Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roma, Firenze, and Milano


After having a marvelous time spent recovering in Cortona, we decided it was high time to make our way to the beautiful city of Rome, "The Eternal City"

Nicole had also decided to switch her flight to extend her trip by 4 days to experience Rome with us as well so once again, it was back to the fab four!

We took a 3ish hr train ride that was miserably hot. Went through a bit of delirium on this ride if I remember correctly trying to stick our heads out the only open window near us to get the tiniest bit of air flow.

Finally we arrived in Rome..massive train station by the way, we, as always were lost immediately upon stepping foot into the city.  We grabbed the best map we could at the station (remember the #1 rule when you enter a new city, get a map immediately!) and fumbled our way to our hostel in a surprisingly quick amount of time (hey we're getting good at this!)  Threw our bags down and of course headed right back out to explore.

We decided we couldn't wait to see the Colosseum and hopped on the metro.  The Roman people refer to it as the il Colosseo and it is the first thing you see when you step foot outside the metro station.  It literally took my breath away by the sheer magnificence of it.  It is simply stunning.  I still haven't been able to grasp seeing with my own two eyes these incredible sights I'd only ever seen on glossy magazines before.  Astounding.

We only wanted to catch a glimpse of it and luckily caught it just as the sun was setting, beautiful.  See for yourself.

We ran around furiously, full of excitement and pure joy until we finally exhausted ourselves and were content to just simply stand and stare in awe of the luster and sheen produced from the setting sun, splashing the stone with its gorgeous burnt sienna and ochre colors.

We finally realized it would be quite unrealistic for us to stand there all night and our stomachs wholeheartedly agreed,  complaining loudly enough for all of Rome to hear.  We reluctantly turned away with whispered promises to return and headed to quell the gnawing hunger that only comes with all day travel.

We ate our fill and decided what the heck, we might as well see the Trevi Fountain while we're out right?  We looked it up best we could on the map, turns out it is referred to as the Fontana di Trevi, hopped on a train and made our way across town dodging vespas and trying not to trip over cobblestones.  I anxiously walked/skipped with my ears keenly awaiting the sound of flowing water..I began to hear it far off in the distance and quickened my pace when suddenly..there it was in all its glorious beauty.  The largest and most famous fountain in all of Italy.  Big, bold, white statues depicting Neptune, god of the sea, standing atop a shell-shaped chariot drawn by two sea horses and two gods.  Legend has it that tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain will guarantee a return trip to Rome...I'm not one to discount a legend so in goes the coin!


The fountain is 98% surrounded by couples madly in love.  No seriously, it really is.  Everywhere you look people are staring adoringly into each others eyes, kissing, or holding hands.  Surprisingly it's not quite the gross feeling you'd imagine yourself having from the exorbitant amount of PDA surrounding you..something about the Trevi Fountain just makes your eyes glaze over and leaves you with a stupid, in love, puppy grin on your face and a lovely dewy glow..or maybe that's just the mist..any who, it stirs up a magical feeling within and that is what's important.

We stayed as long as we could before feeling weird then decided hey what the heck, might as well go find the Vatican City as well!

We arrived and stepped out onto St. Peters Basilica.  Lots of people were milling around, some tourists, lots of locals and couples.  Apparently the square is a hot place to hang..pretty awesome.  It was eerily weird for me to walk around at night and see the views as I have both read and seen Angels and Demons.  I easily recognized all the buildings and landmarks and couldn't help but think I might see a poor cardinal kidnapped and tied up at the top of the cathedral..that's what happens when you read or watch too many movies..
We explored the area best we could at night than reluctantly decided it was finally time to head home.


We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world! Er..Rome that is.  We decided to head back to the Vatican City and get us a look at the inside of the buildings this time..Sistine Chapel here we come!  I had a bit of a hiccup attempting to view the inside of the popes cathedral, wore shorts AND a short sleeve shirt, *face palm*, luckily I had brought along my rain coat and Nicole had worn a scarf that also worked quite nicely as a weird makeshift skirt.  A kind guard watched me create this atrocious ensemble with a delightful smile on his face and gave me a big thumbs up when I had completed it.  He then waved me on in with pleasure.

We headed inside next and leisurely strolled the hallways complete with the most magnificent ceilings and floor to ceiling painted murals in every room.  Relics and hand carved statues every two feet to stare and marvel at and finally, finallyyyyy we came to the Sistine Chapel.  Must say, the guards were a little bit obnoxious in its a sacred, holy chapel, there is no photography, nor speaking and the guards remind you of this by yelling as loudly as possible...seems odd to me but nonetheless, it was simply marvelous.  I loved examining the art and trying to picture Michelangelo up there craning his neck for hours and hours in order to get the perfect expression on the face of Adam as he reaches out his finger to touch God.  Anyone can certainly appreciate the work of Michelangelo however I like to secretly think those with an artistic mind appreciate and understand just a little bit more ;)

We also decided to visit the top of the cathedral and view the St. Peters Square and all the rest of Rome from the top of the Copola.  Talk about a climb and the narrowest staircase of your life spiraling upward and upward, but what a view!  The first picture below shows how slanted the walls are as you're climbing up and around a rounded dome.  Crazy!

We also of course had to make a stop by the Pantheon which was built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome.  The Pantheon is an architectures dream to see as almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome stills remains the world's largest unenforced concrete dome.  It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings and has been in continuous use throughout its history  Fascinating and way cool to see.

We also visited the Spanish steps.  Most of you have probably heard of these so called famous steps, but may not quite recall what they are...
Another history lesson for you..The steps were built with French diplomat Etinne Gueffer's funds which linked the Spanish Embassy and the church together to the piazza below.  The Spanish Steps is the widest staircase in Europe.  One of those "must see's"..

  From the top of the Dome

We spent the next day touring the inside of the Coliseum.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking around by myself and imagining how it was when it was alive and full of life.  People don't always think of the horrors that took place inside the arena, reading the description of the games and of course having seen the movie Gladiator, truly opens your eyes
to how crazy yet completely normal these "games" were.  Imagining the clashing of the swords against the flesh of wild tigers and lions aiming at exposed throats is enough to send chills down your spine when you're actually standing there staring at the arena.  People were literally ripped to shreds, limb from limb while a crowd cheered it on!  Absolutely nuts.

One word of personal advice, this was one of the landmarks we toured where I would have rather been either been on a tour or had the handheld device.  I would have loved to learn more historical facts and heard more stories that happened inside that fateful place.  I'm usually an advocate for doing your own thing but in this particular case, take the tour :) *bonus, no waiting in line either!

That same day we also went to the Rome Forum which was originally a market place but became a place for politics, and public and private businesses.  It is the ruins of several ancient government buildings located at the center of the city of Rome.  It has been called the "most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history".  It was simply put, awesome to look at.  With your ticket to the Coliseum you also get the privilege to tour the Forum as well and walk among the ruins.


Alas, our Roma excursion had come to an end, we sadly bid farewell to our 4th companion, Nicole as she headed back across the ocean to home sweet home and the three of us left, headed on to Florence!

Arrival in Firenze:

We came across the Santa Maria Cathedral which is the main church of Florence, Italy.  It contains the Duomo which is well known as one of the most beautiful sights in Florence.  I have never seen so many freaking vespas in my life than when visiting about jealous!


We decided to ask around one afternoon the best place to view a Firenze sunset and we were told the Piazza San Michelangelo by far.  So we hiked our way across the city and proceeded to hike 8,549,403 stairs..or so it seemed.  We purchased two big cheap bottles of beer, a bag of potato chips, and banana's and plopped our happy butts down on the stairs along with other sunset viewers.  It was a wonderful moment shared with both friends and strangers.


The best part of Florence by far for me was getting to see the statue of David.  Pictures do NOTHING to serve it justice.  Michelangelo found the block of limestone abandoned in a church yard, he asked permission for it and was granted it.  He began to carve the statue at the age of 26, after 3 years he finally finished what is now known as The Statue of David.

 On the information sign a quote read something along the lines of, "After seeing and reveling in the majestic beauty that Michelangelo carved from hand one need ever see another statue again"  How true I found this to be!  It was simply stunning and for some reason had quite the effect on me.

A quote from Michelangelo himself reads "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action.  I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine already see it."

Need I say more?

(by the way, the below is a secret picture taken of the statue by my brother, pictures are forbidden!)

Florence was a beautiful city, less "big" sights than Rome but for certain a city I could see myself living in.  Quite homey, quaint, and comfortable.

We said our goodbyes though and headed on to our final Italian destination, Milan, fashion capital of the world!

Now, if I HAD to pick my least favorite place in Italy, honestly it would be offense to it, just not quite as ancient and beautiful as Rome or Venice, nor quite as quaint and cozy as Florence and Cortona.  But Milan is something of its own.  A horse of a different color if you will.  It was actually incredible to walk down the avenues and see some of the most beloved and well known names in fashion.  Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior, Ferragamo, Tom Ford, Armani, Dolce Gabbana, Prada, Emilio Pucci, there a reason why the majority of the world's greatest designers are Italian..?  Something in the water?

Regardless, enjoyed thumbing through racks of clothes costing in the thousands..mind blowing.

We went to the biggest cathedral in Italy called Mariae Nascenti, saw a few dead cardinals encased in glass boxes..weird and also took a look at the crypt underneath.  Way awesome.


We did get to see a street performer playing the Hang in person!  Incredible instrument, youtube right away!  That night we made our way back to the hostel as we had an early flight out to Barcelona the following morning.


We realized we had new neighbors in the room next to us, they popped their heads in inviting us over if we liked.  We of course moseyed on over and found ourselves in a room full of loud, crazy, LOUD, Polish people.  Music was blasting full blast and they had about 37 bottles of the cheapest champagne Italy had to offer.  Hello, I'm in.  These were some of the most fun people we met on our trip, they listened to awesome old American music and acted liked we had all been friends for 20 years.  We immediately bonded.



The hostel owner was a tiny, angry, Asian woman who was particularly disgruntled that night..can't imagine why?  She eventually got so fed up by our noisy behavior she literally turned off the power in the entire building...oops.  On that note we decided to go for a midnight stroll and all of us took ourselves out to the sidewalks of Milan to laugh and joke in peace.  About the time 2:30am arrived Me, Robbie, and Chris all looked at each other knowing we had to leave our hostel by 4am in order to get to the airport in time for our flight out..awesome

We headed back to the room, packed in the pitch dark (thanks angry Asian woman) and fell asleep for a total of 42 minutes.  We groggily woke ourselves up (no clue how) and wearily hauled our packs up on our backs and headed out into the dark, cold, night.  One of the only times where I truly felt miserable besides feeling sick in Cortona.  We trekked for what seemed miles (maybe 2-3?) to the bus stop.  We waited 15 minutes or so for that to arrive, once it did, climbed aboard and promptly fell asleep for the 30 minute ride to the airport.  I believe we all the spent the next 2ish hours in a catatonic state..lingering somewhere between human and zombie.  We did finally board the plane bound for the last stop of our adventure...Barcelona, Spain!


Until next time,


"We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong"

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