Our adventure continues in Rome. Yesterday, we hit some more memorable spots, starting with the Pantheon. The line was a bit long to get in, but it moved quickly, and was worth the wait. It’s another impressive structure in this interesting city, and it’s very well preserved. I have a good photo of the ceiling with its opening and also a glimpse of the magnificent door.
We lunched in Piazza Navona, a picturesque rectangle of buildings, restaurants, and fountains. They have a webcam at one end of the piazza and we were able to connect with a couple of family members back home. After lunch, we went to Piazza Espagna. Unfortunately, the Spanish steps were being restored and we weren’t able to climb them, but I got a couple of pics. This area is a shopper’s paradise with the most well-known (and expensive) stores lining the nearby streets.
By this time it was mid afternoon and when we came across the Trevi fountain, the crowd was immense. The logical thing to do was to have a gelato to help fight off the heat. We returned to the hotel, and after a rest and a refreshing shower, we walked to a nearby restaurant for more delicious food and wine, and were served by an entertaining waiter who loved to joke.
This morning, we were up at six and on our way by six-thirty. We had booked an early access tour to visit the Sistine chapel and St-Peter’s basilica. It was well worth the early morning. We were the first people to arrive in the chapel, twenty minutes before it opened to the public.
First of all, the path we took to get to the chapel was much more than I expected. We went down long corridors with paintings, age-old tapestries, ancient maps and much more lining the walls. The ceilings were ornate and most were covered in paintings. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how anything could be more impressive than the walk to the Sistine chapel. I was wrong.
When you walk into the chapel, it’s almost overwhelming. Every available space is covered in incredible art. With the brochure we had received from our guide, we were able to understand the significance of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Truly a sight to see. No photos can be taken inside the chapel, so I can’t share that experience with you.
Our first view of St-Peter’s basilica was from the dome looking down. The expression ‘breathtaking’ describes perfectly my reaction when I stepped out onto the walkway. I literally had to remind myself to breathe. Again, an unexpected view of opulence and beauty.
Leaving the walkway, we happened upon some stairs going upwards and, out of curiosity, decided to check it out. We wound up and around for 320 steps, sometimes very narrow steps with no way to turn around and go back without going against hundreds of people behind you. I experienced another definition of ‘breathtaking’. Also, light-headedness and a touch of claustrophobia. But, we made it, not realizing that we could even reach the cupola of the basilica. There we had a 360 degree view of Rome. Amazing! It was one of those things I’m very happy I did, but I won’t be doing again.
Of course, what goes up must come down, and we finally made it into the basilica itself. It’s a vast space, and every inch is covered in sculptures, carvings, paintings, plaques, and statues. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of awe upon the sight of this sacred place. Even I, the Protestant, appreciated the significance and the importance of the structure itself, the rituals, and the history of its being. There was one moment when Steve was admitted into a small chapel within the basilica, but I was stopped by the guard. I thought, ‘Boy, this guy is good. How’d he know?’ It turned out I had to put my camera into my bag, since no pictures were allowed within the chapel. We both had a little chuckle at my close call.
The visit ended well, but we can’t stress enough the importance of getting an early start and getting in before the crowds. By mid-morning, the line-ups were long, and in the heat, would be difficult.
Now, we have some relaxation time, and then on to another Roman experience.
P.S. It’s now Tuesday morning here. The Wi-Fi wasn’t strong enough to let me download pictures last night. We’re off to breakfast and then we’ll plan our day.