Sunday, June 7, 2015

April 22, 2015
Rome ~ Vatican City

Our originally scheduled excursion to the Vatican was in the morning, but a few weeks before we arrived, our visit was changed to the afternoon, as the Pope was having an audience in the morning. The schedule change gave us free time (which we came to understand meant, "Gloria will find something for us to do") in the morning, so off to the piazzas we go! I'll tell you now that there are 42 photos in this post, so feel free to turn back now while you can!

Basilica of Sant'Agostino; St. Monica (Lindsay's patron saint) is entombed here! We popped in for a quick look, and I didn't even realize that I had passed her tomb until it was too late, we were forging ahead! There is so much to see in every inch of this city!

A short walk away is Sant'Eustachio Piazza, and we're facing the Pantheon. 

Outdoor restaurants in the piazza tend to be more expensive (like this one), so Gloria would kindly direct us towards more affordable fare.

She showed us how to drink from local fountains (yes, the water is very clean!) by plugging the hole under the spout to make the water squirt up! 

One of the eight Corinthian columns across the front portico of the Pantheon! (I'm back in my original clothes, but I had them cleaned at the hotel, I promise! Still no luggage...)

Inside the Pantheon. Commissioned Before Christ, and completed approximately 118 AD, it was originally built to honor the gods, but is now used as a Catholic church. The inside rotunda is incredible!

The tomb of King Umberto I. Raphael is also entombed here. See what I mean?! Famous dead people everywhere!

The concrete dome is widely photographed; the oculus is the main source of natural light.

You can see the rotunda from this angle.

THIS is why I love Rome!

And this!

Oh, and this! 

The Fountain of the Four Rivers, another Bernini masterpiece, designed for Pope Innocent X, in Piazza Navona. The immense size is too much to get in one photo, so I took 100 different angles! That's an Egyptian obelisk in the center!

This was on a Wednesday. Imagine what a Saturday must look like!

Italians have a love affair with fountains! One of two additional fountains in the piazza. 

Now we're headed to Vatican City! Alleluia!

Gloria moved our group to the front of thousands of people in pays to be part of a tour! That's us!

Once inside, there seems to be a lot to do to get ready for a tour (and it is SO CROWDED!), but we made it!

This is a really important statue...I heard "Pliny the Elder", "30 BC", "masterpiece of scupltors of Rhodes" & "Trojan horse". Lots of info here, I'll have to look it up! 

Now, I wish I knew what a lot of the following art is about, but I don't. We were whisked through at a breakneck pace (like everyone is), so we were all just snapping away!

One of MANY mosaics in the museums. Loved this one!

This tapestry of the Resurrection is magnificent, and Jesus' eyes follow you as you walk by.


No biggie. Just a "pretty" ceiling. ;)

I was in love as well with the tapestry maps! Don't they look 3-D?!

Looking out towards the Vatican Radio tower, set up by Marconi, today broadcast in 61 different countries.

I swear, it's a blur...but we were ushered into this room while waiting for the doors to open to head towards the Sistine Chapel. Obviously dedicated to the Madonna, but other than that...

In the hallway before entering. Hey! Another pretty ceiling! ;)

And THEN, we were in the Sistine Chapel. No words really can describe the feeling of being there...a moving, spiritual experience. No photographs are allowed, but that's ok, I don't really think I'll forget the feeling, more than the sights, of being in there. The "Creation of Adam" was smaller overall than I thought (like it matters!) and my favorite depiction was of God the Father (I think):

Laura said, "He looks like a fat Italian grandpa, telling the grandkids to come and sit by him." Right?! Doesn't He? This will stick in my mind forever as how God really is ♥

The hallway outside the Chapel, that the Pope & cardinals walk down. That's all I remember, my head was still in the Chapel!

One main door of St. Peter's Basilica. 

Papa Francesco's window! He had just been up there earlier that morning, wow!

Looking out at St. Peter's Square, just like the Pope! ;) The remains of the Papal audience.

Now...inside the Basilica!

The Pieta, enclosed in glass...but I was THAT close!

THE Dome! (Pinch me, am I really here?!)

The baldacchino. Seriously. Amazing!

The holy water font is massive, even though the photo doesn't show it.

Looking back towards the Basilica as we depart. 
We did some shopping in THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP, and our purchases were blessed before being sent to us at the hotel! 

Time to head back for some rest! (just kidding, we didn't rest!)...

LOOK! IT'S OUR LUGGAGE!!!! Sweet Jesus, I have clean clothes! 

Gloria took us on an extra adventure to the city to have dinner with the locals! Now I'm even more in love with this amazing city! (if that's possible!) We ate in Campo De Fiori, a square close to where we had been earlier in the day. We sat outside and enjoyed the fabulous weather, some great food and wine, and soaked up the atmosphere! I could SO live here! 

Fried artichokes...different, but good! I had fresh gnocchi for my meal, and it was delicious!

After dinner and a walk, Gloria took us on a night tour of the city, which was beyond what we ever expected! 

St. Peter's! At night! And I was there!


Amazing. Moving. Spiritual. Historical. Delicious. 
I'll say it again...the trip of a lifetime! 

Next up, we're flying to Athens!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

La Dolce Vita!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roma, The Eternal City! As a Catholic, Rome is the epicenter of our faith; our "Graceland" as it were (thanks to Laura for that one), so it definitely was on my bucket list. I love cities, and this one is at the top of my list: Romans are friendly and nicely-dressed (I liked that!), nuns and priests are commonplace on the streets (naturally), and the city oozes culture and history from every nook and cranny. The streets teem with visitors and residents alike, and I loved every minute of it.

This was one busy day for us, here we go!

Guy taking a picture with the Arch of Constantine (below) in the background...I wonder how it came out?!

I'M AT THE COLOSSEUM! IN ROME!!! Check out Carolyn laughing in the bomber! (or maybe she was laughing at my white socks with my shoes...still didn't have our luggage...)

The triumphal Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, sits between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.

One of my first views of the Colosseum. We looked up. A lot. 

The amphitheater held over 50,000 spectators. Our guide reminded us that nothing good ever happened here; only combat and death. Since the floor is missing, you can see rooms and tunnels clearly. 

A panoramic view.

The Arch of Titus, looking towards the Forum. The inside reliefs show the "Spoils of Jerusalem". 

I'm not sure which of this is the remains of the Forum and/or Circus Maximus...they're difficult to picture when so much is brain and imagination were on overload! 

Ruins of a large home off the Via Sacra (Sacred Way), the main street in ancient Rome.

Continuing our walking tour...

The Altar of the Fatherland, the largest national monument in Italy.

Galleria Sciarra, an art nouveau hotel, near Trevi Fountain. We stopped here to regroup and get some history from Gloria (and we needed a few minutes rest as well!) 

Trevi Fountain was under construction, but we still got to throw our 3 coins in the (smaller) fountain!
Coin in the right hand, aim over the left shoulder, then wish and throw! We all did it, and it was good fun!

Moving toward the Piazza di Spagna...

Column of the Immaculate Conception, with statues of Isaiah and King David on this side. With the help of a crane, a fireman places a wreath of flowers at the top, on December 8.

Looking toward the Spanish Steps...yep...that is one crowded piazza! 

Now HERE'S a photo bomb I really enjoyed! Me and a couple young Italian guys, hamming it up (how'd I get so lucky?!)

Bernini's Fountain of the Ugly Boat, at the base of the Spanish Steps. Some young guys from Slovakia (I think?) struck up a conversation with us here, and they couldn't believe we didn't know their most famous athlete, who's featured on a euro. He kept saying (in a thick accent) "Are you kidding?" "You're joking, right?" Awkward. 

Laura bought some hot roasted chestnuts, and we shared. They were pretty darn good...weird consistency (like a firm potato), but interesting!

We took a walk down the Via Condotti, housing shops like Gucci, Bulgari and Prada. Check out all the flowers on the Steps in the background. 

All I could afford on the Via Condotti was a coffee! Coffee in Italy was fabulous, and I was determined to be a part of the "afternoon espresso scene"...locals purchase an espresso, down it in 3.25 seconds, and go! (there are no seats in a coffee bar, you're not supposed to stay that long) I had a cappuccino, which takes quite a bit longer to down, so I awkwardly stood there drinking as quickly as I could! (and the baristas were wearing tuxes!) 

Ok, whew, time for the hotel...for about an hour, then we were out to dinner!

A flower stand on the way "home"

Dinner on this night was with the Tenors; delicious and so entertaining!
Our bellies were full of food and drink, so there was only one thing we could do....
drink some more! (HEY, gimme a break, we're in Italy for cryin' out loud!)

We ended up in Robin & Carolyn's room (they always got the big rooms!) I'm using my new selfie stick that I bought by the Colosseum; the selfie-stick-sellers are relentless, even when I had one in my hand, they'd try to sell me another one, ugh!

I can't wait till my next entry, we're going to the VATICAN! 
I'm headed to North Dakota this weekend for a quick getaway with the hubby, but I'll see ya next week!

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