I had my first dose of the city of Rome last Friday and let me tell you, it was simply incredible.
We arrived in Rome from Viterbo close to 11 a.m. after an hour-long delay had grounded us in Viterbo. Trenitalia does not operate unless the tracks are nearly spotless, probably due to the fact that this region of Italy hardly ever gets any snow.
Once we arrived, we headed straight to the Vatican, its own country, and home of the Pope. We don’t know if the Pope is in the country or not unless there is a service, which runs contrary to the standard upheld in England. In England, a flag is raised at the Parliament building signifying the Queen’s presence in the country.
Once inside the Vatican, I laid my eyes on Saint Peter’s Basilica – the most beautiful thing I have seen in my life to date. In Roman Catholic tradition, the Basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, also according to tradition, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica.
Inside, never have I seen anything more visually stimulating, mind-blowing, and emotionally riveting. The art, the sculptures, the crypts – its hard to ignore the history. Seeing past Pope’s buried there, seeing the 30-meter high alter, and seeing works of artistic masterpiece by Michelangelo and Rafael in the same room, right in front of my eyes — man, I get Goosebumps just thinking about it again.
Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her only son, Jesus, was erected before he was 20 years old. Fun fact: In the 70s, a crazy man ran inside the Vatican and smashed part of the sculpture and badly damaged it. After this, the sculpture was protected behind a wall of glass.
In 2005 when Pope John Paul II passed away he was buried in the Basilica. There was a memorial for him in the Basilica, his body not on display like some of the other Popes of the past. Pope Blessed Innocent XI ruled for 12 years and 11 months from 1676-1689. I asked our tour guide how the bodies are preserved and all she could say was that the method of preserving the bodies as changed drastically over the centuries and there is not once specific way to preserve the body. Seeing Innocentius embalmed in a glass case on display for literally the entire world to see was different. Above him rests an iconic mosaic of Jesus and his disciples.
After leaving the Vatican, we crossed the River Tiber and saw the skyline outdone only by the monument dome that is the Basilica. Walking the streets of Rome is incomparable. There is nothing more beautiful than the architectural detail of the most mundane buildings. The sheer beauty of the government buildings where the Senate and Congress meet amazed me as well.
We traversed through alleys and streets passing statues, or so we thought. But really, these statues were street performers looking for an extra Euro or two for their troubles. We passed large piazzas where small but meticulously detailed fountains occupied the centers of the enormous gathering spaces. Piazzas here are similar to town centers or central square except they are much more open, usually have a fountain or two and serve as a home for street vendors or longtime shop owners.
The Pantheon was an amazing site in itself. We walked inside and saw paintings and sculptures as well as the preserved body of the great painter, Rafael. The Pantheon used to be a Pagan temple which explains the dome shape and giant hole at the top of the dome.
When I was inside, all I could think was, I’ve been here before, I have. And I was right, I had been there, but I was living vicariously through the fictional videogame character, Ezio Auditore da Firenze of the Assassin’s Creed series. I remember climbing through the top of the Pantheon and scaling down the dome and walls to assassinate a Borgia leader.
Videogames aside, the design and detail were so beautiful. To think that iconic buildings such as the Pantheon were built so many centuries ago is a thought that I am having a hard time conceptualizing. I truly have been missing so much, its just not the same as reading about it in a textbook or watching a documentary. Nothing beats seeing it for yourself.
We also saw the Trevi Fountain, which is the largest fountain I have ever seen in my life. There are sculptures constructed so preciously that a cannonball or blunt force object could really cause a lot of damage; not that I was thinking about that or anything. Anyway, the Trevi Fountain is beautiful and romantic. I would recommend seeing the Trevi Fountain if you ever come to Rome.
Towards the end of the day, we visited the Spanish Steps, a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe.
The trip was fun, but not long enough. I need more time at Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, as well as the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Tiber Island, Castel Sant’Angelo, and more.
As I have mentioned, there is much to cover in Rome, so my visits to the ancient city are far from over..
VIEW THE REST OF THE PHOTOS FROM MY FIRST VISIT TO ROME HERE.