Friday, January 28, 2011

rome: day three

Tuesday was our last day there, and it was long, with our departing flight not until 10:30 p.m. But the kids were AMAZING! Another answer to prayer. Seth didn't get in his afternoon nap and was still the most pleasant kid, and Kate managed to take two pretty decent naps in her stroller.

The beautiful blue skies and sunshine were fantastic that morning, so I opened the shutters to take some pictures of our view where we stayed. We were on floor 5 (which would be the 6th floor in the US, as Europeans count the ground floor as 0).

St. Maria Basilica to the right, whose bells awoke us so early each morning

The inscription on the wall in Latin says "In this place I will give peace."

Do you see that square tower looking building in the center? Right behind it in the fog is St. Peter's dome. It is several miles away, and yet we can still see it even through the haze. I told you it was huge! I zoomed in with my camera to take a close up, and although it turned out so that you could see it better, the quality was quite poor. :(

All of these large buildings in Europe have open courtyards in the middle and lots have rooftop gardens and patios. I like seeing them all. There were a lot of beautifully decorated garden rooftops in Rome, although this one in particular was not!

Our morning started out later as we had to check out of our hotel and figure out what to do with our stuff. The hotel said they had a storage place (not for free of course) that we could use until 8 p.m., which was perfect, but when we asked them, they said that they didn't want to store it and that we could go to the train station and store it there for roughly the same cost. So after breakfast and checking out, we went to the train station to drop our stuff off. From there we headed to the Spanish Steps.

This area (Piazza di Spagna) is named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican and has been there for 300 years. Lots of Romantics have hung out here over the years (Keats, Wagner, Goethe, and others), and this is the area where you will find the expensive Italian designers. I kept wondering where Gucci and all of these other designers were, and then, I found them all in this area. SO nice. And of course expensive! Lots of artists are there during the day painting and selling their work, but I heard there is quite the night life here after dusk. Although we were there in the morning, I did see pictures of it lit up at night. Pretty. :)

The steps connect the square at the bottom of the hill to the church up at the top. This area of Rome is also quite hilly. There are 138 steps, and this is the widest staircase in Europe. You are supposed to crawl up them on your knees for some religious purpose, but I don't remember exactly why. And no one did it. ;)

Taken from atop the steps, you can see the main road in the center of the picture, which is where you will find most of the Italian designer shops.

Trinità dei Monti Church from the Renaissance up at the top

Seth climbed down the steps while Kevin and I had to carry the stroller. Tough life for Kate.

Of course like any other three year old boy, he wanted to do much more than just climb the steps, and since we had a long day ahead of us, we pretty much let him do what he wanted that day. Parents of the Year.

I took a lot of pictures of trees from all over Rome. They were so different than Hungary and most places I have been to in the States. These are of course palm trees, and it just struck me funny to see them in the middle of the piazza. Lots of other types of trees I don't recall ever seeing in my life were in Rome. Very cool. I guess this is in part due to the fact that I have never been close to the Mediterranean before!

The Sinking Boat Fountain at the bottom of the steps. All of the fountains in Rome are powered by a vast aqueduct system underneath the city. Their spurts are determined by the water pressure below it. Some are small like this while others that we visited were much more powerful.

The local Polizia were helpful when we asked questions and certainly loved on Kate. This picture is blurry but shows just one of countless times we were stopped and "bella" Kate got lots of attention.

After the Spanish Steps, we went to McDonald's. That's right. It was the first McDonald's to open up in Italy in 1986. Allie's aunt who used to live there said that if we ever wanted to see a fancy McDonald's that we should head in there. Quite the place, although not nearly as fancy as the one in downtown Budapest. But they have a salad bar! But most importantly, they had free bathrooms. :) That might not seem like a big deal, but it is for European cities! Anyway, we went to go to the bathroom and got the kids a bite to eat to keep them happy before our walk across half the city to get to the Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, or the Field of Flowers.

On our walk, we passed in front of the National Museum, which we had seen from a distance our first day from Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.

Biggest hunk of salami-meat thing I have ever seen. By the time I got my camera out, the woman cutting it for shoppers in the deli was finished, but I still had to snap a picture.

We got to the Piazza Campo de’ Fiori that had lots of beautiful fresh flowers for sale and fresh produce.

Seth was once again happy to find another fountain that was not blocked off and played in there for a bit.

Although this piazza was beautiful, we didn't go to there for the open flower market or the fountain. So why did we go there? The best place to get pizza bianca (white pizza) is there! Apparently, this place is the most famous for it. I thought of you, Aimee, and the Dunham family's love of Nerci's in NY!

Here it is: Forno Campo de’ Fiori. YUM!

It wasn't much to look at from the outside, but that doesn't matter. :) John took some pictures of us enjoying the pizza bianca, and it was absolutely delicious. I'll post those pictures in the future when I get them from him. And Kevin (our resident pizza maker) is now inspired to try and make some himself. I am eager for him to try!

I realize that pizza is not actually Italian, but you still think of Italy when you think of pizza. And they play up to that with pizzerias on every corner. But it is different, and I actually enjoyed it despite it being rather thin pizza because I LOVE Chicago style deep dish. The pizzas are an oblong slab and sold by the weight. Keeps it much simpler, don't you think? So as they hold up the knife, you tell them how big you would like it and then they cut. I like their system.

From there we walked to the Piazza Navona and saw what we were told was a significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art. It was also a place where thousands of years ago other sorts of "games" were held. There are several large fountains in this square, but much to Seth's disappointment, he was not allowed to play in them. The most famous fountain in that square is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. I will have to wait for John's pictures because I didn't take any in that piazza. But there were lots of artists here painting and selling their works as well.

Then we continued our walk to the Pantheon. We gave Seth and Kate some time to wander around. You can see that Seth found water, and Kate was super happy to crawl around and smile for everyone taking her picture...while Kevin and I admired the greatness that is the Pantheon.

I did not get any really good shots of the entire thing, so I will repeat this mantra of waiting for John's pictures. :) My pictures do not even begin to show how huge this was...and sitting right smack dab in the middle of all sorts of buildings. It did not fit!

The Pantheon is the best preserved monument in Rome. It's pretty much in tact. And today's mathematicians and engineers are baffled by this building built in 27 BC. The dome is a perfect mathematical structure, and they did it all without computers or electricity...nothing but slaves. And it has stood the test of time. AMAZING! (It's also free to go inside!)

The walls at the base of the Pantheon are 23 feet thick and made of concrete. The walls are about 5 feet thick up at the top and are a mix of concrete and pumice.

Seth hugs a pillar to give you some size perspective.

It is said that the Pantheon is the most influential building in art history. It inspired much of the world's architecture throughout the centuries, including Washington D.C.'s Capitol building. That dome is quite impressive!

The dome is as high as it is wide. It is 142 ft. from floor to rooftop and from side to side. At the top, the oculus is the only light source for the Pantheon and is almost 30 feet across.

Seth ran around (without disturbing anyone!) and said he was playing basketball in there.

After the Pantheon, we wound through some back streets to find Giolitti, which is Rome's most famous place for gelato. And it was spectacular! I wonder what the lines are like in the summer here.

And our last place to visit that afternoon was the Trevi Fountain. This fountain was spectacular and super powerful, again, powered by the aqueduct system beneath the city. No streets directly lead to it, so you wander around trying to find it based on the sound of the water. I remember thinking, "I can hear it!" and suddenly, there it was.

The water was frigid, but Seth kept his hands in there until they were red. He didn't care. He did throw in three coins, which assures a return trip to Rome. I hope it worked. ;)

While I was taking pictures of Seth, Allie was with Kate in the stroller. I looked over and saw a girl talking to her and taking her picture. So sweet. This was pretty common for Kate, and much to our surprise, she obliged everyone the whole trip!

What I DIDN'T get a picture of was the 27 other students who ended up going over to her minutes later. Although they didn't speak English and we don't speak Italian, we figured out that they were from Naples. They were quite the loud and funny group. They loved Kate and kept talking to her and taking her picture. This went on for about 10-15 minutes before she realized she had had enough. Then she got out of the stroller and played in the water, too.

After spending quite a bit of time at the fountain, we wandered around the city for any souvenirs we could find. We wanted to buy something for our family and close friends, but we couldn't afford a thing! Seriously. We got something only for my nephew...but mainly to make my sister mad. ;) (Love you, Stefanie!)

We found some place to get some yummy food one last time before we headed back to the train station and figure out how to get to the airport from there. Everything I ate there was wonderful. And it was so nice not to cook!

Once we arrived at the train station and received many offers from taxis to take us to the airport, we decided it was worth the few extra Euro to take the train directly there. No one was worried about their safety, and we wouldn't be stuck in traffic. The kids were also able to move around the train. So I am glad we chose that!

We changed the kids into their pajamas on the train so that they would be ready for bed when we got home...if not sooner!

As we were taking off, Seth asked, "Are we in the air yet?" We told him that the back wheels had just lifted off the ground. And not even ten seconds later, he was passed out.

Kate was not...nor did she the entire plane ride, which left late and didn't even land until 12:15 a.m. Such a stinker.

I was changing Kate's diaper in the bathroom while Kevin got the luggage...

...and while Seth remained passed out on this counter. He magically woke up in his bedroom the next morning. :)

And then we were home. In one piece. With our luggage. And no screaming kids. Just tired.

I still have some other thoughts I want to write down and remember for myself. And then in the upcoming weeks I'll share some of John's pictures plus some family pictures, too. Yeah! But that's it.

Arrivederci, Italia!


Mom Y. said...

Brava ragazza! Good job, Kristen! You make us feel as if we are right there with you.

Jessica Heights said...

It must be SO AWESOME to be there!!!