Giorno Due di Roma: Il Vaticano e Colleso
The second day started off rather leisurely with breakfast in the hotel of a croissant with Nutella and coffee. We assembled our group and walked to another country, Vatican City. The Vatican is its own sovereign nation within Italy. This is a relatively short walk through central Rome across the Tiber River.
NOTE: The walk will take about 20 minutes.
We waited in the line for the entrance to the Vatican Museum to open. It was free admission, so the line was rather long wrapping around the 30 foot walls to the Vatican. Once the museum opened, the line moved rather quickly. We walked in the entrance, cleared through security, and proceeded to see the exhibits.
Several Roman sculptures were lining a hallway which then led to an open area showing the gardens of the Vatican and the dome of St. Peter's Basilica just through a clearing in the trees. We continued through the several labyrinth rooms of the Vatican seeing several paintings, frescoes, and sculptures commissioned by the Catholic Church throughout the centuries.
Works painted and sculpted by all the great Renaissance artists was a never-ending thrill of the eyes. We saw the Laocoön, sculpted by Michelangelo. We also saw the School of Athens, painted by Raphael. The views from the windows of the Vatican allowed for some great photos of the Roman skyline. Continuing through the museum is culminated with the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chappell).
The Sistine Chappell has a few rules; no talking, no eating or drinking, and no photography. When you enter, you do not know where to begin. A multitude of things almost causes a mind explosion; just being in the room where Michelangelo was on scaffolding hundreds of years ago painting these ceilings, the millions of people who have passed through this Chappell, and the sheer beauty of the artwork. Regardless of whatever degree of spiritual belief some has, they have to be moved by being in this room.
We left the Museum in time to enter St. Peter’s Square and wait for Mass to begin. The square is packed with people from all around the world. We anticipated seeing the Pope delivering mass on the large screens then to our surprise, a balcony door opened, two individuals lowered the Papal drapery and Pope Benedict XVI emerged. Had you not been looking at the right balcony at the right moment, you would have missed this only to eventually look up once the crowd started cheering wildly.
The Pope delivered prayers in several languages, First Latin, then Italian, then French, English, German, Spanish, and two or three other languages. The Pope provided remarks on church business proceedings in different areas of the world. The speech lasted about fifteen minutes.
When the Pope was done, the drapery rose, and doors closed. People left the square relatively quickly. We had the rest of the day on our own to explore various sites of interest in Rome. I joined a smaller group that wanted to walk a little and then catch a taxi to the Colosseum.
NOTE: A taxi ride from St. Peter’s Square to the Colosseum will cost about 10 Euro, and you will be competing with others in this busy area. However; the walk would be about an hour. Bare this in mind when pacing yourself throughout the day.
We were dropped off outside of the Italian Immigrant Museum. This magnificent building has amazing sculptures of gladiators and chariot riders around the exterior.
NOTE: Most taxis cannot get very close to the ruins. However; there are taxi drivers that have special permits that can drive you closer than the masses can.
Walking down the street, my classmates and I walked past part of the ruins from the Roman Forum. We made our way to the Colosseum with a quick stoop at a gelato and panini street vendor truck.
NOTE: Paninis are considered street food. They are relatively inexpensive. You can get one and a drink for around 5 to 6 Euro.
The Colosseum has two lines, one for pre-purchased tours and then a line to buy tickets. Once you finally enter the parts you can walk through, tour are let to the top of the Colosseum and given a panoramic view down into the remains of the seating and also what still remains of the underground tunnels. Each view offers just a slightly different opportunity to notice something different; intact stairs from the original building exposed stone here, broken pillars that have been conveniently placed throughout to serve as a bench, and more. The marble that used to be on the Colosseum was removed and used when building St. Peter’s Basilica. As you descend the stairs making your way around the Colosseum, you also have great opportunities to take pictures of other ruins, and nice pictures of the Roman skyline from the opposite perspective of the Vatican. I particularly like taking a picture of the skyline and seeing a subtle Italian flag hanging from a building or one subtly waving in the light breeze.
NOTE: The Colosseum does night tours on certain nights of the week. You have to have a reservation, but they are well worth it. You get the added bonus of being taken down into the ruins that would have been under the stage if it were still intact.
Once we left the Colosseum, many us went back to the hotel to rest for a while before our first group dinner. We had dinner at a very nice restaurant in the Piazza Bruno and Basilica di Santa Maria (Basilica of Saint Mary), section of Rome.
NOTE: the Basilica of Saint Mary is the oldest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mother and is known for its mosaics. This section is comparable to the Greenwich Village section of New York City but far more Italian.
You can find hip young Italians (Young meaning 25 to 40 somethings), at many wine bars, enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, children playing in the Piazzas, and people walking their dogs. Dinner included antipasti of prosciutto (ham), various salamis, grilled vegetables, bread, and bruschetta with tomatoes, olive paste, garlic, and olive oil. Our pasta choice included a variation of carbonara in a rose sauce (a tomato sauce which I must say was phenomenal). For dessert we had our choice of a fruit salad or vanilla gelato with chocolate hazelnut sauce — so it was a really easy decision although we appreciated the healthy alterative. After dinner we walked through the neighborhoods, some students went to a wine bar, I went on yet another gelato excursion with some friends. This particular gelato shop was one the locals frequent.
NOTE: If you see Italians hanging outside a gelato shop, it isn’t one of the generic chain stores and is guaranteed to be better.
We got gelato with chocolate sauce that settles into a candy shell over the gelato. As we wandered the streets and piazzas I had time to reflect. Here I was walking the streets of Rome with my new classmates and friends around 10 p.m. Children still running around the square and people still out socializing, and I had an epiphany. In the U.S., we are so driven by our work lives. While in Rome and all of Italy for that matter, people are driven to enjoy life. You can see this on the smiles of the faces, the sounds of both the youth and elderly laughing or seeing a couple who have chosen a little nook to enjoy and intimate embrace.
Rome, the eternal city; has transformed me in a way I hope to bring back and instill in the students I work with. After a briefing at an organization called AACUPI ( Association of American College and University Programs in Italy), and a light lunch, we head to Florence where we will arrive at the Kent State campus and see the sights of Tuscany.
As I finish this blog I ponder back to throwing my coin in the Trevi Fountain, I know I will return to Rome. But for now, Ciao Roma!
— Ryan Geiger, graduate student