The Tiber river as seen from the top of Castel Sant' Angelo.
American teenager at the train station: (slightly annoyed) "What is going on here?"
American dad: (Not said calmly) "Calm down."
There is something about train stations in this country that invokes harriedness amongst travelers. Perhaps it's the slightly confusing ticketing process, the overcrowded terminals or the overheated cars, but whatever it is, it makes for craziness. We watched the above duo scramble to figure out how to enter a locked car (it involved waiting for the engineer to unlock it) as we made our way back to Rome.
Once in Rome we planned to go straight to our hotel to meet up with the tour group we would be traveling with for the remainder of our trip.
An Angel bearing the cross.
We arrived at the hotel only to find our group was gone since the hotel was having AC and plumbing problems (a dangerous combination). Lucky for us, the hotel paid for us to take a cab to our new hotel and this allowed us our first glimpses of the city as we drove through the heart of it. Once we were checked in, we discovered we had a few hours of free time until we had to meet our traveling companions for a drink later in the evening. We used our time wisely by getting out and seeing some sights.
Our first stop was just down the street to Castel Sant' Angelo, a castle built by Emperor Hadrian (of wall fame) as a masoleum to himself and later used as a hideaway by various popes (it's a stone's throw from the Vatican). It was a cool place featuring many winding tunnels leading to the masoleum.
The mighty Pantheon.
We were especially impressed with the Sala del Tesoro-the Vatican's treasury-literally a really big box for storing riches. Up on top, there was a terrance which offered amazing 360 degree views of the city. As we exited, we crossed the Tiber using the Ponte Sant' Angelo Bridge (built by Hadrian so Romans could have quick and regal access to his tomb). The bridge is now lined with original Roman arches and statues of angels each bearing a symbol of the Passion of Christ (nail, sponge, shroud, cross, etc.). In 1450, this bridge became so crowded that 200 people fell off and to their deaths when the support bannisters gave way.
Next we traversed the streets (I just love the quiant, tight cobblestone walkways) to reach another of Hadrian's masterpieces-- the Pantheon.
Skylight inside the Pantheon...it's beautiful.
This place is breathtaking! The size is massive and can only be truly appreciated in person. To imagine how it was made is mind-boggling. Inside is the most amazing skylight ever. Supposedly Raphael is buried inside, but we couldn't find his tomb. We did find the tomb of King Victor Emmanuel II (Italy's version of George Washington).
It was time to head back to the hotel to meet our traveling group and guide. It is an interesting group of American and Aussies from all different age ranges and backgrounds. They're all jet-lagged, just having flown in, but Brian and I are better adjusted. While they head in for an early night's rest, we head out for more touring.
First we walk through the Campo de Fiori to the Piazza Navona (a beautiful plaza that once served as a racetrack in ancient Roman days) where we had an excellent dinner on the square.
Dinner al fresco on the Piazza Navona.
After dinner we strolled through the square, ate gelato then went back to the Pantheon to watch the sun set and the monument light up. After the sun was down, we continued our walk with a visit to Trevi Fountain (and coins thrown in for good luck and a repeat visit to Rome). The Trevi Fountain was my favorite place in Rome. It's so mammoth and so beautiful. It was built in 1762 (older than our country!!) and shows Triton blowing his conch over 24 streaming fountains of water. The place was super crowded, but well worth seeing. From here we walked to the famous Spanish Steps. Brian was underimpressed. "This is it?" he quipped. After all, it is just a set of stairs. However, they have been guarding the Spanish Embassy for more than 300 years and have been visited and loved by many well-known people (Keats died right down the street and Byron lived across the way). After this stop, we trudged home and into bed ready for the start of our tour bright and early the next morning.