I don’t really know how to begin this post, since in only 5 days Roma has blown my mind on a cultural, historical, spiritual and culinary level; this city is simply overwhelming due to the fact it was the center of the Western world… twice! We plan on staying here two weeks, and I still don’t think I can fit everything into our schedule, but heres what we have so far
The Vatican – I literaly and quite ironically exclaimed ‘Jesus Christ they don’t hold anything back!’ as we first approached St Peter’s square. Even if you are not spiritual at all, its hard not to be awestruck by the grandiose Renaissance masterpiece. And that was just the begining. The architectural masterpiece was most certainly Michaelangelo’s 113 meter dome atop the ENORMOUS basilica. It is, by most definitions, the largest church in the world. It was tough for me to gauge any value of the spiritual relics (most notably St Peter himself) because of the inevitable yet tragic commercialized and overcrowded feel of the place. But for some reason it didn’t bother me much – perhaps I, like Martin Luther don’t believe in value of relics? More likely, perhaps like the hundreds of tourists around me, I was simply too distracted by the shiny objects before me… on the whole, a historically and artistically uplifting experience.
Churches – After St Peter’s, David returned to the hostel to work on his grad apps while I decided to stroll through the center of storico district for a feel of some more churches. Every corner has a church, and even the ‘small’ ones here would be considered amongst the largest back home. I quickly discovered that even the most nondescript church has incredible history attached to it – either built over ruins or by a Rennaissance master or something? As a rule of thumb, I have decided to have short meditations in every church I visit… I figure its similar to test driving cars on lots, right?
Since I am going to many churches throughout the rest of the trip, I’ve just started this log if you are interested: thoughtfultravels.com/churches
All the church dabbling has made me resolve to see the 7 pilgrimage sites of the Church befor I leave, so expect more church entries in the future
Colosseum – I’m sure you all know about this one, but you really do have to see it to appreciate it. I personally found the vibes kind of creepy, but from a civil engineering standpoint, its certainly a marvel. I also decided if I was emperor, I would have made a Splash Mountainesque waterchute that allowed triremes to ram each other during simulated naval battles.
Palantine – The historic hill that is the birthplace of Rome. Not only did Romulus and Remus supposedly suckle a wolf here, but there are some extremely well preserved ruins of a villas and essential civilian structures (Baths w/ plumbing). Complete with overlooking view of Colosseum and Circus Maximus.
Roman Forum – This was almost too much to handle; I told David, its like the Gods of History took a laxative over central Rome and spread ruins all over the place. Rome has so many ruins they don’t know what to do with them. Many were buried for centuries. Even today, they are basically ungaurded, you can climb on them, even pocket some marble if you want. Some highlights of the Forum for me included THE Senate and the temple of Saturn.
Appian Way – Yep, we took a 5k hike out of town to trek the historic main road to Rome, complete with persecuted Christians. The road itself is still there, and cars still drive on it, but man is it lumpy. The cobblestones were not put together very well.
Catacombe di Santa Callisto – While on the Appian way, we stopped to traverse the largest or the many catacombs that line this part of the countryside. This one had 20K worth of tunnels and over 500000 graves. Yea, half a million. Still was dank, and definitely had a weird feeling to it – but I was still so impressed that the Romans and early Christians figured out how to do it all. Mostly, they figured out that if you dig in the specific soil there, it hardens like concrete when exposed to the outside air, so you have instant tunnels!
On another note, I’m trying to keep myself from completely losing myself in history, because I still have a chance to interact with a beautiful culture that is still alive and kicking. The language barrier is difficult at times, but with a bit of English and a lot of help from Spanish, I still manage to make new friends every day and help the occasional lost old lady.
Okay so that only brings us through day 3, and we are on day 5 now… but I am leaving some for David to talk about (Pompei, more churches, etc), and we still havent sorted the pictures for those, so until next time