Grand Tour II

02Sep05

Originally written on September 2, 2005

Ciao tutti!!! 🙂

Here’s another update on my journey, but this time I’m writing from Roma, the caput mundi.

It was difficult for me to leave Spain, but the thought of coming back is still with me. How could I forget delicious sangria, sweet fresh figs and amazing time we had. Although I gave Barcelona a second chance, I still think Madrid is far better. My mother asked me to look into the real estate in Barcelona. I don’t know if she was joking when she wrote the email, but I’d definately give it a thought. 🙂

On Monday afternoon, our journey led us to Rome. One way one realizes he or she is in Italy is that the billboards suddenly change from the GAP ads to Valentino and Giorgio Armani excusively. There are even several public buses decorated like a Fendi bag. Next time I see it, I’ll take a photo of it. 😉

Each day we’ve spent walking endesly and taking in the sights. There is so much one could see and do that it would almost take a lifetime to complete it. After all, Rome was not built in a day. As we were walking though the Roman Forum, something came to my mind. It is a bit ironic how the modern society operates today. Industry and technology have advanced so much that we value only products made today. Yesterday’s cell phones and MP3 players are already old, and nobody is interested in them anymore. Yet there are places such as Rome, the eternal city, where time is not measured in seconds or minutes but rather in centuries and millennia, and everyone, if not admires it, but at least respects it.

Piazza del Popolo at dusk, Rome

I have to say that all horror stories one has heard about Italian drivers are 100% true. It took me a day to adjust to it, but when in Rome, one has to do it the Roman way, which is something like this: look left-right-left, cross yourself, and say a prayer as you cross the road. If one is lucky, one will reach the other side of the road (j\k). I’m not even going to go into the topic of proper parking, and will leave it to you once you see the pictures we’ve taken. 😛

"Proper" parking when in Rome

On the first night in Rome, we met up with J.C. It was nice to meet up with a friend and share our travelling stories over a meal. That night we also had our first gellato, and since then I’ve lost a count of how many have I had. Today we finally found the greatest gellateria in the city. It offers more than 70 flavours of gellati, including champagne, and it used to be the favourite ice cream spot of John Paul II.

It is difficult to describe Rome in words. After all this is the place from where the Caesars ruled the world, St Peter was cruixified, Bernini and Michelangelo left the greatest architectual impact, and Mussolini formed the Berlin-Rome axis. I’m going to mention only the sights that have left the greatest impact on me.

Roman Forum

The Colosseum – was our first sight we went to in Rome, and I got goose bumps once I walked into the structure. It’s impossible to imagine how grand such a structure must have looked in the ancient times. Moreover, it was unbelievable to me that I was finally in the Colloseum. I’m glad D.B. came with us to Italy because she’s more knowledgable about the classical antiquity than I am. It’s lovely to share moments with someone who appreciates these structure as much as I do if not even more.

The Pantheon – was a pleasant suprised because I never imagined it to be so bright inside. It truly is an inspiring wonder. I’ve probably taken a dozen of photos of just the occulus. Mind you, initially my hands were shaking so much from the excitement that I couldn’t take a steady shot. We’ve been there three times, so that probably summarizes it well how much we liked it.

Pantheon, Rome

The Vatican – If there is the greatest palace, museum and cathedral ever built then it must be in the Vatican. On Wednesday we spent almost the entire day visiting just the main sights. The country left me speechless. The Vatican museum is probably one of the best, if not the best one, I’ve been to. I feel comfortable saying that because I’ve been to almost all major European famous museums. It is wonderful to finally see masterpieces I had only seen in textbooks. As we walked though the museum from a gallery to a gallery, the tension was building up – just like crescendo. The Raphael’s rooms were one of the kind, and then at the end of the visit, it finally came – the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museum

The Sistine Chapel left me in tears – and I’m not making this one out. My eyes became watery, and I had to take a moment to collect myself. If there is anyone who has ever tried to present heaven on earth, then Michelangelo had achieved it. If anyone has ever striked to reach perfection, then Michelangelo had done it. I’m not Catholic, so I cannot even imagine now a religious person would feel in such an environment. However, after seeing the Chapel, I’m afraid that there is nothing else that could live up to it.
Upon the visit to the museum and the Sistine Chapel, we went to St Peter’s Basilica, and although I should have been in awe with its appearance, my mind was still set on the Chapel.

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican

Villa d’Este – the 16. century villa is situated in Tivoli, 30 km from Rome. It was a nice day trip because this estate contains wonderful gardens filled with fountains. It was a nice way to relax, escape the city chaos, and enjoy in the smell of oleander, pine and citrus trees. That’s one of my favourite smells – the smell of Mediterranean. 🙂

Tonight is our last night in Rome, and tomorrow we are off to Pompei and then the island of Capri. I cannot wait to swim into the Grotta azura.

Hope all of you and your families are doing well!

Much love from the ever-lasting Rome, I.

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