Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Colosseum...the Vatican Instead! (Oct. 25, 2010)

Today was the day to visit the Colosseum and the ruins. We met up with Nancy and Joe at 8:30 and took a taxi to the place where we were meeting the tour. Look at the black sky. Did we pack an umbrella? Noooo....

The Colosseum in the background…

The black sky turned into a downpour and our tour guide met us with some bad news…the ticket sellers for the Colosseum had staged an impromptu strike and we couldn't get tickets. We could come back at 1:00, but that is the busiest time for tours. We agreed to try the tour again the next morning. So now we had a free day! We couldn’t find a taxi to save our souls. We asked a policeman who was standing nearby where we might find a taxi. He pointed over our heads to this sign…good grief! If we had been any closer we would have tripped over it. We did hope this wasn’t our taxi!

We snagged a taxi back to the hotel and had a cappuccino and launched Plan B. We decided to finish visiting the Pantheon and do the audio tour, go visit a part of the ruins that is supposedly overrun with cats, and visit the local market. So we were off again! We walked back to the ruins which Joe had visited yesterday. There are supposed to be 1000 cats here, all neutered and fed, so they are quite happy to remain.

So we stood back and looked and looked…slowly you started to see a few cats. They were well hidden…it was raining and they have no intention of coming out!

We walked to Piazza Campo dei Fiori, the market which is where the locals shop for produce and flowers.

Not sure what this is…some kind of cauliflower. It was pretty!

Mmmm…cheeses and smoked meat…

Jim bought some bananas…

We’ve seen a lot of nuns and priests…I guess that shouldn't be a huge surprise in Rome!

We walked back to the hotel and had lunch with Nancy and Joe and then headed our separate ways. Jim and I decided to go to the Vatican City, hopefully to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. We took a taxi and arrived at St. Peter’s…it is huge!

You can see the center, upper balcony where the Pope makes his speeches. The statues of 11 apostles (the 12th being St. Peter who has his own statue elsewhere) and John the Baptist are featured on the roof line. I am not sure if these chairs are here all the time…

Construction began in 1506 and was completed in 1626. It has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and has seating capacity for 60,000. The architecture was the work of many well known artists, including Michelangelo.

This statue is of Pope Pius IX, second longest serving pope in history after St. Peter.

Seating for outdoor masses…these seats run in one direction and ones behind the next railing run perpendicular to them…seating for thousands…

Elaborate ceiling in the entrance to the basilica…

The Swiss Guard whose only goal is to protect the life of the Pope. After the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul in the 1980s, their training was upgraded.

Michelangelo’s Pieta which was made in1499 shows Mary holding her son, Jesus, after the crucifixion. When you see it in person, it is stunning. After years of being completely open to the public, it is now behind bullet proof glass following a 1972 attack on it. The deranged attacker walked into the chapel and attacked the sculpture with a hammer, shouting “I am Jesus Christ.” Onlookers snatched up the pieces of marble that flew off. Some were later returned, but others including Mary’s nose, were not.

The interior of the basilica…just one of these features in a church would be astounding. It is overwhelmingly beautiful.

The Last Communion of St. Jerome, a holy doctor of the church, in his 93rd year as he was dying.

The baldacchino, the canopy designed by Bernini, beneath the dome of Michelangelo, to cover the papal altar. It is made of 927 tons of bronze, most of it taken from the Pantheon, stands 90 feet tall and is accented with gold leaves.

The stairs going down to the tomb of St. Peter, which is not open to the public.

Michelangelo’s dome above the baldacchino and the tomb of St. Peter.

Bernini’s monument in the apse is topped by a yellow window featuring the holy spirit as a dove. The center around the dove is made of the thinnest alabaster so that it appears to be perpetually lit.

Jim in front of St. Veronica with her veil, which is believed to have been used to wipe the face of Jesus as he carried the cross. You can see how huge all these statues are.

Another of the many stunning statues. You could spend days looking at all of them…

And another…

The statues on the top were made larger than those on the bottom so that they would appear to be the same size.

List of the popes beginning with St. Peter who reigned for 34 years...

We left the basilica filled with awe. We wanted to go to the Vatican Museum, but it was going to be closing soon, so we called it a day in the Vatican City. We walked to the taxi stand nearby and were slightly outraged to be told that the ride back to the hotel would be 18€. Being as it only cost 6€ to get there, we huffily said “no thanks” and started walking. Great plan, but we really didn’t expect to walk back to the hotel, and anyone who knows Jim knows how much he loves to walk. Along the way we saw a Canadian flag!

Turned out to be the Canadian Embassy. Maybe they would give us a ride back, heh heh

Beautiful scene on the Tiber River…our legs are little sore now. Yeah, we’re showing those taxi drivers!

Getting closer…this is a cute sign.

Good thing they have the sign, because I can’t imagine anyone heading down this alley thinking there was a restaurant in it.

And we’re back at the Piazza Navona…we can really get a better idea now of the track for chariot racing…

After over an hour of walking, we were back at the hotel. We sat outside and had a much-deserved glass of wine. Our time in Rome was getting short, and so after a little rest, it was off to the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain (1732-62) is one of the most famous fountains in the world. Legend has it that if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you will return to Rome.

No matter what time of day or night you are here, there are always crowds of people.

We headed to a restaurant for dinner that was recommended by Rick Steves. It was supposedly a German restaurant, but the menu was a mix of everything. We had pork sausages, probably the saltiest thing we have eaten in a long time. Rick’s recommendations are normally good, but we wouldn’t pass this one along to anyone! It was incredibly busy though…

And with that we ended another busy day in Rome! Tomorrow, we are off to the Colosseum…Round 2!

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