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Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Holiest Place on Earth?

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Our second day in Roma included the necessary trip to the Vatican City (“Vaticano”).  Since it was Holy Week, we expected it to be thronged with tourists, and it was.  You couldn’t walk five steps without a street vendor trying to hawk you a selfie stick.  Lines were long to go into St. Peter’s Basilica (“Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano”), but we survived all the waiting and pushing for a chance to go inside the world’s largest and most famous church.  After clearing the ticket booth and two sets of metal detectors, the line of people began filing up a winding staircase inside the Duomo. The church is one of the most famous work’s of Renaissance architecture, designed in large part by Michelangelo.  It wasn’t until we made it to the first balcony that we got to view the magnificent ceiling and cupola.  Believe it or not, this entire ceiling is not paint, but a mosaic!

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After getting up close and personal with the amazing mosaic interior, we continued upwards.  The stairs got steeper and narrower, with the outside walls even tilting in on us.  I’m not normally a claustrophobic person, but the tight spaces and the slowly plodding line made this trek a little nerve-wracking!  I was really glad when we finally got outside at the top!

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The view over the rest of the Vatican and out into Rome was stunning!

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After taking pictures and buying some postcards from the rooftop gift shop, we headed back down 500+ stairs to go inside the cathedral.  So much ornate sculpture and artwork it was overwhelming!

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One could easily spend hours navigating the interior of St. Peter’s but by this time our crowd tolerance was wearing thin.  We headed outside, past the Swiss Guards, and off to a well-deserved lunch!

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Epic Walk Around Rome, Part 2!

After making our way to the famous Coliseum we continued on past the Forum ruins, marveling at the blend of ancient and more recent architecture, plus a million statues of Caesar all mixed up together.

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We also stopped to see the “Cake Topper Building” as Amanda called it.  It’s actually the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, Italy’s first king.  Construction began after WWI and dragged on for a long time.  Most Romans unequivocally hate this gaudy, tacky building.  It doesn’t really fit in well with the ancient ruins surrounding.

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From the cake topper we could see the main square Piazza del Popolo where Mussolini delivered his speeches during his dictatorship…

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and a great view of the Coliseum and Forum.

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At this point, it was finally time for lunch.  That being said, I think a whole separate post will have to be used to describe all the amazing food eaten in Rome!  So stay tuned for that…

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The Trevi Fountain was under construction which made it a little harder to see.  Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain it means you’ll come back to Rome.  We didn’t get to throw any in since there was a fence up around it, but I hope I still get to come back!

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Gotta love hilariously translated signs!  We did our best to shout, squall, and sing our way up the Spanish Steps after reading this.

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Another beautiful fountain…

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Some more stopping in piazzas for intricate fountains and crowded people-watching.

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Another cool thing about the piazza fountains is that they all have pillars with Egyptian hieroglyphics sticking out the top.  These date back to the times when Cleopatra came to rome to marry Marc Antony.

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Next up!  The Pantheon!  It was founded between 25 and 27 BC and is the oldest surviving intact pagan temple.  It was dedicated to all twelve of the Roman gods and later converted into a Catholic church once Christianity took over.  To say it is impressive is an understatement.

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The afternoon ended up with more strolling through piazzas, some mucn needed gelato, and then dinner and wine with friends until late into the night.  The excitement got us through all of our jet lag and we had such a fun time exploring as a reunited group!

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Carrie’s Friend-ey Trip to Italia!

[Disclaimer: I apologize for having some trouble with photo uploading in this post.  Please CLICK on photos to make them bigger!]

Buongiorno!  Guess what?  I’ve been traveling across the pond again!  I never expected I would get back over to Europe so soon after our fall backpacking trip, but a combination of a friend studying in Rome plus a super-cheap-flight was too good to resist! Sadly, Zach couldn’t get out of work to join me for this one.  Instead my travel companions were Kelsey and Colton (a long-time friend and her awesome boyfriend).  Together we teamed up to find our mutual friend Amanda in Roma!  Having a friend already know the city and speak Italian made our trip so much easier!  We didn’t plan a lot ahead of time and relied on Amanda to show us the sights.  She was the best tour guide ever!  On our first day in the city, after sleeping off enough of our jet lag to be functional, she gave us a whirlwind, 22-mile walking tour of so many famous spots!

First we stopped at La Bocca della Verità (“the mouth of truth”), located outside the church Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  This ancient sculpture of the god Oceanus has been used as a “lie detector” since the Middle Ages.  Apparently if you tell a lie with your had in the mouth, the god will bite your hand off!  I don’t know, but I didn’t try it…

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This small church had some throw-backs to the pagan practice of skull-worshipping.  The supposed skull of Saint Valentine is even enshrined there!

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Next we climbed the Aventine Hill to Rome’s famous Orange Garden.  We found a great view of the city and the Tiber River (“Tevere” in Italian) up here!

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On top of the hill is Basilica di Santa Sabina, another small, old church with a beautiful pastel-colored ceiling.

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Also up there is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a UN-recognized sovereign state and the world’s oldest existing chivalrous order.  Woah!  I had never even heard of these guys, so learning the history was mind-boggling!  Rome has so many ancient secrets!  The Knights of Malta don’t allow visitors, so all you can do is peek through a tiny keyhole into the garden of their church headquarters, Basilica di Santa Maria del Priorato.  When you do, you get a very awesome and surprising view!

St. Peter’s Basilica seen through the Aventine Keyhole (Source: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite things about Rome was the super-old but still-maintained free water fountains all over the city.  Clean, fresh, cold aquifer water!  Amazing!

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Ice cream and snack trucks for tourists were also abundant.  (Sorry for the stupid spot on my lens in this photo!)

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Down the hill we went to the famous Circus Maximus chariot racetrack.  It’s basically just a field now.  We still had some fun reenacting the races.

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What would a trip to Rome be without the epic Colisseum?  It was thronged with tourists, of course, and we opted not to go inside.  The beast of a structure is definitely impressive enough from the outside!

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And with that, I’m only about halfway through our marathon Rome day, so check back tomorrow for the rest of day one!