Tuesday, June 05, 2007

St. Peter's and the Colosseum

To answer Jay's question, Al took a could of pictures of the food and here they are. He took pics of all of us at the restaurants, but he didn't think about taking pictures of the food until late into the trip. I wish we had taken more--next time we will.

Lunch at a Farmhouse during a Tuscany Tour

Pizza (garlic pizza--Al's idea) and Calzone

Thanks everyone for the kind words about the photos. I wish I could take credit for them, but it's all through Al's eyes. Yes, it is a great camera (we bought a new one before we left), but he really does have a good eye.

So, continuing our story . . .

I love breakfast and I really loved breakfast in Italy. I know that for the diet and for health I will keep eating my high fiber Kashi cereal now that I’m home, but I absolutely loved sitting at a small table eating a roll spread with jam or this looooovely chocolate spread (like Nutella but more chocolatey) and then maybe another roll, like a croissant stuffed with chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and drinking a milky, frothy cappuccino. It was always a great start to the day.

Breakfast delivered to our room in Venice. (That package on upper right is toast.)

This day, we were heading down to the Vatican and St. Peter’s by way of the metro. There was a time I would have gladly walked to all these places to really take in the city, and I miss those days. Actually, I still could, but it would take longer and I would have to take breaks, which come to think of it would have been really nice! Take a break at a café and have another roll and cappuccino. Why didn’t I think of that!?! Because I had a lot I wanted to see and I wanted as much time as possible, that’s why. Thus, taking the metro, which dropped us a block or two from where we wanted to go. Plus, there’s good people-watching on the subway.

Anyway, we made it to the Vatican (BTW, take the Ottaviano stop. The one after gets you a little closer, but you have a HUGE staircase to climb.). The line for the museum wrapped around and around the wall enclosing the museum, so we decided to save that for another afternoon and headed around to St. Peter’s Square. The street was lined with souvenir shops on the way to the basilica, and thousands of people were there to see St. Peter’s, too. So many people that at some point, someone slashed my bag. Luckily, the nice people at Eddie Bauer who made the bad put thick Styrofoam all around so they only got through the first layer of defense. I usually kept it in front of me, but sometimes it swung to the back and I’m guessing that’s when it happened. It’s kind of funny to me, though, because if they had gotten through, all they would have gotten was a book on how to speak Italian.

Slash in the Bag

St. Peter's Square

We entered St. Peter’s Cathedral and like everyone had to stop and take it all in. It’s massive and opulent. Marble and gold and statues and pillars and decorated domes, it was just awesome. The first thing we saw was Michelangelo’s Pieta, an inspired sculpture of Mary holding the crucified Christ. The statue is behind glass now because years ago a wacko attacked it with an ax. And while he did so, the other people there started grabbing pieces being chipped off instead of trying to stop the guy. So, you can only get so close, but there is a replica in another part of the cathedral.

St. Peter's Cathedral Entry

Michelangelo's Pieta

Everywhere you look in St. Peter’s there is something amazing to stare at. The statues of Popes and angels stare down at you as you try to walk while looking up. In the center is St. Peter’s tomb, with the 98-feet tall baldachin towering over it. Here are some pictures that can’t even begin to show how overwhelming it is.

Statues Over the Door

Maybe this can give you some idea of the scale of it's massiveness

Baldachin over St. Peter's Tomb

The Dome Over the Baldachin

We also participated in another tourist tradition—we bought Vatican stamps and mailed post cards from there. Apparently this is a popular thing to do as evidenced by all the people having their picture taken putting something in the post box. Who are we to fight tradition? So we bought the stamps, but didn’t do the picture thing.

We stopped for a light lunch of paninis. The guy serving us said things like “Yo Dude,” and every other American term he could think of. That brings me to one other Italian culture/tradition/thingee. Often there is a small charge for actually sitting at a table, so if you don’t want to pay that, then you can do like all other Italians and eat while standing at the counter. But remember that one of the rules about traveling is to sit when you can.

It was time for a break, so we headed back to the Nardizzi. While M took a nap, Al and I walked around the shops in the area and met up with K at a café for a Coke and a snack. Then it was on to the Colosseum.

We found out that it was a family day, so the tickets were free for many museums. We thought the line would be really long, but we went late enough in the day that the tour groups were gone. And that’s Lesson 3—Sometimes getting to an attraction in the morning is not a good idea because that’s when the tour groups go, so try to go to really popular attractions in the afternoon or reserve tickets ahead of time if you can.

The Colosseum is one of my favorite kinds of tourist attraction. Museums and cathedrals are wonderful and inspiring, but the Colosseum is real, it’s an ancient reminder of the history of humankind. You walk up the stairs out of the metro and there it is, this huge, historic creation that has survived as the city grew around it. Amazing. Here are some pictures:

The Colosseum

The Arch of Constantine outside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

A model of how the underground of the Colosseum works--elevators raised the animals

By the time we were able to tear ourselves away from the Colosseum, it was getting pretty late and they had stopped letting people into the Forum, so we looked through the fence at it.

The Arch of Titan leading into the Forum

Then we did something stupid. In my and Al’s defense, we didn’t want to, but we gave in because K and M wanted so much to do it and for some reason they seemed to think that we all had to do everything together. We took a carriage ride. Oh yeah, it seems all romantic and cool, but a stressed out horse pulling a carriage on cobblestones is not comfortable nor enjoyable. Sure, we got to see a few things close up that we might not have gotten to see, but it wasn’t worth it. Plus, I didn’t realize it, but K hadn’t made it clear where he wanted to be dropped off, thinking that he was going to bring us to a metro stop, but K kept calling it the station, so we ended up no where near the metro and walked back to the hotel. It wasn’t too far, but it kind of put a damper on things for a while. It wasn’t the first time during this trip that I wouldn’t go with my first instinct, and it almost always came back to bite me on the butt. But here are a few pictures from that ride.

The Aracoeli Staircase leading up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Circus Maximus and the back of the Palace

Home of the Vestal Virgins

The Victor Emmanuel Monument, also called the Typewriter and the Wedding Cake

Later, we had another fabulous meal with another bottle of wine. Al and I split melon and prosciutto then each had a pasta dish. K ordered tiramisu for dessert and we spent some time trying to figure out why when we make tiramisu it didn’t turn out as firm as there’s did. My tiramisu turns into a spoonable dessert, unlike what we ate, which was a perfect square on the plate and could be eaten with a fork. Maybe the marscapone is thicker in Italy.

Then we went back and passed out from the exhaustion of a busy day and from eating ourselves into a food coma.


her indoors said...

wonderful, we have been to most of those places but we never got the time to go into the colosseum can you beleive that! it is somewhere that we hope to return to.

Michelle said...

these are such great update / newsy posts! I've really enjoyed them. Good amount of detail. Excellent travel tips.

I've missed reading your blog. I'm glad you're back. Now get better, ok?

Nice photos, Al!

susan said...

Wow...do you see my turning bright green with envy? All the photos look so wonderful, it looks as though you had an amazing time.

Peggy said...

Sometimes it is the mistakes you make when traveling that give you unexpected knowledge.

Henry and I have had something go missing every time we've been to Italy but that will never stop us from visiting. It just teaches us not to be such soft targets.

Newt said...

simply beautiful and wonderful, and I'm so jealous.........

Tink said...

*Happy Sigh* This is so beautiful and fascinating. I've always known that I want to travel. This just solidifies it.

Lena said...

I'm just pleased that the attempted theft didn't spoil your wonderful piece of culture. Al's photography is fantastic - especially those pizza pics!!