12.11.2011 - 12.11.2011
We woke up pretty early on Saturday morning so that we wouldn’t waste the day away. We met our friend Tess for breakfast. We went to a little cafe right near the hotel. It is the cafe that Tess always goes to because they have great pastries. I got a donut and it tasted kind of like fried dough. It was so delicious. I also got a Cappuccino, Italian style! It really didn’t taste that much different from the coffee in Spain, but I felt cooler drinking it while being in Italy. After breakfast we went to the next shop over where we got our lunch. I have to say, best sandwich I have ever eaten in my entire life. I got prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. The bread was a pizza crust cut in two halves. I was dying with deliciousness. It was also a really big sandwich (don’t worry I obviously finished it). We then made our way by bus to Vatican City!
The bus let us off right in front of St. Peter’s Square. We signed up for a 1:15 tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, and then we were free to go into St. Peter’s Basilica after. Right before our tour, however, we hit a little road bump. Story:
Kaitlyn needed to get money out of the ATM in order to pay for our tour because it needed to be paid in cash. We found an ATM right in St. Peter’s Square. Kaitlyn puts her card in and all of a sudden the screen goes blank and nothing is happening. We are standing there trying to push all the buttons to try to get her card out. Still nothing is happening. I am running around the bank trying to get in (I can’t read Italian and therefore had no idea it was closed on Saturday). I was trying to call a number for the bank, but again, my lack of Italian, I had no idea which number was correct. A lady got in line behind Kaitlyn and I went up to her and asked her if she knew English. She replied she knew a little and I explained that Kaitlyn’s card was stuck in the machine. As she walks towards the machine she takes something out of her pocket. She was an undercover police officer! Talk about lucky! She was trying to help us by calling the company, then she called over her supervisor, who was also undercover and two dressed police officers. Needless to say, people were now staring as two American girls are being surrounded by four Roma police officers. It was out of a movie. We continued with the hand gestures, tried speaking in english and spanish, but the language barrier was too much. I then remembered that I had downloaded a translator app for my iphone, and luckily I brought it with me that day. We were able to use the translator app to help communicate. It was now 1 o’clock and the tour started at 1:15 and Kaitlyn still didn’t have her card. We decided just to cancel her card and go on the tour of the Vatican.
We met our tour guide, who was an archeologist living in Rome, but was originally from Ireland. He was very knowledgable and the tour that was supposed to last three hours ended up lasting four and a half. He was awesome and it was so worth the 28 euro we spent to learn the history of Vatican city.
Vatican City is enclosed within a wall because it is technically its own country. In order to get in, you have to go through security, metal detectors and all. Once we got in, we got our head sets in order to hear what the tour guide was saying and we were off. The first place we went to was the Papal gardens. It was essentially just lawn, but it is where the Pope greets anyone who comes to visit him. We then made our way through the Vatican museum. The ceilings of the Vatican museum were incredible. Everything was so intricately decorated. We walked through a series of rooms with huge tapestries and statues. We then finally made it to the Sistine Chapel.
You walk into this giant room and you look up and there is the ceiling, famously painted by Michelangelo. We had been given a ton of information prior to going into the Sistine Chapel because you are not allowed to talk once inside. You are also not allowed to take pictures inside. Some people were taking pictures very discretely, but I thought there was something cool about not being able to take a picture. It is some place where you actually have to go in order to appreciate it and it was the first thing I was no allowed to take a picture of. Obviously the most famous of the paintings on the ceiling is of God and Adam, where God’s and Adam’s fingers are almost touching. It was definitely my favorite picture. It was very interesting because the tour guide told us that at the time that Michelangelo painted the ceiling, the renaissance artists had been dissecting human cadavers to learn about the body. In the picture with God and Adam, god is resting on what appears to be a human brain! I never would have picked up on the image of the brain had the tour guide not pointed it out. The ceiling took Michelangelo over four years to paint and did a severe number on his health. He had neck and back problems and had crippling headaches due to paint falling in his eyes. What also makes the Sistine Chapel so amazing is that it is Fresco art. That means that the dye from the paint is placed directly into plaster, so that the pigments stay there forever. The plaster only stays wet for about 60-90 minutes and then it is too dry to continue painting and if you mess up, you start all over again.
The other important painting in the Sistine Chapel is the one painted on the wall behind the altar. One of the Popes was able to persuade Michelangelo to come back and paint that wall, even though he vowed to never set foot in the Chapel ever again. What was cool about that painting was that it was one of the first optical illusions. Up close it looks like a normal painting, but take a few steps back and you can see that there is a skull (another clue to Michelangelo’s anatomy knowledge.) Furthermore, every person depicted in the pictures represents either a saint, an apostle or someone Michelangelo knew.
After leaving the Sistine Chapel, we saw the door where the new pope walks when elected to reach the tower where he greets the people. The last pope that was elected greeted over 5 million people in St. Peter’s Square. We then headed to St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the entire world. I walked in and was completely speechless at both the size of the church and the intricate detailing over every part of the walls, ceilings, floors, domes, everything, you name it. We walked around admiring everything and it was amazing. I then blessed myself with the water blessed by Pope Benedict XVI!!! It was sooo cool. There was a mass going on while we were in there, and we wanted to go but once you walked in (they had it all roped off, the church is so big that all the tourists were far enough away that it didn’t interrupt the mass) you were not allowed to leave and it would have taken too long. There are actually two altars within St. Peter’s because one of them is strictly for use only by the Pope. The size and decorations of St. Peter’s was magnificent and was very cool to see.
By this time it was almost six o’clock and we were meeting Tess and her parents for dinner soon. I had not seen the Colosseum yet, and I really wanted to see it at night so we headed over in that direction. It was unreal. There was a full moon and there were no tourists around. And it is huge! I do not understand how they built it. It was first constructed in 72 ad! There were no cranes or anything, they literally lifted all the blocks with their own bare hands. I complain when I have to roll my duffle bag from the airport, and they built giant structures.
After seeing the Colosseum, we went and met Tess and her parents and walked across the river to a little restaurant. We went to a restaurant called i deu cicione, which translated is called the two fat men. It was literally food cooked out of this Italian man’s kitchen. The bathroom was his bathroom, he had laundry in the washing machine. It was crazy. We sat down and the food started coming. First off, it was unlimited wine. Even though I don’t really like wine, I felt pretty cool drinking Italian wine with dinner (You would think I would be over feeling cool that I can drink wine at dinner when I go out to eat, but it just doesn’t get old for me). First course was delicious bread topped with chopped tomatoes and olive oil, squash, and beans. Second course was three different types of pasta: one with red sauce, one with parmesan and peppers, and one was carbonarra. I liked the one with parmesan and pepper the best because it was a little spicy and I love white sauce. After that came pork and chicken. Finally we had cookies and dark chocolate truffles, the dark chocolate truffles were amazing and I took four of them home with me. We then had lemon chello, which is a typical European after dinner sipping shot and some other type of grape vine shot which tasted horrible. We sat at the restaurant for a while talking with Tess and her parents and then we headed back to the hotel, where I was so ready for bed because we had a big day following. Finally going to see the Colosseum!