Thursday, July 30, 2015

Italy Adventure - Part 2

Day three was another day filled with walking. We didn't have a guided tour until mid-afternoon, so we set out to explore a few places on the way to the tour. These first couple of pictures were just along our walk.
I knew this massive white building was on our agenda today. I can't even explain the sheer size of this building. You can see it from anywhere, but rounding that corner and coming face to face with it really takes your breath away. There are several names for this building, depending on where you are, because there are several monuments. I'll just go with Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. This seemed to be their defense building, as there were many exhibits and storyboards about battles, etc. While it looks really old, it was built in 1911 and completed/opened in 1925. I just did a little bit of research - so it's also called Altare della Patria. It was built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. There is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier out front, with an eternal flame and guards.
Panoramic view from the top. We didn't even know you could get to the very top, but there was an elevator and I gladly paid the Euros to take a ride. Phenomenal!
Next up on our journey was St. Ignatius. To be totally honest, I had never heard of this church, nor had I planned to visit it UNTIL I saw it on Reese Witherspoon's Instagram. She was recently in Rome and raved about how gorgeous this church was on the inside. The outside is nothing special at all, but once you go inside and round that first corner, your jaw hits the floor. It is magnificent!
Up next, and right up the street, was the Pantheon. I was very excited to see this building, though I knew it was going to be crowded. Hell, everything in Rome is crowded!  I am a sucker for columns, so this building really got me. It was dedicated around 126 AD. Almost 2,000 years after it was built (TWO THOUSAND YEARS), it still remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.
The oculus is the only source of light.
There are two kings and one queen buried in the Pantheon.
After the Pantheon, we walked by Trevi Fountain, but didn't stay long. The fountain is currently under a massive restoration project, and is therefore drained of water. Bummer! It's still gorgeous.
After walking by Trevi Fountain, we made our way to the meeting point for our afternoon tour:  Roman Catacombs, Saint Celemente Church, and the Capuchin Crypt.
The Roman wall
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed during any portion of our tour - I snuck a few with my phone, as there is no discreet way of taking a silent picture with the big camera. The catacombs, below, were very intriguing. And they were a nice break from the HOT temps. We were about 60 feet below the surface, so it was much cooler.
Saint Celemente Church was pretty cool. One thing about how the Romans build, they just build over stuff when they are done with a building. So when this church went through a renovation, there was some excavating done and much older churches were discovered. They have incorporated those older churches, via stairways way underground, into the "new" church.  The new church was completed in 1100. The second tier underneath was from the 4th century. The church in the third tier underground was from the 2nd century. The history of that place was simply incredible. It's so crazy to stand in places that have been around THAT LONG.
After our tour concluded, we were near the Spanish Steps. We didn't really stay long there as it wasn't all that interesting, it was packed with people, and the street vendors trying to shove flowers into your hand to swindle money was seriously obnoxious. I think we stayed here a total of 15 minutes and then hit the road for dinner.
On our walk to dinner.
Let me talk for a minute about dining in Rome. It took some getting used to, first of all. Romans dine totally differently than Americans. They take a long time - sometimes two hours - just to do dinner. So it took us a while to figure out that we weren't being ignored, they were simply letting us enjoy and savor a meal. And once you learned that, and the fact that you have to literally ask for your bill or they won't even come to your table, the dining got a little better.
There was one thing that was consistently amazing - GELATO!!
I had gelato every single day. Sometimes multiple times a day. It's so refreshing, especially after dinner, or even walking through the hot streets. You have to find legit places, though, not just ice cream shops. Ice cream and gelato are two totally different things. Gelato is my new best friend.
After enjoying some gelato, we walked back to the apartment and I grabbed some pictures along the way.
On of the reasons I picked the apartment we stayed at was for the view:
THIS was literally across the street. As in, I could throw a rock from my window and hit the Colosseum. It was incredible to see it glowing as I fell asleep, and it was the first thing I saw as I walked around the apartment in the mornings. I could not have picked a better place!

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