Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Viva la Roma!

Whoa. What a crazy weekend! From ancient relics to drunkards at the Hard Rock and everything in between...I don't even know where to begin. I guess I will just start at the beginning...

One of the lovely things about the program through which I'm studying is that it takes us on several overnight excursions over the course of the semester. This weekend, they took us to Roma. Here are the highlights.

Historical Center

Rome is gorgeous! It's clean, huge, and the roads are smooth (which is more than I can say for Florence!) The Renaissance, Medieval, and Baroque periods have all left their footprints in its architecture, art, and culture and I was so blessed to see it. As gorgeous as it is, however, I am SO GLAD I live in Florence. Sure, Rome might be cleaner and prettier but it's also full of tourists and obnoxious Indian toy salesmen. And that's in February.

The Spanish Steps 
Ensuring my return to the city by tossing my coin into the
Trevi Fountain (that's really me, I promise)
Legend has it that, if you toss your coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the fountain, you will return to Rome. If you throw 2 coins, you will find love; 3 and you will find either marriage or divorce. Neptune collects about €3000/day.

Trevi Fountain
What's a party in Italy if it isn't crashed by some random
Italian dudes?
There are obelisks EVERYWHERE in
Rome (most of them were stolen by
Egyptians by the Catholic Church)

The Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
For those of you who don't know, the Pantheon was a temple to the pagan gods in Ancient Rome. When Emperor Constantine made Christianity an accepted religion of Rome through the Edict of Toleration, it was converted to a Catholic church. 

Kids, just say no. 
Piazza Novona...IMO the most beautiful
piazza in Rome. And it's full of crazy
 rad street performers. 

Castel Sant'Angelo
Piazza Novona (Rome is even more beautiful at night!) 
The Colosseum
It's pretty surreal to stand on this soil and think about all of the stuff that used to go down here. It was basically an ancient rave...with a tad more violence. 

The Vatican State

This was by far the most beautiful part of Rome (in my opinion). St. Peter's Basilica is the largest church in the Christian faith and, let me tell ya, it's pretty legit. I had no idea what to expect but, when we walked in, I was completely taken aback. In a word, it was opulent. A giant room made primarily of marble and containing statues and frescoes by some renowned artists. 

On one hand, I could not believe what I was seeing and was completely amazed. On the other hand, I couldn't help but be disappointed when I though of how the church came to be and all of the money and political motives that went into building it. A lot of the marble was stolen (with direction from past popes) and, if it wasn't stolen,  boo-coos of the church's money was spent on acquiring the materials. And for what? So that the pope and the church could appear more powerful and intimidating. Isn't the church supposed to be humble (the opposite of powerful and intimidating) and use its resources to care for widows and orphans? I can't say that I am any better (we're all human and are perfectly capable of committing the same sins) but the politics of the Catholic Church (past and present) has always been a source of frustration for me. I will shutup now.

Vatican Square/St. Peter's Basilica (unfortunately, no sign of
the Pope-mobile)
The alter of St. Peter's Basilica (one of
the most beautiful things I've ever seen)
St. Peter's Basilica (from Castel Sant'Angelo)
Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Just chillin' in the Vatican Square ('cuz that's how I roll)
Hey Jesus! (this statue was the pre-cursor to people seeing
Mary on their toast).
The coolest sculpture (IMO) in St. Peter's

How would you like this rug in your living room (Vatican
Egyptian mummy at the vatican museums (totally BA)
Plato and Aristotle chillin' in the Vatican Museums
(Raphael's famous School of Athens fresco)

I could spend my entire life in the Vatican Museums and still not see all there is to see. It's a virtual labyrinth of frescoes, maps, tapestries, Egyptian artifacts, and sculptures. I spent 2 hours there. The maze ends when you arrive at the Sistine Chapel, home to the works of the most renown Renaissance artists (Raphael, Botticelli, Bernini, and others). Michelangelo's Last Judgment, the Fall of Man, and SO MANY OTHER Biblical stories are spelled out in paint. 

If you're unaware of how the Sistine Chapel came to be, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the masterpiece on the ceiling. Michelangelo resisted, arguing that he was a sculptor, not a painter. He eventually relented and spent 4 years painting his masterpieces, hardly sleeping, and usually only living on bread and water. He resented Julius for making him do it and contended that the only purpose it served was to lift up the demanding pope and add to his grandiosity. (Michelangelo is a bigger person than I.)
The famous "Fall of Man" by Michelangelo on the ceiling of
the Sistine Chapel (btw, taking pics in the chapel is a HUGE
no-no. People get kicked out for doing it. Didn't stop me.)
The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Street Art


For whatever reason, the street musicians all really seem to
like Pink Floyd. 
At the Porta Portese Market (Europe's largest open air
market with 4000+ vendors. I bartered for an amazing
hand-painted, antique tea cup/saucer)
He was making my friend Steph repeat everything he did...

...and then this happened. 

He wouldn't let her go until she kissed him. (To top it off,
this dude totally reminded me of the dude from the Ernest
movies. Remember those?)
If you give them money, they do a trick.


This guy must hate his life. (btw, we're
all DYING for some good sushi. It
seems as if there's no such thing in

Friday night dinner consisted of a nice trattoria with friends

The owner gave us a 15% discount AND serenaded us
during our meal. One of my favorite experiences in Italia
so far.
For our last night in Rome, my roommate Elle and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant with 45 different salads (yum!) and then went out with some friends to the Hard Rock (not exactly Roman but we wanted some good American music). It was 2.5 hours to wait for a table so we stood by the bar (my friends ordered expensive mixed drinks while I offended the bartender by ordering a cappuccino...Sorry, dude, I don't drink!). We met some guys from Idaho (one of whom now lives in Vincenza, Italy) and they invited us to their table where we stayed until 2:30 am. My head didn't reach my pillow until after 3am and we woke up at 7am to go to the Porta Portese Market across the river. All of this in conjunction with the walking we did left us all completely exhausted. 

But it was so worth it...

Off to Switzerland on Thursday!