Thursday, July 28, 2011

When in Rome...

After just about having a heart attack during check out from Venice when they tried to charge me triple the price as they’d inadvertently given me a private room rather than a dorm bed, made it to Rome without any problems and got all checked into my hostel, though I did get a lecture from the manager for being late which was news to me. Set off to explore for a bit and pretty soon found the beautiful Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the ruins of the Roman Forum. Also spent some time trying to decide which was more terrifying; drivers in Rome or cyclists in Amsterdam :s
Headed out early next morning to beat the crowds and found my way to the Colosseum which is pretty amazing. Spent the rest of the morning ambling amongst the ancient ruins on Palantine hill which include the Roman Forum and the site of a very early hut dwelling civilization. After than headed back towards the main part of town to check out a few of the beautiful piazzas which mostly all have fountains by Bernini or Egyptian obelisks and of course, lots of cafes and restaurants. Found the Spanish Steps and sat their for a while watching the rose sellers annoying tourists. In the evening joined a free walking tour led by a very enthusiastic Italian lady which gave a lot of background to all the places I’d been visiting as well as taking us inside the amazing St Ignatius church, the interior of which is covered in the most amazing paintings.
Up early again the next day and headed to the Vatican. Joined up with a tour which was good as the museums are packed so full of beautiful artworks that I would never have been able to take it all in on my own. Say lots and lots of sculptures and beautifully decorated room including the long corridor leading to the Sistine chapel, the roof of which is covered in paintings in gilt frames. The Sistine chapel itself is, of course amazing and so full of little details that you could probably spend months in there trying to see everything. Had a look around the Basilica which is very ornate (I still like St Paul’s in London better) and saw the tomb of Pope John Paul II. The current Pope is out at his holiday home which I guess explains why all the tour guides were saying it was pretty quiet (though if that was quiet I don’t want to know what busy is like). Hid from the rain in the nearby Castel St Angelo which is the Pope’s hideaway if Rome is attacked and has also served as an armoury, a tomb and a hiding place for precious art from all over the country during the war. Its now has exhibitions combining all of these aspects of its history as well as fantastic views of the city from the top. Did a bit more wandering and had a lovely (but slightly dripped on) dinner just off Piazza Navona before finally giving in and heading back to the hostel to escape the downpour.
Luckily woke up to sunshine again this morning so headed out of town to the Apian Way, the ancient road in and out of the city. Was so nice once I got past the cars to have escaped the crowds and insane drivers in the city that I spent most of the day just wandering along enjoying the solitude. The road in littered with ancient ruins and marble statues and frescoes. Visited the fascinating Catacombs of St Sebastian (and if you guys think I can talk you should have heard the guide there. The tour went for 35 minutes and I don’t think he once stopped for breath :P). The catacombs are 7 miles long with around 100 000 graves including the crypt of St Sebastian, though his actual remains and the relics of his martyrdom are now housed directly above in the church. Also saw the tomb of Cecilia Metella, though you’d swear it was more of a fortress, which also held a lot of the marble statues found during road works in the area.
Finished off my stay in Rome by checking out a few of the churches around the city, all of which are beautifully decorated and filled with artworks by some of Italy’s most famous artists. Then went for a stroll through the huge park overlooking the city at Villa Borghese and finally had a final slice of pizza at Trevi Fountain. Back on the trains tomorrow, off to Pisa and then Florence to look at more nudie statues :P

Trevi Fountain, my favourite place in Rome
St Ignatius

Inside the Vatican Museums
On the Apian Way

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