Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roaming in Rome; April 17 - 21

Last April, Laure and I drove down to meet her sister Catrina in Rome.
The drive down to Rome passes by some picture-perfect hill towns.

After arriving at night, Laure and I had an excellent dinner at The Library and walked around the city while checking out some of the famous outdoor highlights.
The Trevi fountain is a cool hangout spot at night.
It is apparently also good for wedding photos.

Next morning, we visited National Roman Museum, which we quickly realized has an impressive but overwhelmingly huge collection of archeological findings spanning multiple ancient centuries.
These Roman "cheap" copies of the Greek Discobolus statue used to be popular decorations at Roman gyms.
The sarcophagus of some guy that killed a lot of people.

Then we then picked up Catrina from the Rome airport after her flight from San Francisco. We were impressed that she hit the floor running without letting jet lag stop her from getting the most out of her trip.

The next morning we went on a guided tour of the Vatican offered by their own official tours, which covered the must-sees. We really liked our Italian tour guide not only because she presented the information in an approachable manner, but also because after visiting each section, she would slowly say in an unforgettable way, "andiamo."
One of many extravagant hallways of the Vatican museum.
Raphael obviously stole the idea for this painting...
from the poster I used to have on my bedroom wall growing up.
We also visited the Sistine Chapel.

They didn't allow photos, so I ripped this one off wikipedia.
Rug and Mochi pose for a photo at St. Peter's Square. Of course they came along!

Later in the afternoon, we had time to check out some more famous touristy spots.
Trevi fountain gets annoyingly packed during the day with tourists like us.
The Pantheon has been in continuous use for a couple of thousand years.
No visit to Italy is complete without some pizza.
Dar Poeta didn't let us down.

Next day, we headed to the world-famous Colosseum. We had made reservations for the limited guided tours months in advance by phone with Coop Culture but they had never sent us a receipt, which turned out to be a tremendous headache. Because of this, we were not able to simply waltz up to the reservation window. We pleaded with security personnel to convince them about our story and that we were not just trying to skip the ridiculously long lines. After a bit of stress, we found a sympathetic person that found our names on a printed list in a big binder of papers. We were in.
The cultural guided tour took us to exclusive viewpoints away from regular visitors like this one and the underground area where gladiators and animals were held underneath the arena.
One of the exclusive viewpoints was on the top floor (third ring) looking down at the massive structure and masses of tourists.
Totally worth the headache.

When visiting the Colosseum, one must imagine the original building at its full grandeur including all the stones and sculptures before they were destroyed by conquerors and natural decay.
Hmm, maybe this...
used to look something like this.

Photo credit: someinterestingfacts

Another place we visited was a fairly new museum named Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini, which turned out to be my favorite. Guided tours are mandatory and we were lucky enough to snag an appointment. We joined a small group and walked through excavated ruins with a clever display of light projections and sounds, which recreated an immersive experience of ancient Roman life. When I was growing up, I would have paid much more attention to history classes if they would have been taught this way.

Lights virtually reconstruct the paint, artwork, and water of this excavated Roman bath house at Le Domus Romane.

Unsolicited Advice

For those planning a trip to Rome, I strongly suggest reserving tours for popular sights as early as possible. Thanks to Laure, we booked the Vatican and Colosseum tours months in advance basically as soon as they became available. Many people do not bother to reserve in advance and must wait many hours to get inside each place just to get a tour that may not be as good. We got lucky with last minute tickets for Le Domus Romane, but that is an exception rather than the norm.

One last thing: don't book a room right off Campo de' Fiori. Every night we had to deal with loud drunken people outside before being awakened by energetic vendors early in the morning. Earplugs helped us survive.