We are simply having an absolutely amazing time already. Our 16 hour journey, while long, was blissfully uneventful and full of sleeping (mostly for Matt, who can sleep ANyWHERE. Drives me crazy) with a refreshing respite in London Heathrow to tide us over until our longer visit later.
We arrived in Rome in the evening and found our B&B, located in the ancient Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, right in the heart of the city. Our room is great for Rome standards and perhaps the most exciting feature for Matt is the bidet. “I want to use it but it scares me.”
We got in and felt some new found energy and so decided to walk around the quaint, narrow neighborhood streets in search of a late dinner (typical for Italians). As we strolled down the cobbled streets, hand in hand, warm summer breeze blowing through the ancient, tall buildings, I couldn’t help but feel that life on this earth can’t get much better. And then we tasted the made-to-order tiramisu at our outdoor cafe. I almost died. Amazing stuff, and I don’t even LIKE tiramisu usually.
Yesterday was our marathon sightseeing day. We’re still in bed recovering, in fact (Matt is, as usual, sleeping). In the morning, we walked the 2 miles to the Vatican City to start our day-long private tour with Mr. Giancarlo Alu. My parents got a private tour with him 3 years ago and recommended him highly. Giancarlo is a delightful and passionate 70 year old archeologist and art historian. He has spoken around the world (Princeton, Oxford) and owns multiple historic properties in Italy (which he invited us to stay at but our schedule didn’t work – gahh!). We shared that we were most interested in early Christian history and amazingly, that is his specialty! He was very excited about that and actually stayed with us longer than planned because “you both have beautiful positive auras around you and I am having fun.” ( ok, so a little quirky. Aura? Jet lag? Who knows)
Giancarlo took us through the early christian museum where we saw marble sarcophagi from the Christian catacombs. The engravings depicted beloved scenes from the bible, including Jesus healing people, etc. Everything had the early symbol for Christians on it – the Che-Rho. The Chi-Rho (pronounced “KEE-roe”) is a symbol consisting of the intersection of the capital Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ), which are the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, Christos). The cross was not used until later, as it was still a “sensitive” image for early Christians. A particularly somber sight was a capstone for a young boy that translated – here is XX, may he rest in peace with christos, he was 8 years old, a martyr. These artifacts were from the height of persecution for Christians in Rome, around 280 AD. What struck us is that because they had to remain so secret about their worship, they took every opportunity to express their faith outwardly in simple things like cups, oil lamps, and silverware. We even saw the first ever Christian accessories – a chi-Rho ring and ichthus(fish) necklace!
These were such a stark contrast to the ornateness of the later popes’ treasures. Let me just put it this way – the pope has got a lotta bling in his crib, ok? St. Peter’s Basilica is….whoa. It is so grandiose that it takes your breath away. Scale is the big wow factor there- it is just so huge. The tiny-looking gold lettering toward the ceiling is actually 6 feet tall.
The Sistine chapel was, of course, breathtaking. Hopefully my pics will appear below. This wordpress for iPad app is kinda sketchy!
After visiting the Coloseum and roman forum, we hit the gelateria (drool) and then a ristorante near our place featuring traditional roman jewish dishes ( fried artichoke, etc). Our young, virile waiter insisted that we order the ossobucco and wouldn’t take the dish away until Matt ate the bone marrow, which he says his father told him to eat lots of – “It make-a you strong-a for the ladies” (!)
Because yesterday’s miles and stairs made our butts and feet scream out in pain, we’re taking it easy today to enjoy a little dolce vita (sweet life).
Ciao for now!