These posts were all written and waiting for me to annotate the image galleries that went with them before posting, and that was good sick-day activity, so I can put up a couple posts now, finally.
Monday was a day of heavy tourism: various sights on a walking tour in the morning, then the Vatican museums in the afternoon. One of Chad's pals had previously engaged a tour guide for us, who met us by the Colosseum and gave little potted histories of that and the Forum--not inside, that was for later in the week.
We walked past the first commercial indoor mall (which has a bunch of White Trees of Gondor in front of it, for some reason), and the giant wedding cake monument built to the first king of a unified Italy (our guide said that 19 people ate dinner in the belly of the horse in the center when it was dedicated, to give a sense of the scale), and the Trevi fountain (I liked hearing about how the sculptor left imperfections and rough stone in much of his work to remind the viewer about the superiority of nature--though I guess this may rather be an idea left over from Bernini's sketches, since he didn't actually design the final version the way he did the facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, which has a similar thing), and the being-cleaned Spanish Steps, and a whole bunch of obelisks that were looted from Egypt, and the fountains in the Piazza Navona. It was a lot.
My favorite was the Pantheon, which I keep wanting to call Parthenon which is something different, because it's just beautifully intricate inside; I could've stayed there for hours. (It rained a little later so we missed the chance to see the rain coming through the hole in the dome and how the drains work.)
Then lunch, which took a little longer than optimal so we were late for our reserved tour of the Vatican museums, but it worked out okay. (I had gnocchi with gorgonzola and pear; the night before I had fettuccine with ricotta and bacon, which just leaped out of the menu at me for some reason, and grouper in tomato sauce, at a tiny place called Le Mani in Pasta that was very good but slow by even Italian standards, it developed over the course of the week.)
The Vatican Museums were kind of . . . stressful. It's so amazingly crowded that you can't hang out and look at anything, everyone's just pushing and crowding and hurrying all around you. Impressive, of course, and I'm definitely glad I saw the Sistine Chapel after the restoration (they left a little bit unrestored so you can tell how amazingly dark it had gotten). But I saw a bunch of cool things just in passing and I'm sure if we'd come on the least busy day of the year (if such a thing even exists) I could've found more.
St. Peter's Basilica was very impressive for being decorated solely with mosaic on the inside, Michelangelo's Pieta (now behind bulletproof glass after being attacked by someone with a hammer in 1972), and this beautiful golden sunburst window with a dove in the center. Again, though, almost all of the mosaic was way up high, so lots of neck-cricks and overwhelmedness and not enough detail.
By the way: it was a little before 4:30 p.m. when we came outside and there were these very ominous bells tolling for at least fifteen minutes. Any idea what that was?
Then by accident we got separated from our group, had consolatory gelato in a cafe (mediocre; mine had ice crystals in it), and took a taxi back to the hotel. (Every car ride in Rome had me think, on a running loop, "We are going to die or kill someone." Taxis do things like never use turn signals, treat lane boundaries as mere suggestions, and go the wrong way down one-way traffic lanes just because no-one's in them at the moment.)
We had drinks at a very fancy hotel with a nice garden, Hotel de Russie, and then dinner nearby at Dal Bolognese, which was both delicious and much quicker than the night before, bringing out dishes with a speed I expect at an American restaurant. I had pasta with bolognese sauce, because I figure you can't go wrong having something that's in the name of the restaurant. And I was right.
Before the walking portion of the morning got particularly long, I was really loving Rome visually: the colors of the buildings, and the way that time periods are sliced up next to each other and layered one atop another, I just found it very aesthetically pleasing and charming. So it was a really long day but on the whole good.
Here are the photo albums. There is stuff in the captions, so click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
- small photo album of stuff in and around our hotel (also added to the Sunday post);
- walking tour (minus Pantheon) and misc. stuff around our hotel;
- the Pantheon (includes pictures from when we went back later in the week); and
- the Vatican Museums.