Earlier this week, my Traveling Partner and I watched the new CNN program “Stanley Tucci, Searching for Italy.” It’s mostly a show about the various cuisine and foods of Italy with a mix of culture and history. It looks like a replacement for “Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown,” a program we also enjoyed.
In this episode, Stanley was exploring Rome. I was immediately taken back to our four-day stay in Rome several years ago and became the inspiration for this post. We dream of returning Rome and Italy before we are too old and decrepit to maneuver around!
Our journey began when The Youngest spent a year studying abroad in the small city of Udine, north of Venice near the border of Austria. We met her in Venice and after a few day stay there we started our grand tour (at least for us!) of Italy. We boarded the train in Venice in the morning for the nine-hour ride to Rome arriving in the late afternoon.
Prior to our departure for Italy, my Traveling Partner was on extended sick leave recovering from an auto accident. This gave her time to look for lodging that was close to the main train station in Rome, Roma Termini. She found a small apartment located in the International Section of Rome just a few blocks from the Termini. Nearby were several Indian, Greek, and Asian restaurants. Our favorite was the Indian restaurant around the corner from our lodging, it was delicious and the people were so nice.
Down the block was the Mercato Centrale Roma (Central Market) with a wide array of food products as well as vendors of clothing and household products. It quite a place, we stopped there a few times to purchase fresh bread, cheese, olives, fruit, and a few slices of salami for our daily excursions. Below is a photo of the market from our apartment followed by a few photos of some of the foods.
When preparing for our trip, we read that Rome can be crowded, loud, and often times has poor air quality. We were also cautioned about the prevalence of pickpockets. In our experience this was not the case. We loved Rome and only wished we had allotted more time to explore. One day during our explorations we did come across these workers on strike. This is a common tactic of labor unions to call a one-day strike to bring attention to the grievances of their workers. Now they were loud! All the while blocking traffic to make a point.
While my Traveling Partner was convalescing at home prior to our trip to Italy, she contacted the local Catholic Church to inquire about getting tickets to the audience with the Pope at the Vatican. After a few phone calls, the request was made and she was granted for three tickets for the weekly Wednesday audience. On our first day, we found the Pontifical North American College to pick up the tickets. There a nun gave us the tickets and the best information on when to arrive and how clear security. She told us that after security, “Run like hell!” This is to get a good seat. We did what she said!
The next day was Wednesday, we got their just as security opened at 8:00 AM for the 10:00 audience. In the middle of St. Peter’s Square, there were thousands of folding chairs set up. Fortunately, on the good advice of the nun, we snagged some front row seats. But we had a couple of hours to kill. I took photos of the dignitaries and Swiss Guards.
I couldn’t keep myself from taking a photo of the photographers. These guys are part of the Vatican photo crew. One of their jobs is to take photos of the audience as the Pope drives by. The photos are then sold on the Vatican website, I guess every organization needs a profit center!
At the appointed time, Pope Benedict appeared in the Popemobile. He was driven around the adoring crowd, there were about 25,000 of us. Because we had front row seats, I was about ten feet away when he came by our section.
After the “drive by,” the Pope recognized the dignitaries seated near him followed by a short message in several languages. There were pilgrims of all faiths from all over the world. We didn’t even mind that the temperature was on the cool side. After the audience was over, we went off in search of some lunch. We found a wonderful little restaurant where we ordered one of those super thin crust pizzas, it was delicious. We were entertained by three Italian gentlemen who had the full course meal, an appetizer followed by the starter, first course, second course, cheese and fruit and finally desert. They put a way a huge amount of food. One guy ate so much that one of the buttons popped off this dress shirt. Oh, I forgot to mention the wine they consumed. They were still there when we left, we were amazed!
After our lunch, we went back to the St. Peter’s Basilica for a look around on the inside. We learned they have a few more profit centers, one is Climbing the Cupola and another is a tour of the Crypt. My Traveling Partner and The Youngest took the crypt tour. I climbed the cupola. I paid a couple of euro extra to take the elevator part way up. I enjoyed this excursion immensely. I took a lot of photos and a couple that are all time favorites.
The next day we got in line early for tickets to the Vatican Museum with the highlight, a stop at the Sistine Chapel. Photos are prohibited in the Sistine Chapel, it’s protected by copyright law. The main attractions are the paintings by Michelangelo, participlarly of the ceiling. Words are hard to describe the site, there is so much to see in the paintings and frescoes. We parked ourselves on some benches and spent several minutes absorbing the scene. This is also where the cardinals are sequestered when they select a new pope. A travel tip, buy tickets in advance, it will save you time.
While the women went to the restroom located outside the Vatican Museum, I sat on a bench and saw this fellow in the distance taking a close look at his watch. He looked a lot like my Grandpa Miller in his later years. The flat cap, the poor eyesight, mustache, and wrinkled face brought back fond memories.
During our stay we walked around the Roman Forum, a block of ancient buildings in the center of Rome. For centuries, the Forum was the center of daily life for Romans. This is where processions, speeches, meetings, and trials were held. Gladiators entertained the crowds. The shrines and temples were also nearby.
Not far from the Forum, is the Roman Collosseum, one of the seven wonders of the world. Built its 80 AD, it’s largest amphitheater ever built and could hold up to 80,000 people. I thought Lambeau Field in Green Bay was awesome, the Collessum is spectacular! We bought some tickets that included a brief overview of the structure, this was helpful and recommended. Unless you are an architect or an ancient history buff, I wouldn’t go for the premium tours.
The Tiber River is the main waterway flowing through the city of Rome. It’s not very deep, varying between 7 and 20 feet. It’s been polluted for a thousand years requiring Rome to bring drinking water to the city by way of aqueducts. There are ongoing efforts to clean up the river. Note the walking paths along both sides of the Tiber River. They are best used during the daylight hours.
When the sun sets in the west, the many domes pick up the light. This photo is enhance by the use of a telephoto lens to bring the elements closer together.
Thanks for coming along on my brief reminisce of our journey to Italy and Rome. I can’t wait to return.
Until next wee, happy virtual travels!