Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Italy! (Day Three) ROME!

This was our last day in Rome.  We started with a walking tour of Rome.  


First was the famed Spanish Steps...Girls posing, then the boys...

Kind of a shame that the church at the top of the stairs was being cleaned on the outside.  The scaffolding is not pretty when taking pictures :(

This was the home of the famous sculptor, Bernini...

One interesting thing about Rome is that no one here has a water bill.  They have aqueducts with perfectly clean water that bring water throughout the city, and no one pays for it!  There are these fountains all over the city with water that is constantly running.  It never stops.  It comes out of a pipe and goes back into a drain below.  Our local guide, Christina, demonstrated how the pipe could also be used as a drinking fountain because of a little hole in the top of each of those pipes in all the fountains around the city.  You just use one hand to plug the end of the pipe, and the water squirts out the hole in the top - and there you have a drinking fountain!

Of course Mark and Bryan are the comedians of the group.  They go to get a drink and Mark decides to plug both the bottom and top hole of the pipe on his side, so all the pressure went to Bryan's side, sending the water going out the top hole on Bryan's sky high out into the street.  This would have been fine if it hadn't gone straight into the open door of an Italian police car with several police in it who got squirted!  They came out of the car chastising Mark and Bryan in Italian.  Good job boys!

You can see the look on our Italian Disney guide, Marco's face, right behind Bryan in the picture below.  He was kind of like, "Uh, oh.  These boys got us in trouble..."

Our next stop on our walking tour was the famous Trevi Fountain!  This was one of our favorite stops!  I had no idea this fountain was so monstrous!  It was sculpted by Bernini and is absolutely gorgeous.  Tradition has it that if you turn backwards and throw a coin from your right hand over your left shoulder you will return to Rome.  Of course we all had to do it!

All around Italy we passed a lot of stores who among other things, sold figurines of Pinocchio.  Our guide let us know that Walt Disney was NOT the one to invent Pinocchio.  He borrowed the story from the most popular fairy tale in Italy!  Bryan being Pinocchio...

Mark, Bryan, and I had already found the Pantheon while roaming around Rome our first day, but today we got to go inside with our group... The Pantheon stands as the most complete Roman structure on earth, having survived 20 centuries of plunder, pillage and invasion.  Like many buildings in Rome, the Pantheon was saved from pillage by turning it into a church.  The top of the dome inside is actually open to the sky (no roof on it).

There are several important people whose tombs are in the PantheonThe first one our local guide, Christina, told us about is Queen Margherita.  When they were going to have a dinner to honor her, a pizza was made with all the colors of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil.  She liked it so much, they asked if they could name the pizza after her.  She agreed, and that is how we got Margherita Pizza!

The second tomb we saw here was the tomb of Raphael.  I love what the transcription on his coffin says when translated (see the picture describing in below).

I saw more motorcycles in Italy than I have ever seen anywhere in my life!  You weren't safe from them on the sidewalks either.  If you were waiting to cross at a red light, motorcycles would come right up on the sidewalk to go around traffic.  Crazy!
Next we visited another famous piazza, Piazza Navona.  This was an impressive square with three beautiful fountains - two of which were designed by Bernini.

None of our days in Italy were complete without at least two stops for gelato every day.  Today we had three!

The highlight of today, and maybe of our entire trip, was our private, after hours tour of the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel.  Other than a few people doing the nightly cleaning, WE HAD THE ENTIRE PLACE TO OURSELVES!  WOW!  That was an amazing experience.  Especially when we got to the Sistine Chapel, a place that you are usually shoulder to shoulder with other tourists.  We were told that normally, you get to spend maybe 15 minutes in the Sistine Chapel.  We were able to stay as long as we wanted.  We were probably in there for 45 minutes!  Normally you cannot take pictures in the Sistine Chapel because they can't control that amount of people not using flash on their cameras.  We were given the privilege of shooting as many pictures as we wanted, as long as we didn't use flash.  I was in heaven!!

Our local guide, Christina, was our guide through the museum and chapel.  We started by seeing many of the museum exhibits.  I LOVED the beautiful ceilings everywhere we went...

Our first view of the Sistine Chapel made all of our jaws drop.  Michelangelo's work on the ceiling is BEAUTIFUL, and surprisingly so bright and colorful too!  I took so many pictures, just trying to remember each part of what I was seeing.  Christina told us about each aspect of what we were seeing - all the stories from the Bible that were being portrayed.  It was also fun to hear all the little tid-bit facts about little things Michelangelo stuck in there that aren't commonly known about.

In the picture below, you might notice the black square up in the corner of the ceiling (it's just to the left of the top of the first window).  That was left there after the artwork was cleaned, to show what it looked like after years of not being cleaned.  What a difference!

I was getting a crick in my neck as I stood there with my head tilted back to look at the ceiling as Christina was explaining all the different pictures.  Bryan and I decided to lay on one of the benches around the room so we could look straight up without tilting our heads back.  A guard came over and told us, "No sleeping in the Sistine Chapel".  TOTALLY not what we were doing, but ok.  Crick in the neck it is.  Totally worth it though!

Now we left the Sistine Chapel to go see some more of the Vatican Museum...

Loved this beautiful staircase!  Reminds me of one we saw in Washington DC.  Americans got a lot of their architecture from Rome! 

Every day of our trip, Marco and Cathleen (our Disney guides) gave us each a Disney pin to add to our collection.  They were each individualized pins to commemorate what we were seeing each day in Italy.  Really cool souvenirs!  They kept them in this little "Ciao Bella" bag Marco is holding.

The view looking out over our hotel grounds that evening...

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