Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Day 88-89: Rome

Ahh, Rome. I had been in the city before but didn't really get a chance to explore it, as I hadn't done in many of the places I saw on my tour of Europe in high school. We arrived late in Rome from Pisa by train and had some fun trying to find the hostel. Since it was a condo turned B&B, the signage wasn't quite the best. We took about 45 minutes to get there from the train station. Had it not been drizzling it would have been easier.

The first official day in Rome, day 88, started as many do. We had breakfast at the hostel after a good night's sleep. It was off to explore and see what we could in our time there. Our first stop, on the way to the Coliseum, was the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. It's a monument to fallen soldiers, in front of another national museum that we didn't visit. It was kind of a death trap to get this picture below! There's a really nice garden and grassy area in the middle of a roundabout in front of the building. Unfortunately Italian drivers are no nicer than Londoners, so running across streets is the only way you make it across. We walked around the monument and up a very large flight of stairs, where we got a good view of the Coliseum in the distance.

Onward we walked to the Coliseum. We ended up taking a guided tour through the building, which I am a giant fan of. Got a lot more information that way than if we had walked through ourselves. The tour guide was Italian, looked like a body builder, but was really informative. It's always interesting to learn more about ancient civilizations, and how brutal the Romans really were.

After the photo ops inside, our tour was over for the first half. There was an optional tour of the Palatine Hill that I hadn't seen before. Of course we were up for it. The tour guide was an American this time, and he knew a lot about the history of Rome. The stories he told were really interesting, especially those about Julius Caesar and his fall from power. Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill where the ruins stand, another fact I hadn't known. More photo ops around the ruins, then we headed out on a tour bus to see more of Rome.

Our next few stops after the Coliseum were all close together, luckily, but there was lots to see. We covered the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon within a couple of hours before supper. My favourite again was the Trevi. I could sit there and just listen to the crowds and the water all day. Luckily we're always on a tight schedule, so that doesn't happen. After supper, we headed back to see the fountain at night, another beautiful sight. I turned in early while everyone else decided to drink. Sleeping is just more important sometimes! 

The next day in Rome started a little later. I wasn't feeling the best, for a number of reasons, but some cheering up from the girls helped the day turn out better. Our first stop was the Mouth of Truth, from Roman Holiday, but those pictures are on another camera! It was really warm walking around but we still had the tour bus tickets luckily.  The plan for the day centered around the Vatican and it's museums. Three of us had already done the tour with school, so we decided to split and do the Basilica and climb the dome. I really wanted to go into the Basilica, though the other two girls with me weren't as fond of the idea. I like a good church every now and then, since this was one of the bigger and more important ones I figured I should go in. The line was long but quick since admission is free. It was interesting being in St. Peter's Square again when it was less crowded, since my previous visit had been on a day the Pope was giving an audience.

Following the Basilica and a bathroom break, we started our ascent to the cupola of St. Peter's. I was not prepared for the climb in the least. The first two hundred stairs were avoided by paying the extra euros for the elevator, but the other three hundred still had to be tackled. Because of the shape of the Dome, the walls are slanted, as seen below. I thought I was going to have a panic attack a couple of times, but managed to push through. The view was really great, even if the journey was a little creepy.

Following the cupola, we walked down and got some Vatican City souvenirs, rosary beads, and sent a postcard from the smallest country. We did some meandering around the square after that and got lunch. One of the girls knew of a market at the end of the entrance to the Vatican, so we wasted more time looking around. I found a really pretty silk scarf but didn't buy much else. Lots of nice jewelry but more than I wanted to pay for any of it. 

The rest of the day doesn't have any pictures! We met up with the rest of the group around 5:30 to get the last tour bus back to our area of the city. We ended up getting off at the Via Corso, the biggest shopping area in the city. Spent a couple of hours there browsing around and loving everything I saw. My favourites, Zara and Mango, got some of my hard earned money. By the time everything started to close, we realized it was 9 and then met up with the other girls for supper in the same area as the night before. This supper was a lot nicer, with candles at an outside table. I had delicious spaghetti, a great meal for a last night in Italy. We headed back around 11 to finish packing and get sleep before an early rise for our flight.

And that was Italy! Stay tuned for the second country of midterm break, and more updates very soon!

Til next time!

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