April 26, 2011

When in Rome: Easter Vacation (April 19th) Part 2

This past Easter I was able to visit Rome on vacation and I had an absolutely wonderful experience. I spent four days and five nights in Italy and was able to see so many unbelievable and breathtaking sights – things I never thought that I would ever be fortunate enough to see with my own eyes. I was also fortunate enough to meet a handful of really awesome travelers – people who I may never see again but will never forget! For blogging purposes, I’m going to break the adventure down into numerous installments so that I can include everything. This is the second part of my vacation, which includes the second day in Rome – a tour of Vatican city and Piazza Novona!

After a long night at the hostel bar on Monday night, Brenna and I were, surprisingly so, ready and energetic for another tourist worthy day on Tuesday. We weren’t 100% sure what we wanted to do but we knew that we were saving Naples and Pompei for Wednesday so we decided to go into the city and brave Vatican City. We were meeting our traveling friends, Tyler and Aimee, in the city at 6 pm so we had to fill our day up until then. (Remember, I mentioned meeting them in Munich on the train to Dachau back in February? Yeah, they were in the city just for the weekend but were studying abroad in Rome. So, it worked out that Brenna and I got to visit them in their city this time around. I love traveling!) Brenna and I wandered towards Vatican City without a plan and were harrassed by at least five men soliciting guided tours. Lucky for him (and for us), a really handsome blonde guy named Luca managed to rope us in and sold us a tour for 40 EUR. So we signed up, handed over our money, and waited almost two hours for the tour to start.

DSC09308View from where we waited in the courtyard

DSC09310Naked gypsy, sleeping on the steps. Classy.

DSC09311Still waiting!

If you’re in Rome and thinking about going to Vatican City, I highly recommend taking a guided tour. I know that it’s a lot of money but it was so worth it. We had this great tour guide named Eva who was a native Roman and explained everything – all the artwork in the museums, the statues, the significance of certain pieces and where they were before they reached the Vatican. She answered any and all questions that we had. I learned so much about the museums that I never would have known if Brenna and I had just breezed through it on our own. We learned about the Michaelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and how it depicts certain Bible stories, as well as the explanation behind Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgement. In every museum she explained the different pieces and why the different galleries were so significant. I can’t remember all the details but they were appreciated and worthy at the time so I’m really glad that we choose to go through with the tour. It was worth all the money and time that we spent on it. The tour of the Vatican and Vatican City itself were probably my favorite part about Rome. Maybe because I loved Angels & Demons so much but mostly because of the historical and religious significance of the Vatican. It’s so powerful – in the past and even today. I’m not Catholic or even very religious anymore but it’s really cool to be present in a place like that. I loved it!

Now, for a lot of pictures of artwork, statues, and other boring but totally cool Vatican stuff!

DSC09313The walls of Vatican City – it is the smallest country in the world!







DSC09381This ceiling is painted to look 3D. Fooled me!

DSC09384The longest museum in the Vatican with, arguably, the coolest ceiling.







You can’t take pictures inside of the Sistine Chapel so I don’t have any of those but it was absolutely breathtaking. Aside from the millions of tourists jam packed inside their and the anal retentive guards shushing you to be quiet, it was really cool. I want to get a poster of The Last Judgement for my future apartment. Now that I’ve actually seen it and understand it’s meaning (the second coming of Christ), I feel justified in actually having a print of it. Plus, it’s really cool.

michelangelo_-_fresco_of_the_last_judgementNot my picture but this is The Last Judgement.

After the Sistine Chapel we were released from the tour and Brenna and I wandered into St. Peter’s Basilica which is, without a doubt, the most stunning church I have ever seen. It beats any and every church in Munich. They also had St. Peter’s square and inside the basilica set up for the Pope’s appearance the following day so there were chairs everywhere but it didn’t take away from the ambiance or atmosphere. The church was breathtaking! We left the basilica and then wandered into St. Peter’s square where we tried to send a post card from the smallest country in the world but their “post office” was closed. So, instead we took pictures and tried to find memorable landmarks from the Angels and Demons plot.





DSC09457Holy water, anyone?



224724_1897293589368_1152450433_32057765_6580384_nIt’s not the right one (it was covered by chairs) but the West Ponente was the one from Angels & Demons.
This is North East. FAIL.

After leaving Vatican City, we walked to Castel Sant’Angelo (another landmark in Angels & Demons – I know, I’m so dorky!) and marveled at the beautiful bridges, river, buildings, and statues. Then we headed to the Pantheon to meet Tyler and Amiee and only got lost and frustrated with each other and our map like twelve times. Haha. On the way there, I had my first taste of Italian pizza and it was delicious. So simple yet so refined. It was ricotta cheese with cherry tomatoes. YUM.

DSC09474Castel Sant’Angelo is famous for it’s secret papal passageway which runs from the Castel back to the Vatican City palaces. It’s also an important part of the plot for Angels & Demons by Dan Brown.


We made it to the Pantheon and met Tyler and Aimee and their friend at 6 pm. The five of us then went for more gelato at Della Palma. I had four flavors that time but I can’t remember. I believe it was Kit Kat, sweet cream, mandarin orange, and raspberry. After that delicious detour, we wandered through the city and managed to find a delicious cannoli bakery. I’d been wanting a real Italian cannoli ever since we booked our flights so I was extremely happy to have found one. It was, without a doubt, the best cannoli I’ve ever tasted. It was absolutely perfect. From there we went to Piazza Novona where we found the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (or the Fountain of the Four Rivers) which is also important in the plot line of Angels & Demons. The rivers represented are the Niles, Danube, Ganges, and Plata. It was absolutely beautiful – the statues were incredible. The courtyard was full of artwork of all kinds – beautiful paintings and incredible artists. It was picturesque, to say the least. The day was fading away too, at that point, so it had the charm of twilight on its side. Piazza Novona was definitely a highlight of Rome. Afterwards, Tyler and Aimee took us to this little place they like to call the “cat sanctuary.” It’s just a site of ancient ruins where the stray cats of Rome like to hang out. And you know me, the cat lady of all cat ladies. I loved it! The cats are so cute and surprisingly clean for being strays. I wanted to take them all home. 



222846_1897294549392_1152450433_32057772_3262200_nMe, Tyler, Brenna, and Aimee at Piazza Novona



224174_1897308309736_1152450433_32057819_6434171_nMy favorite cat. He liked me, I think.

After we said good bye to Aimee and Tyler, we headed back to our hostel in Prima Porta. We bought a box of wine at Despar before and took it back with us. I believe Brenna drank more of it than I did that night but we definitely made good on Italian wine during our trip. We had bought bottles the night before as well and almost finished them both before we left on Friday morning. I wasn’t feeling very well by the time we got home so I tried to make it through a night at the bar but I couldn’t handle it and ended up going to bed early. Brenna stayed behind at the bar and made friends, two of them being Kait and Larissa who you will meet in the third installment of this vacation update. :)

215669_1897295029404_1152450433_32057777_7362986_nA happy German girl with her Italian beer. Delicious.


ifs ands butts said...

So glad to see the scaffolding is no long on the Pantheon! And also surprised to see the Vatican City looking just as packed as it was when I was there in July.

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