We arrived in Rome after a particularly stressful EasyJet flight from Paris (beware of the hidden fees for just about everything!) in the evening and checked into our hotel near the Piazza de Fiori. What a contrast from Paris! Paris was ornate, gilded, and metropolitan. Rome was lost in time with narrow cobblestone streets and warm hues splashed across every building. We also had some incredible (and not so incredible) food in Rome. Our two favorite restaurants were in the Trastevere neighborhood across the Tiber river. There's delicious pasta to be had if you do your research and don't fall prey to one of the many tourist traps that line every square (we learned this lesson the hard way).
The first morning, we explored the market that sets up each day just a few steps from our hotel. I thought that if I lived here I would visit a market like this each week and stock up on all the various vegetables, oils, and pastas that are offered.
If I had to sum up what I remember most about Rome, I would say fountains and obelisks. Man, those Romans loved their fountains and they sure as heck loved pillaging Egypt. Oh, and the churches! So many Catholic churches. You couldn't throw a rock without hitting a church in Rome.
Being from South Louisiana, pretty much everyone is Catholic. It wasn't until I moved away for college and experienced life in the Baptist Bible Belt of Mississippi that I lived somewhere where Catholicism wasn't the majority religion. But Rome, man is it Catholic. So what to do with all these Egyptian relics scattered around Rome once the city made the transition from paganism to Christianity? Just add a cross on top! Voila.
|Egyptian pillar w/ cross in front of the Pantheon|
|Ceiling of the Pantheon|
|Walking the streets of Rome|
One of the many churches we visited throughout our trip:
And of course we had to visit the granddaddy of all Roman fountains, the Trevi Fountain! Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you will one day return to Rome. I figured, what the heck, it doesn't hurt anything to give it a shot! These spectacular fountains were built all across Rome to provide free water to the citizens back in the day. The aqueducts ended here, and constantly provided fresh, drinkable water.
|Throwing a coin into the fountain|
We continued walking until we reached the Spanish steps, a popular meeting place surrounded by high-end shops:
|View from the top of the Spanish steps|
And made our way through dozens more churches. This one was home to 3 Caravaggio paintings! I couldn't believe these masterpieces were still hanging in this church today with no real security presence.
After a couple of days of exploring, we made our way to the whole purpose of our trip according to Jeff: the Coliseum.
Much of it has been renovated and filled in to give you a better idea of what it once looked like.
|Jeff barely containing his excitement|
We also got to explore Palatine Hill, which is the site of the ancient town center of Rome:
And finally, on our last day we went to the Vatican. We paid a pretty penny to get an excellent tour for this and it was so worth it. We were able to see the Vatican museum as well, which houses spectacular Christian art as well as many non-Christian pieces. We then saw the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica which were both once in a lifetime experiences. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures at the Sistine Chapel- something about the Japanese owning the copyright for all photography and reproductions of images. Very strange.
|View of the Basilica in the background|
|At the top of the Bramante staircase at the Vatican|
|In the Vatican art museum|
|In front of St. Peter's Basilica|
The next morning we headed back to the States. We were gone for 10 days, the longest vacation either of us has ever been on. It was the first time we haven't wished we could add on another 2 days (like on our 5-6 day honeymoon to Mexico). We came home feeling a little more ready to close the chapter on residency and grad school and move on to the next chapter in our lives.