we'll take 12 minutes anytime.  

Halfway up the cupola looking down to the floor.

The dome interior.

Very odd stairs.  The higher you climb the more slanted they become.  I'm holding the camera level now and we are almost at the top.

The famous key hole shaped Piazza San Pietro.  Brilliant!  Right about now we are glad we climbed this today instead of during a rainy day.

Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of Angels) was built by Hadrian as his family mausoleum and was later used as a castle and fortress by the Popes and is now a museum.  (Wiki link here.)  This was one of the stretch goals we didn't get to in Rome.

Looking down at the Vatican Museums, our next stop.

Extreme and repeated personal space violations up here.  I've been at the front of the stage during rock concerts in my youth where I had more room.   

After looking around a bit we started down.  Here we are on the roof level looking up at the cupola where we just were looking out over Vatican City.  The size of this place is still amazing me.

Another papal monument.

We finished off the church by walking around and seeing the rest of the church.  I think this was looking towards one of the transepts.

The doorway to the basilica treasury and museum.  We didn't check them out.

This list of popes was interesting.  Now I know why there are so many papal monuments in Rome.  There's a lot of dead Popes!

Thanks to the same tour guide from before I found out this was Bernini's last work (and is the Monument to Alexander VII if I remember correctly). 

Looking up at the baldachin and cupola.

From the main altar looking toward the main entrance.

Floor decoration.

Altar area with bronze St. Peter on the right.

Random sideways glance in St. Peter's Basilica.  So many amazing pictures in here I really had a hard time choosing what to post. 

Looking down the nave towards main altar.

Okay, if you insist, here's one more doorway decoration.

The Grand Atrium.
So the plan is working good so far (basilica - check, cupola - check) so we walked around the corner which actually means about three-quarters of a mile walk to the Vatican Museums to find out the ticket office closes at 4 PM.  It's 4:02 on my watch.  Doh!  The plan was working so good up until now but foiled by a small detail I missed when planning the trip.  The Museums are open til 6 PM so I thought we'd have until 4:30 at least to buy tickets but nope.  So we turn around and start heading back to a bus stop and we'll be up tomorrow morning to fight the tour groups. 
We find a bus that goes kind of close to the apartment so we hop on and enjoy the ride to Via del Corso where we get off and wind our way to a Trip Advisor advertised ristorante.  Another fine Italian meal with a nice little rest and we are ready to walk back to the apartment.    

We walked past the Pantheon again because it's the Pantheon.  We stopped for a bit and discussed the sights we have seen on our adventures and how fortunate we are to be able to make all these fantastic trips.  What spurred the discussion was a bunch of kids playing around by this amazing architectural masterpiece and them seemingly not being aware of its existence.  We weren't sure if they were local kids and were used to the sights or if they were kids on vacation and just having fun.  Either way the perspective of a child and adult are so different. 
Since we were refreshed and had walked past a large Jesuit church a few times already we ducked our heads in on the way back to the apartment.  From Karl's guide book I saw this was the first Jesuit church in Rome and was the private residence of St. Ignatius Loyola for twelve years before his death but those rooms were not open while we were there.  But the church was.
Facade of Chiesa del Gesu or Church of the Jesuits (Wiki link).

The nave.

The large cross in this side chapel was new to us which was nice to see after four days in Rome.

Oh yeah, it also has the tomb of Ignatius Loyola.  On the ceiling above the tomb is the famous picture of Ignatius reaching up towards heaven.  Considering we had just come from St. Peter's I was still blown away by this tomb. This was easily one of the top tombs in Rome.

Tomb alcove in landscape view.

Tomb close up.  With the recent election of Pope Francis the Jesuits were in the news which is why this church caught my eye while I was thumbing through the guide book. 

Main altar.

Entry doors and ceiling with angels.
Now we are done done done and head back for the night.

Tuesday Day 13 - In hindsight it is probably better that we didn't make it into the museums on the previous day as our feet were pretty tired by then. Plus we were able to look around at a relaxed pace and even buy some post cards and mail them from the Vatican Post Office like a bunch of excited tourists on Tuesday.  And the weather forecast punked us as the all day rain turned into another sunny day without rain.  So we wake up, eat, pack the suitcases, drop them in the common area, and walk to the bus stop.  We arrived at the Musei Vaticani or Vatican Museums (official link) at 8:30 which meant we had a 30 minute wait in the line. 
Waiting for the museum to open.  Once the doors opened we moved quickly into the museum (took less than 15 minutes) so it wasn't as bad as all the Chicken Littles said it would be.  We spent less than an hour combined standing in lines for the Basilica, cupola and Vatican museums.  Not bad, not bad.
We were talking to my buddy Steve online the previous night and he tried waffling on us if it was worth a trip up in the morning to fight the tour groups and see the museums and he finally gave us an answer - do it.  You were right Steve, it was worth the trip.  The museums are full of sculptures, paintings in frames, wall paintings, painted wall maps, tapestries, you name it.  And they were mostly very good or great.  Even the knick knacke were neat to look at.  From the museums website - the museum started as a sculpture collection for Pope Julius II (1503-13).  Other following Popes collected art and added to Julius' sculptures until it eventually was opened to the public as a way to promote artwork to the masses.     
I forget what this sculpture was but I remember Doug and Tara mentioning it on their blog.  I'm sure they will remind me.

On top is a 2nd C AD statue of a woman reclining named Personification of Autumn.  Underneath is an undated funerary relief of parents sending off their young son on his journey to the Underworld. 
These was from one of the halls of sculptures.

The River God Arno reclining in the garden area.  This dates to the time of Hadrian.  Arno was the name of the river in Florence if you recall.

I knew we'd see these guys again.  Read below.
For the picture above. 

I liked the waves on this sculpture.

Sculpture menagerie.

Another popular sculpture from our travels although the name escapes me now.

Another coffered dome.

Egyptian area with statues and a purple marble bowl.  Of course the floor is all mosaics in here, simple coloured marble just isn't good enough for the Egyptians. 
A different mosaic area.
Looking down the tapestry halls.  The tour groups were a little annoying to navigate around but not bad overall.  They didn't stop us from seeing anything and we learned quickly to either step off to the side to let them pass if we wanted to see something or hustle past them when they were about to stop en masse to listen to their guide.

Sample tapestry.

The Massacre of the Innocents, when King Herod the Great learned about the birth of Jesus and had all male children under the age of three slaughtered.  This is from the early 1500's.

Sample ceiling pic.

Map of Etruria, or central Italy.
Looking down the map hall hallway with a tour group hot on our heels.  These hallways were the worst for navigating around the tour groups.
Map of Venice.
I'm coming Kal!  The sprinters would sometimes lose me as we squeezed through the bottleneck doorways into new rooms so they would check my location as they passed into the next room.
We've been in here for a while by now, probably as long as we normally spend in a typical museum but haven't seen the Raphael Rooms or Sistine Chapel yet.  We opted to follow the long route instead of short route but did skip a couple of rooms as we didn't want to spend all day here with our luggage somewhat exposed.  We finally arrived at the Stanze di Raffaelo or Rapheal Rooms (Wiki link) and they were excellent.  The rooms are four reception rooms painted by Raphael and his workshop for Pope Julius II.  You can read the Wiki link for history on the rooms and paintings as well as pictures of the paintings.  If you are in Rome just go see them.
From the Room of the Immaculate Conception, our introduction to the room sized paintings.

The Hall of Constantine, this room was a panorama scene that encompassed all four walls.  On the ceilings are these mini biblical scenes.  The impressiveness continues. 
Two walls of the room.
The School of Athens showing Plato and Aristotle.  This is the famous Raphael painting where he supposedly walked down to the Sistine Chapel, saw Michelangelo's work, and came back here to insert Michelangelo into this scene.  Michelangelo is sitting at the bottom of the steps leaning his elbow on the white block.  According to my guide book the second figure from the far right is Raphael and Plato's face is actually Da Vinci.
The Coronation of Charlemagne was on the wall opposite The School of Athens.

Fire in the Borgo, based on a fire in Rome in the mid 800's.  I loved these rooms.

After the Raphael Rooms was another walk through the contemporary art area where we saw a mini Thinker from Rodin, another odd Dali, and a bunch of funky shaped things I didn't understand.
We are finally at the Cappella Sistina or Sistine Chapel (Wiki link).  I'm not sure what to add other than it is another Rome stop that lives up to its world wide reputation.  No pictures allowed (they were really strict in here constantly repeating No Photos, No Photos) and I didn't even try to sneak one.  Possibly Michelangelo's masterpiece is the ceiling which took him four years to complete and represents nine scenes from the book of Genesis.  Twenty some years later Michelangelo painted Guidizio Universale (The Last Judgement) over a five year span on an end wall.  It depicts the souls of the dead being torn from their graves to face the wrath of God and created controversy because of the nude people so Pope Pius IV had some schlep paint fig leaves and loin clothes on the people.  This was just as good as the ceiling.  The surprise of the Sistine Chapel was the lack of people bumper car-ing each other as I've read on other peoples blogs.  We could walk wherever we wanted and had more than enough breathing space to enjoy the masterpieces.  Perfect ending to the museums.

Only we weren't done as we had to collect our backpack and bag of Murano glass so we did the LONG walk back to the cloak room.

Nice rooms to walk through but after the Sistine Chapel it's kind of like "<yawn> that's okay <yawn>".

I did like this stained glass of Madonna and Child.

The famous Vatican Museum double helix staircase.

After the museums we found a bus stop where one of the buses went by our place so we boarded the bus and waited for our stop.  Hmmm, looks like Palatine Hill.

Circo Massimo or Circus Maximus (Wiki link) was the Rome chariot racing stadium.  We missed it on our Ancient Rome day but I wasn't to bummed about it as the reviews are only so-so. 
Those sharp readers who have been to Rome are reading this and thinking Piazza Navona is between the Vatican and Ancient Rome not after.  Yes it is.  The less than excellent bus map doesn't make it clear which way the buses go so we should have gotten off at the Victor Emanuel II Monument and switched buses.  Instead we stayed on and jumped off at San Giovanni in Laterno as we were WAY past where we wanted to be and the bus wasn't turning around.  While Lori and I look at the map and try to read the microscopic bus numbers sharp eyed Karl spots our bus at the stop going the other way so we ran to it and boarded as its about to take off.  A handful of stops later we are getting off and walking to our apartment to pick up our luggage. 
We grab it and start off to Trastevere with the intention of grabbing lunch and seeing a final church on our way out of town.  We find a place to eat just off the tram on the way to the church so another successful plan executed!
Dana Johnson Pic - I had the lasagna which was only okay.  Certainly wasn't comparable to the homemade lasagna my grandmother used to make.

Dana Johnson Pic - Karl tried combining his two favourite meals - pizza and carbonara.  Apparently the idea sounds better in your head than on your plate.  He didn't like it.  The girls had calzones which were okay.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere (Wiki link), our final Rome stop.  It dates to the 3rd C but the current building is 12th C.  The bell tower and mosaic banner (above the statues) are both 12th C.

The main altar, baldachin and beautiful 12th C mosaics in the apse.

Apse mosaics close up.

12th C mosaic close up.  These were definitely worth the stop.

Another mosaic close up.  This was another feed the light box stop and I was out of change so I depended on others to light up the mosaics.

View down nave towards altar.
After finishing looking around the church we struggled off to a main street to find a taxi for the ride to our B&B by the airport which was about forty minutes southwest of Rome.  We were walking about ten minutes and almost to the main drag when a taxi pulled up and asked if we called for a radio taxi (means we called for a taxi).  I said no and was quite disappointed thinking he was looking for his fare when he stopped and opened the boot.  Yeah!  We're done fighting our luggage down the streets.  We pile in and relax for our ride to our B&B.  He was very personable and we had some interesting conversations on the drive.  For example - Italy's problem with illegal taxis is Italians driving a taxi without a taxi license as opposed to illegal immigrants driving taxis.  Italy does not have a government now and is having a lot of problems because of this.  The economy has stagnated as a result and most tourists are now foreigners as opposed to foreigners + Italians exploring their country.  Italians are also eating out less and taking taxis less which is hurting both industries.  We also discussed the Mafia, unions and local gangs.  I also find out that taxi drivers are independent business owners now and there is an organisation trying to unionise them under the organisation but the taxi drivers are fighting the move.  Quite the educational ride. 
Checking into the B&B Sleep and Fly Rome Airport in Fiumicino.  We pulled up thinking uh-oh, what kind of place will this be?

Our room, another questionable place on the outside but nice inside.  Only a ten minute ride from the terminals and a third of the price of the hotels on the airport grounds. 

The view from our window.  Kind of rough looking but turned out fine.
It is mid afternoon so I suggested we hang around the room and relax as the vacation has been long and everyone agreed.  This is after everyone shot down my lets-walk-20-minutes-to-the-beach balloon.  I made the mistake of saying it was relaxing to take an afternoon off and all the Whiners corrected me that relaxing is actually sitting on your butt all day and not leaving the hotel room.  My mistake.
For dinner we walked five minutes into the small town and found a restaurant that was Trip Advisor recommended but wasn't open until 7 PM so we went back to our room and parked it until 7.  We went back and all had good meals.  The best part was their one liter Heineken was only 7 Euro.  For that price I should have had two!  The place was named De La Ville if anyone finds themselves in Fiumicino Italy anytime soon.

Dana Johnson Pic - Pasta with broccoli and sausage which was okay.  Everyone else had okay meals as well.

Dana Johnson Pic - They had tiramisu on the menu but not in the kitchen so I settled for this cappuccino gelato core inside vanilla gelato sprinkled with sugar crystals.  Wow was this good. 
Our excellent tour of Italy is over so it's time for some sleep and an early flight to Barcelona.  One more stop in Barcelona before our Easter vacation is wrapped up.  See y'all in a few days to wrap up or trip and thanks for staying with us so far.
Thanks for listening,

No comments:

Post a Comment