Thursday, May 17, 2007

Two months ago in Rome...

I started my second MBA class the day after my parents left, so, for the past six weeks my time has been spent reading about transformational leadership (really exciting topic...seriously, I mean that!) and writing massive 40 page papers. As a result, I haven't had a chance to properly sort through the 2GB or so of photos from the time my family was here until now. I decided to take a much needed two week break between classes to catch up on things like my blog, house cleaning, etc.

For three weeks in March I was lucky enough to have my mom and dad come visit us a mere five months after we left the states. Some people that are stationed here go three years or more without seeing their families. To some, this is a blessing, but for most it is difficult. For me, five months is probably the longest I have EVER gone without seeing my family. I am so fortunate to have a mom and dad that I actually LIKE to spend time with.

Les & I met them in Rome and we spent six days exploring the eternal city. The amount of history in one place is mind blowing, but we took in as much as we could. We saw all of the highlights and walked until our bodies were exhausted. Everything is within walking distance....if you are willing to walk far enough.

Les & I took the train from Catania to Rome. It was a long 9 1/2 hour trip that was spent sleeping and reading. The best part of the trip was when they loaded the train (yes, the whole train) onto a ferry to cross the Strait of Messina. It was surreal to be sitting on a train and feel the rocking of the boat. I couldn't handle the "surreal" feeling too long so Les & I ran up to the top deck for a quick cafe' and some fresh air. Dragging our luggage up three stories of boat ladders wasn't so fun, but the view was amazing. I love being on the water, as long as I'm outside!

Les on the ferry, Sicilia in the background

Our first full day in Roma started with a tour that was included with our hotel. Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain

The tour wove through alleys, past obelisks and government buildings and suddenly we were in a square, I looked up and there was the Pantheon. It was such an amazing building, built in perfect symmetry. Inside, the only light source is from the occulus,

The occulus in the Pantheon

Next, our tour guide took us to Piazza Navona. There were quite a few local artists selling their paintings around the piazza. I don't buy many souvenirs when I travel, but I always try to pick up one or two pieces of original artwork. I didn't buy anything that day, but I did come back later in the week and bought a few pieces. I took a few pictures of Piazza Navona, but the best monuments were covered in scaffolding so unfortunately there wasn't much to see.

Our tour ended in Vatican City. I was overwhelmed by the size of St. Peters, the piazza...all of it. Our first destination was St. Peters Basilica, but somehow we ended up in wrong line and ended up walking through the crypt. Once we found our way out we made it into the right line to enter Basilica.

Piazza S. Pietro from the steps of the Basilica

Me, standing in a sunbeam inside St. Peters Basilica

We decided to spend the afternoon in Vatican City after our tour ended. Our next stop (after lunch) was the Vatican Museum. We just took in the highlights because we got there towards the end of the day. Our primary goal was to see the Sistine Chapel, which closes earlier than the rest of the museum, so we skipped a lot of the exhibits and made our way to the Chapel. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the Sistine, but I got some great shots on our way.

Map of Sicily in the Map Gallery

We wandered around a bit after we saw the Sistine Chapel and I was throughly amused by some of the mosaics on the floor. There were several dragon-ish horses with the most amusing facial expressions. This on is one of my favorites.

Horse-Dragon Mosaic

As the day was drawing to a close we wandered our way out of Vatican City. We lingered for awhile around the Castel Sant' Angelo and the Tiber River.

Ponte Sant' Angelo

Les, Dad, & Mom with the Castel Sant' Angelo in the background

An Angel on the Ponte Sant' Angelo

The next day, bright and early, we made our way to the Colosseum. We were one of the first people to enter that day and for about 30 minutes it was quiet and we actually had a chance to to contemplate where we It didn't take long for the tour buses to pull in and soon the place was flooded with people.

Inside the Colosseum

Mom and Dad in the Colosseum

Exterior of the Colosseum

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, and Palatine Hill.

The Roman Forum

Our third day in Rome was reserved for exploring the Borghese Gallery and gardens. Our museum reservation wasn't until late morning so we wandered around the expansive gardens for a couple of hours. It is Rome's equivalent of Central Park.
Les as Roman God

A serene lake in the Borghese Gardens

Late in the afternoon we wandered out of the gardens and into Piazza del Popolo. There were thousands of people flooding the square - mostly wearing green. It was St. Patricks Day and apparently there had been an Irish/Italian Rugby match.

Piazza del Popolo on St. Patrick's Day

The next day we decided to go to the EUR - Mussolini's idea of a perfect community. Stark buildings and wide avenues that now mostly hold government offices. We read that there were a few notable museums in the area so we decided to check it out. We arrived and walked into an outdoor market that was selling mostly antiques, but a lot of other neat stuff as well. After we spent a few euro then went in search of the museums.

The first museum, the one we most wanted to see, was closed for renovations. We went in search of the next museum and walked in circles for an hour or so as attitudes steadily went downhill. Finally, I asked for directions and we found the museum a few minutes later. The museum was...well, not the best I'd ever seen. We walked around for an hour or so and then went in search of lunch.

We were in a business/government district on a Sunday...not many lunch options available. We finally decided that we were done with the EUR and just had to figure out how to get back to Roma Centro. After several minutes of "give me the guide book", "let me see the map", "you don't know where you are going", "give it back", etc. We finally found a cab and went to the Appian Way.

We found a nice little cafe and had lunch. One of the famous activities on the Appian Way is to rent a bicycle and ride as far as you want. I took one look at the well worn cobblestones & knew that it wasn't going to be my favorite activity, but everyone else was game so I gave it a try. I ended up with a wobbly bike and rode for about 10 minutes and gave up. I sent everyone else on their way, returned the bike, went back to the cafe and had a cappuccino and throughly enjoyed sitting in the sun and watching people on the Appian Way.

Via Appia Antica

Our final day in Rome was cloudy and the sky was threatening rain. We decided to go to Camp di' Fiore and revisit some of our favorite sights.

Flower Stand in Camp di' Fiore

By late morning in was sprinkling and by noon it was pouring. We wandered the streets of Rome in pouring rain and surprise, surprise cabs were scarce. We finally made it back to the hotel late afternoon, soaking wet and tired. We put on fresh clothes, took a rest and went out for a late dinner.

The next morning we packed up and head back to Sicily on another 9 1/2 hour train trip, this time with Mom & Dad, which was fun. They spent another two weeks in Sicily. Hopefully in the next few days I can sift through those pictures and post more about our adventures.

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