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Rome Part IV: St. Peter’s and the Rest

Oh my goodness, I’ve got some catching up to do!  If you do too, read all my Italy posts here.

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Note to self: Sunday is not a great day to go shopping in the most Catholic country in the world.

Yep, I got up bright and early and had a quick colazione Americano (American breakfast) in the Campo dei Fiori…

…where I was apparently being stalked by a large Swedish man.  Didn’t even know it!  They’re stealthy, those Swedes.

After some nourishment I headed into Trastevere, the part of Rome that sits across the Tiber from the centro storico.  It’s a neat neighborhood and I’d walked through it the night before, when it was a pretty rockin’ spot late into the night.  Sunday morning, though, the place was totally dead and all the vintage shops on my list were closed.  Either too much partying on Saturday night, or too much mass on Sunday morning?  Maybe a little bit of both.

I did find this sweet little garage door painting.  It counts as graffiti.  Totally.

So I did some more wandering, down to the southeast end of Trastevere where there is the largest street market in all of Europe, the Porta Portese market.  I had read that the market does produce the occasional vintage find, so I walked through row after row, street after street…mile after mile.  By the time I had walked to the other end, I was a couple of miles from where I started.  I ignored my aching legs and walked aaaaall the way back to the Ponte Sisto and while crossing it, I saw it.  The smallest country in the world.

I hemmed and hawed a bit about going there, about doing The Thing To Do In Rome.  Did I really want to?  Was I really interested enough?  With my plans all ascatter though, it just seemed like the right way to end my first weekend in Rome.  I boarded a bus and headed to Vatican City.

Now, I don’t have anything against Catholicism as a spiritual path.  Any path that works for a person is the right path for that person.  The Catholic Church, however…well, I have issues.  And going to the Vatican did nothing to change those issues.  I just had time to walk St. Peter’s Square and tour St. Peter’s Basilica; I knew I didn’t have enough time to properly see the Sistine Chapel so I skipped it.  (Whaaaaa?  Yep.  I skipped it.)

In St. Peter’s I found myself feeling a constant mixture of awe and…I’ll just say it…disgust.  The outrageous opulence of the place is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and it highlights the Church’s power and oppression in the strangest way.  It does contain some of the most incredible artwork – most notably, Michelangelo’s Pieta which glowed with the patina of well-lit alabaster, even though it’s marble.  My camera didn’t do it justice, but here’s a picture from the St. Peter’s website.

The Pieta is fairly small compared with the rest of the Basilica, which holds absolutely massive sculptures of all kinds.  I was blown away by the scale.  Here’s one that housed a full-sized door (see it at the bottom there?).

I was particularly disgusted by this bronze front door panel, apparently displaying a menu of various options for murder…I mean, martyrdom.  God bless.

After touring the inside of the basilica, I braved my fear of heights and took the 552-step climb to the top of the dome.  Here’s a video of my journey from bottom to top.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPvXVIHow7U&context=C427c7d0ADvjVQa1PpcFOiliI9ra4tnwaw-MlM_jqwzS7gT0pqBNw=[/youtube]

It was a really intense climb, mostly those tiny little turret steps with a rope hanging down the middle to give you the illusion that you’re not going to fall backward ass over teakettle all the way back down to the bottom.  I’m not so keen on those kinds of stairs.  But I made it, and it was worth it!

By the end of this trip my legs were basically jelly on toothpicks, so I picked up the bus and headed for the car.  The drive back home was as uneventful as the trip coming up, but boy did I sleep soundly!

THE SECOND WEEKEND

I went back the following weekend to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and had a less fun time overall.  For some reason I attracted all the smarmy Italian men who watch for tourist women that they can hit on.  One guy, Fabio, had his schtick down pat and I actually fell for it for about ten minutes, sitting with him on the slope of the Circo Massimo where he pointed out the ruins of the Palatine and other ancient sites.  Did you know he’s an ancient history major?  Most of the Italian guys are, when you’re a woman who looks the least bit foreign.  The nice tourist-helper attitude soon turned into an increasingly aggressive request for dinner and drinks; when I kept up my firm-but-friendly “no”, he finally stormed off in his tight Italian jeans, presumably to compose himself for the next woman who walked by holding a map.  Oy.  I realized that sometimes I’m just really too nice, and that doesn’t work so well with the Italianos.  I had to put on a bit of energetic armor for the remainder of my weekend trips.

Anyway.  After escaping Fabio (and his objectionable breath, by the way), I took a little tour sola through the most ancient part of Rome.  Observe the ubiquitous Colosseum…

Wait, I’ll get out of the way.

The Forum, now just a ruin.

A Greek temple, I believe – here since before the Romans conquered Rome?

And as the sun set, I passed the site where the Rome Marathon would start and finish the next morning, just yards from the Colosseum.  See it down there at the end of the road?

It was just up the street from the majestic, enormous Altare Della Patria, the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy.

Then I headed back into the centro storico and the Abbey Theatre pub, where I got all Irish up in there for the St. Paddy’s Day celebration.

Thankfully there is no visual record of the evening.

I’m not sure why, but I felt a lot more loneliness, and didn’t love the city as much the second time around.  Maybe it was all the unwanted attention (I didn’t even get my sexy on that weekend!) or maybe I had just seen enough.  It was my fourth weekend here, and traveler’s fatigue starts to set in around then, too.  Who knows.  Still, all in all Rome is an incredible city for anyone to visit and a historical treasure chest.  I’d love to come back sometime…with a man on my arm so Fabio will leave me alone!

Next up on the 45 Days in Italy station: my lovely weekend in Florence!

 

1 Comment

  •    Reply

    You are much braver than I. No way I would have made it to the top of Rome. You didn’t miss much with the Sistine Chapel. It’s beautiful, but much smaller than I expected and if you’ve seen the pictures, you have seen it. Another wonderful post about your travels, but I’ll be happy when you are home! Soon.

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