Saturday, June 9, 2007

Roma: Heaven to Hell in 5 miles

Vatican to the west and Coliseum to the east

After a good night sleep we shared another tour this time to Rome. It is not possible to see Rome in 7 hours, but we tried. Our guide allowed us to cut the mile long line to get into the Vatican and spend some time in St Peter’s. Am I supposed to feel guilty about cutting lines at Catholic HQ? I guess it’s true, the first shall be last and the last shall be first….as long as they have a good tour guide. (Whew, no lightning bolts, I always hoped God had a sense of humor as well.)

I was not prepared for the feel of awe and inspiration that overwhelmed me when we entered St. Peters. It is stunning. We definitely want to come back and explore the museum further. We had hoped to see the Sistine Chapel, but we were not sure it was going to happen. (no pics allowed there). Our guide also managed to get us a look inside as well. It’s hard to enjoy it as it is very crowded and the guards expect silence. Of course with 200 people packed in like sardines it doesn’t happen and every 5 minutes the guards clap and yell silence. It felt like kindergarten. Every painting at the Vatican is the live version of the ones in the old gilded bibles. All instantly recognizable. You can spend days in the Vatican Museum and still not see it all. Catholics do know how to put on a show.

From the Vatican we made our way over to the Pantheon. Originally rebuilt in its current form in 125AD, it was remodeled in the 2nd century. This building was significant because it was the first Roman temple to be open to the common people. You aren’t prepared for the size of the columns or how well preserved it is. Even though all of the marble fa├žade was seized by the Pope to front churches, the beauty of the structure still exists. It was saved as it was converted to a Catholic Church in the 7th century and still serves in that capacity today. It is the best example of a Roman Temple in existence today.

We all hopped back in to the van and took a ride over to the Trevi Fountain. It’s pretty and it’s famous and the history behind bringing water to the city with ancient technology is interesting, but it merits about 10 minutes of your time. This is what we gave it and then moved on to more important things………..LUNCH!

We went to traditional lunch spot for Roman office workers. It was Saturday so the restaurant was just happy to have customers. I must say again, Italians know how to do lunch. I’m getting used to this wine with every meal deal. There really is something different in the flavors. It could just be an expectation but everything tastes exceptionally flavorful, even if it is very basic.

We had a few hours left before we had to leave to make the hour drive back to the ship; (don’t want to be left behind!). Our driver took us to the Coliseum. There was a national ceremony earlier in the day, so we were happy it was open. Again with the brick, I never expected the coliseum to be made of brick. It’s an impressive structure considering when it was built. I’ve been to a lot of stadiums in my life and you can easily see the layout in this one and imagine the crowd flowing through the public spaces. It’s still hard to imagine a society with so little concern for human life, but who knows where we’ll be in another 300 years. Perhaps they started with Reality TV as well.


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