After an early wake-up and a wonderful buffet breakfast, we were ready for our first big day in Rome. We met our guide Antonino, who proceeded to give us headsets that transmitted his every word (and hum/song) into our eager ears (as long as we were within 15 feet or the static was too much to bear). Antonino was extremely charming and informative. Antonino brought us into the heart of Rome, where we saw two very attractive guards and and more importantly what is perhaps the most famous Roman monument of all time, the Colosseum. As we waited in line, Antonino told us that this amphitheater, completed in 80 BCE by the Emperor Titus, was the stage for countless gladiator fights and mock naval battles. Sadly, a past earthquake destroyed a significant chunk of this famous monument, and the pieces that were destroyed were used to rebuild other monuments, such as the facade for Saint Peter’s Basilica. However, to this day the majority of the Colosseum still stands, a tribute to the architectural ingenuity of the Ancient Romans. We were given free time to wander around this beautiful structure and observe the maze of underground tunnels that operated ‘behind the curtain’ to create the magic of the infamous Roman spectacles.
A View of the Colosseum
The Arch of Constantine as seen from the Colosseum
Arch of Constantine
an unidentifiable building which possibly might have maybe been the Temple of Jupiter Stator, where Cicero made his first oration against Catiline. Please enjoy this re-enactment of the first few lines of this famous speech!
The Temple of Romulus
The Temple of Antonino (not our guide) and Faustina
The Curia (Senate House)
After our incredible exploration of the Forum, we caught a bus to our next destination: Vatican City, the home of Pope Francis (and more gorgeous Italian guards. Through qualitative observation, we have concluded that a handsome face must be a requirement for enlistment in the Italian military). After navigating through the dense crowd on the sidewalks, we entered the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum), where we had approximately an hour to explore. We had the opportunity to see many notable works, including the Stanza della Segnatura, Apollo Belvedere, Laocoon and His Sons, and the Sistine Chapel. The Stanza della Segnatura is one of the most well known rooms of the papal apartments. The room was decorated by Raphael and features his The School of Athens. As we entered the Sistine Chapel, we were greeted by the shushes of guards; however, we did not allow the guards’ constant “friendly” reminders not to take pictures to distract us from marveling at the mastery of Michelangelo. Then, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. At St. Peter’s, we saw Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of the Virgin Mary after the Crucifixion. This sculpture is one of Michelangelo’s earlier and most notable works and is the only piece that Michelangelo ever signed. After exploring St. Peter’s, we hopped on the extremely crowded train (being packed in like sardines next to strange men was quite an experience) back to our hotel where we rested (or watched an intense episode of Blindspot) before heading back out for dinner.
Laocoon and His Sons
The School of Athens
St. Peter’s Basilica
By the end of the day, we had walked over 8 miles and taken over 20,000 steps! Needless to say, we’ll be sleeping well tonight!