OMG, what can I say about Rome??? It is absolutely incredible - I think it by far over takes Paris as the most beautiful city in the world… it is just amazing… after getting in yesterday and hitting the supermarket, and having an early dinner across the road, we decided to trek it out to the Colosseum… it's even more INCREDIBLE than I could have imagined - massive ruins, and so beautiful. We didn't go in cause it was shut (given we got there at 7pm!!) but we will definitely being going back there to check it out!
After making it back to Yellow we met our room mates - an American called Leland and 3 Spanish guys. Leland was waiting for his girlfriend to arrive the next day, so we hauled it to the bar downstairs for a game of King's Cup where we learned some new rules… needless to say, with the happy hour drinks flowing, we were all rather intoxicated quite quickly!! We moved downstairs to the BEER PONG ROOM (OMG, I am so getting one of these when I build a house!!!) where the iPod arguments began as everyone thought they were supreme DJ (they were wrong though, cause obviously I am!! Lol). At about 3:30am the guys got hungry, so we started the early morning walk for pizza and I finally called it a night at 4am! The boys decided it was best if they called it a night then too, so we all headed up together, and tried to be SUPER quite so as not to wake up the Spanish guys… funnily enough when we got in one of them called out "BOO!" and gave us the biggest fright! Hahaha. We had an early start ahead of us the next day and decided to get up at 8:30am.
After a not quite as early as ORIGINALLY planned start, we headed off for a fun filled day on the Vatican tour. Amped up for 5 hours of walking (and 5 hours it was!) we left to learn the history of Rome, Catholics and the Vatican. With vague directions we left to meet the walking tour, only to proceed to walk around the MASSIVE square we had been given as our meeting point, for 20 minutes, before seeing a group who roughly resembled a tour group, and figuring out that's who we were supposed to meet! It didn't really help that there was a protest right next to where they were waiting though…
The tour started by taking us along the walk of the pilgrimage, where we learned a lot of the bloody history of Rome and the Catholics up until the time of Emperor Constantine. Now this emperor was part of a war, and him and his troops kept losing, and one day out of desperation he took to wandering the streets of Rome. As he stopped outside the XXXX(???) building he looked up and had a vision of Arch Angel Michael flying over the top of the building three times with his flaming sword drawn, before landing on top of the building and sheathing his sword. The Emperor was so impressed and convinced this meant they were destined for victory, that he went back to his troops - told them all about it, and then, who would have guessed it - they went from losing the war, to winning the whole thing! Emperor Constantine credited this win to the Catholic God, and a short time later made Catholicism legal.
We also learned a great deal about St Peter (Jesus' BFF as he was being referred to) and what he went through as the first Pope. During his time Emperor Nero was in power - now Nero was apparently crazy as a loon. He single handedly killed off the entire blood line of Julius Caesar as he killed his entire family in a rage (bear in mind though, he had been sleeping with his mother for 5 years at this point… how's that for incest???). During Nero's rule there was a massive fire which destroyed much of Rome, with no indication as to who the culprit was. Nero decided to begin the rebuild with his own house…. Which he proceeded to deck out with gold covered passages and walk ways, and even put in a 1.5 acre LAKE in the middle, which he got his troops to go out and collect 1000 swans, so that he could attach them with ribbons to the boat he wanted to pull through the lake. Understandably the Romans were quite annoyed that this rebuild was taking place while the rest of Rome lay in ruins, so speculation began that Nero was the one to start the fire. To shift the focus off himself, Nero chose the most insignificantly small group, the Catholics, and started their persecutions - which was to last for the next 200 years. St Peter was captured, and sentenced to death, and asked only that he was not killed the same way as Jesus as he was unfit to die the same way. As a result of this request they crucified him upside down, and then cut off his feet. The place that they buried him (now under St Peter's Bascilica - one of the most important catholic churches in the world) became a night time vigil for Catholic followers.
Another interesting thing we learned about was St Veronica - who was the only person when Jesus was being led through the streets who thought that it was cruel, and who came forward to wipe his brow. She then converted to Catholicism and became vital in spreading the word. We learned A LOT about people who had visions, and became converted, or who had some sort of interaction with Jesus and converted so I might just hold it there! Lol
From there we began to make our way to St Peter's basilica where we learned about Michaelangelo's dome. Now apparently there is a Catholic rule, which states that the dome of the main church in a city, must be the biggest dome in the city. Now, Michaelangelo had a big challenge ahead of him, as the dome of the Pantheon is 43.2m across the diameter, so he had to decide if he was going to go with the church, or go with his artistry. Being the person that he was, he drew up all of the plans, memorized all the measurements and then destroyed the plans. Michaelangelo was very secretive, so not overly surprising for the people around him. What WAS surprising though, was that Michaelangelo died after he had built the base for the dome (called the drum) so another architect was called in to finish the plans. At which point they realized the dome was 1m smaller than the Pantheon - but they figured no one would know, so they kept up construction.
Vatican city was quite amazing, with the opening square so beautiful and so amazing. The arch ways leading up to the basilica were designed to give the feeling of two arms reaching out to welcome you, and 120 (I think! Lol) angels and patron saints stand above the arch ways. All in all VERY impressive. Inside the Vatican museum lies the Sistine Chapel, which we slowly made our way towards through a series of 6 other rooms. Lots of sculpture, lots of tapestry and lots of tourists… along the way we saw Michaelangelo's muse - a sculpture with no head, arms or legs, which he saw as the purest form. With out a head to see or smell temptation, and without arms to take or legs to walk this figure was without sin. Through out the galleries as well we saw the face that was used for Jesus in Last Judgement (a face from a Greek statue which Michaelangelo was only allowed to used as he said he walked all through Rome and it was the most beautiful face), and various bodies and faces that were used in other of his works. Michaelangelo came to hate the roof of the Sistine Chapel so much, as he came to see it as a symbol of the Catholic churches corruption, and how it was show casing it's wealth. As a gift from the pope at the time, he was told that he would never have to paint for them again. Which turned out to be not true when they forced him to paint the Last Judgement on the wall of the Sistine Chapel a number of years later!
After the AMAZING Sistine Chapel, we all made our way back to the basilica where we finished the pilgrimage walk by rubbing the right foot of St Peter.
From there the guide recommended the place to get the BEST Panini and gelati in Rome…. Now, I'm not so big on Panini (it was quite good though…) but the GELATO WAS AMAZING. Not only was it HUGE, seriously, there were people that had cones covered in ice cream the size of their head! It was SO GOOD!!!
From there we made our way to the Colosseum so that we could check out the inside. It was kind of humbling to think about how long this structure had lasted for, and how long it will most likely continue to stand. From there we slowly made our way to the Pantheon to check out the biggest dome in Rome (really impressive!) and then on to the Trevi fountain where we tossed two coins over our shoulder- the first to ensure your return to Rome, the second to get a wish. I'm not telling you what the wish was or it won't come true though! Hahaha
As we walked back through the streets Nick stopped off to buy a massive Roman helmet 'thing' and I perused the leather shops for a new coat. The daylight all gone, we made our way to the train station where we bought our tickets to Florence for tomorrow. 84 Euro each return later (turns out we could have gotten the regional basic train for 32 euro each!!!) we had our tickets to Florence, but unfortunately won't be making it to Venice as we would only have had 2 hours there, and for the price it just wasn't viable.
So! On to Florence tomorrow for more culture! Hope you've all learned something! Hahaha
Love and miss you all!!!