Due to a long layover and the time difference, we left Toronto Sunday evening and arrived in Rome late Monday afternoon. By that time we were so wiped out we didn't do much more than take the train to the city and haul our packs over to the hotel (which was, thankfully, very close to the train station). Many of the budget hotels in Rome are just one floor of one of the tall apartment-type buildings the city's full of. We entered ours through this little courtyard:
(That's the entrance at the far end.) We went in through the door you can barely see at the far right side, and then the hotel was on the fourth floor--thankfully there was a tiny lift so we got to take a break from hauling. And then we went to sleep.
There are certain things you absolutely must do when you are in Rome, and seeing the Colosseum is definitely one of them. So Tuesday morning we wandered through the streets to check it out. What a sight!
It's hard to get a sense of it in the picture, but it's just HUGE. Inside, most of the seating's been eroded, but they're starting to reconstruct some of it--it'll look amazing when they're done.
Next we headed to the forum and Palatine Hill next door:
So awe-inspiring to think that two thousand years ago people were gathering there, doing business, sorting out politics...
After exploring that area and Capitoline Hill, we made our way over to the Pantheon (which I kept wanting to call the Parthenon even though I know that is in Greece :P ). Apparently one of the oldest surviving temples in Rome, it was taken over by the Christian church and they've preserved it over the years while others became ruins. Very busy there, so we didn't get a good picture of the outside, but the ceiling was a gorgeous dome, open to the sky:
And after dinner, as the light was dimming, we sat by Trevi fountain for a while:
Wednesday was Vatican day! We hopped on the subway over to the Vatican and were relieved to discover that the line wasn't anywhere near as long as we'd feared. (I hear it's better to get there a little late, rather than early, because everyone thinks if they get there early they'll have less of a line... so everyone shows up early and makes a big line then.)
The museums are immense, and full of all sorts of famous sculptures and paintings. For example:
The architecture is stunning as well, and many of the ceilings were painted:
There was some interesting modern art as well:
The Sistine Chapel was breath-taking, but they don't allow photography in there so I cannot show you. :( We wandered over so we could stand directly under the center point of God touching Adam's finger.
Afterwards, we puttered around in a few shops and took a look at Trajan's Markets before reaching the Spanish Steps. It was a gorgeous day, and lots of other people had the same idea:
We stumbled across an exhibition on Leonardo Da Vinci's machines, which was one of the coolest things we saw in Rome. They had models of dozens of his inventions, based on his diagrams and writings, and many of them you could manipulate yourself to try them out. Picked up a book there on the machines, with computer-generated images showing how they would work.
Thursday it was time for a day trip. First we took the train out to Orvieto, a lovely hill town in Umbria. The hill is so tall and steep that we couldn't walk up to the old part of town, so we took a funicular (kind of like a large cable car).
Orvieto is best known for its church, Duomo:
We also took a tour of the underground passages inside the hill, which go back to pre-Roman times. In the Middle Ages, people had businesses down there (due to the lack of space on top of the hill and the steady temperature throughout the year underground), such as wine presses:
We saw rooms for pigeon coops, wells, and shelters used during World War II down there as well.
From Orvieto we took a bus through the hills to Civita di Bagnoregio (which I horribly butchered whenever I said it--I think it's "chi-vee-ta dee bahn-yor-eg-ee-oh"). You remember, this place:
It's even more jaw-droppingly spectacular seeing it in person. We walked along that little road (no cars go in, only carts) and wandered around in the small village perched on that cliff. There was beautiful scenery all around:
And the scenery inside the village was equally pretty:
Not to mention it was so nice to be able to walk around without fear or sound of cars--an ideal place to write, methinks!
After all that rushing around, we decided to give ourselves a break and take it easy on Friday. We checked out the market along Via Sannio, just outside the city walls, and then lounged for a while by the Circus Maximus (which is mostly just a big field now--but still fun for imagining scenes from Ben-Hur):
(That's Palatine Hill again in the back.)
We also stopped for gelati in a shop near the hotel that was recommended by two of our guidebooks, and oh yum it was the best stuff ever.
We went to sleep early that night, because the next morning we were taking a train to Naples. But that story I will share tomorrow. :D