This will be the last travelogue we post from Rome. There may be additional travelogues that we will post when we get home. We depart from Rome for Chicago tomorrow (Monday 9/8) at 10:55 AM.
This morning we were looking at the Rome books that we have and noted an interesting entry. In concerns the area named: “Piazza Campo dei Fiori”. That is the square just a bit over a block away from our apartment. The book describes the area as follows:
“The area around Camp dei Fiori is one of the liveliest districts in Rome with narrow streets full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants and artisans’ workshops. The early morning bustle of the market gives way to diners, strollers and kids playing football on the cobblestones. In small squares, graceful palazzos stand alongside older shabbier properties. Set between the Piazza Navona and the Trastevere, this neighborhood is a marvelous one to wander – just remain alert for motorini (modpeds), cars and pickpockets in the alleys.”
Boy, does that capture what we have been experiencing all week. Each night we go the the square and have dinner in one of the sidewalk cafes, and people watch. There are strolling musicians that wander around the square. We have not seen any sign of pickpockets (do you see them, or just find out the hard way?).
All over Rome there are water spigots. Just outside our front door there is one (see photo). This is great, since it is so hot and you need to drink a lot of water (or beer).
We have marveled at the ice cream in Europe. First of all, there are many stores everywhere we look. The stores in Rome seem even more prevalent. The have at least 20 flavors and many of the shops make the ice cream at the store. It has a different texture than our ice cream. It is not frozen as hard and seems to be creamier. Needless to say, we have stopped a number of times!
We have noted what seems to be a significant population of beggars and there are quite a few street people. I guess that most cities have this kind of problem, but it just kind of caught us by surprise. It is such a contrast to the beauty of the city.
One of the fun observations is the scene at stoplights. All of the scooters and motorcycles thread their way to the head of the line in front of the cars (some by using the oncoming lane of traffic). When the light turns green, they all take off like gangbusters – not quite a race, but close. It would appear to us that the number of scooters outnumber the cars, perhaps by 20% to 30% or more.
We also note that their traffic lights flash a yellow light before the green come on. One of the taxi drivers said that it make traffic flow more efficient and allows all of the cars with standard transmissions (most) to get their transmissions in gear.
The weather in Rome has been very hot and humid. While the forecast has reported temperatures in the high 80s, it felt much warmer. It really affected all of us.. In the Vatican, at least two people had heat stroke. We have been coming back to the apartment in the late afternoon to cool off and rest – oftentimes taking a nap.
Now lets talk about our day at the Vatican (Friday 9/5 – our anniversary).
When you tour the Vatican you are actually only touring a small part of an independent city-state. It is approximately 110 acres in size and has a population of around 800. It is the smallest independent state in the world by both population and area. There are approximately 10,000 people who tour the structures each day. The entry fee is 14 Euro. We paid an additional 25 Euro (fees per person) for a guided tour. The tour itself was not particularly great (the tour guide was very hard to understand), but it did allow us to avoid a huge line that was said to take 1.5-2 hours to get through.
You actually tour three structures. The first is the Vatican Museum (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/vatican-museums.htm). The second is the Sistine Chapel (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/vatican-sistine-chapel.htm) and the third is St. Peter’s Basilica (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-st-peters-basilica.htm. As a side note, I was amazed that I was not able to find a single good website on the Vatican in total. I have listed the best sites I could find for each structure.
The Vatican Museum is unbelievable. It is has many huge rooms which have varied displays from sculptures to tapestries to a whole hall of large maps constructed in the 1500s.
The Sistine Chapel is beyond reasonable description. The Michelangelo frescoes and one sculpture are magnificent and overwhelming. There is no way that our cameras could capture the beauty. The site listed above has some good photos. The Sistine Chapel was built in the 15th century.
St. Peter’s Basilica is even more impressive than the Sistine from a structural standpoint. It’s huge, gorgeous, dome was designed by Michelangelo. It was built from 1506-1626. It is the second largest basilica/church in the world. Everything in St Peter’s is made of marble, bronze or gold. What appears to be alter paintings are actually mosaics. Michelangelo’s intensively moving Pieta sculpture is located just inside the entrance.
Saturday we really took it easy. Bill and Jeanne did a bit of touring. We, of course, had our evening dinner in the square and strolled around the area. Pat and Jeanne did some shopping in the open market in the square.
Today we walked to the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_in_Trastevere). The basilica was first started in 217 AD. It was rebuilt in 337 AD and then the current structure was built in 1140 AD One of the unique features of this great basilica is that has beautiful marble columns that have been removed from other structures in the area (see photo).
On the way to the basilica we crossed the Tiber river on the Porta Cestio bridge that dates back to the first century BC. You actually cross the Tiber on another bridge to the Tiber Island which houses a very old hospital. The island is the smallest inhabited island in the world.
I guess that catches us up on our travels. It has been an unbelievable month!
Jim and Pat returning from the market taken by Bill from our apartment window