Grab a full cup of coffee... This is a monster post for a marathon day! I have lots of pictures to share. We were up at 6am via wake-up call, and didn't get back to the hotel until after 10pm!
Our first stop was the Vatican. Where Cheryl fell out of the bus... don't worry, she wasn't hurt; just embarrassed. Look at all the people here!
Our local guide told us that some people stand in line for hours to get in, but thanks to our "front of the line" pass we walked right in. Our first destination was the Famous Sistine Chapel. We walked through long halls full of statues (yes, there are statues around all those people).
And walked down another long hall full of tapestries. But the highlight of this hall for me was the ceiling. It looked like a bunch of framed pictures all lined up. Each picture was amazing, and they went on and on and on...
There is a dress code for the Vatican, and in fact for all the churches in Italy... shoulders and knees must be covered. Our host, Fabrizio, reminded us over and over about it, so we were all dressed appropriately for the day. No photos were allowed in the Sistine Chapel. So here is my token photo:
We were not allowed to speak in the chapel (BTW, "shhh..." means be quiet in Italian too). You saw all those people in the hall? All those people were crammed in a 134'x44' room all looking up. It was packed! Remember the radios I told you about yesterday? They came in handy today. Our guide was whispering in her microphone, telling us about Michelangelo and the story depicted in each panel of the ceiling. Then she directed us all (scattered throughout the crowd) to the exit door when it was time to leave.
Our next stop was my favorite: St. Peter's Basilica!!! This place was so amazing! I could have spent the entire day in just that one building. I have lots of photos to share... I couldn't pick just one:
The big difference between the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica is that the Sistine Chapel is all paintings where St. Peter's Basilica has NO PAINTINGS. Look at this below... do you think that is a painting?
NO! It's a mosaic!
It's hard to tell even in person that this is not a painting. We had to zoom in with a camera to see the tiles. They were so small! There were lots and lots of these mosaics in the Basilica along with fantastic sculptures.
Here we are set loose for lunch in St. Peter's square. See that building on the right? That's the Pope's residence. Since the shutters are closed, that means that he's not there. He's at his summer residence.
Here's Chris having a drink at the Vatican. All the water in the Italian fountains is potable. The water from this fountain was cold and delicious!
Yeah, that is just our MORNING! Now it's off for a bus tour of the city and a stop at the FABULOUS Roman Colosseum! Look at all the people!!! Again, it's another place where people stand in line for hours to get inside, and we walked right in with our front of the line pass!
Here we are! Just to prove we were there!
And here is the inside of the Colosseum without us blocking the view, lol! To get an idea of how HUGE this place is, look how small the people are! This place was truly MAGNIFICENT! It could seat 90,000 people! The Home Depot Center only seats 27,000.
Do you see the labyrinth of rooms in the middle? Those are the catacombs under the Colosseum. We took an underground tour of the catacombs. Unfortunately, they didn't allow pictures. Here is Cheryl waiting patiently with her radio on, like a good little tourist:
The catacombs were okay... a pretty cool twist of tunnels with burial chambers and nitches (all were empty). If you have a chance to go to the catacombs or spend more time in the Coloseum area, I'd recommend the Coloseum.
You think we are done for the day? We are not done! Some of the group went on a trip to an Italian Opera. We decided to skip that one and head out on our own. We took the metro (yes, in Italian) to the Treve Fountain.
... And like everywhere else we've been, it's mobbed with people!
Cheryl and I managed to get close enough to toss a coin in the fountain! They say that means we will return to Rome someday... After that, we just wandered around the Baroque district...
We must have pizza! So we wandered until we found a sidewalk cafe that 1) spoke English and 2) served pizza. Our waiter was quite a character!
After our adventuring, we headed back to the metro. As we were buying tickets a man ran by us and yelled something at us in Italian. We shrugged and went back to buying tickets. We got to the platform just as the train was arriving and jumped on. We figured the man was telling us that the train was coming. Anyway, Rome is so beautiful at night... we had the urge to see St. Peter's Square lit up in the dark, so got off at the Vatican stop (two stops before our hotel). It was BEAUTIFUL and so QUIET after the crowds of the morning:
We were tired from all the walking and were ready to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. We walked back to the metro station, and guess what? THE METRO WAS CLOSED! The man was telling us that the LAST TRAIN was coming! There was no traffic around the metro and the streets were quiet. Jim thought that maybe we could find a taxi if we walked back to the Vatican.
We did find a taxi and the taxi driver spoke ENGLISH! Thank goodness, since we had no idea where the hotel was! Jim gave him the name of the hotel, but (since it's new) the taxi driver never heard of it. He called the hotel name into his dispatcher and got the address! WhooHoo! We made it through our first European adventure!
That's it for our first full day in Europe... if you made it this far, thanks for sticking through it. But I'm not done, because I want to end with the STORY OF THE DAY:
Chris's college registration appointment was 4:45pm on Monday, which is 1:45am TODAY! Cheryl and Chris got up at 1am to register using Jim's iPad and the hotel wifi, but the registration didn't go through. Chris needed to complete an academic advisement online before he could register. He tried to fill it out, but it wouldn't work on the iPad (no flash). So at 1:45am, they were in the lobby using the hotel computer. They said that it was a good thing that the night desk guy spoke English. They had to buy time on the computer, 3 euro, and ask the guy how to type the "@" on the Italian keyboard... That was quite an adventure for them. I'm so proud of them for taking care of it all... Chris is registered for Saddleback for FALL 2011! YAHOO!