We arrived in Rome on a sunny day. Excited that our son Charlie and his partner Gabrielle from Chicago would be meeting us the next day. It has been 6 months since we actually saw family. We took the local train from the airport to the Termini Station which is in the neighborhood of our 2 bedroom Airbnb. Nice accommodations, but a bit sterile, in a newly renovated space. We moved furniture around to make the place more comfy and family friendly. Our narrow street was quiet, but interesting with the large National Institute of Statistics across the street and a Jewish Synagogue nearby protected by 2 armed soldiers every night. Our host checked us in and also directed us to a grocery and the ROMA soccer ticket store within walking distance. Most of our family vacations include a sporting event, we gave Charlie this match for Xmas. This walk was where we got our first taste of the hustle and bustle, grit, and beauty of Rome, which seemed even more active than Paris. We walked passed ancient ruins and churches, and stores and bistros. Our heads were on a swivel when crossing streets looking out for unrelenting motorbikes. Cars were easy to see coming. We arrived at our destination. The Soccer ticket purchase is a very controlled process requiring Passports and printed tickets actually displaying your name. Ticket use also requires limited stadium access points and double verification of ticket ownership. The stadium has plexiglass walls between sections. No “hooligan” nonsense here.
We had the next day open waiting for the kids to arrive. We chose to visit the “Museo e Galleria Borghese” at Villa Borghese. This is the 17th century park and villa created by the very rich Cardinal Borghese. Luckily, we had preordered tickets; access is limited by time slot and numbers. The hassle was worth effort. This lavish gallery boasts extraordinary paintings and sculptures by the likes of Raphael, Caravaggio, and Bernini. The ceilings and walls have been painted in the large meeting rooms as well. The audio guide helps in the appreciation. Especially when advised that several beautiful paintings of “Nudes” where typically displayed in the Cardinal’s bedroom. Check out some photos.
At Midnight, Charlie and Gabbi arrived. Lovely reunion! After flying from Chicago to Istanbul to Rome they were beat. All were ready to sleep, until “surprise”,the shower drain backed up and flooded the bathroom. We mopped up. Luckily the apartment had a patio where we could hang out the a 3 towels and rugs. Not the incident free start we had hoped.
In any event, we had planned a nice day. We started out with a 3 hour self guided walking tour of the highlights of historic center of Rome. This was possible because we had downloaded and audio app into all our phones, prepared by the famous and thorough tour guide Rich Steves. We strolled through the busy streets of Rome, starting at Plaza Navona then moving on to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, and finally the Pantheon, among other sights; often stopping at open churches that crossed our paths to get lovely surprises of beauty.
We had late lunch sitting by the Pantheon and of course, enjoyed a variety of Gelato as we walked to home base. We have provided a few inspirational photos.
The Roma soccer stadium was rather remote, so we used Uber and where dropped off a hour early. We needed that much time to get to the correct gate and clear the entrance. The game was high quality. The visitors scored first using some fancy footwork and quick passing, and had other chances to score playing aggressively. Roma, came back to win with superior size and strength. It was fun. It was also late when we got out the metro to our place stopped at 11:30 pm. We just missed it watching it roll away down the track. We where kind of stranded, but we walked along the Tiber River and finally grabbed a taxi safely home.
The next day was really action packed. We scheduled a guided tour of Ancient Rome. We started at the Colosseum, of gladiator fame, and then walked through the Roman Forum and ruins which formed the social, political and commercial heart of Rome. Our guide was fantastic and gave us a good insight and back story of all these sights.
We had a break for lunch; another tasty Italian meal of sandwiches sitting on the fountain steps - just perfect. We met up with our guide for the afternoon visit to the Vatican; switching from the power of Ancient Rome to the power of the Catholic Church. We started at the Vatican Museums and traveled through the galleries that displayed gorgeous sculptures and paintings, the Tapestries, and 40 huge topographical maps drawn of the city states and nations from the perspective and starting center point of Rome.
Of coarse, the grand finale is Michelangelo’s 1508-1512 paintings of the Book of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He returned 22 years later to paint the “Last Judgement”on the west wall. Other famous artists, such as Botticelli and Signorelli painter side wall frescos. It is really magical. No speaking or photography is allowed within the Chapel. But we again used the Rick Steves audio guide to direct our viewing to important and interesting panels of the paintings. An off beat fact was that prior to the cleaning of the paintings art experts opined that Michelangelo painted with very dark colors because he was ill tempered with the Pope Julius II.
They were wrong. The candle smoke stained panels were clean to display vibrant colors. A small section in the west corner of the painting has been left unclean to show the vast difference.
We left the Vatican and walked to St. Peter’s Basilica. This is Italy’s most spectacular church, standing over St. Peter’s Tomb. You know the Apostle St. Peter that Jesus appointed to be the “Rock” upon which the Christian Church would be built. The size, splendor, and décor of the Basilica is amazing. An added emotional “tear jerker” is the display of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, a sculpture of Mother Mary holding the deceased Jesus. He completed the piece when 25 years of age. It is one of the most beautiful works of art we have ever seen.
We left the Basilica and looked out over the grand St. Peter’s Square. We also observed the changing of the Vatican’s Swiss Guards, in their colorful uniforms with pikes in hand. This was a full and meaningful day. We headed home to freshen up for a great pizza dinner at a local joint
We had a great couple of days in Rome. Tomorrow we take the early morning train to Florence.