So, I swear I didn’t plan this, but we ended up in Rome over the IDES OF MARCH! When I realized that there was NO question in my mind that we HAD to wait to see Palentine Hill, The Forum and The Colosseum on that day. Just in case you don’t know the connection and why the heck I was geeking out about it, here’s an educational gif from the Reduced Shakespeare Company:
Saturday morning we “slept in” to all of 8:30am before we headed to the Metro to grab some day cards and get on our way. This was where we met up with the the one and only grumpy Italian on our trip. We tried MULTIPLE ticket machines to get two day passes and every. single. one. would not accept our 20 euro note! We even tried several different notes. So we ended up having to go to the counter and the woman wasn’t overly friendly verging on rude. I mean I get that she probably deals with stupid non-Italian speakers day in and day out ever day (which we were) and maybe her coffee hadn’t kicked in… it just seemed strange because everyone else we encountered was friendly to the point of being overly-friendly and seemed super enthusiastic that we were there. Eh, we didn’t dwell on it after getting on the train so I shouldn’t dwell on it here 😉
So we get on the Metro and head to Circo Massimo stop, meaning that the first Roman site of the day was the Circus Maximus! Roman Pro Tip #1: Skip going to the Colosseo stop when going to see the big Roman sites. The Circo Massimo is just a little further and is by far less crazy!
By the time we made it to the Palentine Hill/Forum/Colosseum a pretty sizable line into the Colosseum so we opted to head to Palentine Hill and the Colosseum first. Roman Pro Tip #2: Buy your area tickets at one of the entrances to Palentine/The Forum first thing in the morning. The lines won’t be as huge (there were maybe 8 people in in front of us at 10am), and you get to breeze by the bigger lines at the Colosseum later! Also you can buy your ticket the day before. It’s good for two days and one entry into each of the areas.
Palentine Hill was beautiful! (and this time I didn’t wander down an aqueduct and get lost for an hour!) And since we were there fairly early we missed the majority of the hordes of tour groups. Also, it wasn’t overly warm until we decided to leave just before noon and as a good hunk of it is shaded thanks to an ample amount of ruins and trees walking around was quite pleasant. And now to a WHOLE bunch of pictures:
Small side note: Ok, so we bought a Rome guidebook here in Berlin — and of course it’s in German. One of the items it pointed out, which is no surprise when you know a thing or two about Germans, is the cleanliness of the public bathrooms in Rome. Well, when we stopped at the restrooms near the Stadium I walked into the ladies room. It was cleaner than I expected, even if that meant that I didn’t actually sit on the toilet seat (one of my many life skills), but like I said, cleaner than I thought it would be. But THEN I walked out to wash my hands and someone had PEED IN THE SINK! And when I walked in 4 minutes earlier the sink was clean. Cue icky shudder. And I don’t think it was the Italians and British ladies I ran into when I was going in and out. I’ll let your imagination do the sleuthing and you can tell me who you think the culprit was :p Needless to say I was sorely wishing I had gone ahead and brought a bottle of hand sanitizer with me. Thankfully we still had a mostly full bottle of water with us, so while I didn’t have any soap (did not trust the dispenser since it was right next to the sink), it was better than nothing. I also made sure to wash my hands for real before lunch. Ugh, moving on because just thinking about makes me want to to scrub my hands right now!
After we got done wandering around the Hill and the Forum we decided to make our way up to The Colosseum — which given their close proximity seems like it wouldn’t be too hard. But when you add hordes of tourists (including a group that was for some strange reason dressed as crusaders…), a bunch of “roman soldiers” looking to make a few euros with photo ops, street vendors, security officers and more skip-the-line tour guides and you have a leeetle bit of a mess. Before heading in we walked around the side to sit for a few minutes to chill out after being in the midst of the horde. When we headed over to the line JP was a little worried when we overheard someone ask the guard how long the wait was to buy a ticket to go inside and we heard the guard say something that included “hours”, BUT remember, we had bought the area ticket earlier so we were able to rush by and give the proletariat some “neener-neener” faces. Ok, so we didn’t do that, but it was still awesome to breeze passed that huge line 😀
We actually didn’t spend and inordinate amount of time in the Colosseum –I think we figured it was about 45 minutes including taking a couple moments to stop in one of the bookshops to grab a magnet. Due to the hordes we saw coming out of the Colosseo station we opted to walk back down to the Circo Massimo stop (see tip above!). We rode until Termini Station and decided that we were going to get off (partly due to the hordes waiting to get onto the A line train, but mostly due to the BEAUTIFUL weather!) and head in the direction of the Spanish Steps and the Medici Villa. Along the way we stopped for a much needed lunch and decided to walk in the direction of the Rome location for the Hard Rock Cafe. We were going to buy a HRC Rome magnet but then HOLY CRAP, who on earth pays fifteen, yes you read that right, 15 euros for something like that?
Anyway, we were walking along and just happened to stumble upon the Capuchin Crypts!!! (official site in Italian and wikipedia page) I stopped right there in there in front of the steps and did a full on happy dance that involved excited squeeing and bouncing up and down. Seeing the Crypts has been on my life’s bucket list f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Like I had put in on our list of things that I wanted to do this trip and then went and freaking left the piece of paper with the location of the church in Berlin. When JP asked if I wanted to go in and see the museum and crypts I gave another squee and bounced my way up the stairs. Really, was there any question? I was vibrating with anticipation as JP handed the cash over for the entrance fee and then could barely contain my excitement as we walked into the museum.
The museum was really well done in our opinion. I loved reading more about one of the orders within my favorite flavor of Catholic spirituality. Which should come as no surprise that I lean towards franciscan spirituality since St. Francis is one of the patron saints of the environment, my life was (happily!) run by a few members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in college, and one of my bridesmaids is now an FSE sister! Anyway, back to the museum, it gave a really good overview of the history of the Capuchin Friars, and we saw so many treasures. I had another cattle-prod moment when a woman again insisted on touching the paintings, but felt weirdly satisfied when she couldn’t handle the crypts. Photography wasn’t allowed in the museum or the crypt, but we bought the book at the end so I can go revisit whenever I want 🙂
Now for the Crypts. To some, including the woman I mentioned earlier, the somewhat macabre scenes are uncomfortable. Like I said, the Crypts were something that I had wanted to see for YEARS, so when I first stepped into the area of the first of the rooms I was struck by the beauty and in complete awe. It was an extremely powerful spiritual experience to me. I am extremely thankful that there was just enough of what I believe was divine intervention and we got to go. As I mentioned earlier we bought the book for the museum and crypts, and I also chose to buy a Tau Cross single decade rosary.
We eventually made our way to the Spanish Steps and the associated Metro stop. We looked over the side and JP’s reaction to the hordes was “nope!”. So we snapped a few pictures and headed back to the hotel to drop off the book and rest for a little bit before finishing out our stay with Mass at the Basilica collegiata di Santa Maria ad Martyre, aka The Pantheon.
After resting up and addressing one last postcard to send from Vatican City we headed out to send that postcard, JP and I decided to walk along Via della Concilazione and do some shopping. We really wanted to find an icon of the Holy Family, we had been looking off and on at various stores around Vatican City since arriving, and we found one Saturday afternoon. 🙂
After doing our shopping we headed in the direction of the Pantheon so we could have a few minutes to look around and get pictures before Mass at 5pm. The walk was beautiful and we passed a few sites that we made mental notes of that needed to go on the “when we return to Rome” list.
We ended up making good time so we hung out in the Piazza Navona for a while to scope out where we wanted to grab dinner after Mass. Quite a few of the head waiters/hosts hanging out near the menu boards were quite in our faces about coming in and enjoying a coffee or a dish of gelato right then and when we told them we were on our way to Mass and just checking out menus for later that didn’t disuade them in the least. Needless to say a handful of places got crossed off the list of potential dinner spots.
Eventually time was getting short so we headed over to the piazza where the Parthenon was located:
Like all of the other churches we stopped by over the weekend the Parthenon was no exception in the beautiful worship space department. When we arrived the church choir was having a mini pre-Mass concert which was nice, though I was slightly irked that as a closer they sang an Alleluia chorus during Lent. One would think (or maybe just me?) that a choir for a Catholic Basilica would know that isn’t exactly kosher. 😛
At first we thought that Mass was going to be standing room only as the few pews that were set up in front of the main altar were packed, but soon as they announced that it was nearly time for Mass and those who did not wish to attend, everyone was invited though!, needed to exit the basilica most of the pews became deserted. They did re-fill when a couple pilgrimage groups came in last minute though.
Mass itself was extremely beautiful. One thing that I am thankful again and again about being Catholic is that I can follow the Mass no matter what the language. The Mass that evening was presided over by really adorable old bishop or cardinal (anyone know what a black zucchetto with bright red piping means?), two priest and two seminarians. And dude, one of those seminarians had some serious skill with the thurible used during Mass. Like I had to keep telling myself to stop being distracted by him and pay attention. There was NO TOP to it and he was swinging it a full 360-degrees over his head and NOTHING SPILLED. Like I said, impressive!
After Mass JP and I tried to figure out where the bishop/cardinal and priests were going to come out so we could ask one (or all) to bless the icon of The Holy Family we had bought a couple hours before. No luck though. So we headed back to Piazza Navona to grab dinner (which was lovely even if the pasta was a touch more on the al dente side than we would have prefered) with a side trip to a grocery store we passed to grab a couple things for breakfast in the morning since our flight was before the included breakfast was going to be served. The walk back proved to be beautiful, especially the view of St. Peter’s from the river:
We decided to take the long way and walk back towards St. Peter’s Square in hopes that we could catch a priest and ask if he’d bless our Icon. We did end up finding one and startled him a bit as he was coming out of one of the east entrances to Vatican City. I think for a moment he was afraid that we might have wanted to mug him because after we asked him if he would mind his expression totally changed. With our now blessed Icon we headed back to the hotel to drop it off before coming back out to grab one last gelato to share and hang out in St. Peter’s Square while we ate it and spent as much of the little time we had left there as we could. Funny aside, we decided that we wanted to get a closer look at the statue of St. Peter (he’s located on the left side if you’re standing and looking straight at the Basilica) and we noticed that a light was on in one of the doors on just the other side of the barrier, so, without crossing the barrier, we walked towards it to look and we saw where some of the Swiss Guard’s halberds were in a rack! How cool is that?! Though, then we think we might have set off a light with a motion detector off (not intentional!) so we turned tail and fled. Just in case. Because you know, those halberds looked pointy and while I’m pretty sure between us speaking English and one of us being fluent in German we could have explained that we truly meant no harm, we didn’t want to risk being arrested or banned from Vatican City because we got an inch or two closer than we should have. Shortly after we headed back to the hotel to pack up for our flight back to Berlin and get to bed since the car was going to be picking us up bright and early for the return trip to the airport — also if you’re planning a trip to Rome and have a little extra I would HIGHLY recommend hiring a car for airport transfer. It was 80 euros round trip, which isn’t too much more expensive than the combination of the Metro and the Leonardo Express you’d need to take.
So that was our grand trip to Rome last week! Like I said, we have a running list of what we want to do when we return next time, and I am pretty confidant that there will be a next time at some point. Hope you enjoyed reading what had now been SEVERAL dissertation length blog posts. And if you endured through them all a digital RitterSport bar for you!