After our morning cappucino and egg sandwich at the No Name cafe, Mindy and I headed out by foot under cloudy skies toward the Colosseum. Carlin had class this morning so we planned to meet at the Vatican in the afternoon. We gave ourselves a self-guided tour and leaned in to listen in on other tour led groups to see if we could pick up on some facts about this magnificent structure. The only way I can describe the feeling of standing inside the Colosseum is that its similar in scale to a place like Ohio State Stadium but the fact that it was completed in 72 AD was hard to imagine given that mostly all their tools and machines were powered by people. The other thing you realize is that there is very little difference in how we gather as a community to watch spectacles in open spaces. In 72 AD there were 50,000 Romans watching battles of animals with animals, humans and animals and humans against humans fighting to the death. Apparently our desire to congregate with tens of thousands in an arena setting to watch athletically superior men battle against one another has not changed much in 2,000 years. There was an art gallery located und
er cover in the Colosseum where we took refuge during the rainstorm. The exhibit featured works that told the stories of various ways the early Romans practiced conservation to preserve their natural resources. Here is a short video I shot inside the Colosseum.
Once the rain slowed, we hailed a taxi up to the Vatican. It deserves mention that I will likely never drive in Rome. Some of the streets are 5 lanes wide but they have 7 lanes of traffic trying to converge upon one another. In between there are motor scooters and motor cyclists filling any and all spaces between the cars so they can worm their way to the front of the row of cars at each light. When those spaces are filled, the scooters jump on the curbs to bypass the traffic jams. Despite the crowded and chaotic streets, if a pedestrian steps into a crosswalk, all traffic grinds to a halt to let the pedestrian pass unscathed. It took our breath away the first time Carlin walked out into speeding traffic only to witness cars stop a few feet in front of her. I did not shoot this amateur video but it illustrates how chaotic auto traffic is in Rome.
We met Carlin by the large obelisk in St. Peter’s square. It is reported the square can hold 400,000 people at once There are two sets of jumbo trons on each side of the square to accommodate people too far back to see the Pope.
We met Carlin and purchased a special ticket to bypass the long lines into the Basilica. Included with the tour was entry to a climb 322 steps to the top of the dome overlooking Vatican City. The first par
t of the climb started with a short elevator ride for 2 Euros and then up a flight of conventional stairs to a balcony at the lower lip of the largest Dome of The Basilica. The first two photos are of the Dome. The other photos were taken from a cat walk perch just below the Dome which gave us an up close view of the large mosaics lining the dome as well as a good view up into the dome and the massive Basilica below.
Next, we began the challenging climb to the top of the Dome. The staircase is fairly narrow at the start and gradually gets more narrow as you climb higher. Eventually, its gets so narrow and steep that you rely on holding onto a knotted thick rope suspended from the top of this circular staircase to help guide you up to the very top.
Here is a photo from a website describing the staircase and climb.and the second one was a photo I took while climbing the stairs. If you want to know what it feels like to climb to the top of the dome, check out this amateur GoPro video.
Once we got to the top the skies cleared and we had a magnificent 360° view of The Vatican and Rome. It was breathtaking. Mindy was a little overwhelmed by the climb, cramped space and the crowd of people at the top so she took a seat on a bench while Carlin and I walked around taking in the views and snapping photos. Mindy had a look on her face of near panic that reminded me of the time the kids and I climbed to the top of a pyramid in Guatemala and Mindy had a panic attack due to her fear of heights.
When it was time to leave Carlin and I made two passes around the top level looking for Mindy. Not seeing her, we decided to march back down expecting she got tired of waiting for us and headed down on her own. When we reached the ground floor we entered a cavernous space and were shocked to not Mindy waiting for us. After searching around for a few minutes, Carlin sought out a security guard and said, “Please help me…I can’t find my mother”. He looked confused over why a 20 year old woman would be reacting this way but could tell that Carlin was upset and needed to find Mindy pronto. Since there was a possibility Mindy might still be at the top of the tower and suffering from a panic attack, the kind guard took Carlin up a special elevator to the top where they found mom looking for us. Carlin ran into her arms thankful that she was safe to which Mindy said she was surprised since she knew where she was the entire time.
The battery in my camera was low so I did not take photos inside St. Peter’s Basilica choosing instead to insert photos from the web that reminded me of what we saw.
Due to our unscheduled search and rescue mission, we were running late for our 2 PM entrance ticket for The Vatican Museum including The Sistine Chapel. By the time we arrived it was 2:15 PM but the security guard did not seem to care and let us through. I had a little difficulty communicating with the ticket taker since I was showing her my ticket on my iPhone screen and she kept telling me something in Italian that I did not understand. Finally, I realized she was telling me to increase the brightness on the screen so her scanner could read it properly. At first we thought we were set because we were admitted using the timed ticket. Outside the door there was a line of over 500 people waiting for the opportunity to enter when all the reserved tickets were presented. However, once we were inside there was a nearly solid sea of people shuffling the way down hallways looking at painting after painting of Madonna and Child or other religious figures. Slowing down the long que were souvenir sales desks within each gallery. At one point we were in the hall of tapestries and barely moving when Mindy and I almost turned and left without seeing The Sistine Chapel. We kept seeing a sign that said the Sistine Chapel was straight ahead so we persevered. Since they limit the number of people inside the chapel it was not as bad as the other areas of the museum and we were able to take our time looking up at the beautiful Fresco ceiling and murals on the walls. It was truly a remarkable site but diminished somewhat by the crowds of people. I think we both agreed that the frescoes in the Borghese Museum were more enjoyable. While in the chapel the guards are constantly saying “No Photos” and “Silencio” We were told to not take photos inside The Sistine Chapel so these are off the internet.
After the Sistine Chapel the crowds thinned out considerably allowing us to take our time viewing various objects around the museum. I was able to take the photos below since I borrowed Carlin’s camera to use after we toured the Sistine Chapel.
After leaving the museum we flagged a taxi which took us back over to the Jewish quarter near our apartment where we visited a kosher vegetarian restaurant for an afternoon snack of salads and falafel.
At 7 PM we met Carlin and her roommate Shannon at our apartment and walked across the street to the restaurant Spirito Vino. Shannon is a triplet from Minnesota who attends Notre Dame. She was the perfect roommate for Carlin since they both encouraged the other to travel to locations and enjoy new experiences that each would not have likely done on their own.
Upon entering Spirito Vino we were greeted by Francesca. The son of the proprietor. We had a delightful experience and meal. He and his father run the restaurant and have terrific rapport with their customers. Once he learned we were from Ohio, Francesca excitedly shared that he once spent time in Canton Ohio visiting the Football Hall of Fame when he was in the US. He also shared that Rachel Ray visited the restaurant once and tweeted about it.
After dinner we took a tour in the basement which we were told dates back to 75 BC and is regarded as the oldest continuous operating restaurant in Rome. There were rows and rows wine racks with some bottles covered with so much dust it looked as though they might have been bottled back in 75 BC. Upon leaving the restaurant, Francesca presented us a bottle of the house wine. We already had two bottles of wine with dinner but I graciously thanked him for the gift and left it behind in the apartment since I did not want to carry it in my backpack to Venice.
After dinner we walked to a bar called 38 mm in the same neighborhood and met Carlin’s friends Patrick and Danny from University of Dayton who traveled with them around Europe over the past semester. Carlin bought me a glass of prosecco which is the first time I’ve ever had a alcoholic drink purchased for me by my daughter. We sat and enjoyed each other’s company for the next hour or so and they walked us back to our apartment before returning to their campus.