15 February 2011

Livin' it up Roman style: Day 2

*warning: this posted ended up super long. so long that I didnt proof read at all. excuse any spelling/grammer mistakes.*

The second day involved even more walking than the first day. Seriously, at least 50 miles. Ok so maybe not 50, but a fair few of miles were walked. We started the day with our hostel breakfast which consisted of coffee, juice and a few croissants. We wanted an early start because we were off to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum. The last time I went to the Vatican, I waited in a queue something like 3 hours to get inside. Granted, this is February and before was June- peak travel time- but better be on the safe side than waste precious hours standing in a queue. We walked straight in. Off season is awesome.

Rhys has never been to Rome and the Vatican and Sistine Chapel were top on his list of things to do. He was not disappointed. How can you be when you are seeing things like this

And even in the midst of amazing sculpture, paintings and architecture, there is always time for humour.

Even when you are surrounded, wall to wall, with incredible paintings by Raphel (and the like)

and of course, no trip to the Vatican would be complete without the standard self picture.

After 4 hours in the Vatican we ventured over to St. Peter's square to have a look around inside the basilica and the tombs of the popes. breathtaking (the basilica, not the tombs)

Here Rhys is kneeling on the original slab of porphyry which the emperors used to kneel upon for their coronation. It dates back to the old basilica (around 319 AD) and it is thought that Constantine accepted his role as emperor on this very stone. As a side note I should say that is no way was this stone marked in the basilica. It pays to have a thorough and informative guide book. (Blue Guide all the way!!)

On our way our of the basilica we saw this cardinal. I am not sure if he is someone special or not, but how crazy that a) this building is still a functioning religious epi-center some thousand plus years after its first use and b) that he just walks around, in all his cardinal-y gear, like it is something normal and mundane. Notice the two buys in colourful gear in the background? they are the official guards of the Vatican and basilica. Swiss Guards. and their uniform has not been updated since the 1600's. hmmmm, never would have guessed ;)

After St. Peter's we decided to take a walk, enjoy the sunshine and just see where we ended up. We ended up in an ancient stadium, once able to hold 30,000 spectators. The center ring is surrounded by churches, market stalls, restaurants and housing. Exactly as it was when it was built in 86 AD. The Piazza Navona as it is called, was updated in the Middle Ages and used for festivals, jousting competitions and a market place. From the late 17 to early 19th centuries, the piazza was flooded every August as a party for the Roman people. Nice, huh. Aside from being a major tourist attraction, the Piazza Novona is home to the famous Christmas fair every November.

Remember the post before we left for Rome? I just picked a picture of a cafe off the Internet. But look! We ended up at the same cafe! yeah, it was pretty awesome.

After a nice pizza for lunch, our next stop was Fontana di Trevi. A fairly recent structure, the fountain was started in the 15th century but updated and most of what we can see today was built in the 18th century. Interestingly though, the water used to supply the fountain are those of the Acqua Vergine Antica which is an ancient aqueduct built almost entirely underground. The aqueduct, supplied from a spring 20k east of the city, was built by Agrippa to supply the bath in the Pantheon in 19 BC. Now that is old. The same aqueduct channels and spring are still used to supply the fountain with water even today.

As tradition goes, if you through a coin in over your shoulder it will ensure good luck and guarantee your return. Naturally we did as such. The coins are collected every Monday from the fountain and donated to Caritas- a church organisation which helps the poor of the city. Money well spent.
After the fountain we wandered around, eventually coming to Trinita dei Monti. The structure consists of a church, , twin bell towers, a convent and a double set of stairs numbering over 100. Begun by Louis XII in 1943, it was restored at the expense of Louis XVIII after damage caused by Napoleon and his occupation. The convent is still a functioning convent and there are plenty of nuns milling about. (can I say that about nuns?) Rhys and I decided to walk to the top of the stairs to get a view of the city from the top. However, before we could take in the view, we were distracted by a man who was clearly a member of the Italian mafia.

Seriously, you can not tell me that he doesn't look like something straight out of the Godfather. I was almost too afraid to take a picture, but it was simply too awesome to pass up.

As the sun was beginning to set, we found ourselves at the Piazza del Popolo. It was built in the 15th century as an entrance to Rome from the north. While that date is 'modern' compared to some of the ancient ruins left around the city, there is an obelisk (not pictured) which dates from the 12th century BC. 12 century BC. that is crazy old.

As an interesting side note, Queen Christina (often noted: Kristina) of Sweden made her entry into Rome through this very area in 1655, dressed as an amazon. For the sake of space (and most people's interest) I will not go into all the details here, but if you are the least bit interested in history, I would recommend reading about Queen Christian. She is the only not emperor, not religious person to be buried in St. Peter's. Look at that, another interesting fact. I am just full of them ;)

We finished the night off with a great dinner of gnocchi and wine at a very picturesque Italian cafe. We went to bet tired and sore from the massive amount of walking, but pleased to have another successful day under our belts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Kristina,
Your pictures are amazing, your history amazing and you're just so cute?! Loving Rome through your eyes.