Italy Rome (Roma) 2001.06.13 - 06.17

Center of the Universe

The quantity of breathtaking sites in Rome is unequalled in any other city. To see them all would take a dedicated week of 8-hour site seeing days. Our Italy schedule allocated 4 days in Rome. Even after prioritizing the sites, we realized our time was insufficient.

A late afternoon arrival to Rome availed us an early evening walk near our hotel. In only a few hours, we walked past a myriad of stunning sites. On approaching the oval, statue studded, Egyptian obelisk-fountain centered Piazza del Popolo, we immediately sensed the grandness of the former Roman Empire preserved in Rome. We both agreed that Piazza del Popolo is our favorite piazza, and we returned daily. Proceeding south, we walked by the tourist infested Scalinata di Spagna (Spanish Steps) where Audrey Hepburn ate ice cream in "Roman Holiday". Further along we came to Piazza Colonna with an elaborately carved pillar (maybe 30 meters high?) telling a pictorial story as it spiraled upward. As we finished up our completely unplanned walk, we reflected on the splendor of these structures and returned to our hotel with anticipation of the wonders awaiting the next morning.

Stepping into the Basilica di San Pietro in the Vatican, one feels at the center of the universe. A treasure house of frescos, mosaics, and statues adorn its cavernous interior. Michelangelo's Pietà near the entrance is a marble masterpiece worthy of being the centerpiece of any reputable museum. The adjacent Musei Vaticani is a world-class museum. Cappella Sistina with one of the most famous set of religious frescos, the Creation and the Last Judgment painted by Michelangelo, is accessible through the museum. A word of warning: line up for the museum well ahead of the 08:30 opening time. When we arrived at opening time (thinking we'd beat the tour groups), the line was 1km long and took 1½ hours to reach the front entrance! Remember that shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed in the Vatican.

Other key sites in Rome we are glad we visited are: Piazza Navona with 3 fountains and artists selling their work, the Colosseo (Colosseum), the ancient Roman ruins of Foro Romano and Palatino, the Catacombs of San Callisto that stretch 20km underground, the mosaic covered interiors of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the Pantheon, and Fontana di Trevi where a coin tossed into the fountain over your shoulder while facing away ensures a future return to Rome. We definitely wish to return.

In the Vatican, statues look down upon Piazza di San Pietro from the Basilica di San Pietro. The Basilica dome above can be climbed by stairs or reached by elevator.

Every inch of the cavernous Basilica di San Pietro is lavishly decorated with world-class frescos, mosaics, and sculptures.

Michelangelo carved the upper and lower body of the Madonna disproportionately to give Pietà, located near the entrance of the Basilica di San Pietro, visual balance.

Long corridors in the Vatican Museum are covered in detailed colorful frescos.

Vatican guards in their colorful uniforms stand at their post posing for millions of tourists clicking their cameras.

An Egyptian obelisk is the centerpiece of our favorite piazza, Piazza del Popolo. Throughout Rome, we counted 12 Egyptian obelisks, more than remain in any Egyptian city.

This small obelisk supported by a handsomely carved elephant rests in front of Chiesa di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Piazza della Minerva.

The interior of Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is covered in marble, mosaics and frescos.

Spectacular mosaics adorn the interior of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

The Colosseo is a regular tourist bus stop. Large tour groups of various nationalities are led around and into the Colosseo by flag toting "guides".

Wes throws a coin over his left shoulder while facing away from Fontana di Trevi to ensure a future return to Rome.

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