Successfully completed my first weekend trip of the semester!
Since everywhere North of here is cold, this was the perfect weekend to go to Roma (aka Rome)! I really love not having classes on Fridays, it makes these kinds of weekend trips to much easier! We got up very early on Friday morning to get to the airport in time for our 8:45am flight. The flight itself was only 50 minutes, so we landed in Rome with plenty of time to make the most of our first day.
For all of us, this was our first time staying in a hostel, and we were very much impressed. Not only did we have our own room, bathroom, kitchen, and balcony, but it was also warm and very cheap! The hostel also provided breakfast for us each day, which included the best orange juice I have ever had. No joke, the blood oranges make the juice here phenomenal.
Speaking of the breakfasts, we ate very very well in Rome. For lunch on Friday I had a fantastic carbonara, and throughout the weekend we kept finding cute places for lunch and of course, gelato. We literally ate gelato every day. No shame…because it’s Italy.
So for the rest of the day on Friday, we tried to do a lot of the touristy things in the Baroque part of Rome.We started at the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps), then found our way to the Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain), Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II), and finally the Pantheon.
Unfortunately the Trevi Fountain is under construction until October. The fountain is covered in scaffolding and it’s drained, so we couldn’t throw coins in. But we all got more gelato, so that made us feel better.
The Pantheon was the perfect way to finish up our first day in Rome. It was built in 126 AD, so it is ANCIENT. It’s a very impressive building, and it’s no wonder that it’s considered the best preserved ancient Roman structure. The weird thing is that it’s located kind of randomly in the middle of Rome in an ordinary looking square surrounded by totally ordinary buildings. That’s the coolest part about Rome I think – you could be walking down any street and turn the corner and find yourself in front of an ancient monument. It’s incredibly how much history is literally all over the place.
We started off our Saturday morning at the Colosseum. Built in 72 AD, the Colosseum was used for performances like gladiator fights. Fun fact: the Colosseum was not only the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire, but it is also the largest amphitheater in the world. No wonder Lizzie McGuire sang “What Dreams Are Made Of” here!!
Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Palatine Hill is where Romulus founded Rome and was the home of the wealthiest citizens in the Roman Empire. Palatine Hill is now a gorgeous garden full of ancient temples and residences, with a breathtaking view of the ruins of the Roman Forum, the Roman Empire’s commercial and political center. Standing on top of Palatine Hill was probably my favorite part of the entire trip!
Saturday afternoon we went to Vatican City. Our plan was to see the Sistine Chapel first, but there was no way to get to the Chapel without first going through the length of the Vatican Museums. I can’t really complain though, since the rooms and hallways of the museum are beautiful too (left). But of course, the Sistine Chapel is a whole other level of beautiful. This is where the papal conclave takes place, decorated with the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ on the walls, and of course, Michelangelo’s stunningly gorgeous The Last Judgement on the ceiling. We aren’t allowed to take pictures in there, but I snuck a few (oops). But let’s be honest my picture (right) doesn’t do this chapel anywhere near justice, so I found a better professional picture (center) that can give you a greater appreciation of how magnificent this chapel is.
Next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. The line to get in wrapped around St. Peter’s Square, and it took us over an hour to get inside. While the basilica was beautiful, it was extremely frustrating to find out that the stairs to the cupola were closed and Michelangelo’s La Pietà had been curtained off over an hour before the basilica closed. We vowed to come back early the next morning so that we could climb the cupola and see La Pietà before 9am Mass and the Papal Blessing at noon on Sunday.
Our Sunday was full of surprises. We did indeed get up early, and made it to the Vatican by 8am. However, we were told when we arrived that we wouldn’t be able to climb the cupola until after the Papal Blessing. Since we were already there, we got in line for Mass. Over an hour later, we were let into the basilica and allowed to sit in the back behind the altar (which Saint Peter is buried underneath). Mass was held in Italian and we were sitting pretty far behind the altar, so we had no idea what was going on, but we could tell something special was going on because Pope Francis was presiding over the Mass, which is not normal. It turns out that Pope Francis had appointed 20 new cardinals the previous day, and this Mass was with the new cardinals and the College of Cardinals. So this was in fact a big deal, and very exciting to be a part of!
After Mass, we went in to St. Peter’s Square for the Papal Blessing. Every Sunday at noon, the Pope gives a short speech from the window of his apartment, as well as the Angelus and a blessing at the end of the prayer. Note that this window is pretty far away from everyone in the square so it’s kind of hard to see Pope Francis, but it was still a very cool experience.
We never did get the chance to go back inside the basilica, but I really can’t complain. I got blessed by the Pope and went to Mass presided over by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica, so life is pretty darn good. It still amazes me though that three days in Rome was nowhere near enough time. But it’s probably good to have some unfinished business so that I have an excuse to come back to Rome again soon! Keep in touch and a couple years from now you’ll see me at the top of the basilica, in front of La Pietà, and tossing coins in to Trevi Fountain! Can’t wait to go back!