Winter in Rome!

Kelley and I wanted to go somewhere Christmas-ie in December and what better place (we thought) than Rome and the Vatican. Well… it turns out there was probably more Christmas spirit in Galway than Rome but it was still a great trip. You cannot go wrong with Italian wine, food, and a dash of chaos that is Italy.

We arrived late on a Wednesday night and had some time before we met our Airbnb host, so we decided to grab a bite at Trapizzino Trilussa, which had a great selection of wines and these triangular shaped tramezzino sandwiches filled with with deliciousness like oxtail simmered with tomato and celery. It’s also quite cheap (Kelley: code for “we ate a lot”)!

The next day we had reservations to enter the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel around 11. We first caught a bite at Mercato Trionfale, which had quite the array of foodstuffs considering it was December. I think we were hungry because it all looked delicious!

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I was in Rome in summer of 2006 and had memories of lines hundreds of meters long but December apparently is not as popular – who knew! So, we were actually able to spend some quality time in the Vatican museum instead of being shuttled around like cattle.Rome Christmas-188

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(Kelley: Very old things)
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A creepy mummy!
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A long hall of Greek and Roman sculptures – NBD

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Apollo Belvedre capturing the beauty of the human form
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My bathtub pose (Kelley: this is news to me, probably because we don’t have a bathtub….I guess Matt Davis is full of surprises…..especially ones to learn when we have a bathtub….hmmmm)
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The high priest of Troy, Laocoon, receiving his punishment, snakes, for warning his fellow Trojans to beware the Greeks bearing gifts…

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A unique view of Hercules
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The view of Rome from the museum
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(Kelley: I was a little confused by these views…..I thought Rome was full of suuuppppeeerrr old buildings…….)
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We come to view the tapestries!
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Maps! I love maps! (Kelley: the maps were especially cool – I can’t believe how accurate they were for the 1500s!)
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The classic School of Athens by Raphael
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The dome of St. Peters

Unfortunately there are no pictures allowed in the Sistine Chapel, so you will just have to go to Rome to see it! It’s definitely worth it! To give you a sense for the scale of the work, the fresco covers 5,900 square feet!!! Michelangelo painted the entire history of the world until Jesus, spending four years six stories up painting the fresco on his back until it was finally finished! I can barely keep my arms up long enough for a sun salutation, let alone painting something so marvellous!

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A fun staircase in the Vatican Museum

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After the Sistine Chapel we headed to St. Peter’s, which is the largest church in the world and a renowned piece of Renaissance architecture and art – plus it is free!

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The always stoic Swiss Guard

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Inside St Peter’s – larger than life!
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The dome of St Peter’s is 448 feet from the floor to the lantern at the top. The bronze canopy above the alter is over 7 stories tall! Beneath the alter are the remains of St Peter, so he is literally the rock upon which this church was built, at least according to church tradition.
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The letters are over 7 feet tall!

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The Pieta by Michelangelo

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A statue of Peter from the original church built in AD 326.
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The church is just as incredible from St Peter’s square, especially in the soft evening light.

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This was about as Christmas-ie as it got in Rome. Thank God the church pulled it together or I would have been worried!

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View of the Castle St Angelo along the River Tiber
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The dome of St Peter’s just visible over the River Tiber as we head in for the night.

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The next day we did a walking tour through ancient Rome. In hindsight and one drown iPhone later (Kelley: facepalm) it may have been best to complete the outside walking tour on a day it wasn’t forecast to rain 20-30 mm (Kelley: thats about an inch but I swear it was like 5 inches. It was SOOOO wet….wet upon wet upon wet!  we were SOAKED from head to toe from morning to night!  My “rain jacket” proved it met its limit by refusing to keep me or my phone dry for one more day.  In hindsight, Matt bought me the jacket for our first Christmas…..which we realized was 8 years ago, so I’d say we got our money and adventures worth out of it!….and I got a new jacket…..but sadly had to downgrade to an older phone… win some you lose some…..)…..Anyways, we still saw some cool stuff!

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National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, one of the founding fathers of “modern” Italy in the mid-19th century. It was difficult to find specific figures on the size of the horse Victor Emmanuel II is riding but according to this Popular Mechanics from 1909 it was the largest bronze statue ever cast and it is over 40 feet tall. I also found some pictures of people having dinner in the belly of the horse.
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The monument from the front – it is huge!
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Looking towards the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. (Kelley: AH-HAH! The old buildings!)
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Kelley really wanted a picture of this bird. (Kelley: it looked way cooler in the moment….)

Welcome to the Colosseum! Built in A.D. 80, as Rome was at its peak, it could accommodate over 50,000 screaming fans! All that remains today is the concrete skeleton but it was once covered with a veneer of brilliant white marble. Inside you really gain an appreciation for the immensity of the space and can still hear the scream of the gladiators and the roar of the lions that once fought within its walls.

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We were definitely not prepared for waterfalls at the Colosseum!
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An umbrella would have proved useful on this day!

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At the far end you can see the rebuilt floor and then below you can see all that remains of the labyrinth of tunnels and passages that fed some 80 elevators to quickly transform the arena from a tropical jungle to a Greek temple – #HungerGames – or perhaps have animals or a gladiator magically appear.

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So wet!

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In front of the Colosseum is the the Arch of Constantine. It commemorates Constantine’s defeat of his rival, Maxentius, in A.D. 312, becoming emperor and most significantly legalising Christianity. Making the once obscure Jewish sect into the state religion of the entire Western world.

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The Arch of Constantine!

After the Colosseum, we headed to the Roman Forum, which was the political, religious, and commercial center of ancient Rome. All that remains of the Forum today are ruins in a state of arrested decay but imagine yourself being a spectator watching a victorious general returning from the faraway frontier with wagons of booty! This valley would be glittering with brilliant white marble buildings topped with bronze roofs and peppered with colorful monuments and statues (most of the statues were originally painted in brilliant colors). The parade would be immense with exotic animals from the newly conquered lands, prisoners and the captive king, and finally the general himself in a four-horse chariot, with rose petals strewn in his path! So what we see today is a monochrome version of a once HD color past.

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The calm before the storm!

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This long staircase was underground until excavated in the 1800s

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For our last day in Rome, we just casually strolled through the heart of Rome to see where our legs took us…

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An odd precession of fully loaded original Mini Coopers (?) in true flamboyant Italian fashion!
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Piazza Navona’s baroque fountain of the Four Rivers

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Some amazing pastries and the best cappuccino ever (according to Kelley) from the Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
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They are as good as they look!

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The Pantheon! One of the best surviving buildings of ancient Rome, which was a temple built to all of the gods. It survives today since it became a church in the 600,  so those Renaissance material poachers weren’t able to steal any materials, which was a thing…
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The dome of the Pantheon, which inspired Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s! The dome is 142 feet high from the floor to the roof and from side-to-side with a 23-foot-thick concrete base and 5-foot-thick top where the oculus provides the only light to the space. Amazing! The floor design is original, although some marble pieces have been replaced.
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The ceiling in the Church of Sant’Ignazio, which is flat! The dark spot at the bottom of the photo is a fake dome, which was painted when the project ran out of money. (Kelley: this church was SUCH an optical illusion!  incredible!)
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The Trevi Fountain! It was completed in 1762 to celebrate, after a thousand years, the rebuilding of the Roman aqueducts!

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Oh of course Kelley had to find the one cat sanctuary in town! (Kelley: it was so sweet!  All these cats had made a home in some old ruins and so some nice people decided to add a little shelter for them and I think thats just great!)

And of course some night photography!

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Hadrian’s Forum, not to be confused with the “Roman Forum” across the street.

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This tree caused quite the controversy in Rome, with the locals calling it a toilet brush when it lost most of its pine needles after installation.
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The Spanish Steps… somewhat anticlimactic for Kelley… (Kelley: I was largely disappointed by the hideous work of consumer-driven art/advertising some company placed in the middle)

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(Kelley: COLD?!  Nah…..babe, I’m good….I’m happy to stand here for a picture, take your time!)

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Here is our planning map from the trip if you are interested. Cheers!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Bob says:

    Wow, I feel like I was on trip with you guys! I think this was the best of all yours posts yet! Maybe because of my Italian heritage? Love you guys, Bob


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