We landed in Rome in the morning of May 4, 2012 with the help of trains, metro and car ride from the ever helpful Fabrizio, we dropped our bags at the hotel and beelined it straight for the Colosseum, the most iconic sight in Italy. The second we were off the train we knew we had been transported into a different time, culture, land and place. To say that the Colosseum is magnificent is a terrible understatement. Everything is big in Rome. The Colosseum sat 50,000 Plebes, Patricians, and slaves with its majestic architecture and artistry. While the structure is certainly impressive the history isn't. Up to 10,000 animals, criminals, homeless, handicapped, and beggars were slaughtered by gladiators during a single festival, one every 5 minutes.
From the magnificent Colosseum, we visited Constantine's victory arch followed by the Forum. The Forum is hard to envision. This is the land, the actual stones, roads, columns and sites that Julius Cesar saw each day. We walked the same roads, and sat on the very stone that his body was laid to rest after his murder by the senate 2000 years ago.
From the Forum we walked to Palatine Hill which overlooked Circus Maximus which could seat 300,000 people, a third of the Roman citizens.
After more than 30 hours of not hitting a pillow we slept well that night especially with the help of pizza, caprice salad and yes, gellato.
Day two took us to the Vatican, the smallest country in the world. There is no possible way to describe the Vatican museum. We only had five hours to explore and hardly scratched the surface. The miles of sculpting, art and artifacts can only be appreciated in person. The cream-de la cream of course is the Sistine Chapel. With tears in my eyes, i stood in astonishment at so great an accomplishment. The room is smaller than either of us had anticipated, and a little sterile in structure but nothing could take away from the amazing scenes portrayed on the ceiling. It cost Michelangelo everything and i am grateful for his sacrifice.
I can't write this much about each day. From the catacombs of St. Sabatione, baths of Caracalla, villa borghese, trastevere, roman roads, brushetta, squares, piazza's, fountains, sculptures, museums, art, art more art, churches so beautiful that if a single one was in America people would travel across the country to see it, yet in Rome there is literally a splendid church filled with priceless art on every block and no one seems to notice.
As old and full of history as Rome is, Florence feels new and enlightened. The birthplace of the Renaissance with it's buildings a mere 500 years old or so. The bed and breakfast we stayed in was in a 300 years old building, a new one we were told. Again, to walk the streets where the likes of DaVinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Bernini, walked. i sat on the very rock that Dante wrote the Divine Comedy.
We loved Florence, with the Duomo, the Medici family and all their estates, Michelangelo's stomping grounds, Bernini, Caravaggio, the quaint shops, pottery, gellato, pizza, piazza, statues and art. We even spent the night in a convent with a view of the Duomo out the window. A very walkable city with a surprise around every bend.
Back to Rome we traveled for three more days of wonders. We traversed the city on foot, train and taxi. Mostly on foot. We put in 17 hour days and literally ate our way through the historical city. With Rick Steves as our guide we tacked the ruins, pagan and christian sites, museums, catacombs, fountains and piazzas. Rick never led us astray and with the help of audio guides and endless study of his maps we never got lost (for very long).
With the greatest traveling companion, we saw, ate, visited, wept and drank deeply from the wells of Rome. It was only a sampling, we will return. Ciao for now.