Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rome - Day 2

One of the greatest outfits I packed for this trip was a long Maxi dress. Our second day in Rome was the absolute perfect day to wear it. Not only was it important that our legs be covered, since it was the Vatican day, but the gentle breezes and airy fabric was exactly what I needed to combat the heavy hot air (NOTE: this was the end of August, and so it was actually starting to cool down from the peak of the summer--I would have died in the street had we gone in July or the beginning of August).

(By the way, I haven't mentioned this, but I took all of these photographs with my dinky iPhone 5 . . . didn't even have to cart around another camera!)

We first stopped in for breakfast at the Hotel breakfast (BTW, the foods that European hotels offer for breakfast are much better than the breakfasts that American hotels offer) and I think I had some toast with Jelly, a small croissant cheat, and lots of orange juice. From there, we hurried to the Metro (like I said, we quickly found the easy accesses for the Metro at Termini and no longer had to ask for directions) and got on the right train headed for Vatican City. For those who may or may not know, Vatican City is in fact, a whole separate city-state inside of Rome. The Pope is the "President" and not only makes all the religious decisions for the Roman Catholic church, but all of the governmental decisions for Vatican City as well. There are also a small number of people who live there, under the governmental rule of the church.

Anyway, when we got there (after a few blocks of walking), we were immediately ushered into the Vatican Museum, which was where we began. Rooms upon rooms of paintings and tapestries made up this extensive, but yet only a percentage of the Vatican's collection of art. It was impressive to say the least. There was even one room that Mandy and I stopped in, sat down, and then just looked at the paintings. We remarked about how sad it was that the Catholic church had such a limited understanding of Jesus Christ and the order of his church. Perhaps we are ignorant, but we even began to see similarities between the pagan beliefs of Imperial Rome or Ancient Greece and the setup of the Catholic church. People who pray to patron saints, instead of to their Heavenly Father, perhaps in the belief that they are maybe unworthy to speak to their God, or maybe in the hopes that someone else can help answer their prayers, I don't know. But we went through, and I actually found that my own testimony of Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, was strengthened immensely because I knew how blessed I was in my knowledge of how the Lord communicates with us.

Aside from the religious nature of the art, the actual beauty of the paintings and sculptures is exquisite. And the Vatican does an amazing job of preserving all of it. 

Now, the most impressive part: When we finished with the museum section of the Vatican (by the way, we still didn't see everything--it's that big), we began to be herded down a long hallway. Each room of this hallway seemed to be bigger and more impressive than the previous. The arches, the domes, the ceilings! Don't even ask me to describe them, because it would be nearly impossible.

And then finally, we were in the Sistine Chapel. Now, the Sistine Chapel, like the Catacombs, is still a sacred place to the Catholic faith, so pictures were not allowed. It was also supposed to be a place of stillness and silence (which, the ushers had a difficult time maintaining). Mandy and I made our way to one of the side walls and just sat down in silence to look. It was small, but it was impressive. I'd, again, watched documentaries and studied up on the Sistine Chapel, and it was amazing to see the things I'd learned about in person. The fact that Michelangelo felt so inadequate himself, that he painted himself as a skinned form (skinned, as in, skin pealed away from a body) hanging from another's fingertips on the far wall in The Final Judgement. To see the bishops who'd been antagonistic towards the sculptor (Michelangelo saw himself as first and foremost a sculptor, and not a painter) that he painted one of them in Hell with a snake eating his . . . ahem . . . stuff. And then the showcase, was the ceiling. It was art. It was intimidating. It was grand.

Afterwards, we made our way out and into St. Peter's Basilica. If there's anything that the Catholic's aspire to and they succeed with 100% accuracy, it's their ability to build edifices that intimidate you and force you to feel small and humble compared with the power of God and the church. St. Peter's does exactly that:

The whole place just dwarfs you. One of the neat things we were able to experience while we were there was a live church service. The voice of the priest's Italian/Latin rang through the gigantic building and really put me there. It was again, another feeling of, "I can't believe I'm in Rome."

We finished Vatican City with some time in St. Peter's Square around the obelisk that's believed to have been within sight-distance from where the apostle Peter was crucified upside down. 

We then went and got lunch at one of the many restaurants along the street outside of Vatican City. The hosts and hostesses stand outside and practically pull you in. The place we decided on was small, and yes, she did drag us in:) But the food was delicious! Pasta all'arrabbiata (angry pasta) and boiled greens. Who says that Italian food needs to have cheese?

We then walked to Castel Sant Angelo, the building formerly known as Emperor Hadrian's Mausoleum, the Pope's fort, the Pope's home, and now is known for the Pope's vision of seeing a protective angel atop it's walls. It's also the setting of a famous Puccini opera. Can anyone guess?? :)

It was large, it was in charge, and it had a wonderful view of Rome. The statues were beautiful, and the breeze on top was SO nice.

Where does the Pope sleep?
"In the woods. Wait . . . no, that's the joke answer."

We started to make our way to the Piazza Navona (again, getting lost for a short time--which was probably our third time in two days, but again, totally worth it!). On the way there, we stopped and did probably two of the best things on the trip.

1-We stopped in to this small glass bead shop. We greeted the owner in Italian, and I like to think that we must have said it pretty well because he started to ramble on in Italian with a giant smile on his face. My smile froze on my lips as I squeaked out, "Parle Inglese?" He laughed and said, "Ah! Yes, I do." He not only gave us a demonstration, but also flirted us up. I mean, look at us . . . who wouldn't?

2-Then, just around the corner, it was like a miracle . . . a VEGAN gelato shop! Mama wanna go back for more right now. It was delicious. In fact, Mandy liked it so much, she admitted that the vegan gelato was better than the regular gelato. Vegans for the win!

We also made up our minds to first go to the Pantheon (Pan- meaning MANY, and Theon- meaning GODS). It's still used as a functional building to this day. Even after the Roman Empire, even after the Crusades, even after the middle ages, and even after many wars. It still stands.

Out in the Piazza, a woman was playing the accordion, which set the mood perfectly. I couldn't help but give her a couple euros. I loved it!

The Pantheon jumped out at us like a whale in a puddle as we rounded the corner. It was fantastic! And yes, there is an actual hole in the ceiling. Rain falls through, the floor is slanted to the edges, and the water runs off!

Then, there was the Piazza. I wish I had all the photos (Mandy!) but while we were there, Mandy chatted up one of the local Italian Painters. Dude's lived the quintessential Italian Painter's life. Forbidden love affair, celebrities in cafes, a love child, poor living conditions in an Italian apartment above a cafe . . . not to mention that his paintings were beautiful! Wish I'd had the good mind to buy one of his paintings like Mandy did. It was such a neat experience!

And . . . yes . . . we went back for more gelato.
At the end of the day, we got dinner at a small restaurant near our hotel that had the most amazing bruschetta I've ever had. Tomatoes in Italy are the way tomatoes are supposed to be. I don't know if they use magic, or if it's just the un-molested growth process, but man . . . I died and went to food heaven.

Check out the other photos from the day!!

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