Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italy part 4 - Rome (Roma)

We got into Rome that evening, found the hotel, then went to get some gelato before bed. :-)

Friday morning, we had our last tour. We saw an Egyptian pillar from 600 BC – I was amazed that we were looking at something that was older than the time of Christ, closer to the time when Isaiah was alive & prophesying… it truly was mind-boggling to me! We went to the Pantheon, which was built in the second century AD as a pagan temple, then in the 4th century, during Constantine’s rule when Christianity was made the official religion of Rome, it was turned into a church. Our tour ended at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. St. Peter’s is HUGE. Lots of marble & gold everywhere. You almost get desensitized to the ornate beauty over there. We went below the basilica, where the past popes are all memorialized, & also down there are the remains of Peter. PETER – who walked with Jesus, betrayed Him, died for Him. I still am in awe of it. It makes that time & those people seem so much more REAL when you are there – these people & stories you have heard of in church for years, you start to see more clearly when you walk where they walked, & see where they lie. It’s hard to explain but I was really moved by seeing some of the things we did.

We then went to the Vatican, which is basically a huge museum full of marble, crazy detailed architecture, & painted ceilings. The Sistine Chapel is at the end. It was pretty, but after seeing all the world-renowned buildings & art we had already seen, I wasn’t super impressed. My parents & my sister were staying a few days longer in Rome, so they took the subway back to the hotel to relax, but Josh & I like to go full-force so we can see & do all we can, so we walked back, going through the Piazza Navona (where Josh bought his Murano glass, finally), back by the Pantheon, stopping for gelato & checking out the front of an old temple, tossing coins over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, then stopping for a cappuccino & espresso (for 1.80 Euro!) then at a market on the way back. Josh got some blue cheese & I got a couple chocolates (the guy behind the counter did not speak English, so it was funny seeing Josh try to tell him how much cheese he wanted). We would have loved to have had more time to relax, go into markets & buy cheese & fruit for a meal, etc. Next time, next time.

Saturday was a busy day, since it was our last day there & there is SO MUCH to see in Rome. We headed to ancient Rome & started out in the Roman ruins. Again, one of those experiences I can’t really put into words. I love seeing old ruins, imagining what it used to look like, who used to walk around there. Then we went inside the Colosseum. Again, imagining what it was like when it was being used… it was a solemn experience as well, knowing there were Christians killed there in between Jesus’ time & the time of Constantine in the 300's. Seeing all of this was really an experience unlike any other in my life.

After a lunch break, we headed up to a church that contained chains that held Peter. I’m sure you’re getting tired of me saying this, but you’ll hear it again – just in awe. I had heard about a prison where Peter & Paul were held at separate times, but we had yet to hear about it in Rome or see it on a map, so Josh tried hard to find out where it was, & once we had an idea we set out. After asking a couple other Italians for help, fighting the language barrier, & taking a gelato break (you probably see this happened a lot), we finally found it. We went down below the earth, into a dark room where Paul & Peter had been imprisoned. I could’ve stayed down there a while, soaking it all in. But instead, we headed out, & viewed the Santa Maria Maggiore, a massive church, then took the subway up to the Piazza di Spagna, then walked to the Spanish Steps, where we met my family before dinner. I didn’t get the big deal with the Spanish Steps… there were about a million & a half people there & they were just… steps. Probably pretty if there are only about 25 people there. After dinner we had gelato one last time before we headed out to the airport the next morning.

Summary of Rome: I think since we had just come from Florence, which was more small-town, countryside Italy, we were a little disappointed being in big, busy, industrialized Rome, but the more I look back, we really saw some amazing things, & I did enjoy the city. There is so much more we could have seen too, so I would like to go back if the opportunity presented itself.

The Pantheon - it still has the original doors that weigh 2 tons each, & only take one person to open them

The Roman ruins, with the Coliseum in the background

Peter's chains

The memorial for Peter & Paul down where they were imprisoned - note the upside-down cross

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