So after six years of Latin and a lifetime of nerdy ancient Rome obsession, it should be pretty obvious that sightseeing in Rome would be and was one of the high-points of my life. There are enough ruins, monuments and churches in Rome to occupy someone for a lifetime, or at least us for two weeks. Being the teacher types that we are, we spend our days sightseeing while I spouted random historical facts, Erin read everything she could get her hands and gave impromptu walking tours based on her learnings, and Brenna alternated between acting like she was embarrassed to be on vacation with her way-uncool parents (not our actual ones, they are cool, more like the Griswalds) and geeking out with us with her incredible depth of knowledge on ancient Greece (post studying abroad there). Here's our overview of the majors we hit along the way:
The pope is seriously working in some nice digs. We started out by wandering through St. Peter's for about an hour. The building was originally designed by Michaelangelo, although they expanded after his death against his wishes (he thought the church was trying to be too gaudy and really didn't like it - I guess selling forgiveness for sins wasn't his cup of tea). It's an amazingly gorgeous church, overflowing with marble statues, gilded everything, a beautiful dome, (and lots of other dorky things we could tell you about but will spare you).
getting luck from a statue in St. Peter's
Erin outside St. Peter's
Next, we ventured into the Vatican museum and re-emerged 3 hours later. Seriously. I know, you're thinking, "Devin hyperbole," but just ask Brenna and Erin, we did. The catch is this, the Sistine Chapel is in the Vatican museum, but in order to get there they have you wander through an endless number of halls of some not so great and some great art collected over centuries by the Vatican (they are basically the major holding tank for all of Roman history), all of which are insanely crowded and not air-conditioned. When you finally reach the Sistine Chapel, it is not only stunning beautiful, but you feel like you really earned getting there to see it.
A picture of the Sistine Chapel that Brenna snuck when the guards weren't looking
Devin and Brenna finally making it out of the Vatican museum. At total of 5 hours at the Vatican for the day. If you at all questioned the 5 hours, just look at Brenna's face.
This was by far the highlight for me. The Colosseum, spanning centuries of gory entertainment for millions of Romans, looked as good as ever. While the wooden benches that people once watched the games from are long gone, you can still see the elaborate underground catacombs in the center used for transported and holding slaves and animals that took part in the games.
I SERIOUSLY could not be more excited.
Can you even imagine being down there, with the floor of the stadium intact and tens of thousands of people above screaming for blood?
Brenna taking in the scene
The Roman Forum
Next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, which today looks like a giant junkyard of ancient ruins. In ancient Rome it used to be a city center, particularly where wealth Romans lived and did business. We spent a number of hours just wandering around, hanging out next to 2 thousand year old columns and taking pictures.
Me, doing just that.
where did Erin go?
The Trevi Fountain
While it's mostly just a huge tourist site, the Trevi Fountain is amazing and it used to the main aqueduct for Rome. The Romans like to make the functional look fancy. Water gushing everywhere, smell so fresh it's like a swimming pool you really want to jump into in the 95 degree Roman heat, beautifully lights at night, sculptures of a million different sea creatures and gods and goddesses.... The legend is (although it is based on a book not really a legend) that if you throw a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain it guarantees you a return trip to Rome, so of course we did it.
Devin tossing coin, not at all fakely
The steps are THE place to hang out at night, especially with the tourists and and teenage crowd. They go up real high and you get a great view of the city from the top. Ironically, the steps were built with money from the French government. Why not the French Steps you ask? It doesn't have the same ring, and they're also right next to the Spanish embassy. They've also got a sweet little fountain (another fancy looking aqueduct) in front that you can fill up your water bottle from (parents, breath easy, the water is clean, and mom, I don't think this qualifies as street food).
Those would be the steps behind her
This my friends, is home to the best restaurant in the world, Sora Margherita (see Erin's food in Rome post). The Jewish population in Rome is straight from the Holy Land (thank you for the informative walking tour Rick Steves), descended from individuals who came to Rome as respected merchants who were then were turned into slaves, and were forced to live under strict rules and scrutiny in their own village. Over time they developed their own dialect and some earth-shakingly good food that might just blow chopped liver out of the water, if that's even possible.
Part ancient temple, part church, and plundered by the Vatican in order to steal some bronze for St. Peter's, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved sights in Rome (do I sound like a guide book yet?) It has huge columns in front that were made from single pieces of granite, and an oculus in the middle of the domed ceiling that lets in a stunning and moving pillar of light depending on the time of day.
she's looking up....
So those are the major highlights of what we saw. We also hit up some churches, some more ruins and more Egyptian obelisks than we could have imagined.