21 June 2012

Team P’s Italian Adventure: Rome, part 2

The Italian adventure continues! Yesterday I told you about our first two days in Rome. Mr. P and I stayed in Rome four days, although technically we didn’t spend most of the last two in Rome. On day three, we went here:

Ostia Antica: the Pompeii for people who don’t want to take an hours-long train ride to Naples!

We’d heard such good things about Ostia Antica right outside of Rome that it seemed worth it to take a day – and the twenty-minute train ride, as opposed to three hours each way to Pompeii – and spend it among the ruins of an ancient port city.

And boy, it was worth it! For starters, the site was downright pastoral after the hustle and bustle of Rome. Occasionally we heard a plane fly over or saw another set of tourists, but mostly it was just us, the breeze rustling the trees, and a steady hum of insects. Oh, and headless statues everywhere.

It... was not as creepy as that sounds.

Remember how I loved the mosaics in the National Museum? Well, Ostia is THE PLACE for mosaic freaks like me. This is the floor of a warehouse.

A WAREHOUSE. Like where you stack stuff to just... store it. Has a mosaic on the floor! Ancient Romans seem very classy next to our modern, boring, poured concrete floors.

Better yet, the fancier buildings have correspondingly fancier mosaics. This giant installation (see our shadows for scale) was Neptune illustrated on the eponymous Baths of Neptune:

See how we could take that photo from a high point of view? And this one too?

That’s because the curators/archaeologists/whatever in charge of Ostia seem to be very encouraging of exploring and climbing on particular ruins. It was super immersive! And Mr. P took every opportunity to live the life of the ancients. Here he is trekking off-path to see more of the remains of a mansion:

... hanging out in a bathub-like structure in the necropolis...

... refilling his water bottle at the communal fountain in the apartment complex...

... putting on a show in the theatre (which still has concerts today, yes)...

...taking the place of an ancient statue...

... working at the mill...

... and practicing his politician-wave from the steps of the capitol!

So yeah, Ostia was super cool. If we’d already been heading in the direction of Naples, we surely would have gone to Pompeii, but I think we got most of the experience just twenty minutes outside of Rome! Highly recommended, A++++, would buy again, etc. etc.

The next day – our last day in Rome – we made sure to get a shot from our hotel window:

But then we headed to a totally different country:

Vatican City! The teeniest country in the world! I made sure we carried our passports that day because... you know... entering a different country? But no. You just sort of wander past some posts onto St. Peter’s Square, and there you are. A little anticlimactic, perhaps.

Getting into St. Peter’s Basilica is a little trickier. In addition to security and metal detectors, we had a dress code check. No worries, my shoulders were covered and Mr. P was wearing long pants! No one was scandalized by the sight of Mr. P’s calves!

But at least the wait in security/modesty line was beautiful:

And once we were in.... kapow, Michaelangelo’d:

Oh goodness. The light.

We spent a long time and took a gazillion photos in St. Peter’s, and as beautiful as those photos are, I won’t make you suffer through each and every one. Instead I will show you Mr. P’s glee over the ice in our sodas (unrequested!) at the touristy joint we found for lunch:

At lunch, we wrote postcards that we’d purchased at the Vatican. In addition to mailing them to our family, we sent one to ourselves.

It’s now framed in our living room – a perfect souvenir!

Then we headed back into the Basilica, now that the crowd had thinned and the light had somehow, impossibly, become even more beautiful:

We stayed in the Basilica to kill time before... our special evening tickets to the Vatican Museum! Mr. P discovered that, on many Friday nights during the summer, the Vatican Museum re-opens the museum to special ticket-holders from 7 to 11 PM. So, when our time came, we crossed the border (i.e. that spot on the sidewalk) back into Rome and circled around the Vatican city wall:

... to the museum!

Even the exterior was gorgeous in the setting sunlight! But it got even better inside. Once in, we spent a little time looking out over the gardens and walking around the courtyards:

See that tray on the ledge behind Mr. P in the first picture? It’s a candle. We noticed after entering that they were lighting candles all over the place for the special evening visitors. You can see some candles lit along the path in the courtyard, too.

Do I even need to say that this was my favorite part of Rome? Maybe of our whole honeymoon? It was incredible and I gave thanks every moment that Mr. P found out about the evening tickets and purchased them for us. Everything inside was even more beautiful in the evening light:

The Vatican Museum is awesome for many reasons, but importantly, very very few things are encased in glass, and photography is allowed. Major props to them for those policies!

We saw as much as we possibly could in the museum, but art is stuffed everywhere:

Whenever I recall the museum visit, I say that the courtyards with the candles were my favorite part. Then I say, “No, wait, the octagonal courtyard.”

And then I revise it again. “No, wait, the Hall of the Muses.”

“No, wait, the Map Room.”

It’s so hard to choose. Throughout the whole museum, there are signs pointing to the Raphael Rooms (shown below) and the Sistine Chapel, but the whole thing is magnificent. I feel so fortunate to have been there.

The only place where photography isn’t allowed is the Sistine Chapel, so you’ll just have to let Wikipedia show you that. So I’ll finish up today with this shot, taken as I looked out an open window on our way out at the end of the night:

This was the last thing we did before heading to Florence the next day, and I gotta say, we ended Rome on a high note. Next week: Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and Milan!


Miles said...

Awesome photog.. Altho, it's definitely not my idea of a honeymoon, a trip like that would be perfect for a big anniversary :)

And, IF you're interested.. Before and after pics of my kitchen are up on ze blah-g.