Wednesday, June 20, 2007

June 20, 2007 - Rome

Being Blessed by the Pope 1800 year old Mosaic Chris and I at the Coliseum Roman Forum Eating Gelato at Trevi Fountain We got up early this morning and went to the Vatican Museum. There are over 4 miles of museum there, although we merely walked 2 miles. It was incredible. The art that we saw there was fabulous. Actually, the museum was never intended to be a museum. It used to be the private apartments of the popes. The ceilings were out of this world – paintings, reliefs, etc. There were amazing tapestries, many, many sculptures. Of course they were all nude men. Interestingly, one of the popes was unhappy with all of the nudity, so he ordered all of the male statues to be castrated. Later on, the male parts that had not been castrated were covered with fig leafs. We also saw mosaics. One was 1800 years old and was an old Roman restaurant menu. It was beautiful. In perfect condition. We then got to go into the Sistine Chapel. This was very emotional for me. All of the history that takes place in this room is fabulous! Whenever popes are elected, all of the Cardinals are locked into this chapel until they make a decision on who the Pope will be. When they finally reach a decision, a cloth is placed over each of the Cardinal’s heads except the one who has been elected so all the Cardinals know immediately who the new Pope is. The Pope is then taken to the Room of the Tears, which is the left door if you are facing the “Last Judgment,” which was painted by Michelangelo, to be fitted into his new Papal attire. People have worshiped in this room for centuries. The paintings along the side of the room are all done by famous painters, but the ceiling is the most magnificent, most wonderful thing you’ve ever seen. Michelangelo was a genius. I don’t know how he did it. And to stand there, taking in the ambience of the surroundings was so humbling, so emotional to me. I felt so very privileged to be there. One thing I found fascinating about the Sistine Chapel was that a small portion of the ceiling has come off. It was done by fresco, which Michelangelo had never done before, which I thought was a daunting task to have to do something of such magnitude, never having had worked in that medium before. So, Michelangelo had someone helping him with the technique at the beginning. But Michelangelo was a rather abrasive man, and he was so difficult to work with, his assistant left him shortly after beginning the project to do it on his own. He still hadn’t mastered the art of fresco, so when there was an earthquake years later, the portion of the ceiling where he began working all by himself came off because he had not done it correctly. Luckily, he got better at it, so the rest of the ceiling has stayed in one piece. They have not repaired the part that came off because then it would not be considered an original work of Michelangelo. It was at this point that we lost Jason. What in the world was he thinking? He was looking for Kendra and somehow missed our group. He ended up ahead of our group and we spent the last part of our tour worried sick about him. We had to go on with our tour, however, because there are a lot of other people on our tour with us. We saw a room full of gifts given to the Pope. You can’t imagine the grandeur. I really can’t either, because we were spending all of our time fretting over where Jason was…lost somewhere within the 4 miles of the Vatican Museum. Mom kept saying she was worried he was passed out is some bathroom somewhere. Nice thought. After touring the rest of the museum, we walked around to the entrance of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and lo and behold, Jason was waiting for us there. We told Kendra to give it to him good! Thank goodness he was back with us because we were scheduled to go to the Coliseum right afterwards. When we went into the cathedral, they closed the doors right behind us and the Pope entered to bless the people. Chris and I went up the side and got very close to him. He sang a song and blessed all the people. It was so fun to see him. We then left to go to the Coliseum and Roman ruins. Talk about incredible. At one time the Coliseum was covered in white plaster and ornate decorations all over. The floors were white marble, still existing in some parts. Now it is worn down to the brick in most places. It used to have bronze within the columns to lend support to the building and years after the fall of the Roman Empire people came to steal the metal and sell it. It weakened the parts of the Coliseum where they drilled holes in the columns to get to the metal and when there was an earthquake in 1349, part of the Coliseum collapsed. That’s why one side is higher than the other. We didn’t spend much time here. Unfortunately because we got to see the Pope, it took an hour longer than normal, so the tour guide cut the Coliseum tour short so she could get home on time. So disappointing to me, but understandable for her. We walked over to the Roman forum and stood at the top to see it. At this point, Dad told the tour guide he had been here before and we were splitting from the group. We had a great time exploring the Roman Forum. I loved the ruins. It’s one of my favorite parts of the trip. We walked around a majority of the city today. It was 110 degrees outside. Absolutely scorching and exhausting. But we walked all over. We saw the Spanish Steps, where all of the famous models go to have their pictures taken. We saw Trevi Fountain. Wow! It’s gorgeous, and words cannot express how grand it is. And we walked around some of the very expensive shops. We went back to our hotel around 3:30 to get out of the heat and rested for a little while. We met back up for dinner and Jason, Kendra, Stephanie, Dan, Mom and Dad and Chris and I all went to Piazza Navona for dinner. We all ate Spaghetti and Pizza. Delicious! Several of us got cokes since they charge for water – we figured we’d rather pay for coke than water. Imagine our surprise when we found our 12 ounce cans of coke were 5 Euro a piece! That’s like $7.00 for one can of coke! We ate outside and watched all the people in the piazza mingling. There were performers everywhere, and a man sang traditional Italian songs while we sang. The evening was perfect. It cooled down quite a bit, and it was lovely. Chris and I broke off from our family a bit and watched the street performers, walked down the Trattoria and enjoyed the sunset behind the Vatican. We went back to the hotel at 10:00 and talked with my family for a while, listening to Stephanie’s presentation about the dead people in Santa Croce, our destination for tomorrow. After the presentation, I plugged in our batteries, only to blow them completely, even with the converter! So Chris asked me, even though I was already in bed, to go up to mom and dad’s room and try to plug them in their hair drier outlet (which was American plug friendly) since we didn’t have one. But I was already in bed and in my pajamas. I did not want to go up. I figured since he wasn’t in bed yet, he could. Well, he pushed and pushed, so I finally went up, much to my frustration. When I came back, Chris had locked me out of the room and told me that I could not come back in until I said, “I’m sorry, Chris. Can we be friends?” Well, I wasn’t about to say that, especially since I thought he was the one who should be apologizing. So after arguing about it through the door for several minutes, I sat down in the hallway, determined to sleep there if necessary. He opened the door, and kept pushing for me to tell him we were friends. Finally, I looked him straight in the eyes and said as sternly as possible, “I’m NOT friends!” He thought that was absolutely hilarious and teased me about it the rest of the night. It lightened the mood a bit and we finally were able to be friends again.

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