Holy City

European Excursion Day Seven: Culture And A Night Train

Waking up in Rome after a fantastic night of sleep is one of the greatest feelings I have ever had! Before we could start our final day in Rome we had to checkout of the hostel and drop our bags off at a laundry mat because we didn’t want to carry them around with us all day. After that we were off to the races. Meaning we had to head to the other side of the city. The main event being the Vatican City. Now I was very excited about this because the Vatican seems like such an exotic place and I never imagined that I would ever be strolling through the Vatican. I really just wanted to refer to the Vatican as Popeland, but I didn’t want to offend or be blasphemous, though I said it anyways just now. Oops. On that note shall we start…

Fontana di Trevi:

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic landmarks of Rome. Everyone wants to visit and throw a coin into the fountain and I diid just that. Fun fact, the fountain was actually built through a design competition held by Pope Clement XII. The fountain was completed in 1762 years after the designer died. I loved this area of Rome. There were tourist shops everywhere and a bunch of people strolling about. Plus the fountain isn’t too bad to look at.

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Palazzo Montecitorio:

Now this is a palace, but also the head of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Though the main reason I’m talking about it is because there was a protest happening when we walked by. We didn’t get to close because we ere in a foreign country and had no idea what was going on. It seemed to be a protest about education because all the protesters looked to be about school age and they were all wearing these white lab coats. I always seem to find myself in the viewing area of a protest, so seeing one in Rome was interesting.

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Santi Ignazio:

This is another church in Rome and like it’s fellow religious houses it looks rather common on the outside and crazy elaborate on the inside. Rome knows how to make some opulent churches. The church was built in the 1600’s and is the chapel to a university.

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Pantheon:

To be honest I’ve heard of the Pantheon, but I actually had no idea what it was. I did not realize that it is a temple. It was originally built  in 126 AD to worship the gods of ancient Rome. This 2,000 year old building is home to the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Today the building in a Catholic church and a fantastic ancient building to visit.

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Piazza Navona:

This is a large open space market that was built on a former first century stadium. In the stadium the ancient Romans would watch games and competitions. Today it is filled with vendors, peddlers, fountains and all around Italian charm.

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Castel Sant Angelo:

Former Roman Emperor Hadrian built this structure as a mausoleum to himself and his family. Now that’s saying something about how he thought of himself. The building has been used as a fortress and castle for the pope and is now a museum.

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Vaticano:

The Vatican, the Holy City, the smallest independent state in the world. We started out our Vatican tour in Saint Peter’s square where all the chairs and barricades were still out from the pope’s appearance the day before. After going through security we headed into Saint Peter’s Basilica. WOW! Words can’t describe how fantastically gorgeous it is. I just walked around with my mouth open gawking at the splendor. Inside I saw the famous Pieta statue of Mary holing Jesus, I rubbed the feet of another Jesus statue because I don’t really know why, and also all the things that I don’t know the name of that are important to the Catholic faith and where the pope does his thing. That has got to be the most unintelligent sentence I’ve ever posted.I apologize, but I don’t know what everything is called, all I know is that it was all so very beautiful. After walking through the Basilica we struggled to find our way into the city to see the Sistine Chapel. A nice Australian couple ended up telling us that you have to walk around to a whole other entrance. Thank you friendly tourists! So we did the walk which was a bit of a hick for our sad tired legs, but we made it through the beggars and peddlers. One thing that is interesting about Rome compared to any other city we went to was the amount of homeless people. We were constantly being asked for money and if that wasn’t happening there was someone trying to sell you a cheap souvenir. My only explanation for why there are so many people begging on the streets is that since it is a holy city a lot of religious people come to visit. Therefore, they will be more willing to give money to them. Unfortunately for them I am also poor, so they got none of my money. Sorry, random side thought, back to the Vatican.

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A great thing about being a student traveler is that you get discounts. We paid half price to get into the Vatican City. Meaning we got to walk through their museums and see the Sistine Chapel. So bring that ID wherever you go and ask about discount because you never know when you can get a lower rate. The main reason for us going inside was to see the famous Sistine Chapel. I couldn’t wait to see that ceiling, but first we had to walk through the Vatican Museum. I love museums don’t get me wrong and I enjoy looking at art. But walking through the gallery seemed a little random. A lot of the stuff wasn’t even Roman. There were rooms filled with statue, just the floors literally covered in statues so that we couldn’t even walk through. These museums that we walked through was a collection of thing given to this religious establishment. We saw some amazing pieces of art, but nothing could compare to the finale. The Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, He layed on scaffolding for three years painting that ceiling. It is truly brilliant and unbelievable that one person could paint the whole thing. Sadly we couldn’t take photos, so the image of that ceiling will stay in my memory forever.

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The Spanish Steps:

The steps cover the steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti. This is mainly an area for tourist to sit down and relax for a bit. You can buy flowers from vendors, sip some wine from a bottle or just take in the view. All in all the steps are a lovely place to just relax for a bit, then you have to climb all the way to the top to get to the million dollar view.

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Villa Medici:

The Medici family is a very powerful Italian family. The villa was built by Ferdinando the Grand Duke of Tuscany in the 1500’s. The Medici house is a political dynasty, banking mogul and eventually a royal house. So needless to say these people had a lot of money to build a spectacular house, but the best part isn’t the villa it’s the view. The villa is located on top of a hill and has one of the most jaw dropping views. You can look out over the entire city and lucky for us we got there just in time for the sunset.

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After making our way back to the laundry mat we picked up our bags and set off to find us some good, cheap Italian food. Since we were really hunger we only made it a little way down the street before deciding on a restaurant. The great thing about restaurants in these European cities is that you can sit outside. I love eating outdoors. Again I went for a traditional Italian dish, the classic spaghetti with meat sauce. Delicious cannot even come close to explaining how fantastic all the Italian food I ate tasted. When we finished we just talked about this that and the other thing. We had a bit of time to kill before heading to the train station so we walked around the streets lining the station before going inside. I learned a few things at that this train station. One in Italy you have to pay to use the bathroom in train station and what we would consider public toilets. Second when finding your train look for the number on its side because that is the real marker of whether that is the one you need. Lastly and most importantly, Italy has the best chocolate I’ve eaten in my life! Only a euro fifty to change my life. So with my life forever altered by Italian chocolate we boarded our night train to Venice. I was expecting your average run of the mill train, but we walked onto the Hogwarts Express. We had a cabin with a slidey door and a little hallway outside the cabin. Needless to say I was REALLY excited about this train. If only I could have slept more the train ride would have been on my favorite things I’ve ever experienced. We were in a crowded car with four strange men, so that added to the fun of the ride. Haha, sorry family don’t freak out I was safe the whole time. I swear! So I shall leave off there and pick up in the next post with our arrival into Venice.

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Until next time…

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