Friday, 7 March 2014

Our Trip to Rome

I've been a little slow on the blogging front over the past couple of weeks, and trust me that's not because I didn't want to blog. I've been super busy lately and my most recent post took an overwhelmingly long time to put together (if you haven't seen it, check it out here) so now that's out the way, I'm back from my latest little adventure, and I'm at the helm of my trusty laptop, my schedule can carry on as normal!

Today (as my last full day off before back to the world of work) seemed like a great day to fill you in on where I've been and what I've been up to, and as you probably guessed by the title, I've been to Rome, Italy!

It all happened pretty quickly, it was planned by my family only a couple of months ago to celebrate my mum and sister's birthdays. I didn't really know it was definitely happening until my boyfriend and I were packing a bag to leave for the family home (we live in London and my family live all the way over in Shropshire, by Wales). I hadn't been abroad since I visited Florida and New York in 2010, and I'd for sure been having a bit of a rough time over the past 6 months, so I to say I was excited to be getting on a plane and escaping the country for a little bit was an understatement. Sure, it was only a long weekend, but I was totally ready to savour every single second of it.

The plane journey took a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes. I'd forgotten how much I love flying! There was very little turbulence, and it was absolutely amazing flying over Switzerland and the Alps. It was so sunny and such a clear day, so we could see all of the little towns and the sunshine reflecting off the snowy mountains.

We arrived at the Aeroporti di Fiumincino (the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport) at around 10:20am, so we had most of the day to fit in lots of exploring, since we knew we'd only be there for a few days and didn't want to miss out any of the major points of interest.

The Vatican Museum was our first stop of the day, and being an Art graduate, I was really in my element here. It started off as a museum primarily focusing on the relationship between the Ancient Egyptians and the Roman Empire - Although I'd obviously heard of Anthony and Cleopatra, I (embarrassingly) put my hands up and say I really didn't know much more than the basics. This was such an eye opener! As you walked up the marble staircases, the museum progressed, the focus was certainly more on the rise of the Renaissance, with elaborate paintings decorating the ceilings, grand statues in every room, and vibrant tapestries hanging from the walls. It was beautiful to say the very least. Of course, I had my eyes open for one particular painting - The Creation of Adam. My mum had visited the Vatican Museum before, and told me to keep an eye out for it, as it's not as big as you might thing (apparently you could easily walk past it and not realise!)

After sampling my first Calzone (wasn't as yummy as "folded pizza" sounds) we reached the Sistine Chapel. Although busy, I could really see what all the fuss was about. There wasn't an inch of the room that wasn't decorated in the most beautiful paintings or carvings. The Creation of Adam was painted directly in the centre of the ceiling! (I couldn't take a photo as no photography or recordings were allowed to be taken inside the Sistine Chapel, sorry!) but it really was incredible. The fourth photo up there is a little souvenir I managed to pick up from a stall that had been set up down one of the corridors in by the Sistine Chapel, it's probably one of the most beautiful little pocket mirror I've ever seen (and, as you know, being really into make-up and the like, how could I not? Even though it did take me a healthy 10 minutes to decide which design to get...)

The Square outside St. Peter's Basilica was just stunning, with such a gorgeous view out into The Vatican City by the doors where Sunday Mass is held. The sun was beginning to set at this point, so after taking up some photo opportunities (and my boyfriend betting I couldn't count all the chairs in the square) we decided to head into St. Peter's Basilica.

I think it goes without saying that the architecture in Rome is some of the best in world, and St. Peter's Basilica is just another fine example of this. I'd never seen statues and thorough attention to detail on such a grand scale like this. It blew my mind to think that every square inch of the building had been created this way by hand. Having an explore around the Basilica, I noticed a nearly elderly couple lost in prayer in a smaller area, tucked away in their own little corner. The man with his arm around his wife, he whispered to her, giving her a hug as she prayed. I wondered what they could be praying for/about. It really grounded me when it hit home that Basilica was still in such great use by the public - this is their life, and there I was, a young woman having travelled all the way from England - with no religious ties - focusing more on the artistic design of the Basilica than anything else. After seeing the couple, I began to notice that they weren't the only ones with their heads resting on their hands as they prayed. I put my camera away and took it in for what it was, a home for those who believed in Christ to worship, pray and be blessed. It was lovely.

I'm not sure I can put into words how excited I was to see the Colosseum! I'm a bit of a history buff, so although everything about Rome was exciting to me, the Colosseum has such a (grisly) history to it, I was raring to get in there and learn more about it - because apparently the movie "Gladiator" doesn't teach you everything you need to know. 

Unfortunately today was also the day the heavens decided to open, and since the Colosseum sadly no longer has a roof on it (another nifty fact I learnt while I was there - the Colosseum once had a thatched roof!) it was all hoods and brollies for us. We went on a guided tour, and we were left pretty blown away by the end of it. It's obvious that so many people lost their lives during battles held at the Colosseum, but did you know that:

1) In cases where Gladiators fought animals (lions, tigers, bears, panthers) the power naturally lay in Caesar's hands. If he wanted the animal to win, he'd demand they were left days without food so that when the time to fight arrived, they were so ravenous they'd tear the warrior to shreds. However, if Caesar wanted the Gladiator to win, he'd have the animal drugged so they could not fight to their best ability - usually resulting in victory for the Gladiator.

2) Caesar once requested Crocodiles be used in the battles, however this didn't really work out since, well, they just weren't very good. They just kind of sat there in a pool of water - no one stabbed them, nothing happened. So they just moved on.

3) The Colosseum was rife with archers - should a wild animals attempt to jump into the crowd and maul the spectators. (This was a particular worry as Caesar had the best seat in the house, low down and almost on level with the arena).

4) If a young man was called to war, should he refuse, he would be subject to fight at the Colosseum, and since Caesar called all the shots, this meant almost certain death.

5) If you were the one man left after a battle, Caesar would (again) decide your fate. A thumbs up meant "mercy" and you would receive your cash prize and buy your freedom, however, should you receive a sideways thumb, that's a signal to "run him through" with a sword. So even though you won, if Caesar didn't like you, that didn't really matter.

After our super duper tour around the Colosseum, we were all picked up by another tour guide, who lead us to The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It's a good job we had a tour guide too! As most of the Roman Forum is now rubble and ruins, it would have been really difficult to get an idea of the history behind it all on our own. You really got a feel for how the Romans really were at the top of their game - they practically ran the world. They were the richest collective on the planet during their time, and many lived a life of luxury. Although it's sadly mainly hunks of stone and rubble now, The Roman Forum was were the Senate was held, the walls  and ground covered in gleaming white marble, flame torches fixed high on the walls, even door columns were made of the rarest pink stone available (imported all the way from Egypt!) which today is so rare and valuable, it can only be found in three places on earth - the Roman Forum being one of them.

Once our trip around the Roman Forum had come to a close, the last on our list for the day was a visit to the iconic Trevi Fountain. As one of the most popular locations, it was really busy, but as most people were there for photographs, it was pretty easy to get close up and have a look. It's definitely one of the more romantic locations, with couples sat on the edge of the fountain holding hands, people wishing on coins together and throwing them over their left shoulders into the water, and Italian men selling roses to anyone and everyone. So how many photos can one take of a fountain? I tell you what, I took more than probably necessary.

And as quick as that, our final day in Rome was already upon us! Today was the day we'd be heading home. Well, after more sight-seeing of course. First port of call was The Pantheon, and since it was still raining, the hole in the ceiling wasn't at all helping! It really was beautiful though, and just like in St. Peter's Basilica, there were lots of people praying - I seemed to be instantly more aware of that it time. 

As we reached our final location, the sun decided to say hello and clouds began to clear. The Spanish Steps were such a picture, and the view of Rome from the top was truly a sight to behold. With the sun smiling down and a little man playing his flute, the atmosphere was amazing - I only wish we could have stayed longer!

Now although we visited some of the most awe-inspiring locations, another aspect of this trip really caught my eye. The streets. I know, at first it doesn't sound too exciting. But as I mentioned earlier, the architecture is unlike anything I've ever seen before. My boyfriend and I couldn't comprehend how anyone was walking around so used to these beautiful buildings and gorgeous little restaurants and stalls down cobbled, narrow streets. You really got a vibe for the Italian lifestyle, and I was so grateful we got to walk everywhere, because it's one thing to only visit the tourist attractions, but once you take a wonder down streets in the heart of somewhere as beautiful and historical as Rome, you begin to realise why it's paired with Paris as a City of Love.

Hope to see you soon, Roma!

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