There are two things I learned in Rome today. First, it is colder than I thought. So pleased with myself that I had packed the perfect clothes in my one suitcase, I did not anticipate a drop in temperature – even though I had been watching the weather. What does this mean? I walked around the city for about 4 hours in a light leather jacket, meant for 60 degree weather, in 40 degree weather. I thought – I lived in Scotland, I can totally do this! Nope, coughing, runny nose, and the beginnings of a sore throat. No way! I am not getting sick. I did this in Scotland in correct outerwear. So a furry white coat was purchased. I mean, I am in Rome!
The second thing is that people don’t use curling irons here. The Texan in me is aghast! I need a curling iron for my hair. I thought I could come over here and purchase a cheap curling iron from something like a Walgreens. (The change in voltage usually kills hair tools. I learned that the hard way!) I went to two Sephoras where people stared at me like I was on crack. I went to several other beauty shops. There isn’t even really an Italian word for ‘curling iron.’ (There is – ferro arricciacapelli – but no one knows it.) That said, I have shit hair in Rome.
Also, I am not switching over to the time as well as usual. I think it’s because I’m just too excited. I was up at 3:30 am .. and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I decided to plan out my day a little better than the day before. I made scrambled eggs, drank my tea and came up with a very excellent plan for the day.
By 6:00, I was already as Scala Sacra. This is where pilgrims come to ascend 28 steps, on their knees. The stairs are said to be the steps that Christ walked up before he went to his trial before Pontius Pilate. When I got there I was all alone with an ominous sign that said – Silence. No cameras. No walking on stairs. Basically, if you start climbing up these stairs, on your knees, you are in it to win it. So, I did it! Please note, I knee-ed up the side so I could hold onto the handrail. I kind of think that’s cheating, but there you are.
By 7:00, I walked to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. (I have now figured out, if there is a place I would like to be there is a bevvy of army vehicles with men and women with machine guns to protect it.) The first building on this particular site was built in the 4th century and the story of its location is pretty mythic. This really rich guy and his wife said that the Virgin Mary came to them in a dream saying there would be snow in the summer. It did and where the snow fell – that became the new church. Did I mention that the Pope had the same dream? The site has gone through several forms but the one today is huge and contains multiple chapels within it. I was at Maria Maggiore so early, that it was basically me and a ton of young priests who, I suppose, go to priest-school there. They were so young. So incredibly young. They all wore black and had sneakers and very sleek backpacks so, if they loosened up a bit, they would almost look like hipsters. Whoever assigns outfits for priests in Rome has, of course, excellent fashion sense.
The Basilica is beautiful but the most amazing part is the Borghese Chapel. I mean, the Borghese family couldn’t just church with everyone else. They needed their own space. Mass was going on inside the chapel while I was there – and I didn’t want to ‘pretend’ to attend mass so I could get a good look inside. I did manage to see most of it from outside and it was so over the top gilded and decorated. It was insane. Will visitors in the future fawn over Donald Trump’s apartment and its faux opulence just as I am of the Borghese’s? It really did look like something he would try to copy. Just saying.
Next, walk to Galleria Doria Pamphilj to see a Caravaggio. I missed him at the Musei Capitolini, and here’s why: there is a Caravaggio exhibition in Milan right now. Basically all the Caravaggios are out of town. Dammit!
Next a walk through Piazza Venezia and onto the Trevi Fountain.
What I have failed to mention is that my new phone – the one bought prior to this trip because they other phone was crapping out – has started randomly resetting itself. I had to find a work around. Which pissed me off, but whatever. But when I got to Trevi Fountain my phone was resetting AND photos wouldn’t save to the camera roll. (That is why above is a stock photo at night) I freaked out about the phone. I FREAKED out. iPhones cost well on $1,000 and the camera doesn’t work! I tried desperately to look online for a work around and none of them worked. Good-bye Trevi Fountain. Back to the house to figure out my phone. By this time it is 11:30. I have been at it for awhile. I gave the phone a good update, took a one hour nap and then headed back out to do a 3-hour Vatican tour.
The Vatican is awesome but nothing like I thought it would be. St. Peter’s Square is smaller than I imagined but the Vatican Museum is much, much, much bigger than I imagined. If you go, I highly recommend a tour. The lines are too long and there is too much to see. Someone must walk you through it or you will just drown in all the art. Here are some of my favorite pieces.
Did you know that this one sculpture inspired all of the below sculptures and paintings?
And then there was the Sistine Chapel. NOTHING like I thought it would be. You are supposed to be quiet and not take photos. But, of course, people have no respect for sacred spaces so there is a guard every so often then speaks, very loudly, into a microphone saying, “SILENCIO. No talking. No photos.” It really is like the voice of God reminding was reminding me to pay attention: the history of Christianity is on the ceiling.
It doesn’t matter how many coffee cups you see of Adam being touched by God in the creation scene, it doesn’t look the same as the real thing. If you weren’t conditioned that it was important, you would have it mixed up with all the other paintings in the room. That’s how beautiful ALL of the Sistine Chapel is. Adam and God is just ONE amazing image that Michelangelo (who had never painted before), created in that chapel. They are all beautiful. (I like the one of Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden, personally.)
After that, onto the Basilica which, after three hours, my feet are hurting, my back is aching, and I just can’t look at any more golden-swirly-Jesus stuff. That’s just the truth.
I walked out into Piazza San Pietro and a full moon shined over all of Rome and as I walked on the bridge across the Tiber River, where people have been walking for over a thousand years, the water glittered and the buildings glowed. It was magical.
And, only in Rome, would you find audio guides to the great philosophers being sold by a street vendor.
I was hungry.
On to Piazza Navarone where I had incredibly mediocre food (risotto is not just rice with sauce, thank you very much). I then began my (failed) mission for my curling iron.
Headed home for another struggle – the laundry. For those of you who remember me being in Scotland, it took me awhile to get the swing of laundry. Washing machine, no dryer et al. Well, I got started on the laundry but couldn’t figure out how to get the machine to go through all three cycles: wash-rinse-spin. (You have to make it do that manually). And then I couldn’t open the machine up after the clothes were completed. 2:00 am and I get all things to work and then I put my clothes out on a drying rack outside.
It rained during the night.