Sunday, 12 February 2012

Us and the Pope. And lots of snow.

This morning the hostel delivered breakfast to our room. That was pretty cool, considering it was free! Once we'd organised ourselves and caught up on the days events (RIP Whitney! I love you!) and chatted on Facebook (Hi Josie! I love you!), we headed to Termini and took the underground to the Vatican City! Alfie and I were in Rome 4 years ago and remember lining up for forever to get into the Sistine Chapel. So we were really pleased to discover we could walk straight into St Peter's Square. There were quite a few thousand people in there milling around with us and we were content to just walk around and snap some pics rather than lining up for ages to get into St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. So we did just that, chilling out and wandering about when suddenly....a voice...a voice amplified across the whole city! Was it God?? No...but it was in fact, His Holiness the Pope! Of course! It was Sunday! There was massive applause and I looked around frantically until I saw him, wayyyyyy up in a little window, addressing the whole square. It was wonderful! And totally unexpected!! (For us, probably not for everyone else there). He delivered a sermon in Italian (I think) and there was a lot of chanting in Latin (I think), and then he went through a bajillion different languages, including English, Spanish, German and Russian, to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. And he blessed us all. It was such a great way to spend our morning in Rome. On a high from that, we made our way back through the metro to the Colosseum.

We were starving by now, so we found a little restaurant close by to eat lunch. We are generally quite wary of these places because they're extremely pricey, but the guy told us that we could get a ten euro menu of a pizza, bruschetta and a soft drink. That sounded fair enough, so we ended up in there. We were total besties with the waiter by the end of it, and the food was not too bad. The bruschetta was divine, second only to my dad's (and Riley's). They forgot Cara's salad so he gave her a free dessert and they were just a really friendly place. We then left to actually visit the Colosseum, only to discover it was closed because of snow!! (We found out later this is extremely rare. It has snowed four times in Rome in the last sixty years, and when it does snow, they can't put salt down on the ancient monuments because it damages them. So they have to close places to prevent tourists slipping etc). I also saw Will Poulter there. He's the kid from Son of Rambow which is one of my favourite films ever. Yep. It excited me. So sue me!

Quite a bit of the Forum was closed as well, but we were still able to see heaps, and we did a long walk around it. We found a tiny little market hidden behind one of the topmost walls and I bought two kiwi fruits. I am craving serious fruit and veg. Scurvylicious. Then we made our way leisurely back to Colosseum. I should point out here that the whole day was filled with brilliant sunshine. And it was warm! Compared with what we have been living with for the last couple of weeks, we were really warm, despite the melting snow on the ground. We trained back to Piazza de Spagna to have another stab at finding that free walking tour and success! We got it! Our tour guide was a Roman, a lovely guy called Andrea (he was quick to inform us it was a man's name in Italy) with a stunning accent and great English.

We learned that the 'Spanish Steps' are actually the Scalinata della Trinata dei Monti - the Stairway to the Holy Trinity Church, as at the top of the steps, is a church. We saw the Fontana della Barcaccia, the fountain by Bernini's father, and many of the obelisks around Rome. We saw the Valentino headquarters, and the very high statue of the Virgin Mary with the wreath of flowers placed on her arm by our mate, the Pope. We saw some blocks owned by Bernini and the church where two of his statues reside - the Pope at the time commissioned them for the top of a bridge, but was so impressed with them, that he paid Bernini, but made him keep them, as they were 'too beautiful' to be on top of a bridge. After Bernini died, they were donated to the church. And they are extremely beautiful. A lady on the tour took us in a separate entrance to see them better. When we came out of the church, the tour group had gone. The lady was sure she knew where they had headed - she was from Rome and had been on the tour before. By this point, we thought she was dodgy as all get out, but we decided to follow her, hoping against hope she wasn't going to lead us down any dark alleys with the Mafia waiting to rob us, but she found the tour. Yayyy! We were extremely on our guard after that. We saw an ancient Roman column outside a shopping centre that has been there since it's construction. We saw St Ignatius Church with the mind-blowing Baroque ceiling. It's just amazing. I can't even express how impressed I was with that ceiling.

We went to the Pantheon, but it was closed because of the snow, but we still found out plenty about its history and construction. We saw the last remaining wall of Hadrian's temple and we finished the tour at the Trevi fountain. It was an extremely enjoyable tour, and by the end of today we were exhausted! So we headed back to the hostel, grabbing kebabs on the way. We leave for La Spezia in the morning. Phew!


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