"All roads lead to Rome," said Jean de la Fontaine. And I guess there's several train tracks that do too, thankfully--because I didn't have a car and I really wanted to get there. It was such a fun trip; we had a really great group of people and a lot of time to spend in the biggest city that I've been to over here. There is so much to do that even though I did so much, there were still things I didn't get to. There were pretty much only two unfortunate things: that meeting up with Amy didn't work out and that we eventually had to leave. You can see all the Pictures! The trip started Thursday night with an overnight train, an interesting experience within itself. I don't know if I could have made it through if it weren't for the paper slippers and toilet seat cover they included on our beds. But alas, we made it in at 7 in the morning and began our day straight off. After checking into our hostel, we made our way to the Vatican to wait in line. It was only about 45 minutes, so it wasn't too bad at all. We saw a lot there, including art by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Salvador Dali, and not to forget the Sistine Chapel. It was all so ornate and beautiful--really just beyond words. And we sent out a few postcards from the Vatican City (you only get one if you're the best mom in the world). Next we made our way over to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest cathedral in the world. We saw the tombs of the popes, including the heavily memorialized tomb of Pope John Paul II. Then we wandered throughout the church, seeing Michaelangelo's Pieta and other not quite as famous statues. We climbed the dome and had a great view of the rest of the city (nothing is allowed to be built higher in the city).
By that point we were definitely ready for our quick lunch of the amazing Doner kebob. After that stop we made our way to the Pantheon and just walked around the city the rest of the night, seeing various squares and districts. My favorite was the Trevi fountain--a huge, beautiful fountain and a very romantic place where you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain while making a romantic wish. I bet you wonder if mine will come true. Oh silly hopeless romantic you. We topped off the night with the best gelato in Rome. It was so good! Anyways...it was a crazy busy day but very rewarding.

Friday morning we slept in a little because we were so exhausted, but before long we were on our way to the ancient Roman district. We first climbed the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele, a beautiful palace dedicated to fallen Italian soldiers. It was so beautiful that Mussolini decided to make it his own palace while he was in power. After that we walked through the ruins of the Roman Forum. They were in much better shape than most of the Greek ruins I saw, but we had no tour guide to explain what it all was. So I had to play the role, reading off of the torn out pages from my travel book. It sufficed. We also saw the Mamertine prison, where Paul and Peter were held during each of their separate times of imprisonment in Rome. Then we approached the Arch of Constantine, a huge arch commemorating the victory of Constantine over Maxentius to become Emperor. It was huge and very elaborately decorated. It stands as the entryway of sorts to the Colosseum. We didn't pay the money to go inside of it (it's just dirt really), but we definitely sensed the grandeur from the outside.

After walking all the way around it, we decided to have a little adventure of our own. We rented a four person bike and did our best not to get killed by crazy Roman drivers. We then walked down the business district and the girls indulged in a little shopping. It wasn't so bad--Bill and I only had to sit around and wait for like an hour. We then made our way to the Spanish steps, where we met up with another friend. He took us to see the Cappucian Crypt, a creepy place with bones serving as the decorations. It was morbidly interesting. Then we had a nice dinner followed by another round of gelato. Another very full day led to a relatively early turn in, though we stayed up talking at the hostel for a little while.

Sunday we got up and saw the Castle of St. Angelo, a huge fortress near the Vatican. It was filled with wonderful frescos and paintings, and the view of the Vatican from the top was gorgeous. Vatican square was our next destination, as we heard the Pope speak. It was in Italian,the crowd was huge, and the Pope was way up far away in a little window, but it was still cool to see. Then it was off to the church of St. Peter
in Chains, that contained the supposed chains that held Peter in prison. There was also a beautiful statue of Moses in there by Michaelangelo. We also saw the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which holds the tomb of St. Jerome, supposed pieces from the original manger, and one of the most well know icons--the blessed virgin with Christ on her lap. We saw the National Museum of Rome next, which was alright. It didn't compare too well to the Greek art that I saw in Greece, because most of the works were just copies of those. But there were a lot of really nice mosaics. We then saw a movie that night--Children of Men. Not the best, but fairly interesting. The next morning we caught the train out and that was that, nearly five days in total for the trip.

Beyond just all the great things I was able to do in the city, I really enjoyed this weekend for lots of other reasons. I had lots of really good conversations, and the company was just really enjoyable. Some of the trips I've taken have been cool, but they will all kind of blend together in time I think. This weekend though, will be one I don't think I will ever forget.

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