I have not satisfactorily explained how amazing my site director, Filiberto, is. This quote sums him up pretty well:
"What the protesters want is socialism, but socialism is too close to communism, so they will settle for a fantasy governmental organization that is able to take a minuscule tax-base and magically give them free school, healthcare, homes, and cars...all while giving them a gravy job. This is only achievable by either Dumbledore or Filiberto." -Scott, one of the five guys in my program, talking about the Occupy Wallstreeters
"...St. Francis of Toulouse. Those are two french towns, To win and Toulouse."
"Here is the tomb of the man who created melodrama. Mele means apple, so he had drama in his orchard."
"That's Stephen. He was stoned. He didn't smoke, but he was stoned."
"This is the Medici chapel. It's baroque, pretty broke."
"There are primary colors, and then there are complementary colors. Those are the free ones."
I'm going to miss Filiberto more than anything else when I go home! He makes me feel so at home because his little puns remind me of my brother, Brett, who I just realized I get to see in 17 days! I can't believe it's December. Only 10 days until I go home! But I am finally basically ready, now that I've seen the number one place on my list: Roma!
We only had three days, and you could spend a lot more time than that in Rome and not see every important landmark and monument. We did our best though, and saw pretty much everything I was dying to see:
We took the early train, went to our hotel, and set immediately out for the Colosseum! I saw the colosseum when I first arrived in Rome in September, and almost cried. It's surreal to see in real life and it's just crazy to think of how long it has been there, almost 2,000 years. Construction finished in 80 A.D. when Titus was Emperor of Rome. We walked around the outside, on the original Roman road, and then toured the inside with Filiberto, our expert guide.
After that, we went on a walk and saw the House of Augustus, where Caesar Augustus lived during his reign as the Emperor of the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. It's huge, and we also saw what remains of the private aqueduct that ran into the house. It was meant to be a safety precaution to protect Augustus from water-born disease.
La Bocca della Verita, the mouth of truth, a giant marble face that is hung on the wall in a church and you put your hand in the mouth and it's supposed to come to life and bite off your arm if you are telling a lie. Audrey Hepburn stuck her arm in it while filming Roman Holiday, so there were tons of Audrey souvenirs being sold outside.
And my arm is still attached to my body! Success!
Ponte Rotto, originally called Pons Aemilius, the oldest bridge in Rome. It was meant to be temporary, but part of it still stands over 1800 years later. From here we also saw the Isola Tiberina, a little island in the middle of the Tiber River that is shaped like a boat.
The Campidoglio, a hill that was once a citadel. It's now filled by palaces and a lovely piazza that was designed by Michaelangelo. From here we also had an awesome view of the forum.
Side note: this is the exact spot where a scene from the Lizzie Mcguire movie was filmed :) I'm a little embarrassed how excited I was when I realized this fact.
This looks like the Colosseum but it is il Teatro di Marcello, an open-air theater built in 13 B.C. This sort of thing is exactly why Rome is such an amazing city; there are 2,000 year old ruins around every corner, just integrated into the city. It's lovely.
The Altare della Patria, a beautiful building dedicated to Vittorio Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy.
Finally, we got to the best part of the day. As we got closer, Filiberto said that he had "heard there was a leak and some flooding in the area but the plumber was called." We heard it from about half a mile away: the Trevi Fountain!
It is so beautiful in person, I completely missed everything Filiberto said about it. The legend is that throwing a coin in will bring you back to Rome someday. I threw one in, and I know it's going to work because I'm going back in less than two weeks. I'm definitely going to go back and throw another one in before I leave to go back to the U.S. though :)
With that, our first tour was over. I decided to keep going, though, and Filiberto took me and a few other people to see the Spanish Steps and la Piazza della Spagna, where there is really upscale shopping, like Prada, and the Spanish Embassy.
View from the top of the steps
Fountain by Bernini and Piazza della Spagna
And this was just day one..
The second day we saw what used to be the Roman baths. There is really nothing very exciting to look at now, but I'm mentioning it anyway because I thought it was fascinating that, at the height of their use, 160,000 people bathed in them every single day. The rest of the day was spent almost entirely in the Vatican, although we could've spent much longer there. The Vatican museums are among the biggest, best museums in the whole world. I was surprised to find that we were allowed to take pictures of everything except the Sistine Chapel:
Vatican library, the dome of St. Peter's in the background
Maybe it's because of reading the Da Vinci Code, but I really wanted a picture of a member of the Swiss Guard
I wish this was actually the Sistine Chapel..it's a poster outside of it. Inside the chapel, guards were threatening to smash people's cameras who were taking pictures, so I decided to obey :)
This is a famous sculpture, but I can't currently remember the name of it..
A man with two faces, it reminds me of Professor Quirrel from Harry Potter :)
There's a room full of map frescoes. This one has Macerata on it!
School of Athens by Raphael
Then we went through a maze of halls to finally, finally reach the Sistine Chapel. Trust me, they make you work for it. It was packed, and I was so glad that I saw it but it's huge and I just didn't really know what I was looking at. There are about fifty different images of stories from the Bible, over half of which I didn't recognize.
Then we had a lunch break and had a little picnic in the piazza next to St. Peter's. A Chinese woman came and sat next to me and her husband took a picture of us. I was confused then, and I still am but it was really funny.
St. Peter's. It's the most beautiful building I've ever seen, this picture doesn't do it justice at all.
Inside the basilica
While inside the basilica, we followed Filiberto around while he talked about various things, and so did a random Spanish couple. They seemed to think that they were being very sneaky by getting a free tour :)
Then, we got to climb up to the top of the cupola! We took the elevator for the first part, but still had 350 stairs to climb from there. The view was completely worth it though!
The cupola from where we got out of the elevator. The sun was setting while we climbed to the top, it was perfect. Somehow Filiberto always makes these moments even more perfect than they would be otherwise.
St. Peter's Square from the top!
Me and Rosie :)
That night, I went to a random part of the city on the metro just to check it out with Annalise. It was still kind of touristy but we got some fantastic gelato and saw a huge obelisk and arches that I'm sure Filiberto could have told us the historical significance of:
Cioccolato e caffè! E state bellissimo
Our third, and final day in Rome, we only had one thing on the agenda: The Pantheon. It's in this tiny piazza full of cafes that sell coffee to stupid tourists for 5 euros (about $7.50).
It takes three people to wrap around a column :)
Tomb of Queen Margherita, for whom margherita pizza was named. Margherita pizza was inspired by the Italian flag; red tomato sauce, white cheese, and green basil.
Inside the Pantheon
Tomb of Raphael
After the Pantheon, the people who are taking music went to the museum of musical instruments, but I went out and about Rome with two girls in my program, Brittany and Beth
Sitting on the Spanish Steps
Filiberto told us that La Casa Del Caffe, near the Pantheon, is the best coffee in Rome so we went and got a caffe, a shot of espresso
Italian pizza > American pizza
Balcony where Mussolini declared Italy's entry into World War II, no one has been out on it since.
Rome was so amazing, I loved it. The city has so much energy compared to Macerata, even though I love Macerata too. Life is very slow-paced and just very Italian in Macerata, and Rome seemed all the more exciting in comparison. I can't wait to go back, even though it will only be for a day, in a little over a week!