I got to have my Lizzie McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain.
Rome is an absolutely amazing city, and I wish we could have spent two weeks there instead of just about two days.
On our first day, we did a walking tour (in very hot heat), went to the Vatican (which was almost too packed to get to really SEE anything), and then ran to the Pantheon.
Everywhere you turn in Rome, there is something amazing and historical. We saw the column of Trajan and the Spanish steps (there I am in my blistering hot, Vatican-appropriate outfit).
The Spanish steps
While Florence felt kind of like the city revolves almost completely around its Renaissance history (or maybe just the things we focused on?), Rome felt like, yeah, our history is there, and we're going to do our thing anyway. Rome was absolutely awesome, and a bunch of the kids even said they felt like this was the first city they felt like they could live in.
After our walking tour, we went to the Vatican. I knew there was amazing art to see, and I had learned a lot about the construction of St. Peter's, but I didn't know a lot of the specifics on what was inside the Vatican museum itself. (Other than the Sistine Chapel - but you're not allowed to take pictures in there, and so I didn't. Cooler to experience and breathe anyway. Me and several hundred strangers. How strange).
The sphere in the center of the courtyard at the Vatican Museum is an artist's tribute to the victims of September 11th
Every square inch of the Vatican is encrusted in beautiful, priceless works of art. It's a little overwhelming - where do you look!?
THEN we got to go into St. Peter's. I spent some time in college learning about this building, but I was 100% unprepared for how mind-bogglingly BIG this building is. Every inch of it is beautiful, a glorious, GIANT building that could bring you to your knees. I can't explain how powerful it was to just STAND in that building. The only thing I could think when I walked in - this is a church worth breaking a Church for, honestly.
St. Peter was buried on the site (apparently the Obelisk out front was there when he was crucified and buried), and under Constantine the first church was built on the site in the 4th century CE. In the 15th century it was in huge disrepair, so they began to try to repair, then decided to rebuild. There were many, many designs and redesigns. They had trouble with the dome for a while, but it got worked out. Every important architect or sculptor in the Renaissance and early Baroque periods worked on the building. Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, Bramante, Giacomo della Porta, Giuliano da Sangallo, were all involved. It's called the greatest church in all of Christendom - I haven't seen all of them, but I'm pretty inclined to agree.
We had gotten to see some of the hand-drawn plans for this building just the day before, which was fabulously cool. My favorite part was the lines down the center of the nave telling how big other cathedrals in the world were compared to St. Peter's, and showing how thoroughly it dwarfs every one of them.
Each of those letters is 9 feet tall. Somebody told me once that the bronze elements in the Pantheon (like the oculus) were melted down to make this Baldacchino. Not sure if it was said in jest or meant as fact, and now I can't remember where I heard it. Regardless, here's a giant bronze Baldacchino over St. Peter's tomb.
We took a break after our very hot, crowded tour of the Vatican, and went to grab some dinner at a pizza place nearby.
Apparently going into the Pantheon hadn't been part of the tour, and I expressed some disappointment to our tour guide. During dinner she came up to me and mentions that the last entrance at the Pantheon is at 7:15, and the place closes at 7:30. If we finish up dinner by 7, we can make it.
It's 7:05, and we're waiting for some kids outside the restaurant. One of my students pulls up the directions on Google Maps, and we literally sprinted through the streets of Rome, trying to make it in time, kids and one of my teacher friends running the whole way. This was maybe the hardest I laughed on the entire trip.
We got there with time to spare (we were told later it maybe wasn't 100% necessary for us to run), but both my teacher friend and I both cried when we walked in to the Pantheon, so... I'll keep my enthusiasm going til it fails me.
We made it with just a few minutes to spare, ("OUTSIDE PICTURES LATER!") and stayed until they closed the building down around us. We got to watch them close the giant doors, and it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had in my life.
1) each of my kittens falling asleep on me for the first time
2) when J proposed to me
3) being at the Pantheon
I should work on the order but MAN this was cool.
10 second building run down:
The best preserved ancient Roman building left standing. It was completed in around 125 CE, but the inscription is from an earlier temple on the site, so that was confusing for a while. It's very architecturally important because of its geometry and its construction (there have been many, many writings on this, but very long story very short - it's amazing, go read about it). This was the largest spanning concrete dome until the Houston Astrodome, no joke. It was reconsecrated as a Christian church during the Middle Ages, lots of Christian sculptures added, and Raphael was buried here. The building was super important, studied and imitated very very often (including at Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia!).
The next morning, we got to see the Coliseum and the Roman Forum before leaving for Pompeii. It still boggles my mind how we were able to see and do so much in such a short amount of time. Amazing.
Also, the history of the Coliseum is maybe my favorite architectural history story ever, and writing it out would simply not do it justice. Ask me about it sometime in person, for real. I took over the tour bus microphone before getting to the site and started Schnurr Time with "Once upon a time, there was a guy named Nero who nobody liked." It gets way better from there.
Another instance of me having no idea how close together these important sites actually ARE -
the Arch of Constantine + The Coliseum.
Working field method: hug more things
The Arch of Constantine from the other side, with the Roman forum entrance in the back.
Next we went to the Roman Forum. This was again, much much cooler than I could have imagined it would be. I wish I had about 600 more hours of reading on ancient architecture and urbanism under my belt, but even just getting to walk through the streets and look at the ruins of building foundations (with some more recognizable monuments!) was just spectacular. One of the coolest parts - it's still an active excavation site! We passed some archaeologists at work, and I tried to convey my respect and admiration by not bothering them with my questions or fangirling, but.. not sure how those telepathic transmissions went.
The Arch of Titus, depicting the sacking of Jerusalem.
Rome was incredible, and I can't wait to go back. In the meantime, I want to read every single ancient architecture book I can get my hands on. This feeling got even stronger when we got to Pompeii.
Next stop: Pompeii!