Don’t forget to check out pics at the bottom of the page
Chris Poland met us at the house at 5:20am for a ride to the airport. Our flight to Philadelphia left at 7:10 and we arrived in Phil at 12:30. Travis and Cameron slept the entire way. We got off the plane directly across from the Villa Fresh Italian Restaurant and already felt like we were in Italy. We sat in the airport rocking chairs for a bit (they were in the sun and pretty darn toasty) and then we started wandering for food. After a little wandering, Travis announced that based upon the map that he had seen before we started wandering, we were headed in the wrong direction. We gave him much grief for withholding useful information.
Our flight to Rome left at 6:30pm and we proceeded to wedge our tall frames into the smallest seats known to man. Grant slept some on the flight, but not much sleeping by the rest of us.
We arrived in Rome on time (7:30am); cleared passport control; got our bags; cleared customs (they did not even bother to look up when we walked by); got money from ATM machines; and took taxi to apartment. Holy Cow!! The drivers in Rome are cuckoo. Lanes mean nothing to them (they are merely suggestive – definitely not mandatory); motorcycles darting in and out; lots of traffic, but amazingly no wrecks (that we saw). Lots of matchbox size cars that are parked one on top of the other – the drivers seem to think nothing of being double parked.
We got to the apartment around 9:45 and went exploring after inspecting the apartment. Found some food; walked over to Vatican. We were getting tired so we headed back to the apartment and slept from about 12:30 to 4:30. We ventured back out around 5:00 and soon discovered that dinner is not served until 8:00, so we wandered about the neighborhood (backtracking several times); got some coffee; checked out the supermarket; etc. We found a good restaurant once they were finally opened. After dinner, we were back home and everyone to bed around 10:00. All slept like the dead.
Grant and Charles went and got food from store across the street – bread, cheese, and salami. This would prove to be our daily morning ritual. We then woke Travis and Cameron, ate and managed to get out the door around 9:30. We first went to the Vatican museum – an amazing amount of sculptures and other items from Roman times; lots of painted ceilings; huge crowds; digital cameras everywhere; Sistine Chapel; blah, blah, blah. That took several hours and we were tired of walking after that. We found a market with meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, vegetables, etc. where we got a snack but we were overwhelmed by the choices so we wandered on to a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we headed to the Coliseum and then found an afternoon coffee before heading to the Roman Forum (which was closed by the time we got there). We then started to walk to Pantheon, but ended up at the main train terminal (Termini) where we got on Metro and went to Spagna stop. Saw the Spanish Steps – jammed with people and walked from there to Plaza de Popolo – many fancy shops along the way that had more empty space in them than the entire size of many of the stores that we were use to seeing. For the most part, everything here is miniaturized – cars; stores; people (lots of little old ladies). Metro was packed!! Many people trying to see you worthless shit at Spanish Steps and PdP and at Coliseum (well . . . .everywhere). Also, lots of people trying to sell tours – we finally started just shaking our heads when they asked if we speak English.
St. Peter’s Basilica in the AM – line of people to go through metal detectors (they did not find my pocket knife) and then large crowds once inside Basilica. Massive church. Michelangelo’s Pieta behind massive glass wall that was completely blocked off by gawkers. We went to the basement where they keep the dead popes on ice. Several did not make it more than a month after they were appointed pope.
In the afternoon, we headed to Roman Forum where we checked out some Roman ruins. More people selling worthless shit.
After the Forum, we headed off to the Pantheon (which was closed until 6:00) and we actually found it this time. From the Pantheon we headed to Piazza Navona where we had caffe and waited out the rain and checked our email. We then went back to the Pantheon and ate dinner in the area around the Pantheon before making our way home (via the Trevi Fountain)
Castel Sant D’Angelo – pretty cool and within walking distance apartment.
Wandered through Piazza Navona – lots of artists set up in the center and selling (or at least hoping to sell) their artwork.
Tried to go to catacombs – got caught by time change (it turns out that Italy changed to daylight savings time (or their version of that) on Saturday night, but we did not realize that until we got to catacombs at 4:30 (after finding the right bus, and waiting on that [in the rain] and eating gelato and . . . . .], which we thought was one hour ahead of their scheduled closing, but not so much.
The bus that we took back from the catacombs (which was different than the one we took out there thanks to a man at the catacombs) terminated across the street from S. Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran), so we stopped in there and saw another huge church.
Catacombs – 2 different tours (Callixtus and Domatilla). We took lunch with us and ate on the grounds of St. Callixtus catacombs while we waited for the catacombs to reopen (they were closed from 12:30 to 2:30).
We woke up and took the bus out to the catacombs (we knew how to get there from our little mishap the day before). We visited the catacombs of St. Callixtus first and headed down into the catacombs with our english speaking tour guide. It was very important to the tour guide for us to realize that the entrances could also be used as exits and that the Christians always started at the top and worked their way down. (so the tombs higher up are therefore older.) Another interesting fact that we learned was that the Christians never used the catacombs as a hiding place, it is too humid down there to support life for extended periods of time. (although it seems likely that someone would have hidden there at some point between the 3rd and 9th century). After our tour finished we ate lunch and then headed over to the catacombs of St. Domatilla (or tomatilla as we soon realized it spelled very similar to). At first we got in our tour group and there were about 10 people total. But, after we were lead into the basilica that stands over the catacombs (note this is the only catacomb with a basilica over it) we were joined a tour group consisting of many people who we believe came to be buried in the catacombs (yes, they were that old). This group added about 22 more people to our group, which was slightly disappointing. Our tour guide began to talk about the catacombs and it was not long before we noticed that she did not get her full 8 hours of sleep the previous night. She closed her eyes and stare above the group while still talking rather frequently giving the illusion that she was perhaps praying to St. Domatilla herself. The tour was more or less the same although, she stated that the catacomb of St. Domatilla was the largest catacomb in Italy (12 miles of tunnels; 19km), which funnily enough had been told to us about the previous catacomb. We were tempted to whip out the guide book we had and show her she was mistaken, but we were worried that the sudden disturbance might cause several strokes among our tour group.
After the catacombs, we went to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura). Of course, we wanted to pay homage to St. Paul at the sight of his remains. It is another impressively large church.
See Pompeii Page
It rained all day. We were going to go to St. Peters Basilica Cupola, but it was way crowded there – a sea of umbrellas. We think that the guy in white robes has a speaking event on Wednesdays. So . . . we spent two hours looking for the museum of modern art. Apparently we headed the wrong way out of the Metro station and although we ultimately found the museum of modern art, it wasn’t that great. There was a Cy Twombly exhibit that left us underwhelmed – sorry, Cy, we didn’t care for your “art”.
See Tivoli Page
See Orvieto Page
Woke up later. We were going to go to some dudes house, but by the time we found it it was closed for the afternoon. Wandered around and went to the top of hill overlooking Rome,. Then we found our way to St. Peters Basilica and went up to the cupola – saw both the inside of the church from the dome as well as the outside which offered impressive views of Rome. We went home and rested before dinner.
Woke up even later than Saturday. Explored the Jewish Ghetto. Walked across town back to the apartment. Generally a lazy day as we were wrapping up our stay in Rome. Big earthquake in L’Aquila (approx. 120km from Rome in NE direction) on Sunday night (3:30am) with tremors apparently felt in Rome, but nothing that woke the Bybee boys. We did not learn of the earthquake until we arrive in Philadelphia and friends and family were asking whether we were okay.
· Breakfast at home – Grant and dad would go get food at store across the street.
· Caffe in the afternoon
· Gelato at least once in the afternoon, maybe more; and generally after dinner
· Dinner around 8:00. Restaurant selection rules: (i) can’t invite us in unless they just happened to be standing outside and it was more of a greeting than an assault, (ii) prices, (iii) no pictures of food on menu, (iv) if menu was translated into English, we mostly avoided (but we ultimately loosened this rule since many places had English translations – although our favorite was the hand written translation on a well used piece of notebook paper), (v) wait-staff could not be in tacky uniforms, (vi) yellow – interior could not be adorned in yellow, (vii) nothing we could get at home (for instance, Chinese or fast food like McDonalds(like we would want that anyways)). See note about ordering food in Italian restaurants, see Friday’s trip to Orvieto.
Also, check-out our other pages (with additional pics) from the trip: