The day after I finished my last exam my mom and I flew to Rome. The flight was awful (the woman sitting next to me kept invading my personal bubble and I couldn't sleep), but we landed in Rome at 8am and had a full day to roam the city before we checked into the hotel.
Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, just around the corner from our hotel - Apparently many Romans consider it an over-the-top eyesore, but it offers great views of the city if you climb to the top
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, by Bernini - representing the four major rivers of the four continents through which papal authority spread
Please note the Lilly scarf I used as a headband to cover my less-than-perfect hair after 12 hours of travel
One of the many obelisks in Rome, by Bernini. I particularly liked the elephant base.
Sunday we went to Vatican City for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, who was originally from Poland. The Polish invaded Rome! I heard more Polish while in Rome than Italian. It was a heck of a struggle to get past the barricades, policemen, and crazy crowds, but we managed to secure spots right near St Peter's square, and then stood there for five hours (2 hrs before, 2 for the actual event, and then 1 hr trying to get out of Vatican City). But I did catch a glimpse of the current pope!
Note the many Polish flags flying high!
I loved the heavily sculpted lampposts
Of course we paid a trip to the Colosseum. It was (as was everything else) incredible!!!! The outside displayed three Orders of architecture, seen by the different types of columns moving up the layers (art history nerd alert...)
I got a kick out of the many tacky tourist photo opps
The Arch of Constantine - notable for the fact that it's made of pieces of other monuments and commemorates Constantine's victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
We also visited the Roman Forum, full of many ancient temples, arches, and broken columns. I loved how I was able to see basically every element of Ancient Roman architecture I studied in my classical architecture class.
The Italian answer to the chip truck?
The Spanish Steps - not quite as high as I expected, but still a fun climb
The Trevi Fountain was very impressive, but crowded with people. But I was blown away by the fact that almost every element of design in Rome had specific iconography, usually meant to somehow convey the power of the papacy, Rome, or a wealthy citizen.
Laocoon and His Sons - probably the most significant archeological find during the 16th century, this Ancient Greek sculpture significantly impacted the work of Renaissance artists, serving as a new ideal for the human form. We saw it in the Vatican Museums. We spent an entire day visiting the Vatican, but of course my camera battery died early in the morning so I don't have many pictures. We saw the frescoes painted by Raphael, Sistine Ceiling done by Michelangelo, and the absolutely breath-taking St. Peter's Basilica. I hated how the tour was organized (far too many people, with a tour guide that spent an hour talking about the Sistine Ceiling and zipped right through everything else), but I was still pretty much in shock the entire time.
I also loved sampling the delicious food and coffee! My mom and I did our own unofficial coffee tour of Rome. We stopped in various cafes or coffee bars for shots of espresso at least three times a day, and hands down my favorite was this coffee bar right by the Pantheon. The espressos were smooth, strong, and not too bitter or acidic. They also made a delicious frozen coffee slushy that came in a tiny cup topped with a gigantic dollop of full fat whipped cream. An incredibly tasty treat to split with my mom after a day of wandering the city.
The Tempietto by Bramante, which served as a model for Bramante's designs for St Peter's and marked the spot of St Peter's martyrdom. It was incredibly difficult to find and was a bit of trek up a hill, but it was worth the climb. It's such a harmonious structure.
I pretty much got to see everything I had studied in my Art of the High Renaissance class, except for a villa with frescoes by Raphael, but I had to keep something for my next trip, right!? Actually visiting Rome pretty much blew apart any of my preconceived notions about the layout and atmosphere of the city. I loved how I could get lost wandering down a narrow cobblestone street and suddenly find myself standing in a city square with three baroque sculpted fountains. Everything had a touch of glamor, history, and artistic design to it. Perhaps I was viewing the city through rose-tinted glasses, but beyond the humidity and crowds, I found it to be stunning and magical.