From the Roman Empire to Vatican City
Trip Start Mar 25, 2012
12Trip End May 01, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
So after my initial day of seeking out the hidden treasures of Rome, I spent my second day seeing its grandest ancient sights.
First up was one everyone should recognize.
The Colosseum was built in 80 A.D. and could accommodate 50,000
spectators hungry for violence. How such a vast structure was built so
long ago is unimaginable and the sight really does live up to the hype.
But a site even more impressive than the Colosseum is right next door.
Yes its a pile of ruins. But these are the ruins of what was once the center of the civilized world. It was ancient Rome's political, religious and commercial center. With the right guide book (or even better an audio guide) these piles of stone and brick allow you to visualize what Ceaser's Rome was like. It's moving stuff for a fan of history like me. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. You really begin to understand the grandeur of an empire that still affects our lives today.
Next I visited the Capitoline Museums. A collection of Art worth seeing on its own, but the temporary special exhibit was the real highlight.
I spent the rest of day two looking at some more of Rome's fantastic churches, but it was on Day 3 that I saw the grandest church of them all.
Technically Saint Peter's Basilica isn't in Rome. Vatican city was given autonomous status by Mussolini in exchange for support of his dictatorship in 1929. Of course, well before that, Rome was a member of the Papal states back when the Vatican had some serious power (political and military might, in addition to its religious authority).
St. Peters is indescribably huge. Truly awe inspiring. I think its safe to say it must be one of the
After spending an hour in the church, I walked around the corner to the Vatican Museums. Its highlight are the old papal apartments with beautiful Renaissance frescoes painted on the walls by Raphael. Oh, and also a relatively small room that packs a big punch. The Sistine Chapel. I spent about 30 minutes in the chapel and could probably have spent over an hour more. There are no words to describe its beauty, and because there are no photos allowed inside I would advise you to just google it. Although I imagine its image is familiar to just about everyone.
By the afternoon of my third full day in Rome, I was exhausted. The noise and congestion of the city was wearing me out, so I spent the majority of my afternoon and evening in the Borghese Gardens. Also I had a reservation to see what ended up being the greatest museum I have ever seen. The Borghese Gallery.
Its not a massive collection and it isn't particularly varied in its masterpieces, but what makes it so wonderful is the environment in which you view the art is so well executed. It its the former villa of a wealthy cardinal who had it built in the early 17th century.
As I said before, Rome is a hectic and crazy place. Its historical significance in the world is cemented and that creates an interesting atmosphere. New York City works hard to impress you with its size. Its tall buildings are imposing and makes you feel small in comparison. Rome on the other hand doesn't need to impress you. Its already content with what it is and once was. Rome's history is what makes you feel small here. You realize that for 2500 years people have been living here, eventually spreading out to rule the civilized world. As a city on the whole, it is crowded and chaotic and dirty. But its role in shaping the history of humanity makes this city of many layers absolutely worth the trip. Just maybe not as a first stop in Europe. If I could do it again, I would probably choose a city less intense to fly into.
Next up is the great birthplace of the Renaissance. The Tuscan city of Florence.
Note: I am a few days behind on posting some of these updates. Mainly due to the fact I am limited in time (and wifi) at the moment. But better late than never right?