Monday, July 10, 2017

Roman Holiday, Part 2

Here's a link to Part 1 if you missed it: Roman Holiday Part 1

Day 4: Testaccio and St. Paul's Outside the Walls
Due to the tiring events of the previous day, and the fact that I had had about 4 hours of sleep in the past 3 days, I decided to take a sleeping pill and thus woke up at like noon this day. Oops. We decided to forgo our plans to visit Ostia Antica and the nearby beach and went ahead with our evening plans, which was to visit the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome. First we visited the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, some rich guy who thought it would be cool to be buried in a pyramid like an Egyptian. This was built into a part of the Aurelian Wall that protected Rome from invasions way back when.

Unfortunately, we took a little too long getting around to the Protestant Cemetery and they closed right when we got there, so we had to skip that too. So we headed down towards St. Paul's Outside the Walls. Before our trip, I had told him that the churches would be impressively large and that seeing them in pictures doesn't do them justice. Of course he didn't believe me. As we approached this church, we could tell just by walking around it that it was going to be massive. We entered through the large, beautiful courtyard and then were blown away by the sheer size of the interior as we walked through the door. I had never been in such a large building before. I think we went in a couple more churches that were larger, but this one had the greatest impact because it was nearly empty. We explored inside for quite a while. All the way around the church were paintings of every pope, all the way to the current pope. I noticed that there were only 6 empty spots for paintings left, and pondered about whether that meant something. Another weird thing we found was a glass panel on the floor, through which you could see a broken coffin with skeleton feet visible. There was no plaque or anything to tell you who's body that was down there. It turns out that we were still there when mass started, and this being my first time witnessing Catholic mass in person I found it interesting and beautiful. Soon after it started, we left and headed back towards Testaccio.

Crazy beautiful ceiling

Gotta love a gory door relief

Anonymous dead guy

Only 6 more popes until the end of the world???
We decided to go to a restaurant that our AirBnb host recommended as his favorite Roman style pizza place. Yes please! It was a little walk from the metro stop, and we enjoyed exploring the area.

David and I found a nerd store, of course

The restaurant was called Pizzeria Remo and it was delicious! I had my first taste of suppli here (rice with sauce and cheese fried in a ball) and I am now a huge fan. I got gorgonzola pizza and it was fantastic. I really enjoyed trying real Roman style pizza here. I am still a Napoletan pizza girl, but this was great. I loved the authentic feel here too. Everyone was squished together on long tables, and you ordered by checking boxes on a little piece of paper with the menu option on it. The table was covered with paper instead of tablecloths. It was perfect.

After our very satisfying meal, we worked our way back to the metro and stopped for some gelato at the cutest little shop. We got right to bed when we got home because we had to get up at 4am the next day to catch a train.

Day 5: Florence
Despite taking another sleeping pill, my body decided again that it would not sleep for even one minute all night, so I was not happy when 4am rolled around. We were able make it to Termini on time to catch our train to Florence. We went through the station a little outside of the city center instead of the main one, which will be relevant later. We found an adorable pastry shop to get breakfast and walked the mile into the center of the city.
Hi, I didn't sleep last night

Our first stop was at the Galleria de Accademia. We worked our way through a very large collection of musical instruments, a bunch of beautiful and/or strange Christian paintings, and then to the main event; Michelangelo's David. We walked past the unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo, which were very cool, and then at the end there was the David. We took our time looking at it and taking it in. Obviously we have all seen pictures of this statue a million times. It might be the most famous statue in the world. But nothing compares to seeing it in person, not even close. It was like nothing I've ever seen and I was completely blown away. Looking closely at any part of the statue, it seemed as if it was about to move. I've never seen a piece of art so lifelike. Michelangelo definitely earned his place as one of the best artists in the world. I had a strong feeling that I would never in my life see another work of art so beautiful and perfect. Even now I have overwhelming feelings just thinking about it. This was definitely my favorite part of Italy, and if you ever go to Europe, please make the effort to come see this incredible statue. PS book your tickets in advance ;)
Hair dress

I dunno what these are, but they are everywhere and they are creepy

Michelangelo's Pieta

Obviously we had to forced David to pose with David

One last look before we leave

Next we stopped by the Duomo. The outside of the church was elaborate and so beautiful. I loved the pink and green.

 Next we did some shopping and found lunch on the upper floor of the Mercato Centrale.

I ended up buying most of the souvenirs for my family here. After we had shopped to our heart's content, we went across the Ponte Vecchio, got gelato, and had a rest until dinner time.

We had reservations at Osteria Santo Spirito, and it was one of the meals I was most looking forward to that I had planned for the trip. It turned out to be one of my favorite meals, so I'm glad we went! I got the gnocchi and it was fantastic! There was a little band that started playing Italian music with an accordian and such while we were eating, and it was magical.

As the sun went down, we worked our way back to the train station. As I mentioned before, this was a smaller station, so the trains went straight through instead of pulling into a spot and going back out after it was filled. It was just a few minutes before the scheduled depart time when a train pulled into the station that had the correct company's name on the side. We got onboard and asked someone if that was the train to Rome, and they said they thought it was. So we sat down and it left the station. After it started moving and didn't really pick up speed after a while, we became worried that it was not the high-speed train we were supposed to get on. When the worker came around to check our tickets, our fears were confirmed. It took a while to communicate with him, as he was one of the few people we interacted with on our trip that didn't speak any English at all, but we found we were on a slow train headed towards the wrong city, in somewhat of the right direction at least. The person we had asked earlier was also on the wrong train. Another passenger who could translate helped us communicate with the worker, and the worker said he would look into what could be done. We were worried we would be in trouble for having the wrong ticket and need to buy new ones. I was not handling being on the wrong train in an area that I didn't know if it was safe or not very well, mainly due to my lack of sleep the night before. Eventually it was figured out that our tickets would be honored and they would get us a bus to take us from the last stop of the train, which ended in Orte, to Termini Station. We were able to get to Termini just in time for the very last metro of the day. We had originally planned on being home by 11pm, but it was well after 2 by the time we made it after our misadventure. It was pretty stressful and a big inconvenience, but there could definitely be worse things happen while traveling, as it worked out okay in the end.
Day 6: The Beach
We had planned to go the LDS church here on Sunday, but because of the previous night's events, we all slept in quite late. We decided to go to a beach closer to us instead of one further away like we'd planned, and made it on the metro just in time to join everyone coming home from the big soccer game. It was cold at the beach, but it was nice to relax and watch the waves for a while on a cool black sand beach. We made cacio e pepe, one of my favorite dishes from Rome, at home for dinner.

Day 7: Churches and outdoor sights
This day was a holiday in Italy, so lots of things were closed. We decided to take the opportunity to see some churches and outdoor sights. Lots of Romans decided to do this too, of course. We started at San Giovanni's, which is basically Italy's version of St. Peter's Basilica.

We then walked down past the Colosseum again and had lunch at a sandwich shop. After that we visited the Pantheon, which was beautiful.

Our next stop was Piazza Navona. It was a cute spot, but I'm told it usually has live music and there was no one playing when we were there, unfortunately.

Trevi fountain was our next stop, and was so crowded that we couldn't even get on the steps surrounding it. I was still amazed by how the beautiful stone contrasted with the bright aqua blue water.

The Spanish Steps were the last stop on our walking tour. The flowers were so pretty!
We had dinner in the cutest little alleyway restaurant. It was called Otello alla Concordia.

Stay tuned for part 3, in which we visit the sketchiest city ever in order to find an amazing meal, and the horrible ride home to Utah.