Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Anniversary in Rome

For our first anniversary, Chris surprised me with a trip to Rome, Italy. We arrived at the Moses Fountain Hotel, which shares a wall with ....that's right, the Moses Fountain.

The Colosseum is so much more impressive in person than it is in pictures. Unfortunately, like most of Rome at the moment, there was scaffolding on part of it. Our guide gave us the history of the site. One of the most interesting facts was that there are holes in the limestone because vandals in medieval times removed the metal clamps that held together the limestone pieces and sold them for scrap metal. The Colosseum once had 70,000 people in attendance of the gladiator matches....not quite as many spectators as Tiger Stadium!

We enjoyed our anniversary dinner at La Pentolaccia. We had a 5 minute wait to be seated, but the owner was so apologetic that he gave us complimentary glasses of champagne while we waited! Dinner was so fresh and delicious. We shared a "tower" of tomatoes, mozzarella and eggplant. For our main courses, I tried the risotto while Chris tried the spaghetti. We each got our own desserts (cannoli and chocolate mousse) because, why not?, it's a special occasion, and we're on vacation!

We finished the evening by watching the USA vs Portugal World Cup game at a local Irish pub...the game didn't even start until midnight!

On our first full day in Rome, we took a guided tour of the catacombs and the Roman countryside. More than half a million people were buried in catacombs. The catacombs we visited is just one of 60 known catacombs. We were able to see some of the cabiculums, small rooms carved out of the wall that were the final resting place for families waiting for judgment day. The Romans believed that the judgement day would be very soon, and so they wanted to be buried near martyrs, because they believed the closer they were to the martyrs, the less time they would spend in purgatory.

After the catacombs, our tour bus took us along the Via Appia. one of the oldest and most important roads built in the Roman empire. The road was lined with beautiful orange trees, olive trees and massive villas. This was a much prettier site to behold other than the thousands of revolting slaves led by the legendary Spartacus that were crucified along this road many centuries ago. We didn't see any signs of Kirk Douglas though. The last part of the tour was visiting the aqueducts. It's amazing to think that architects thousands of years ago could figure out how to supply enough fresh water to the entire population.

Later in the day we toured the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. There were so many artifacts to look at it was a little overwhelming! One of the most interesting artifacts was the Arch of Titus, which displayed scenes of the Temple of Judea being ransacked, and all of the treasures that were taken. Some of these treasures helped fund the construction of the Colosseum.

We spent the rest of the day walking around Rome to see some of the highlights. This included the Pantheon (the most well-preserved artifact because it was converted into a church), the Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.  

On Tuesday, we toured Naples and the ancient city of Pompeii. We learned that the only reason Naples survived the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii did not is because of the way the wind was blowing. The wind blew the ash over Pompeii, and the entire city was completely covered in ash. Our tour guide had once been a graduate student who helped uncover the ruins of Pompeii (they are still excavating the site today).
Even the bodies of dogs were preserved in the ash

We spent our last full day touring Vatican City. We had hoped to be part of the morning tour, but unfortunately it was full, and we ended up with the 1 p.m. tour. Which turned out to be the best "mistake" of the trip, because when we arrived in St. Peter's Square in the morning, we stumbled upon Pope Francis giving his weekly address to the crowd. So we can now say that we've seen the Pope, even if it was from a distance!

We had an extensive tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The Basilica itself took 100 years to build, and St. Peter is actually buried beneath it. We found out that Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel, he was forced into it. After the tour, we climbed the 521 steps to the top of the Basilica. It was a lot of stairs, but the view was spectacular!

We had an incredible trip to Rome, and since we threw coins into the Trevi Fountain, we will hopefully return to Rome in the future.