Thursday, 11 February 2016

Roaming Rome.

We arrived in Rome at 6:30pm Friday night and stumbled around the bus terminal for a while to work out how to get to our air b'n'b. Set on an uber, but with no drivers around, we began to walk. The walk however, was terrible as there was a horrid web of roads, and the dodgy nature of the surrounding areas made us feel like we were about to be shanked any moment. Very different to the beautiful and relaxed nature of Florence - but, Rome is so huge in comparison.

Eventually an uber driver became available, so we hailed it and arrived at our destination. It wasn't exactly the nicest area, but the flat itself was really nice/ great value for money. It could sleep 5 people overall, and had a little kitchen area. The owner was nice too and left us some maps on local places to visit and how to get to some destinations, but we mainly used google maps for that honestly.

In the evening, deciding to save ourselves some money, we went to the local supermarket and cooked. I had hotdogs while Matt ate pasta, opting for an early night.

Saturday morning after some lazing around, we got up and at it by venturing to Castle Sant'Angelo on the metro. It was only €6 entrance with a student card so we went in. It was built in 123 AD originally as a mausoleum by Emperor Hadrian of the Roman Empire. His ashes were placed there alongside his wife and child. An inscription he wrote about his soul read: 'Little soul, gentle and drifting,/ guest and companion of my body,/ now you will dwell below in pallid places,/ stark and bare;/ there you will abandon your play of yore.'

It was then used as a military fortress from 401AD. On top of the castle [as pictured beneath] is the Archangel Michael, hence its name. Legend has during Gregory the Great's papacy (590-604), a terrible bout of plague occurred and he organised a procession to the tomb of the Apostle Peter. Near the mausoleum the people of Rome saw a vision in the sky, and the plague ended. In memory of this, a statue was placed of the archangel. 

The views were great from the castle and it was definitely worth it. Matt has been hilarious, just constantly talking about how he'd seen these buildings in Assassins Creed and all he had to do was jump onto this ledge and to escape just go out of the window in the stack of hay inevitably below us right? That boy spent far too much on games growing up.

Castle Sant' Angelo.
Ponte Sant'Angelo.
"It's too bright I can't see!"
Michael the Archangel - Legend that links to the name of the castle. 

Afterwards we went to the Vatican - the queues around the area were huge. Though I have heard they usually are gigantic, they were particularly severe this year as Catholics from around the world were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Door'. It's a journey made once every 25 to 50 years to symbolise the passing into the presence of god and grants temporal punishment for the pilgrims' sins - Salvation & Mercy.
St. Peter's Basilica - View from Castle Sant'Angelo.
Matt and I in front of St. Peter's Basilica. 
Getting hangry, we couldn't find a shop that wasn't heaving and wasn't super over-priced. As a result, we decided to take the trip to McDonalds (first time this holiday though, be impressed)! Quickly scoffed it down as I plead with Matt to get moving. I had booked the Vatican Chapel and Museums online for a 1pm slot to avoid the queues - €8 each with a student ticket, and €7 for an audioguide. For some reason there wasn't a queue for this area, even though everything I had read, and my parents experience last year, led me to believe otherwise. Better safe than sorry though! It's the sixth most visited museum in the whole world - behind Palace Museum (Beijing), Louvre, British Museum, Met Museum of Art (NY), National Galley (London).

The museum displays the collection built upon by Popes throughout the centuries, especially Renaissance art. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early sixteenth century, of particular significance is the Sistine Chapel. Honestly, it wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. But having the audioguide definitely made it a lot better as I actually knew what I was looking at. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside (not sure why). But it was decorated by a range of artists, most famously the top half by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. It has nine scenes from the book of Genesis (the most famous being the creation of Adam - photo below from wikipedia) and twelve prophetic figures. 

Michelangelo: Creation of Adam.
My favourite scene is on the northern wall, 'Delivery of the Keys' by Perugino. It's related to Matthew 16 where the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven' are given to St. Peter, representing the power to forgive and to share the word of God - giving them power to allow others to heaven. 

Perugino, 'Delivery of the Keys'.
Matt's favourite area was the gallery of maps. Directed by Egnazio Danti, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII Concompagni in 1581, it shows the main regions, major islands and four principal ports - combination of history and geography. 

Matt in his favourite room - Gallery of maps! 

Another one of my favourite rooms was 'Room of the Segnatura', with Raphael's most famous frescoes, marking the start of the high Renaissance, painted between 1508 and 1511. It's supposed to show the three greatest categories of the human spirit - Truth, Good and Beauty. My favourite wall was on the School of Athens to show philosophy/ rational truth, mainly because of the links it has to my degree.

School of Athens - Room of the Segnatura by Raphael.
Anyway, enough of the art chat. After we had spent a few hours there, we decided to walk over to the Pantheon. On the way we passed Sant'Agnese in Agone, there was a festival going on as it's carnival season, but honestly not a lot seemed to be happening other than some people oddly playing the bag pipes. There were loads of little kids dressed up though throwing confetti over the streets all weekend.

The Pantheon was started 27 BC, but as it is today, finished around 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It is a huge building with a circular dome roof - actually the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. When it rains, it goes straight through the hole in the roof. It's a church dedicated to 'St Mary and the Martyrs', and the square in front is named the Piazza della Rotonda. It was very grand and magnificent, but unfortunately we had to rush round it because it was closing time. After that, we went inside a few churches and passed the grand Piazza Venezia. It is great that all of them are free in Rome. For dinner we had a quick pit-stop in a Scottish bar, totally awful food but cheap.

Arriving at the Trevi Fountain, Matt was underwhelmed by it. I love it though, especially by night. It's a shame it's always so crowded though, really ruins the experience - I mean, I was adding to the crowd so, hypocritical of me. I did toss a coin into it and make a wish though, despite Matt's irritation. We went to the Spanish steps but they were definitely underwhelming and actually under construction. Eventually we ventured home, rolled around napping and watched suits. 

Roof of the Pantheon. 
Chiesa del Gesù, consecrated 1584.
Sant'Andrea della Valle - My favorite church, begun in 1590, finished in 1650.

Inside the church - Rubbish picture sorry!
Piazza Venezia & Museo Centrale del Risorgimento.

Trevi Fountain.
At 8:30pm we got on a bus to the colosseum. We were unable to find a place to buy tickets, and when we asked a local he told us they never checked, so we risked it. I then tried buying one on the bus but the machine ate my money so we just gave up. We paid €20 Colosseum Pub Crawl and in that you got a t-shirt, crap welcome shot, free drinks for an hour, some pizza and entrance to bars/ clubs. It was rather disorganised honestly. There weren't many people on the crawl, around twenty, and the organisers didn't make any effort in getting people to mingle, didn't know who was on it and who wasn't! The bar was quite busy but it didn't take too long to get our free drinks - must be awful in peak season though. We then headed to the next bar, which was the most disorganised mess ever. Usually they get a bus, but the bus was completely full so we had to do a long walk instead. We spent our night with two aussies doing Tequila shots (thankfully €3 each) and singing karaoke. Decided to leave the night before the club as we were both feeling rather tired and too drunk. However, we got very lost and confused, ended up having to hail and uber again. 

Rome by Night.
Bar Crawl Friends.
Unable to move for hours in a hungover mess, we didn't leave the house until midday. It was far colder than I expected so I spent most of the day shivering in a little ball haha. Every first Sunday of the month, the main attractions in Rome are free - the colosseum, vatican museums etc. It's a great idea and makes history accessible to everyone, if only London would do that! It does mean though huge queues. It took us about 45 minutes to get into the colosseum though, so not too awful. Could have paid €15 to join a tour group, but decided against it. Matt bought an audioguide (€5) instead to tell him a bit about it, but he loves reading about Rome anyway so knew most of it - as a child and today - hence my choice to take him to Rome. Funniest part of the trip was Matt getting stuck in the turnstile entering the colosseum. It pinned his crotch against the side and he couldn't move, he triggered a little alarm and the security guard had to help him hahaha.

After we tried going to the Roman Forum but unfortunately we were too late and it closed at 4pm. We walked up palatine hill pointlessly as we couldn't see anything from it. We walked around the perimeter of the Roman Forum instead and came across Circus Maximus chariot racing stadium much to Matt's excitement. There's literally nothing there though, just a field with a sign that says it used to be there. Luckily we came across a great view point that I'd recommend, I've attached a map. If you walk round the perimeter you'll come across it eventually, or you can gooogle 'Comune Di Roma Gabinetto Sindaco' and walk behind it.

We went back to our place for a bit before going to an Irish pub for a few drinks and watching superbowl hype. Having to get up at 6:30am, we decided against watching the superbowl, but placed a few bets anyway. For the third year in a row, I won! Much to Matt's anger (as usual). I can tell the future.

"I am a Roman Emperor."
Getting artsy at the Roman Forum.
Location of view-point if Roman Forum is closed.

Campidoglio: Michelangelo-designed hilltop square.

Cordonata 'steps'.
"There's no parking... I guess I'll just leave my car right here!" - Italy has the world's worst parking.
At 6:30am we got a bus, then train, then another bus to the airport. It took around 2 hours and was very complicated, the internet was useless at helping too. Go to Termini metro station, get to Laurentina station and ride the 720 bus. The airport was tiny and rather relaxed so there wasn't a big queue to get through anything.

Now back home and back to reality. Matt and I spent the night in the library finishing off some last-minute work for seminars tomorrow, booooo.

Good-bye Italy!

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