Friday, December 6, 2013


It is bothering me SO MUCH that I don't have my Italy trip blogged. But when I think about it, I get so overwhelmed. How do I write about 10 of the most amazing days of my life? Do I do it minute by minute? Do I do just the highlights? Do I do it by topic - churches, fountains, piazzas? I just don't know. And therefore I think about blogging it, instantly get frustrated, and then write nothing.

(Which, as a sidenote, is another thought. I want to write something. I have always wanted to write a book. But I think of my ideas for a book [which really don't exist] and then I think, I don't have a story to tell. So then I write nothing. I'm failing before I even try. But that is sort of another topic for another day. Rant over.)

So let's talk about Rome. Or Rooommmaaa, as our fascist Roman tour guide Corrinne called it. Rome was probably my favorite city on the tour. I love cities so how could I not love Rome? We arrived bright and early on Tuesday morning. We had hoped to spend the day at a beach nearby that Amy had found, but when we got to our hotel it was too early to check in so we couldn't do that. Suddenly I was sent out into this foreign place with my mom and sisters, with the goal of buying postcards, getting money from an ATM, and eating some food. That first half an hour on the street was comical. We were clueless American tourists, bumbling around, trying to speak pigeon Italian while we tried to figure out how to open the door to the bank. I can remember standing on a corner, frustrated as hell, hungry, grumpy, and angry at every living soul who came in my path. It all seemed so confusing and foreign. I was ready to throw in the towel and go home.

Luckily, a few minutes later we sat down at a streetside cafe and ate. Our pizzas were intended to be shared, but we all ordered our own. We all laughed about that, and I proceeded to eat every bite of my pizza. The waiter was a little shocked, as was my family, but afterwards, I was much calmer and ready to explore. Amy, my mom, and I spent the afternoon visiting two of the famous Roman basilicas - Santa Maria degli Angeli (which was originally a Roman bath but was reconstructed into a church and designed by Michelangelo) and Santa Maria Maggiore. They were both within walking distance of our hotel. My favorite was Santa Maria degli Angeli. It was very reverent and peceful inside. There was this amazing purple stained glass window that I tried and tried to get in a picture, but could never quite capture its beauty.
The purple stained glass. Impossible to photograph!

The dome inside - not as large as St Peter's, but still amazing

There was a lovely little walled garden outside that we wandered through on our way out. It was incredible to consider that I was walking in a building designed by Michelangelo. It was older than any building I'd ever been in in my life up to that point. Amazing. Even Saint Peter's Basilica was second to this church, though. I guess you just never forget your first Italian basilica.

Santa Maria Maggiore is famous for the relic it holds - a piece of Jesus' manger. It also has a ceileing that has flowers made from gold donated by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain - you know, the ones that funded Columbus' journey. I kept thinking, "How is this possible? This building is older than my country?" (It wasn't the first time I thought this, by the way.)

The facade of Santa Maria Maggiore's

The golden ceiling

All along the sides were confessionals. I might have slipped inside one if the English one had been open. They all had the language and times posted right on the front of them.

We also visited the Opera house and walked through the Piazza della Republica. I don't have any photos of these places - and now I am sad. There was an amazing fountain in the Piazza as well as a giant sculpture. Amy and I wandered back there after dinner one night. We ate gelato and walked arm in arm through the quiet Roman streets.

Our second day in Rome was busy busy. The Pope was giving an address at St Peter's so our visit to the Vatican museum was much less crowded than it normally would have been. However, we still went through the museum at an alarmingly fast pace. The highlight of the morning was visiting the Sistine Chapel. I stood exactly below the panel showing Adam touching the finger of God for about 5 of the precious 20 I was allowed in the chapel. I wrote in my journal as I viewed all the artwork. It was magnificent. The chapel is much, much smaller than I ever imagined it would be. Altogether too soon, I had to leave (remember: fascist Roman tour guide!)

 After lunch at an amazing but very overpriced lunch on the street in front of the Vatican, we had a tour of Rome. We walked (again, at an alarmingly fast pace!) from the Spanish Steps (of which we were unable to go up - we could only visit them, argh!) to Trevi Fountain (there is an amazing gelateria there that also has free bathrooms - score!) to the Temple Adriano, to the Pantheon (had enough time to walk around it one time and then had to leave!) then to Piazza Navona (we visited the inside of the church here, looked at the fountain, and took pictures.) We came out of all this Roman madness by the Tiber River, where the beautiful sycamore trees were draping over the wall. I had loved all the places I had been but simply didn't have enough time to spend at any of them.

By the Vatican wall

Room in Vatican Museum

Ceiling in hall of Vatican Museum

View of St Peter's from a window in Museum

Suzette and Mom on the ramp in the Vatican musuem

My lunch. So amazing!

Roman drinking fountain. The water was so good!

Roman street

Spanish Steps

Dome in Pantheon


Street near Piazza Navona. I liked the iron work on the windows.

Fountain near Piazza Navona

Church at Piazza Navona

 That evening Amy and I went up on the roof of our hotel. We took some silly pictues of each other and then visited with a couple who were some of our favorites on the tour, Craig and Connie. It was lovely and relaxing too see the sun setting over the rooftops of Rome. We ate that night in a lovely restaurant called L'Europeo that was delicious! We met some people from Ireland that we visited with both nights (because we liked it so much we had to go back the second night!)That night, Amy and I sat with all the drinking crowd at the bar in the hotel lobby. They were a lively group and fun to chat with. There was a whole contingent of peole on the tour who took the time to sit in cafe's with a bottle of wine and friendly chatter. I kind of envied their way of touring Italy. I wanted to see everything and not miss any moment or site. They seemed to have the sure knowledge that they would be back again one day, so if they missed going in a church or a site, it was fine. It is a different way of traveling - one day, I hope I can take that kind of casual attitude on my travels.I learned a lot from watching them.

Rome from the roof

The third day we went to the Coloseum, Forum, and St. Peters with our group.


  • Seeing the altar where Julius Caesar was cremated. Amazing!
  • Climbing on rocks to take pictures with my mom and Amy
  • Walking around the entire circumference of the Colosseum all on my own.
  • Seeing a cat running through the Colosseum (I now want a "Cats of the Colosuem calendar! There are over 300 cats that live in there and in the Forum. I love it!)
  • Walking on the stones into the Forum - the path was smoothed by thousands of years of feet being walked on it. Amazing.
  • Buying Shane a cross at St. Peter's.
  • WAndering through St. Peter's. It's just so collosal - it's impossible to take it all in.
  • Crossing myself with holy water from St. Peter's. When in Rome, right?
  • Touching the door in St Peter's that only opens every 25 years
  • Standing in front of the Pieta, overcome with the beauty of it. Sigh, I just love Mary.
  • Loving knowing where we were and how to get to places that we wanted to go to during the afternoon. Since we had eaten in the square in front of St. Peter's the day before, the sense of being lost all the time was beginning to lift.
  • Buying a scarf from one of the people on the street
  • Taking pictures of the dome in St. Peter's.
  • Kneeling at one of the altars and reflecting on how blessed I felt to be there with my mom and sisters at that very moment. 

I loved all of those places so much. It was fun to walk through all the antiquities, talking with our tour group and getting to know them better. Amy and I were forever taking pictures, bringing up the rear of the group with one of the tour hosts, Brian. We had so much fun being at the back of the line.

After our group tour, we ate from one of the food trucks near St. Peter's. Our tour guide had left us so we were on our won for the afternoon. My mom and Suzette took a cab back to the hotel and Amy and I set out to visit the castle at Castel Sant'Angelo - which is also called Hadrian's Tomb (because Hadrian's remains were kept there for hundreds of years, followed by prisoners, Pope's, and other people over the next 2000 years.) This was my favorite place to visit because Amy and I could go at our own pace. There was a beautiful library inside where we couldn't take pictures - it was seriously one of the prettiest rooms I've ever been in. We climbed all the way to the very top so we could get the best view in Rome.

Path to the forum

Fountain in forum

If I ever got a tattoo, I would want it to be this flower

I thought this was so pretty. By the hill that the Palatino is on

Nun at St. Peter's

The door that only opens every 25 years
Hadrian's Tomb

On top of Hadrian's castle

Steps to the Bibliotheque in Castle Sant'Angelo

After the castle, we walked across the bridge built in 138 AD to walk down to the Tiber River. The steps were so long! We listened to a Depeche Mode cover of  U2's So Cruel while we walked by the river. Amazing.

Then we dove back into the madness of the Rome we had visited yesterday - but were able to do it at our own pace. We ate 2 gelato, went back to the Pantheon to get a proper tour, visisted St. Ignacio's church, and finally made it back to the Spanish Steps which we could climb. At the top is the most beautiful little church - Trinita dei Monti - which we went inside. They were doing mass in French which was just the icing on the cake. I had wanted to speak French the entire time I was in Rome - I couldn't remember enough Itallian, but my 2 years of French in college came back to me in a storm. It was so peaceful to sit and listen the beautiful singing of the nuns and priest and then listen to a bit of mass. I loved this church - I crossed myself with holy water from here as I left.

Near where we ate rose flavored gelato

On Spanish Steps

I will always remember this lovely afternoon with my sister. We went at our own pace - walking fast between places and then slow when we got to the monuments we wanted to explore. Eating two gelato in the space of an hour. Taking pictues of our feet and of a bottle of Deep Blue in random places. Running into people from our tour, feeling like we were meeting up with old friends. Getting ourselves onto the Metro and managing to not get pick-pocketed. Buying souvenirs. Finding our way through the city streets, navigativing to the places we wanted to go. Going from iconic Christian churches to pagan temples in the space of 20 minutes. Getting back to the hotel and having the tour group people tell us that our mom had been looking for us and boy, were we in trouble. I loved this day with my sister. I wish that my mom and Suzette had joined us, though. We had so much fun!

I hope I get to go back to Roma one day. It was an amazing city!


heidikins said...

What a wonderful post, I can't wait to hear more about your trip!!


Britt said...

I always have a hard time blogging after vacations.

I'm so glad you got to go. I love how in this round of SDBBE you and Amy mention in several books that you are going to Italy, and now I'm like, "You WENT!!!"