By the time we got to Rome I was finally starting to feel like I was back in the land of the living.
It was perfect timing because we did Rome at a break-neck pace and saw everything. Feeling better made everything seem even fresher and more beautiful.
Rome was, for me, the most surprising city that we toured. For some reason I've never been interested in seeing Rome. When my friends and I did Italy for our spring break back in '06, we skipped Rome entirely. And I didn't feel jilted, either.
Well, all I can say is that I now understand why people think of Rome as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Granted, nothing can compare to Paris in my opinion, but shockingly Rome comes pretty darn close.
After the dirty and graffiti-covered cities of the south, Rome was sparkling clean. I was shocked (you'll probably hear that a lot while I talk about Rome, so I'll tell you now just to get used to that word) at how clean the city was. There wasn't a massive amount of garbage on the streets. The buildings all looked like they had just been scrubbed clean. Graffiti was fairly minimal. And maybe I was just caught up in the spirit of things, but I didn't even seem to notice the piles of cigarette buts that adorn most European gutters.
We hired a couple of drivers (who had been referred to us by our drivers in Naples) and they took us on a fabulous whirl-wind tour of the city. They knew exactly where to go. Exactly when to go to miss the lines. And exactly how to get there. It was a magical day.
Here we are at our first stop in the center of the high-rent district.
Our drivers, Mario and Pino, knew exactly where to take us for the best photo-ops. Here's the whole gang in front of the Colosseum (all 16 of us!) to prove it.
And here's our little family of two in front of the Colosseum. Wow, my legs are shockingly (see! I told you!) white.
I was prepared to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. But as I walked up to the edge to throw in one centime, I found a 50 centime coin on the ground. I picked it up and decided that it was fortuitous and that it meant that I should spend my centimes on gelato and not on the questionable wishing power of the fountain.
Oh, and don't be fooled by our seemingly peaceful photos by the fountain. We were able to catch probably the only angle that didn't show exactly how crowded this place was. It was one seething mass of humanity. We were taking our lives into our own hands going close to the fountain (not only dodging the crowds, but also the constant rain of small coins from all sides).
We went to the "best gelato place in all of Rome" just outside the Vatican.
It was amazing.
I maintained my gelato status quo and went back for seconds. Don't judge.
After our rejuvenating gelato, we got dropped at the front of the line to see the Vatican. I then shared my first experience with the Sistine Chapel with about a thousand other sweaty tourists. Magical (and stinky).
Blake snuck a picture of the ceiling, but I'm worried that if I post it we'll get in trouble. Kidding. But it was a little blurry with all the jostling. So, do a little googling and get yourself a first class photo online.
I don't love the photo of me below, but it's great of Blake, so there you have it. Saint Peters was incredible. I loved the guilded ceilings and seeing the Pieta in person.
I find it so interesting to compare the religious architecture in France with that in Italy. The French concentrate much more on the windows and the use of stained glass. The Italians seem to concentrate much more on the artwork and the gold inlay and less on the windows. It's such a fascinating contrast.
Before we left Rome for the ship, we stopped and looked over the city at one of Rome's seven famous hills.
The view was unbelievable and it was a great way to bid arrivederci to the eternal city.
Maybe I should have tossed that coin into the fountain after all. I'm already wishing I could go back.