Rome Day 5 - Getting our Sea Legs Back

February 7, 2012 - Late Afternoon

After yesterday's saga, our day today could only go up. I loaded Adele up with my DayQuil (learned from Moscow to always have the pharmaceuticals on hand) and after a hotel breakfast, we were on our way. Today's adventure...The Vatican.

Now it's a well known fact that I am not a religious person. I pretty much say that before walking into any church while on a trip. I don't go into churches at any other time...just while on vacation and just while looking at architecture and paintings. Ooh, and statues. I do love me a good statue. So I was slightly wary before going into The Vatican. The running joke was that I could walk into The Vatican, but I'd be struck by lightening once I tried to leave. Scott said he was able to enter and leave The Vatican, so I figured I was pretty safe. I mean, he's pretty much as much of a heathen as I am.

The one thing I did say before walking into The Vatican was that I knew this was a very sacred place for a lot of people. I was not going to make fun of anything. I may not believe in all of this, but I appreciate that others do. And I don't want anyone to think I'm being a jerk because I'm mocking the symbols of their faith. I'd rather them think I'm a jerk cause I'm doing stupid things. Which I didn't plan on doing, but couldn't be entirely sure...

Our hotel is within walking distance to The Vatican. This was good for us today as we had a 9a tour of the Scavi Exhibit at The Vatican. It was recommended to us as something to do in Rome and it was a great recommendation. Apparently, Adele and I like to travel with variations on a theme. I mentioned a few yesterday (quiet UNESCO sites - Pompeii and Easter Island, difficult hills - Huyana Picchu and Palatine Hill...with ice). Today's variation on a theme - catacombs. We saw the catacombs in Lima. We saw the catacombs at The Vatican.

Our tour guide was Laura. She was the cutest Italian Art Historian. She gave us the history of the excavation (Scavi = Excavation) and how everything has been found. She said the excavations have stopped because they don't have any funding. Now, they are trying to preserve what was found. Basically, we saw mausoleums and tombs. We saw where "they" say St. Peter was buried. We saw where "they" think St. Peter's bones are now buried. The Vatican says they are St. Peter's bones. Science hasn't gotten that far yet. I'm not sure why. I'm sure there's something more pressing happening at the DNA lab...a big-time crime or something. Though I would expect CSI: Rome would have that test done in 45 minutes flat. Or however long their episodes would be...

We saw three kinds of walls down in the depths of the catacombs. There were the walls erected to help the excavators work (circa 1930's). There were the original walls (thin, red bricks - circa the 3rd century!!). And there were the small and large cream colored bricks. Those were from the time of Constantine (which, as I looked in my guidebook also shows him hanging out in the 3rd Century. Or maybe he was in the 4th Century...I feel like I need a refresher on Roman history now). Anyway, it was cool to see the differences in the buildings. We were walking on what was the original volcanic streets in Ancient Rome. The streets were very narrow and you wonder how anything could get through. We also learned how the mosulems were not only for the rich (or well off), but they we also the Pagans that were mostly stored in there (Stored = too harsh?? I didn't want to use the term buried, cause they really aren't buried). And apparently, Christians decided against using mosulems due to the cost. It was just too expensive, so they went with cemeteries.

After we toured the catacombs, we walked into St. Peter's Basilica. Fascinating. The opulence and grandness of the basilica was stunning. I also didn't expect pictures could be taken in there. Or that it would be free. Works for me. We did have a bit of a run in with a Vatican worker. At 11a, a priest (or higher?? He was wearing white robes...I don't know who trumps a priest) came walking into a smaller area of the basilica to read something (again, I do not know these things). The worker told everyone to stop taking pictures. I stopped. Though I did try taking a few from the hip. This was not when he yelled at me. But he came by a few minutes later to yell at me for taking pictures (which I wasn't doing...right then) and for talking (which I don't remember doing). I gave him my best, "I wasn't!!" face and he went away. Then came back to yell at other picture takers. Not me this time. We took off shortly thereafter. Jeez...you give one guy a bit of power...

The one thing we had to do in this area was to see the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel. Now I definitely have to say, I had NO idea what I was in for here. I thought the Sistine Chapel was part of The Vatican. It isn't. I didn't know there were rooms where Popes actually lived. The art in the museum was truly amazing. Some gaudy, but amazing. Same with The Vatican, I was surprised that most areas would allow you to take pictures. Even with a flash. Color me surprised. Though the one area you can't take pictures is the actual Sistine Chapel.

Yes, it's vast. And so colorful (for a 500+ year old piece). I didn't expect every single bit of wall space was going to be used (another term I member from Humanities in 12th Grade - Horrorvacui...we're every bit of space is covered. Like my bedroom in high school). The were at least three "levels" of art. The bottom actually didn't have paintings. Well, they did, but they were made to look like a set of drapes...or curtains before the start of a play. I don't know if they were always like that, but I thought they were pretty cool.

We hightailed it out of there, post-Chapel, cause it was just time to eat. Funny enough, we haven't been going crazy with the food here. The prices are...well, Chicago-ish prices. We haven't had sticker shock. I'm assuming that'll happen in Paris. But we had another Bourdain-based adventure for food. This time to The Pizzarium. Apparently, this is a small space owned by a Celebrity Chef named Bacchi. They make all kinds of pizza, they'll slice what you want, then will heat it up and you take it to go or belly up to a bar. We had to belly up to the bar. I thought it was fantastic. I think Adele liked it, but her meds were also wearing off by this time, so she wasn't much in the mood for anything. Post-pizza, we stopped at a caffe for some tea (and gelato). This wasn't really in the cards, but we needed Adele to have some rest-time.

It also gives me a chance to muse on a few items about Rome. I was always worried because I kept hearing that there were the Gypsies that would try to take our money. Or the kids that would be underfoot. Or the groping that happened by the men. My guess is that it is just too damn cold for any of that to happen. It's kind of nice. I like that people leave me alone. Though Adele got asked questions on how to get someplace. She answered. And was right. I tell ya, if I could just get her to go on The Amazing Race with me...

I like the fact that Romans have very tiny cars. We're in a land where MINI's, Smart Cars and Fiats live. As an owner of a MINI and watching Adele exclaim she wants a Fiat every time we see one, both give Romans credit for their small cars. This would never fly in the States. It's disappointing, cause it could solve so many things. Except for the whole "carting around your children" thing...

The other fun part are from the Italians, "Ahhh...where are you from??" "Chicago." "Ooh...Bulls. Michael Jordan.". To this day, Michael Jordan is how people from other places know Chicago. I guess that's fine, but isn't there anyone else?? It would be nicer to hear, "Ooh...Obama.". At least it's not, "Ooh...Al Capone.". I'm pretty sure we got one of those when we were in Ireland.

Right now, Adele is trying to nap. I'm not really tired and would much rather reflect on the day. The hilarious part (though possibly only for me) is that we are currently having an inadvertent Dueling Banjo routine between the two of our stomach's. Apparently, either the pizza or the tea needs some extra digestion time. It's making me giggle. Cause the human body is just funny.

The plan for tonight is to do a title bit of wine and limoncello shopping. We have a nice dinner planned, so I should dress up...a little bit. One of the things we like to do (based, I think on when Mom and I travel) is to have one good dinner out. And we're planning that...for each city. I just hope Adele is up for it. I don't think she has all of her taste buds firing on all cylinders. I also don't care if she can't drink wine tonight. Cause I can. Gosh, that sounds meaner than I want to sound. But I could use some wine.

Post-Dinner

The dinner was really good. I ended up with the five course tasting menu. Adele had three courses. I'm not wildly full, but I'm also not stuffed. This is no Astrid y Gaston situation. What I loved was that this place was run by a chef, his wife and his wife's sister. They couldn't be cuter. And I dug the wife's haircut. If only I had a smaller head, I would totally rock a Pixie Haircut!!

I kind of forgot about the whole packing thing. We're on the way out of Rome in the morning. Paris awaits!! Where it's much colder (gasp!!) and there's more food and wine. My packing tip for any future Winter Trips...pack less tops than you normally would wear. Why?? If it's this cold, you're going to want to wear the same thing multiple times. Don't "yuck" me. There's no sweating that has happened. Why bring along the tan pants and hiking shoes if they're not going to be used because they need just slightly warmer weather. That would have been much more room in my suitcase for shopping. We didn't do much/any shopping in Rome, but I expect Paris will be a whole other story. We'll know more about that in the morning...

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