Ah Roma! We finally made it to Rome and our first steps out of the train station felt much like being in New York’s Grand Central Station. People were everywhere hustling and bustling through the station and out onto the streets. Once we got our bearings and located our Air B&B hosts location on our Google map we started trekking through the streets with our rolling carryon luggage in tow. We realized on our first train trip that we could bring more than just a backpack as long as it could be carried up and down stairs, so for this trip we packed a little bit easier. However, I was regretting this decision as we trudged through the cobblestone streets trying to find our Air B&B hosts restaurant where we were to meet him and be led over to our apartment. It was a hidden little restaurant that definitely oozed charm and our host was immediately bubbling over with welcome arms just as one would imagine an Italian restaurant owner to be. We had to wait on his associate to come and take us to our place so we decided to go ahead and eat while we waited after our long travel weary day. We had pizza of course! Americans in Italy – what else would we order?
When our co-host arrived she led us through the streets some more to our apartment. It was down a narrow cobblestone street that was beautiful and old and charming, again ,just as one would imagine Italy – as long as you looked up above the first floor. There is something about Europe and spray paint! If it stands still it gets vandalized. I’m not sure what the source of pent up anger is in these unseen vandals, but they strike everywhere! Not being used to this in small town America, I just tried to suppress the hitch in my spirit and look up.
Once we were settled in our apartment we hit the streets for the evening. First stop – gelato!! Yum this stuff is so amazing and addicting. We were all immediately hooked. Since we had arrived in town later than we had expected due to the train delays, we strolled around and did a little bit of souvenir shopping and just looked around at the local neighborhood sights in the dark of the evening. This made for a packed day to come, so we tried not to stay out too late.
The next morning we awoke early and hit the local bakery for breakfast and coffee then off to catch our hop-on hop-off tour bus. We decided to splurge on this kind of touring since we had very little time to hit the highlights of Rome. Actually we met a couple on our first leg of the tour that chuckled at us as they told us they were in Rome for a week! They did give us this wonderful tip though, that when going to the colosseum we should get in the ticket line for the Palatine Hill as it was a much shorter line and included both places. We had hit Rome in the perfect week we found out as it was some sort of cultural week and most of the museums and city highlights were free! We were excited about this and as it turned out, this proved to work greatly in our favor later.
However, our first stop was actually the Vatican the one place we did have to pay to visit – go figure. I know – why would a Baptist minister and his family visit the central headquarters of the catholic church? Well, we found out that we were not alone in the impression that it was a must see. I truly just wanted to get right to the Sistine chapel to see Michelangelo’s great masterpiece. However, the Vatican museum that you had to go through in order to get to the Sistine Chapel, holds one of the worlds largest treasure troves of artwork! Some, of course didn’t trip my trigger and we were able to zip through some areas that pertained directly to popes and other such catholic notions. But, seeing works of Bernini, Raphael and other great and notable artists was surreal. In one hall they have tapestries that are larger than my house. Hangings that depict stories from the Bible like the sighting of Christ on the road to Emmaus. This was one of my favorites. I’ve often heard the illustration that we, as humans, don’t see the workings of God from the same vantage point that he does, much as a child sitting at the feet of a mother who is weaving a tapestry only sees the underside that looks like a chaotic mess. But, turn that tapestry over and you see how all of the separate threads and knots and colors were woven together to form an entire masterpiece! Until now I had only envisioned small tapestry works that, though pretty, are nothing compared to these hanging in the Vatican. As we finally entered the Sistine chapel I could hardly believe we were there looking at the real thing that I had only seen in textbooks and artbooks until now. However, in all truth, it was crowded in there as they make sure that everyone shoves in to see. Also, though it is a chapel and peopleare supposed to be reverent and quiet, it was loud! Keep in mind we were visiting Rome in the low season, I cannot imagine being there when the “real” crowds come. On top of this, our son, Jarod was just up to his limit in trying to divert his eyes from naked statues and paintings. When we first booked our tickets for this tour we were given specific instructions on what to wear as far as shoulders and knees being covered. Jarod, I believe, was the first to point out the hypocrisy of this rule, poor 12 year old Baptist boy! 😊 We weren’t allowed to take any pictures in the Chapel, but if we could, I think one of my favorites would have been of a random fellow American who wore a t-shirt that said “Ya’ll need Jesus!” So very appropriate. I will probably say this again in my recounts of these 3 months in Europe, but it’s hard to explain well, the mix of awe and of sadness and burden to visit these centuries old cathedrals that are awesome works of architecture and art, but lack the truth of the Gospel thereby leading people astray for centuries on paths of frustration and meaninglessness leaving them as empty as if they hadn’t believed in God at all. Many stand only as works of art and architecture never holding services or ministering to people’s souls.
1 Timothy 2:55For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
After this we traipsed back through the web of vendors that line the streets and bridges to our bus stop. As wonderful as Rome is, unfortunately you cannot get to any monument, or museum in the entire city without being accosted by selfie stick street sellers. They shove one in your face and when you say no, another comes up behind him and does the same thing – ugh!
I think I’ve maybe mentioned this before, but we are shallow tourists. Enjoying and delighting in seeing sights from movies or books. Some of the sights we had in mind for this trip had to do with the 1950s Gregory Peck / Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday. So we recounted some of the places we had seen in this movie. The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain were nothing like the movies. Of course we expected this, so there was no shock. But, again, look at the crowd on those steps in the off season! I’m not sure the steps themselves could even be seen in the summer.
As we made our way through town, we finally made it to the Colosseum only to find out that it was closing time and we couldn’t get in! This was when we had to really do a spirit check. The kids put on the bravest “that’s ok” faces they could muster they really did. But Lynn and I saw through it and felt the pain of knowing this was quite possibly a once in a lifetime trip and we missed the biggest attraction there! It stung – badly.
We walked on seeing some more sights along the way and were rewarded with the Circus Maximus where the emperor would watch the chariot races as well as another “Roman Holiday” sight – the mouth of truth. The legend says that if you put your hand into the mouth and someone asks you a question you had better answer honestly or else risk losing the hand.
By this time the bus tours had stopped running and we found ourselves at the opposite side of Rome from our apartment. We began our walk back which we never regretted as it is in these long winding walks that you really come across the sights you may not have seen otherwise. We were able to view the Palpatine hill ruins from an entirely different vantage point that we accidentally stumbled upon when we took a wrong turn. I was excited to see ruins of actual aqueducts in several different areas.
Funny story time: I’m not artistic – I’m an appreciator. So in highschool when they offered an art appreciation class my senior year I took it! One of the art forms we were appreciating one day were aquaducts. Well, somehow in all of my schooling I hadn’t ever given a second thought to what an aquaduct was or what it looked like. When the teacher started to describe them I was dumbfounded and made him slow down and totally describe these to me. He was frustrated I’m sure at my ignorance, but with a little rolling of the eyes he introduced me to something I had from then on wanted to see with my own eyes. Yay to that wish coming true!
Then we were able to visit the tomb of the unknown soldier which was quite impressive.
As we walked, we devised a plan to get up early the next morning and take a taxi down to the colosseum and try to get first in line to get inside. Then we’d take a taxi back to the apartment and then to the train station to catch our next train out of town. Satisfied with our plan, we walked on and decided to eat dinner at our Air B&B hosts restaurant again.
When we finally made it to the apartment that night we heard a ruckous down the street. It looked like a fight was taking place and there were at least a half dozen people involved. I sort of whispered to Lynn to hurry up with getting the door into the building unlocked. When I heard a bottle break and yelling pick up in volume, I was definitely whisper yelling “get in the door get in the door!” My family was amused at my panic.
After a nights rest, we awoke early and headed out the door to hail a cab. Well, it’s not as easy in Rome as in New York to do this. We kept trying and trying. It was all the more difiicult since we were a family of five. European cars or so opposite of the huge trucks and suvs of Oklahoma. Anyway, we finally found one and down we went. However, this obviously isn’t that unique of a plan. We got our tickets fast enough and thought we were doing great until we got to the line for ticket holders to get into the Colosseum. It was over an hour long and we did not have that kind of time.
Another kind of business you find around these monuments is the last minute tour that will promise to get you into the place in under 10 minutes. Since we didn’t have to pay for the tickets, Lynn went ahead and paid for this tour 50 euro. However, the minutes kept ticking away. We frantically kept checking our watches and phones. We had explained our dilemma to the man when we first gave him the money so he knew we were on a tight schedule. When he took us over to the group with the English speaking tour, the tour guide was as slow as molasses. Lynn talked to him and said “Look, we have a train to catch, so we basically are just paying to get in with you and ditch you is that alright?” to which the self impressed tour guide was not sympathetic. Lynn reexplained to the original man who sold us this “tour” He finally seemed to understand that we weren’t kidding and tried to hustle us up in the line. Security is tight at many historical landmarks these days and there was no way to get around security. My arm got worn out from my constant jerk upwards to catch a glimpse of my watch. When we finally made it through we were down to 5 minutes to enjoy the entire Colosseum! We literally ran through snapping pictures with all of our phones willy nilly and stopping only to take a quick family selfie. We were yelling to each other “touch a column touch a column!” and we literally were running our hands down the walls and toppled columns as we ran through. I was in a panic at the time, but know I would look back on this laughing.
We then had trouble again, trying to get a taxi cab and when we finally got one, he refused to stay down in front of our apartment so we could grab our luggage and get to the train station. We ended up having to wheel our luggage again through the streets of Rome trying to catch our train. In the end after running through the streets, entering the wrong part of the train station and booking it over the cobblestones– we missed the train.
This was heartbreaking to me because it meant we had to pay for the next train and it would cost another 50 euro! So all in all, we got the 5 minute 100euro tour of the historic Roman Colosseum. Ah Roma – Gorgeous, Historic, Awe Inspiring, unforgettable, and exhausting😊!
This made our next stop all the more delightful!
Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, but the Schuylers toured it in a day (and some change).