It’s hard to believe I woke up in Stansted Airport this morning. Then again, 3 AM was a long time ago… And it was honestly probably the best airport sleep I’ve ever gotten. I had trouble falling asleep, but I did try to go to bed much earlier than usual. I broke down and bought ear plugs (the most expensive, least effective earplugs in the world) and was somehow fast asleep shortly thereafter. I was surprised when I woke up in the morning that I’d been really asleep.
I would estimate that over 200 people slept in that airport last night. There were just bodies everywhere, and I’m sure some people got up before I did. RyanAir must have made a killing, and the airlines that take care of their customers must have lost a fortune. What a weird situation.
There were the typical airport frustrations and delays, but come 6:10 I was on plane to Rome. I had French toast in my belly and I was ready for some sunshine. The forecast was perfect: 77 and sunny. Not a cloud in the sky.
We arrived in at 9:30. I went straight to the hostel to drop my bags and get a map. My plan for today had been to go to the Vatican. The receptionists were surprised I wanted to go so late in the day (10:30) but I told them it was my only day so I didn’t have much of a choice. I wanted to get there as soon as possible. It was pretty much the furthest point from my hotel, so if I had any time afterwards I’d just see what I could see on my route back. I grabbed a sandwich and ate it on the go.
I decided not to go to the Vatican museums. I only have one full day in Rome, and i didn’t want to spend the whole day queuing. I was more interested in the Bascillica, and of course seeing La Pieta. Michelangelo did not disappoint. La Pieta was wonderful, even if the crowds around it were highly irritating. It brought a little tear to my eye. I wish it didn’t have to be kept behind glass now, and maybe had been kept more of a secret. I don’t like to share… Well, I don’t like to share with people who don’t appreciate it.
St. Peter’s Bascillica was everything I think it was meant to be. Awesome, overwhelming, powerful. I spent quite a while just walking around and absorbing everything. I eventually made my way to the queue for the cupola, also known as the dome.
There were 511 stairs to the top of the dome. For an extra fee, you could skip the first 200 steps by elevator. Being a poor student and loving a good challenge, opted for the former.
The first set of steps was pretty easy. Then, you join up with the elevator crowds, and… It gets even easier. The line moved at a snails pace. It sure felt like someone at the top was having a hard time, but for the rest of us it was pretty boring. The stairs became increasingly narrow. I thought it was pretty extreme when you couldn’t fit two people abreast, but by the top it was hardly wider than my shoulders. I don’t know how any full-sized adult could do it. But the payoff was worth it.
The walk down moved a lot more quickly and I had a nice conversation with an Iraqi man walking behind me. He says there aren’t a lot of bombs in his part, which is a good thing I guess.
I was so surprised to realize how early it still was. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day when you wake up that early. I had looked up which churches had Caravaggio paintings, so I made my way to the nearest one. This was San Luigi Dei Francesci. So fabulous. There was quite a little crowd gathered to see them, but it’s not something you see on a whim. There are all people who sought out these paintings, which is pretty cool, and they all knew better than to use flash so I didn’t have to stress the whole time.
San Luigi Dei Francesci was pretty near the Pantheon, so I stopped there next. It’s been really interesting to be in Rome. Italy is the one place I’d been in Europe before this adventure. I went in 2009 as a babysitter for some close friends. It was a marvelous time.
Rome was the last place we went on our trip in ’09 and I had filled up the memory card on my camera the day before we arrived. I sincerely regret not buying another card. So, I have no photos from Rome from my first trip, but I have some vivid memories. Walking around, I kept wondering if I recognized things or I was just I imagining it. There have been a few things I know I remember, but it’s mostly a vague sense of familiarity.
The pantheon I had seen on my first visit, and really enjoyed going back. It was more crowded this time, and it think it made a little more of an impact then as you could really see the space. Still, it’s very cool.
I walked onto the Trevi fountain. It’s another place that I’d been before, but only at night. My great aunt Pam was also on this trip, and at midnight on our last night she lead a fearless expedition to the fountain. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I have lots of wonderful memories of that. It’s one of the best moments I had in Rome.
It was interesting to go during the daytime, and I took the opportunity to sit and plan my next move. I couldn’t decide whether to backtrack and see some other Caravaggio’s or to go to the colosseum. Both would be a pretty big commitment.
A nice Dutch young man, in Rome with his mother to celebrate her birthday, happened to be sitting beside me. He said that the Caravaggio route was nicer at night, and the colosseum was really cool in the morning.
This was all I needed to make my decision. I set off to find the Piazza del Popolo, where Santa Maria del Popolo would surely be. This was a long walk, and I stopped for a very early dinner along the way. All my meals have been early today.
I went into a few churches on the square before I found the right one. Again, though, it was really stunning. I hadn’t seen these ones even in photos yet.
My route back to the hotel took me by the Spanish steps. Pretty, but I’m still not really sure what the big deal is there. Some Italian man followed me the whole way there, trying to make random conversation and then convince me to stay for a beer. My migraines make that particularly easy to decline, and I was finally able to shake him.
I was enjoying the weather and looking forward to the chance to get off my feet as I journeyed homewards. I randomly noticed some people coming out of a church, and decided maybe I had one more left in me after all. I knew the church with Bernini’s Ecstacy of St Teresa was near my hostel somewhere. I consulted my map only to discover I’d walked right past it a block before. I high tailed it back.
Santa Maria Della Vittoria is a very unassuming building, but don’t be fooled. The inside is one of my very favorite churches I’ve seen so far. It’s small, ornate, and just lovely. And Bernini. I arrived just barely before it closed, so I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. Actually, I almost got to spend a whole lot of time there. The priest, who must be mostly deaf and blind, almost locked me in. He was dead bolting the door while I stood two feet to his left desperately and apologetically trying to get him to stop. He finally noticed me and let me leave.
There was nothing left on my list except the colosseum and the forum, which were to wait til tomorrow. I was soooo happy to finally get back to the hotel. It had been such a long day and it wasn’t even dark yet.
I posted something on Facebook about being in Rome and immediately my friend Evan messaged me. He had urgent news about a titian show on in Rome at the moment. It’s a pretty big deal. Titian is next to godliness, and these paintings don’t often come together in one place. Evan assured me that the museum closed at 11:00 PM. It looked like my day wasn’t over yet.
It was near enough to my hotel to walk. What’s another 30 minutes on m feet after a day like today? I have to make the most of this time while I’m here, and Rome is beautiful at sunset. I wish I’d known about the show earlier because I had been so very close to the museum throughout my entire day. I kinda made a circle around it, and was definitely within 5 minutes on more than on occasion.
I’m so happy when I arrive, but then:
Evan is a jerk.
Now I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll have enough time for both things before I leave for Ascoli Peceno.
I started my sad walk back to the hotel, again. Some guy about to get on a scooter started talking at me. Turns out his name is Bruno and he’s very nice. He took me on a little scooter tour of Rome. Saw some gardens, a really cool view of the Vatican, rode past the colosseum, and saw the Termed di Caracalla all lit up at night before he dropped me off right by my hostel. So I guess Evan getting me back out of the hostel didn’t end too badly, but I still have this Titian dilemma now.
I don’t know. I’m really just looking forward to a real nights sleep.