So after a chaotic trip into Rome, I have finally gotten the chance to write a post. My flight started in Sioux Falls, SD and dropped me off in Chicago, IL and Munich, Germany before finally arriving in Rome, Italy. Once to Rome, I took a cab to the Hotel Palatino where the students of International Study Abroad Program were staying. Once there, I met a bunch of my advisors (all of whom are wonderfully kind Italian ladies) and met the guys I was staying with while in Rome. After an informative meeting and greeting from ISA and students, a few of us grabbed a bite at a local panini shop and chatted, getting to know one another better. Of course, Kate Larcom my good friend from Creighton University is also studying in Florence this semester through the same program as me. I am glad to have her company on this trip.
The second day happened a little early for everyone as we were all recovering from jet lag and it was about 10:00 am in Rome while it would be about 3:00 am in both Omaha and Chamberlain. On our second day in Rome, we were getting a private tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Once inside the vatican, we were all given head sets to help aid hearing our tour guide. Right away I noticed the amazingly beautiful artwork that was found throughout Rome and Vatican City. I am not what I would call a connoisseur of art history nor the rich ancient Catholic histories that are literally everywhere in the historic country, but I found I knew enough to make it much easier to understand appreciate the awesomeness that is Rome. The artwork inside the Sistine Chapel is simply beautiful. The paintings are so vivid and creative that when you look at them, the figures almost seem to jump off the wall into what are 3D images that left me standing in complete awe. I noticed very early on that throughout this trip, I can almost always be found near the tailing end of our tour groups as I am just fascinated by the amazing artwork and trying to capture these moments by working on my constantly improving photography skills. Though all of the artwork in the Vatican museum was spectacular, none of it came close to touching the gorgeous Sistine Chapel. I literally stood in the Sistine Chapel, hardly moving, for nearly an hour just admiring the details and intricacies of artists like Rafael and Michaelangelo. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. I felt as though I was almost catapulted into something of a time capsule as the paintings I viewed recapped biblical events that I had learned about as 7 year old boy in CCD class, that at the time, seemed more like mythical fairy tales than actual religious historical beliefs.
After the extensive tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, we were given the afternoon and night to do with whatever we pleased. I broke off into a smaller group that wanted to explore the rest of Vatican City and eventually Rome. Our first stop was of course the vast, fantastical St. Peters Square and Basilica. St. Peters is actually how it looks in photos and tv x5. It was especially interesting coming to all these places after reading fictional novels like The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons. Though both of those books helped form an image in my mind of what everything in the area looked like, once you get to these places the image is wiped clean and a new image is born that is burned into your retinas. For those who are Catholic, basically everywhere in Rome and Florence are an absolute must to see at some point in your life. Nothing has hit me quite as hard being inside St. Peters Basilica, the holiest of grounds. The beauty that is the Basilica is something that needs to be experienced by all those whose faith is important to them. My favorite piece of artwork that I have seen so far is most definitely the Pieta'. I viewed it for a good 15 minutes and it really struck a chord inside me. I don't think any piece of art has really ever had the same effect on me. I decided not to take a picture of this piece as I really feel as though a picture can do it no means of justice.
After leaving the Basillica, we finished exploring Vatican City and continued our expedition of Rome, eventually leading us to Mueseo Sant' Angelo. This museum was more like a historic castle, fortress of sorts. I found out that it actually was just that. The fortress was used as means of protection by ancient romans as well as protecting the Pope in the early days during some of the wars. Cool, huh? I think it costed roughly eight and a half euro to get in and I would have paid at least double that for the view of Rome it gave us once we reached the top. By this time it was dark and we looked for a nice little restaurant where we could enjoy some of the local cuisine. We at a nice little Italian restaurant and enjoyed a nice bottle of the house wine. I found myself becoming a little dehydrated while in Rome as the wine, while delicious, is sometimes cheaper than water, especially when you're in a group. I also found that when enough glasses are consumed, the long, cold walk back to the hotel goes a little quicker. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at locations such as Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Quirinal Palace, and the Trevi Fountain. We stopped for a few more bottles of vino along the way as well. As I mentioned earlier, it helps keep you warm. As we stumbled back to our hotel, we walked right past the Coliseum and I just stood there staring in drunken awe. What an amazing building. I could have walked around it all night, but decided I could just wait till I got back in the morning.
So the next morning we woke up and toured the inside and outside of the Coliseum. It is crazy to think about all of the amazing events that had taken place in last hundreds of years. I could not help but imagine Russell Crowe in that badass gladiator mask out there fending himself against tigers and other enemy hordes. After the Coliseum, we went on a tour of the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum are a collection of beautiful ancient ruins. I got some great pictures of all of these stops and met someone that always seemed to be lagging behind the group taking photos as well. The rest of the day consisted of touring through other attractions of downtown Roma and finally led to dinner and an nice cool Pironi birra, the recommended Italian beer.
The next day we left for Florence in mid-morning and made our through the beautiful Umbria and Tuscany countryside. What a wonderful sight to view as we drove on a hazy, overcast day. Small villages built on the tops of treacherous cliffs, beautiful vineyards, and gaping valleys were a everywhere as we finally made our way into the ancient white city that I will be calling home for the next 4 months, Firenze. I plan on having a new post every few days on here and the next one should be tomorrow or Monday as I will write about my first few days in Florence and my new pal, Fr. Bruno! I have met some amazing people already and hope to continue to meet more. I already know that a couple of the problems I am going to have are money (europeans live crazy expensive lives) and narrowing down the places I am going to travel to on my list. Lastly, in some sort of godsend (arguable way of terming it), I have basically been given a South Carolinian/art history majoring/better bearded version of Pajamas/Pistol/Pedro Woolman to spend my time with over the next 4 months. A nice little slice of home. Fino al giorno...Arrivideci!