We made up for our lazy few days on Elba by walking around Rome until our feet felt bruised.
I’ll have to go back some day though because I still didn’t see everything – and my 20 cent coin is in the Trevi Fountain so I’ll definitely be back.
On our first day we walked around the Forums, trying to work out what building each piece of pillar was from – The Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, Basilica Julia, House of the Vestal Virgins…
On the second day we spent a short time at the Vatican, but then headed away from the crowds to the Lateran area, where the popes used to live before they fled to Avignon in 1309 (they were in Avignon until 1377).
One of the strangest things in the Lateran area was the Sacred Stairs (Scala Santa), thought to be the same flight of steps Jesus ascended in the house of Pontius Pilate (they were moved here by a rich Roman lady). If you want to go up the staircase you must do so on your knees, but there are also staircases on each side that you can walk up. At the top is a tiny room called the Sancta Sanctorum, where the popes used to pray when they lived in the area. It’s a tiny beautiful room.
I’ve still not seen the Sistine Chapel – the queues are just too long and the number of people which would be in there at any one time makes me think I wouldn’t get a good look at the place. Anyway, the room at the top of the Sacred Stairs is called the Sistine of the Medieval Age, and it’s a bit less crowded.
We also visited the Pantheon, the only intact Roman building still standing in Rome, some of the Catacombs, and lots more churches. One church claimed to have the chains used by Herod to hold St Peter and another claimed to have pieces of the manger, but they weren’t on public display.
It’s the end of our third day here now and although there’s more I’d love to see, we’ve kind of got to keep on going… We’ve got a long way to go yet and a lot of other beautiful cities and places to see.
I think my mind is a bit too feeble to take in really old things… When we first arrived in Rome I was staring at buildings and bits of ruins and I just wasn’t able to take it in – it’s everywhere you look. And then it started to click that parts of these ruins looked a lot like other ruins I’d seen in England, France and Turkey. I mean I’ve known about the Roman empire of course, but actually being in Rome started to really drive it home. These Romans were impressive to say the least.
So then we started checking out some of the churches in Rome. Susan and I often take a peak inside churches and temples of all kinds – they’re interesting, often functional, usually beautiful and I think they can give you a sense of history better than many museums can. But I’ve never seen anything like the churches in Rome: Gold, silver and marble aplenty; beautiful sculptures and frescoes; old (and sometimes very strange) relics and remains; and overall just a general feeling of wealth and (dare I say it) power.
Facing up to all of this left me feeling tired and overwhelmed. So I chilled out and had a gelati – without a doubt the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Mmmmm… Gelati…
Our visit to Rome hasn’t all been about heavy stuff like empires and religion. There was great food, interesting people for watching, lovely narrow winding streets and a great buzz. Oh, and did I mention the gelati?