La Via a Roma
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 1:05PM
Abbey Hesser in Eurotrip, Italy, Rome

Location: Rome, Italy

This one is quite a doozey, apologize for the lag... Since I got to Rome, things have been a little hectic.

Me and my new friend Adam went to the Vatican and to St. Peter's Basilica first thing Monday afternoon. The Vatican is unreal. I just saw St. Peter's square and it was already huge. Walking inside the church was completely unreal. The thing is absolutely gigantic and completely over the top. I mean, I guess I expected nothing less from the Catholic mothership, but it was a very amazing place to see. There were these Swiss guards who wore these ridiculous striped jester looking outfits that are the army of the Vatican. They stand everywhere to guard entrances and doorways. Apparently, they are actual soldiers that have gone through an extensive training program. There are all kinds of requirements. The boys have to be between 18 and 30, actual Swiss born Catholics and must go through a series of physical tests and training before being allowed to serve. There are only about 100.

Inside St. Peter's there is so much to see. There are quite a few tombs or memorials to various Popes and cardinals in the main area. The ceilings are all gold and there are tons of paintings by various famous artists including Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo. We looked at Michelangelo's Pieta which is a really famous sculpture of Mary holding Jesus after his crucifixion. It's a great statue.

In the middle of the cross is the tomb to St. Peter. It is a huge throne made of wood, bronze and ivory that sits a couple feet above the ground and then a staircase leads down to the crypt from here. Down in the crypt, there are so many tombs (probably 100). Most of them are of past popes. Some of them are elaborate, some not so much. We walked past John Paul II's tomb which was very simple but still covered in flowers and rosaries and other little tokens people toss in when walking by. I mean, his body is literally an arms length from the main walk way. It's incredible. Then at the end of the hall is the actual tomb of St. Peter. It is completely locked down, bullet proof glass (not sure why it needs to be bullet proof, I mean... he is already dead), and apparently, his actual remains are in a box designed by NASA that is un-breakable. For those not in the know, St. Peter was Peter Jesus' apostle and was the first Pope of the Catholic church starting (I believe) around 30 AD. He was crucified upside down (he did not want to die the same way Christ did) by the Romans after bringing about quite a bit of controversy (considering the Romans still believed in their set of Gods). I think this happened around 60 something (so he would have been quite old...). Anyways, it's a huge deal that this is literally his tomb. I mean, this guy was one of Jesus' BFF's and there he is, just you know... Lying there... Right there... So close. Craziness.

After this we walked down the Borgo to the Tiber River to look at the Castel Sant' Angelo (an old castel by the river that used to be kind of an apartment for the swiss guards) and the Ponte Sant' Angelo (which is the bridge that goes across the Tiber near the Castel. There wasn't much to see so from here I headed up to try and get up to these gardens by the Vatican. I couldn't find an entrance, so I walked in this parking garage and thought maybe it would come out higher, which it did, but just inside a Vatican office building... not in a garden. I knew I probably wasn't supposed to be where I was, so I walked outside and down past the Basilica from the backside before heading back down the Borgo, across the River and back towards home.

On the way home, I decided to head to the Trevi fountain (because I was told to go see it after dark for the best view). I sort of got lost part of the way there and ended up at the Pantheon (oh, darn). The building is amazing. And there is yet another obelisk in the front. There are obelisks EVERYWHERE. Practically ever church or piazza, I feel like, has one in the yard. (Check out - it's a good site about all of the obelisks). Anyways, so the Pantheon is very cool. It is also, supposedly, some sort of anomaly because the dome is not supposed to be standing. It is the largest unenforced concrete dome ever built. It is a perfect hemisphere and almost 45 meters high. There is a hole in the top that allows the building to contract a little and it lets rainwater in that then drains in little holes in the center of the floor. They say that if the dome were reconstructed today with modern concrete, the whole thing would collapse under it's own weight. They think that the materials they used to create it were changed at different heights to make the concrete lighter as it got to the top. It's crazy. Here is also where Raphael is buried as well as some other notable priests, cardinals and important Roman figures.

After this, I actually found the Trevi fountain which is beautiful. It's this huge fountain on the side of a building depicting Neptune and some horses. You can hear the thing roaring from quite a distance and it was a site to see. There were SOOO many people there. At one point, this guy starts speaking to me in Italian and, (drum roll please) I actually had a conversation with him... in Italian!! I was very proud. It was mostly him talking, but I did reply and actually understood what he was saying. He basically just asked me if it was my first time to Rome and if I was studying or vacationing and how long I was staying and if I liked the fountain and then he started making suggestions of places I should go (he was so cute... probably around 70 and sooo nice - he even said that I did a good job trying to speak Italian :). I talked to him for probably 5 minutes before going down, throwing my coins in (you're supposed to throw 3 coins over your shoulder, 1st says you will return to Rome soon, 2nd says you will meet a nice Italian boy, 3rd says you will fall in love with and marry said Italian boy... Ehh... Why not?) and heading on back towards the hostel.

Once back at the hostel, I had some dinner (free pasta pomodoro), made some new friends and we decided to go out. We got the name of a bar from the woman at the front desk and she said there were sure to be quite a few people there. We got on a bus to head that way and a couple minutes on the bus it started torrential down pouring. We all jump off at our stop and run to a alcove shop thing with a canopy and stand there thinking maybe it will stop. After it doesn't for a couple of minutes, we buy some cheap umbrellas from a street seller and run down the street to the canopy of a closed tobacco shop. We stood there for a while, the rain is literally slamming down on the canopy. Then it starts thundering, lighting like crazy and then hail. So we see a Guinness sign on the side of a building about 100 yards away and we decide to just book it (our umbrellas had already broken from the wind). We got inside soaked and then just didn't leave this place. The bartenders were nice, there was no one else there, but we had a pretty substantial group (2 Estonian girls, 4 Aussie boys, 2 Argentinian boys and Adam my LA friend) so we made our own party.

After a decent night out (and I'm not sure how we all got separated) but me and one of the Aussies decided to walk back to the Trevi at about 4 AM. It was so gorgeous, and now, there was no one else there. It was so peaceful, just the sound of the water and nothing else. We made the long walk back home and met back up with everyone else who trickled in at various times in small groups and sat up for a little while talking before heading to bed.


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