Wednesday, October 11
OH, NO! Weíre in the final stages of getting ready to leave for the airport, and I walked by the TV only to see scenes of a burning building in New York. A small plane has crashed into a building . . . visions of increased security or even worse flash through my head. We leave for the airport before they figure out what has really happened in NYC.
Nothing more at the airport, but clearly this isnít a major incident, since security is very quick and easy. They ask to look at my Humira (self-injectible medication), but only a quick look and Iím through.
Glacier in the Alps
Thursday, October 12
Itís a comfortable flight, Air France is nice. I actually got some sleep, and so did Bill. I canít say the same for Alitalia, that plane is very old but Paris to Rome is a short hop, with some nice views of the Alps.
Weíre in Rome! After checking into the hotel, weíre off for a short walk to the Spanish Steps. The place to see and be seen in Rome, apparently. Our hotel is in an excellent location, walking distance to almost everything weíll want to see. 5 minutes from the Spanish Steps, maybe 10 to the Trevi Fountain, and only 2 blocks to the Via Venetto.
A gelato on the way back to the hotel, and weíre both ready for an early bedtime. We have an early start in the morning.
Double Helix Stairway
Friday, October 13, 2006
Our tour guide meets us at the hotel at 7:45 AM, and when we get to the Vatican Museum we can see why! there is already a big line to get in, 30 minutes before the door opens. Our guide tells us that the line usually grows to about 2 hours by 10 AM.
This museum is HUGE. We are only able to walk through a very small part of it, even though we spend the whole morning there. They no longer use the main entrance, but have built another one which can handle the 20,000 to 25,000 people a day that they often see here.
The old entrance had a set of circular stairs which are no longer used (there is an escalator now), a double helix with a ramp for going up, and a second ramp for going down.
The terrace overlooks the Vatican gardens, and has a view of St. Peter's in the distance.
No space here to describe the museum, except to say there are huge collections of every type of art imaginable. We spent hours just walking through it, before arriving at the Sistine Chapel. While the ceiling certainly is impressive, what really impressed me were the crowds. You couldn't take a step without pushing someone out of the way, and everyone (for some reason, :) ) was looking up and not at the other people moving around them. I could have spent a lot longer looking at the ceiling and walls, but the crowd got to me and I had to leave.
JP II's tomb
Our guide noticed that there was no line to visit the crypts, so we ducked down there on our way into St. Peterís. There wasnít much of a line for the dome, either, but I opted out on that one. Way too many stairs. It really wasnít bad going down into the crypt. We walked by several popeís tombs, many of them quite elaborate. I saw a crowd of people off to the side, kneeling on the marble floor and praying, and I knew we had come to John Paul IIís tomb. Itís a very simple slab of marble. I did manage to get a quick photo before they hurried us past. You can only stop behind the rope.
St. Peter's Dome
We came up into St. Peterís right under the statue of St. Andrew. It is such a vast area that even though there were lots and lots of people there, it didnít seem crowded. We walked around, looked up at the dome Ė even with an elevator to take you up part of the way, no way would I have made it up there! Ė and stopped by Michangeloís Pieta on the way out.
They were clearly setting up for Mass in the Square. After asking around, one of us was allowed to approach the Swiss Guard. I went up, asked what was happening, and he gave me tickets to the event on Sunday, which turned out to be a canonization of four new saints, and to the papal audience on Wednesday.
Our guide suggested a small trattoria nearby for lunch, so we said goodbye to him and took off on our own. The restaurant was certainly an experience! We had really excellent lasagna, and lots of entertainment watching ďMamaĒ order ďPapaĒ around. Our waitress, the daughter, was the only one who spoke English (well, sort of) and she assured me that Mama made the lasagna herself.
Then back to the hotel for an afternoon rest, I was exhausted by then. Another evening walk, this time to the Trevi Fountain. And, of course, more gelato!
Saturday, October 14
Yesterday, the Vatican. Today, ancient Rome. We started with the Piazza Navona, a stadium originally built for Greek games but eventually filled in and now a large oval plaza with a Bernini Fountain, then made our way to the Pantheon, went out to the catacombs, and eventually made our way to the Forum.
Saturday, October 14
Yesterday, the Vatican. Today, ancient Rome. We started with the Piazza Navona, a stadium originally built for Greek games but eventually filled in and now a large oval plaza with a Bernini Fountain, then made our way to the Pantheon, went out to the catacombs, and eventually made our way to the Forum. We walked through the Forum area, then around the Coliseum, had lunch, and went back to the hotel for my afternoon rest. This makes it sound like a short day, but it wasnít! We left the hotel at 9 AM, and except for a few taxi rides, walked until 2 PM. Itís hard to describe all the ruins, so Iíll just post a few photos.
No photos were allowed in the catacombs. Our guide there was an older Italian nun, must have been at least in her seventies, but she bounced up and down all the stairs like she was in her twenties. We twisted our way through lots of turns, but she knew each little byway, and explained the burial system, and pointed out the artwork. We saw what she said was the first Madonna, and lots of other very early paintings, or remains of paintings, on the way. Fascinating, Iím very glad we took the time to go out there.
After a rest, time for our evening walk. This time we decided to go explore the Via Veneto, which, it turned out, starts from just a block from our hotel. We discovered that Rome is having its very first Film Festival this week, and today was opening night. There were parties all along the Via Veneto, including one at the top end with a large movie screen set up. Didnít seen any stars, although several were supposed to be in town. Back down the hill, stop for our daily gelato, and call it a night.