It is now about 10PM, Wednesday, July 7th. Still no internet connection (when I talked with David awhile ago on the real telephone he said, “this is Italy!”) and when I got back to the hotel there was a message from Mari, “are you alright?” You are probably wondering too, and sadly may not know for over a week. At any rate, today was a typical “running hard Ray day” lasting 12 hours, mainly on my feet! I had breakfast in the hotel, and then headed out to the Vatican on foot (it is that close). I got there about 9:30, and even though people were hustling tours to avoid the line (I learned from yesterday), I took the hour in line to read up on the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Time well spent, and my ticket receipt reads 10:25 (you were asleep). WOW, I did not leave until after 2 PM. Now, I decided that at tourist areas I need not carry my Nikon camera – it is too hard, and I need the space in my small “fanny pack” (Cathy bought this one for cross-country skiing) for my sun hat (forgot it yesterday) sun screen, tour book, IPOD, sun and regular glasses – you get the point, and it works. Thus any images from “tourist traps” will be not so good from the IPOD. I will save using my Nikon D3100 for my solo true Shunpiking, and photography adventures.
The only way to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is to go through the Vatican Museum which concludes with the Chapel. What an experience! The Popes over the years bought, were given, plundered and otherwise acquired representative works of art for all times. If you are missing a mummy, sculpture, or whatever, it is probably here. You start in the Egyptian rooms, work into the Greeks and Romans but I probably enjoyed the most the Long March (a quarter mile hall with tapestries, and painted maps and views of Italy). The Popes would tour visitors throughout Italy by walking that section, and believe me the walls are stories high as are the maps, scenes and tapestries that precede the map section.
Next you get to see the Raphael rooms filled with religious history scenes and done in the 14th and early 15th centuries. Finally you end up in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel which is absolutely breathtaking. I was able to get a seat on a side bench and listen to my audio tour to help gain an appreciation of his work and the stories on the scenes. As Steves’ says what you see is the Gospel According to Michelangelo. Oh, by the way, if you wish you can go to the Rick Steves website and listen to or download any of his audio tours for FREE. And then I got to Saint Peter’s and words do not suffice. Wish I had a camera, but today (8th) when back there with Lisa she took some wonderful images which sometime I will add to this post and let you know (probably when getting home).
My plan was to then head to Ostia Antica the original port for Rome founded in about 420 BC. This was my choice instead of the long trek to Pompeii – and it was a good choice! I walked to the Metro, transferred to the other line, and then transferred to a train (no additional charge) for a 30 minute ride, and then a short (of course) walk. I arrived just about 4 (I knew it closed at 7PM as do most of the places that should be visited). It became a military base to protect Rome, and mainly served for the transfer of goods from ships to barges to then go up the Tiber River.
I first headed to the cafeteria (no time to eat thus far), relaxed a bit and then began walking around with my Rick Steves audio. Now, imagine a 2,000 year old town of 60,000 people, a port town, but then the Tiber changed course making it obsolete, but not totally abandoned. At one point the marble facades and sculptures were stripped to make into lime for construction elsewhere, or simply recycled elsewhere. The town became forgotten, silted over and squatters used some of the buildings during the Middle Ages. Popes, and others financed digging operations to obtain art work and statuary for use elsewhere, but the footprint and much of the structures survived (including a theater for 4,000) so it is easy to see what life was like in this Roman town 2,000 years ago. I took some images, and hopefully will have time to post some. The kids just got back from the concert (Mari’s friend, Lorenzo, is a pop rap singer in Italy with, as David told me, the same stature as Bruce Springsteen in the states) and it is 1 AM here, and David and I are still considering going to the Apian Way and Catacombs in the morning. We need to head to the ferry at Noon, so basically little time to sleep if I want to post. We will see what I get done!
At any rate – I really enjoyed this side trip, and finished up one minute before the gates were locked at 7 PM. Getting back to the hotel area I was late to get seated as one person in a sidewalk café because the tables were all reserved for larger parties, so I remembered a trick I often use when travelling by visiting an area grocery store. Not only is it something fascinating to do in a “foreign” country, but convenient, and I bought a great salad, healthy snacks, and a bottle of Italian wine for 1.5 Euros – Mari had told me wine is inexpensive in Italy !! I had my salad in my room, tried to work on a post, but was exhausted and went to sleep.
EVENTS FOR FRIDAY – JULY 8th
Thought it might make sense to combine Thursday and Friday on one page. My plan today was to see the Pantheon (House of Gods), but while looking at the map realized I could do more including the Jewish Ghetto and the Trastevere (an area essentially untouched since the Middle Ages). As I mentioned earlier, I planned my tour of Rome backwards (well, I never really did plan this one) because today I saw Rome that people love, and I got out before the crowds, and then retraced much of what I did with the kids and crowds – but that comes later. I left at 8:15, and got back to the hotel at 12:45 – 4 and one-half hours on my feet walking and observing (I can go against any 30 year old !!!!).
I headed across the river to pickup Via del Corso at Piazza del Popolo – the main street like Broadway in NYC. Now here was the shopping, and the restaurants that are not around the hotel. It was grand, I stopped in a few wonderful churches, and eventually made it to the Pantheon where I was essentially alone with a dozen other people. Rick Steves educated me on this fabulous structure that has been in continuous use for almost 2,000 years. Twenty foot walls at the base, five feet wide just under the dome, and the only light comes in the 30 foot opening at the top. Not to worry, the floors are sloped to holes at the outside walls to drain any rain that may fall. Later in the day when I visited again with David and family (I am ahead of the story) I was able to recount the history dating back to 140 AD including Rafael’s tomb from about 540 AD.
Then I worked my way through the Jewish Ghetto which looking at the map is right back into the area I started in on Wednesday at the Colosseum. I then crossed the Tiber to follow the walk through an untouched Medieval area (essentially in earlier structures) called Trastevere. The high point there was Santa Maria Basilica which is the first church built for Mary. The site is a house where Christians practiced their religion when it was outlawed, and once Constantine made Christianity legal the church was begun – amazing. I am racing at this point because it is approaching 1 AM here. I then walked back to the Tiber and followed the river back to the hotel – a very long walk.
The kids had arrived just a short time before I got back, so off we went together to seek lunch. Mari, knowing Rome, said lets head back to Via del Corso. Much bigger crowds than the 4 hours earlier that I had been there. We found a fun sidewalk café for lunch, and then continued walking south with side detours to two famous sites that I missed earlier – The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (you know, the famous one La Dolce Vita). Heading to the Pantheon we then passed “fashion row” all the shops of the famous Italian designers – Cathy would still be there!! At the Pantheon (David’s favorite building) I was able to relate to Lisa all the history that I had learned hours before. At that point Mari wanted to head back in a cab to the hotel with Alex, but David wanted to see St. Peter’s as did Lisa. So we rode in the cab and got dropped off saving time, and my legs. Again I was able to share my earlier education with Lisa and David. She was overwhelmed and took many pictures with her Canon S90 – I am now going to upgrade my “point and shoot” to that model or its upgrade. On exiting we again got smart and took a cab back to the hotel – if you travel in Italy it is always good to have someone (Lisa in the case) along with you who speaks fluent Italian. At 7:30 we had pizza, and at 8:30 David, Mari and Lisa headed to the concert and Alex and I back to the hotel.
Wow, I am exhausted just recounting my events. I wish I had the time to add more and images, but must get a few hours sleep. I can edit my words and prepare my images while on Sardinia and have them ready to upload along with a Sardinia report upon my return to Cortona. So, if you do not hear again until that time it is only because I cannot “connect” with the world. Thanks, as always, RAY (2:21 AM – Rome time)