After a five-hour bus ride, we finally got to our four-star hotel, Massimo D’Azzaria. Once we were all checked in, Martin took us on a walking tour around the area around our hotel. We walked to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Martin was taking us into each of them another day, so we just walked around the outside of them. After the tour, we headed to dinner and then called it a night.
Tuesday was our tour to the Vatican. We headed there around 9 AM, stopping at the church Santa Maria Maggiore on the way and then heading to St. Peter’s Square. First, we toured the Vatican Museum. There were so many famous statues, paintings, and frescoes, including the Belvedere Torso and Raphael’s “School of Athens”. However, the piece de resistance was, of course, the Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I definitely had a crick in my neck after staring straight up for 10 minutes straight. It was so beautiful and surreal that I was actually seeing it in person that I could not take my eyes off of it! After admire the ceiling and the “Last Judgment” on the front wall, we left the chapel and headed to St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited in line to climb to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s, thinking that after the 363 steps to the top of the dome in Florence, that these 260 of so steps would be a breeze. Wrong. Not only were most of the steps in a spiral staircase, making you extremely dizzy by the time you reached the top, but the walls were slanted, forcing you to tilt your body in order to make it to the top. But once we finally made it, the view was definitely worth it. It was so beautiful to see St. Peter’s Square from above! After making our way down those treacherous steps with no falls, we toured St. Peter’s basilica. Inside the basilica was breathtaking! The ceilings were extremely high, filled with beautiful stained-glass windows. At the end of the nave was the baldacchino (altar) and at the other end was Michelangelo’s famous Pieta. We toured the Pope’s Tombs underneath the basilica. As we were down there, mass had begun and the hymns filled the underground chambers. There were many tombs from the 1500s and it was crazy to think that these tombs had been here for 500 years. Also, St. Peter’s tomb was there, decorated with mosaics and made gold-leafed decorations. Pope John Paul’s tomb was covered in flowers with many people stopping in front of it to kneel of just sit in silence with the muffled hymns from mass above adding to the somber mood. After touring the tombs, we headed outside into the rain and left St. Peter’s Square. It was about time for dinner so we went back to the area around our hotel for so pasta and gelato. Once it was dark, a group of us walked around Rome to admire the night lights.
Wednesday, Martin took us on a tour of many of the famous sights in Rome. First, we went to the Spanish steps. It was filled with locals eating and hanging out, with street painters at the top of the steps in front of the Trinity Church. Next, we went to the Trevi Fountain. The fountain was packed with people throwing coins over their shoulder, wishing for love. Once we were done throwing coins of our own and taking pictures, Martin took us to the Pantheon. We have learned about the importance and significance of the Pantheon in our history classes throughout middle and high school, so it was awesome to actually get to see it in person. The Pantheon is relatively small, so it did not take us too long to tour it. Once we were done, we walked through many side streets to reach St. Peter’s in time for the Pope’s Blessing around noon. Everything you have with you gets blessed. Alyssa wore here new red dress, so we told her she had to wear her blessed dress to every single game-day, hopefully giving us an advantage?? Wishful thinking. After the blessing, Helen, Alyssa, Banks, Caitlin, and I went to Piazza Navona for lunch. It is a typical Italian piazza with a fountain in the middle, shops and cafes lining the sides, and street painters in the middle. After eating a delicious lunch, we headed to a pub near the Pantheon to meet all of our friends to watch the USA vs. Algeria soccer game. There was about 30 of us UGA students there and we took over the pub. When the US scored in stoppage time, we all went crazy and I am pretty sure everyone on the street heard us screaming! Once we had calmed down from the exciting game, Alyssa, Helen, Charmaine, and I went to the Tomb of the Unknown solider. Their tomb is completely different from the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Washington DC. While ours is somber and humble, the Italian tomb is massive and over the top. While it was beautiful, it think I prefer our respectful tomb over their showy one. We also went to the Capitoline Museum. Inside the museum was the bronze statue of the She-Wolf with Romulus and Remus. After the museum, we went to dinner at a cafe near the Colosseum. Once we were done with dinner, it was dark outside, so we decided to go see the Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Colosseum at night. They were each so beautiful with the night lights.
Thursday morning, Martin first took us to St. Peter in Chains Cathedral so see Michelangelo’s Moses. Each time I see one of Michelangelo’s statues or paintings, I am amazed. Moses looked as though he was going to get up any second and walk towards us. After touring the cathedral, we headed to the Roman Colosseum. The place was HUGE! It was so cool to think that this is where thousands of Romans used to sit to watch the gladiator fights. Next, we went to tour the grounds of the Roman Forum. It was crazy to think that I was walking along the same roads that the Roman Emperors had walked hundreds of years ago. After walking the Palatine hill, the grounds of Circus Maximus, and the Roman Forum, we headed to the Borghese Museum. The museum housed so many beautiful statues and paintings, including “Apollo and Daphne” by Bernini. Once we were done touring the Borghese, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our farewell dinner. Our dinner was at the restaurant of our four-star hotel, which included four courses. It was so sad, knowing that it was our last meal all together in Italy.
Recap of the last 6 weeks:
Went to Istanbul, Cinque Terre, Barcelona, Milan, Bolzano, Torino, Florence, and Rome. Saw the Mediterranean Sea, Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and David, went to the Colosseum, was blessed by the Pope, and did and saw so many more amazing things. I have no regrets from the past six weeks. I only wish that I could have stayed longer!!
I can’t believe that the six weeks are over. The time flew by! It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and it is sad knowing that it is over and that I will never be able to get to experience something like this again. I met so many great people and got to experience so many amazing things and I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity.