Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day Two: Saturday

We started our day early since Abu Dhabi time is two hours later than Rome time. We headed down for the hotel breakfast. It was actually a lot better than I expected. I read reviews that often times the hotel breakfasts weren’t up to snuff, but I thought it was more than adequate. Kaden had a croissant, fruit, and some milk. Stu and I each had eggs and prosciutto, and I had an espresso (another thing I miss after having it every morning).

Kaden loved the full-length windows and spent a lot of time talking to the people on the street.

Dutifully writing in my journal so I could tell you all about it when we returned! :)

The view from our window of the street. See the column on the left at the very end? That's the Trevi Fountain.

After getting our fill we decided to take an early morning walk around the neighborhood since it wasn’t even eight in the morning yet. We found the Trevi Fountain first, which is just 20 meters from the front door of our hotel. It was a lot bigger than I expected. Pictures cannot truly show how massive it really is. To see how intricate the carvings were, especially after so many centuries of sitting there, was very impressive and made it even more shocking.

We took a look at our map and saw that the closest monument was the Piazza Colonna, so we decided to head there to see how far distances were going to be (we still weren’t sure if we’d need to get a bus pass or not). It was only about a five minute walk, so we decided to keep going.

This was just one of the thousands of churches throughout the city.

We were heading down one of the main streets toward “the horsey guy”, which we later learned was a monument to Victor Emmanuel, who was Italy’s first king, when we ran into a sign for the Pantheon McDonald’s pointing toward an alley. We decided to follow it and quite literally stumbled into the Pantheon a few blocks later.

What. A. Building. The outside looks just as old as it is (it was designed by Hadrian in 118-125 AD), but the inside is humbling. To think about how long the building itself as well as the artifacts inside have been there is beyond words.

The Pantheon was known as the temple of “all the gods” and was a Pagan temple before it became a church in 608 AD when Pope Boniface IV consecrated it. The hole in the center of the dome provides the only light and Stu said he felt a little vertigo while looking up at it. It’s hard to get a feel for its height without being there.

Trivia: Bernini refused to redecorate the dome, per Pope Urban VIII’s request, saying that while St. Peter’s had a hundred defects, the Pantheon did not have any. The tomb of Raphael was one of my favorite parts. He asked to be buried there when he died in 1520! He lies beneath a Madonna by Lorenzetto. On the right of his tomb is a memorial to his fiancée, Maria Bibbiena.

Our first glimpse of the Pantheon through the buildings.

Kaden playing on the steps of the fountain in front of the Pantheon. If you've ever been to Rome, you know how rare it is to see these steps completely without tourists.

This is the tomb of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy.

The hole in the center of the Dome.

The alter.

The tomb of Raphael.

The Madonna above Raphael's tomb.

The front door.

This is just a random street, but Stu liked the walkway over the street.

Not all of Rome is perfect.

This is just one of the many fresh water fountains throughout the city. Unless there is a sign saying it is not potable, all of these fountains can be used to fill a water bottle.

We made our way back down toward the Capitol area, taking in the monument of Victor Emmanuel, which is apparently not a loved monument by the Italians, who have nicknamed it “the wedding cake” or “the typewriter” as insults because of the white marble used to build it. It will never mellow to match the colors of the surrounding buildings and the Italians see it as “self-important, insensitive” architecture.

These guys, dressed as gladiators, charge anywhere from 5-20 Euro for a picture of themselves with you (using your own camera of course).

Through a mis-read of the map, we found ourselves standing in the forum. Oops, lol. Our “short walk” had obviously turned into seeing way more places in one day than we’d initially planned. So took a round-about side street route back toward our hotel to give our feet a rest and our son some lunch. We stopped into a little sandwich shop on our way back and Stu had a prosciutto and mozzarella Panini while I had an arugula, mozzarella, and tomato one. Kaden enjoyed a prosciutto sandwich on good old white bread and we all split an apple and some pineapple. Mommy for some reason had a pounding headache by this point so we rested a bit after a failed nap attempt for Kaden.

As you may know, I left my accidentally left my sunglasses when we went on our desert safari back on Christmas Eve, so we took the opportunity to get some new ones on the streets of Rome. So now I have my cool new Gucci glasses “that I got in Italy”, hehe.

We headed toward the Spanish Steps, but there are millions of people in the streets (Easter weekend, after all) so we decided it was something we’d have to go back to in the morning hours. It turns out that, like Abu Dhabi, people in Rome don’t go outside before like 11, so the streets are practically deserted in the morning. Since Kaden gets up before dawn, this was good news for us!

So we decided to head back over by the Pantheon to hit up the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which we’d seen earlier, but dismissed as “just another old building”. It is actually a well-known church that features a large collection of Italian art, but I digress.

Very crowded Spanish Steps.

Anyway, but before we found the Pantheon again, Stu stopped to investigate a building that appears to have construction going on in front of it (and that we would normally have just walked by). This turned out to be San Silvestro in Capite. Because of the “construction” there were no other people inside. The priest came out while we were there, preparing for Easter Mass, and gave us a private, personal tour of the church. It was incredible. The priest, Father John, was clearly of Irish origin based on his accent. He explained that the Latin phrase “in capite” means “cranium” and that it refers to the skull fragment on display, allegedly from St. John the Baptist. HUH??? So we obviously took pictures of that, which is housed in the room with the pieta.

He also explained that the church was built in the 8th century, built on top of an ancient pagan temple to Apollo and has several Popes buried beneath it. In addition to all of the history, the inside is beautifully decorated, as we would quickly learn ALL churches in Rome are. Stu quickly took to obsessing about going into every church (and there are thousands) because though they have modest exteriors, almost all of them are more stunning than any Catholic church in America. The priest also took us back into his “chambers”(?) and we got to see a 500-year-old armoire with 3 Popes on it. And also allowed Kaden and I to walk up the several-centuries-old pulpit (which creaked loudly under our weight) for a picture.

This is the 500-year-old armoire.

Us on the pulpit.

The skull thought to have been of St. John the Baptist.

Walking around town. Kaden enjoyed these steps a lot!

This church (which was closed when we stopped by) is called La Maddalena. It has a Rococo facade and epitomizes the love of light and movement of the late Baroque period.

We then headed to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, as we’d initially planned, and it was just beautiful inside. It dates back to the 13th century and is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Rome.

After that we decided to get some Italian pizza for dinner and headed off in search of a pizzeria. We found one just around the block from our hotel and ordered Suppli for our appetizer which is a little fried rice and cheese ball-type thing. Then we opted for the prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella pizza with a half carafe of house red wine (it’s cheaper than Coke). The meal was great and it was such a treat to sit at the outdoor café within hearing distance of the Trevi Fountain, sipping Italian wine, watching thousands of people pass by while going about their days.

There are tons of these people, dessed in bizarre outfits, trying to get tips for taking photos with them. Rome being an artful city definitely brings out some creative ideas for making money.

After our meal I decided it was time to try the gelato, so Stu and I picked chocolate and Kaden made a mess having his “try” (I don’t know we’re ever going to get the stroller clean again after that). We stood eating ours and heard some American accents so Stu asked them where they were from. Utah! So we told them we were from Idaho and cleared up that we were not, in fact, “Mormon, too”. J We talked about our families and why we were in UAE, and learned that they were here on mission work. When we parted ways, the nice Mormon Mom gave me a hug “from the family back home” and I almost cried.

We finished our walk with a stop by the small grocery store down the street from our hotel for a bottle of wine and retired to the hotel.

After resting a bit more we headed back out to check out some of the street vendors and see what kinds of souvenirs they had. There were many carts set up all over the streets and we wanted to scout out for what we might get.

We ended up back at the Trevi for some dusk pictures when it was all lit up. We ended out day after finishing our walk and then showers and bed time.

Here is Kaden before bed telling us it time to brush his teeth. :)


  1. WOW! the place looks amazing! i can't believe how much you were able to see in just 2 days!

    can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip!

  2. Are you Catholic?

  3. Yes, our family is Catholic.

  4. Wow !this is such a great info and beautiful pics.I like mostly Kaden pics.At the last he give us great info about ourselves....that when you go to bed before it must you brush your teeth.It tip is good for your health.
    Abu Dhabi Desert Safari