After all that medieval goodness in Siena, we took the tracks down to Rome. Don’t get me wrong. I like Rome. It’s just big, crowded and very overwhelming. Rome is good for seeing the sites, then getting out of dodge. There is a lot to it, and of course we couldn’t see it all. Our Rick Steves’ guidebook was never far from our side. Two highlights of our time there were the areas near the forum and the Sistine Chapel, both of which were enhanced through Steves’ audio tour. We started out at the colosseum, and listened to his informative and funny narrative as we walked through, then continued our way through the ruins. I loved hearing the stories and seeing where so much history happened. I was standing at the place where modern civilization started and I was in awe.
At St. Peter’s Basilica, we saw magnificent pieces of artwork and went underground where we saw papal tombs. Above ground, we saw The Pieta.
Michaelangelo’s sculpture of Mary, holding Jesus’ body after he was crucified is heartbreaking. The way Jesus’s head is cradled in Mary’s arms and how his arm hangs limp bought tears to my eyes. Sadly, a crazed Austrailian geologist came in with a hammer in 1972 and began destroying it. Now the sculpture sits behind bullet-proof acrylic, where it will stay protected for years to come. After seeing the immense Basilica, we headed over to the Sistine Chapel. To see the Sistine Chapel, you buy tickets to the Vatican Museum and work your way through to the end, where, down an endless hallway you will find the chapel. Allow yourself plenty of time, because there are several rooms in the museum with beautiful artwork to look at, and the endlessly long, light and airy hallway that leads to the chapel is a piece of art itself. Lining part of the hallway are beautiful, colorful maps. Replicas of these maps can be bought at a gift shop nearby.
Once inside the chapel, I realized that this really should be the Eighth Wonder of the World. Words defy it’s beauty, precision and magnificence. So I’ll stop now and just say I could have stayed there for hours.
All I wished was for everyone else to leave so I could lie down on the floor, look up, and take it all in. But, the crowds were thick, people were being ushered through and a distractingly handsome guard was politely telling some teenagers to stop taking pictures. Every time I began to get lost in thought, I was startled back to reality by hordes of people.
After all this, Way, way, way above ground we saw Rome from a bird’s eye view. We did the dome climb. 551 steps above the earth, we could see it all.
At night, Rome is very nice, especially near the Pantheon neighborhood. The air is electric, the streets are crowded with shoppers, diners, and tourists and it’s fun. We sat outside at a cafe and drank wine in front of the Pantheon, and marveled at this magnificent structure. In fact, during our whole trip to Italy, we only ate or drank inside on a few occasions, and it was usually at breakfast. We dined al fresco, soaking up the sultry Italian air.
One night, we went to a restaurant that was recommended in our Rick Steves’ guide. Yes, they had hustlers outside, trying to entice people to come in. We took the bait, and it did not disappoint. It was good, and we had tables that faced the crowded street in the open air. The place was called Ciccia Bomba, I got a kick out of watching the hustler try to get people to come in and dine.
You’ve got to have a thick skin with all the people declining what you have to offer. We sat down and a waiter came up and started talking to us. He noticed our guidebook and proceeded to tell us a story. He said a while back, a group of people were eating and he heard some commotion coming from their table. He thought that something was wrong, and that they did not like their meal. He went over to their table to check on things. Well, apparently the commotion was cause for excitement. The group was ooing and aahhing over just how good the food was. A man in the group introduced himself as Rick Steves. The waiter introduced himself and then Rick Steves said his name again. Again, the waiter, not knowing who Rick Steves was said his own name again. Finally, Rick Steves held up his own guidebook, pointed to his face and the guidebook and the waiter finally made the connection. Sure enough, the restaurant was included in a subsequent edition.
So yes, there is a lot to Rome. With all the history, dining, shopping, churches and museums, it’s a lot to take in. Oh Rome. Should you find your way into this lovely city, make sure to give yourself extra time and plan accordingly. This is one city that warrants sticking to a tight schedule.