Religion & Ruins - Roma!
Trip Start Aug 15, 2010
21Trip End Dec 03, 2010
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We stayed at The Yellow near the Roma Termini train station and it was fabulous. It was similar to our hostel in Interlaken - Balmers and was a really popular choice among young people. To get our hostel room, the receptionist had to get our passport info to register us with the Roman police - apparently this is just a safety precaution in case you get lost or are too crazy, but it made us wonder all the insanity that happens in Rome.
We woke up early Saturday morning and departed for Vatican City - the smallest nation in the world! We got lucky because the weekend we visited was Italy's historic weekend where all the museums were free, however Vatican City is not apart of Italy
The front door of the Vatican was just a taste of the impressiveness we were about to behold. On the left side of the door was a statue of Michelangelo, on the right side was a statue of Raphael, and in the middle was Mousellini's symbol. Once we entered the Vatican, after waiting in line for about an hour and a half (this was the shorter wait for tour groups, the regular wait is 3-4 hours) we got to drink from a fountain whose water is blessed by il Papa (the Pope) himself.
The first collection in the Vatican Museum was the Hall of Statues. It housed busts and many life-sized pieces. A cool fact about the statues is that although they appear white today, the were originally painted with many bright, garish colors. Also, they are composed of different pieces of other broken statues which is why they have different shades of white marble and look pieced together. We saw one statue that was Michelangelo's inspiration for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, specifically the iconic image of the Hand of God giving life to Adam. The statue, whose name escapes me, is just a middle portion of a man's body.
The ceilings of all the rooms in the Vatican are as impressive as the works they hold. I honestly did not know where to look. It was all really overwhelming.
We then entered the Hall of Tapestries which were lush and looked like paintings made out of silky threads/fabric. The ceiling of the Tapestry Hall was painted but done in a manner that provided depth so it appeared as if it were carved.
The next room we visited, my friend Bryan's favorite, was the Gallery of Maps
We then entered the Raphael Rooms, which were used to be the apartments of Pope Julius II. The Raphael Rooms consists of 4 rooms - Room of the Segnatua, Room of Heliodorus, Room of the Fire in the Borgo, and Room of Constantine. The most impressive piece we saw - and this was hard to determine as everything was so ornate and beautiful - was the "School of Athens". Raphael depicts Plato and Aristotle against an ancient architectural background which our guide told us probably symbolizes the new St.Peter's. Plato resembles Leonardo da Vinci. They are surrounded by many other philosophers. Raphael even put himself in the painting in the corner, a technique many Renaissance artists used.
We quickly walked through the Vatican's Museum of Modern art which was awesome and we saw a few Rodin pieces (I'm such a fan from seeing him so often) and some pretty controversial pieces as well. We then entered the Sistine Chapel where there was no photography allowed or talking, as the Italian guards were quick to remind everyone with a constant "shhh-ing". The Sistine Chapel was divine. The Chapel received its name from Pope Sixtus IV. It is used as the site of the Papal conclave today - the process where a new pope is selected
After leaving the Sistine Chapel and saying ciao to our hot Italian tour guide, we walked up 551 stairs to the top of St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter's has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and can seat 60,000 people! Historically evidence shows St. Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. The climb was 100% worth the effort, we had the most amazing view of Vatican City's limits as well as surrounding Rome. We could see how the entrance into the city connects to St. Peter's square and forms the shape of the key - an important biblical icon. The inside of St. Peter's was even more impressive. It's dome is the tallest dome in the world! Saturday mass was being held when we entered and if we got there a little earlier, we would have been able to attend.
That night we visited the Trevi Fountain and it was packed with tourists. The theme of the fountain is the taming of the waters and was actually paid for by the Pope's own personal money, not the money of the Vatican. Legend holds that if a visitor throws a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return trip to Rome. There is also a 3 coin legend that 2 coins will lead to a new romance and three will lead to a marriage or divorce (not sure why someone would want to wish for a divorce). Apparently almost 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day. I definitely contributed a little to that number during my stay in Rome.
Sunday, another action-packed day, we visited the Colosseum. It is actually in the shape of an oval, not a circle and is the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire. It was capable of seating 50,000 people. It was used for gladiatorial contests; A thumbs down meant the gladiator was killed, a sideways thumb meant the gladiator's life was spared. It was spooky to think about the tens of thousands of lives that were lost in that arena for human sport. Apparently it was also used for public executions, and two Saints (or some Roman Catholic higher up) were killed there. It was later used a s Church and crosses still stand in several points around the arena
After the Colosseum, we toured the Palatine Hill - one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands above the Roman Forum and on its other side is Circus Maximum. Neat fact I learned from the tour: Palatine is the etymological origin of the word palace in all languages. It was the site of the Emperor's palace whose ruins we saw. The entire palace was covered in marble back in the day and we saw remains of the floors and rubble of the walls.
We then walked through the Roman Forum, where daily life was conducted. The only full standing structures were the Churches, who people attempted to tear down back in the day but were unsuccessful because they were built so soundly with columns fully constructed out of marble instead of just being faced in them. We learned about the Vestral Virgins who maintained the sacred fire in the Roman Forum. They were the only female priests in the Roman religious system and served for 30 year terms. They had to remain chaste during this time but were very powerful, god-like. If they walked past a condemned man, he would be saved. They were granted many freedoms that only men had in their time.
Our last stop in our busy Roma weekend was the Pantheon, which means "to every god" in Greek. It was built as a temple to all the ancient Roman Gods, like the name illustrates, but is now used as a Roman Catholic Church
Rome was definitely not built in a day but we got to see a lot of it in two. Words cannot describe the weekend we had, and this really is the edited version because there was so much, but it was unbelievable. I truly feel more committed to my faith and am definitely going to come back (thank you Trevi Fountain!) with my mom for a pilgrimage someday.
Ciao for now!