Wow, another very busy day where we actually had a bit of a later start – 9am at the bus. It was packed with highlights too numerous to mention. We are staying quite far outside of Rome, so it took us over 1.5 hours to get to the area surrounding the Vatican. We were given 1.5 hours to stroll around, buy souvenirs and eat an early lunch. Instead of spending time shopping, I asked our guide, Fabiana if she would take us to some other location to “see” more of Rome. And so our 8 bodies left the other groups to their free time and we hoped on the metro system – for some students it was their first time on a subway system! We arrived at a “minor basilica” that was designed by Da Vinci shortly before his death. A few Popes are buried there. Beautiful interior. A couple of us made an effort not to step on the tombs that made up the aisles. At least for me, it was an impossible task. In the square near the church was an obelisk taken from Egypt. It was quite amazing to reflect on the fact that we had just been inside a building designed by one of the great masters of the art world, and we were also able to touch a piece of ancient history from Egypt. Very surreal. For more info. On the church go to:
Vatican City was next on our list and for many of us, we were very much looking forward to this site. Our local guide lead us through a maze of hallways, rooms with exhibits from around the ancient and medieval worlds. The number of people was unimaginable. While in the Sistine Chapel it was absolutely breathtaking to look at the painted ceiling. It took Michelangelo 4 years to paint it while lying on his back. It is a stunning piece of art. I had looked at pictures of the ceiling over the years never realized that the ceiling is actually almost flat, but Michelangelo used a “new” technique called ‘perspective,’ to give the illusion that the inside of the chapel’s ceiling is rounded/3D. Very, very impressive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel It was somewhat difficult to actually enjoy our time because of the crowds. In fact, a few members of our group took a wrong turn and ended up exiting from the Sistine Chapel while the rest of the group was able to keep with the guide. We immediately used our phones to text and eventually we all managed to meet together in St. Peter’s Square.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, we saw the area where the Pope performs Mass and the incredibly ornate inside of the church. From the sculptures, to the mosaics and the sheer size of the basilica – all of these captured our attention. We were able to see the outside area where the current Pope lives – in the “dormitory” instead of the Pope’s palace. We also saw the building where the former Pope Benedict lives. Standing in St. Peter’s Square was surreal – to think of the thousands and possibly millions of people who have crowded into the square to hear the various Popes give their message to the faithful.
We boarded the bus for short ride to the Colosseum! The following information is courtesy of history.com (http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/colosseum)
After nearly a decade of construction–a relatively quick time period for a project of such a grand scale–Titus officially dedicated the Colosseum in A.D. 80 with a festival including 100 days of games.
Measuring some 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters), the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater in the Roman world. Unlike many earlier amphitheaters, which had been dug into hillsides to provide adequate support, the Colosseum was a freestanding structure made of stone and concrete. The distinctive exterior had three stories of arched entrances–a total of around 80–supported by semi-circular columns.
Inside, the Colosseum had seating for more than 50,000 spectators, who may have been arranged according to social ranking but were most likely packed into the space like sardines in a can (judging by evidence from the seating at other Roman amphitheaters). Awnings were unfurled from the top story in order to protect the audience from the hot Roman sun as they watched gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights and larger combats such as mock naval engagements (for which the arena was flooded with water) put on at great expense. The vast majority of the combatants who fought in front of Colosseum audiences in Ancient Rome were men (though there were some female gladiators). Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war. As we stood outside, I couldn’t help looking around and thinking that almost 2000 years ago, people would have been crowding into the area, excited to see the famous gladiators. Underneath our feet, would have been the gladiators, preparing mentally and physically for their fights. Wow! http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/colosseum
A short walk from the Colosseum is the Forum. Host to many remnants of buildings, but few that are fully intact. As we walked by one building, the guide pointed out that it was from the Renaissance period. It had been built using the stones, statues and marble from the building that was torn down to make room for the new one. You could actually see bits of columns, arms from statues and many other examples for “recycling.” http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/colosseum
Dinner was at 7pm and we were a hungry lot. Pizza was once again on the menu and it was consumed quickly. Fabiana took us on a brief walking tour past the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain. Stunning sculptures surrounded the fountain, as did hundreds of people. Even though it was 9:30pm the place was absolutely packed with people. Yesterday, Fabiana asked us questions regarding the best and worst parts of our tour... tourists are the worst part, but I am thrilled to have been a tourist in Italy for the last 9 days. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevi_Fountain
Our bus ride back to the hotel was only 1 hour due to the lack of traffic. Tonight we are packing and getting ready for our return flight home. It has been a very busy 9 days and some of what we have seen and experienced will not fully sink in until we have been at home for a few days. Parents, please encourage your child to show you pictures and really discuss what they heard, saw, and felt while on this Grand Tour of Italy.
Arrivederci for the last time.