Last Thursday (June 2) our group journeyed from Sorrento to Rome, the last stop on the App State trip. We took the circus train from Sorrento to Naples and then the bullet train from Naples to Rome. That day on the circus train, there were several musicians walking through the train playing music and panhandling.
We got into Rome late afternoon, and walked from the Termini train station to our hotel. Once we checked in, we had some free time to get settled and explore. We had a group dinner at a very yummy pizzeria. Afterwards, we all went and got gelato and saw the Trevi fountain.
My friend/exploring buddy Jordan and I had a superrrr productive, packed day! We were out the door, ready to go by about 8:30. First we went and got cappuccinos and pastries at this amazing, shockingly inexpensive café near the Pantheon called La Cassa Del Cafe. Our professors swear by the place and claim that they have the best cappuccinos in the world. I’m not a huge coffee drinker; it’s slowly growing on me, but I did try the cappuccino and it was in fact really good.
After breakfast, we stopped by the Pantheon. It was early in the morning and had been raining, so the light coming through the oculus at the top of the dome was beautiful. When we were walking around, we stumbled upon the graves of Rafael (Renaissance painter) and Victor Emmanuel II (The first King of a united Italy in the 1800s). That was pretty exciting- I had no idea they were buried there. The Pantheon is so rich with history; the marble floors alone are over 1800 years old! The original Pantheon building was built in 27BCE by Marcus Agrippa (Augustus’ son-in-law). In 120AD, emperor Hadrian demolished that structure and totally rebuilt the Pantheon to be the way it is seen today.
After admiring the amazing architecture and art inside the Pantheon, we headed to the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento di Roma to see the visiting Alphonse Mucha show. Mucha is one of my favorite artists, so it’s pretty cool we were able to see the show while it was in Rome! The show featured over 200 prints and objects created or designed by Mucha. He is most noted for his Art Nouveau posters and advertisements in the late 1800s/early 1900s. He is also well known for painting “The Slav Epic” for the Czech Republic depicting the history of the Czech and Slav people. Featured in the show was one of my favorite pieces by him, “Zodiac.”
Around 13:00, we met up with the rest of our group to go to the Borghese Gallery. The Borghese Gallery is most noted for its collection of Bernini sculptures, as well as paintings by Caravaggio and other Renaissance greats. Some of my favorite pieces in the gallery were Caravaggio’s “David with the Head of Goliath” and Bernini’s “Rape of Proserpina” and “Apollo and Daphne” sculptures. The way Bernini was able to use detail and movement in his work to transform hunks of rock into lifelike sculptures is mind blowing to me. One of the things I love most about his sculptures is the toes of the people-they look like real people’s toes! They’re not perfect and idealistic like some sculptures, and I appreciate that.
My iPhone pictures don’t do this incredible art any bit of justice…
When we are finished at the Borghese Gallery, a group of us went to the church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, that houses the “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” statue by Bernini. It is a very small church that is easy to miss, but seeing that sculpture is worth the trip.
After that, we went to the capuchin crypt at the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, which was very close by. The crypt houses the remains of about 3,700 Capuchin Friars dating from the 1400s-1600s. In the mid 1600s, Friar Michael of Bergamo oversaw the cleaning and arrangement of the remains into different decorative and religious motifs. You weren’t supposed to take pictures in there, but I snuck one anyway…
We had to be at the entrance of Vatican City by about 9am to meet up with our tour guide, go through security and get inside. I honestly was a little disappointed and very grumpy about my whole Vatican experience. The whole day was very rushed and I didn’t feel like I was able to fully appreciate or enjoy or even properly look at anything. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the Vatican itself that was dissapointing, it was the way in which we saw it. The art there is absolutely incredible, but there were so many people there, we were basically being herded from room to room and barely got to stop and look at anything. I’ve been brainstorming and planning with my mom to figure out how we can do it better when we go back as a family.
The most amazing part of Vatican City, to me, was the Sistine Chapel. Although it was a little smaller than I expected, the ceiling frescos by Michelangelo are breathtaking. It’s really difficult and a little frustrating to try and put into words what it’s like to look at and experience a piece of art in person that you’ve grown up learning about and admiring. The sheer scale of the frescos and the method Michelangelo and his assistants used to paint them make them all the more impressive. On top of this, the stories behind Michelangelo’s struggle with funding, censorship and the church add to the dimensionality, character and significance of the work. Unfortunately, we only had what felt like 5 minutes in the chapel-which I was not happy about. We also weren’t supposed to take pictures in there, but I snuck a quick one on my phone anyway.
We spent our last day in Rome admiring the Colosseum, shopping and exploring.
A group of us went to the Church of San Pietro in Vinvoli (Church of Saint Peter in Chains). This church houses a relic, claiming to be the actual chains used to bind Saint Peter when he was martyred. It also houses Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.
After dinner, we went back to our hotel to pack. (Waaaay) later that night, a group of us went to see the Trevi Fountain one last time. I made my three wishes and had my Lizzie McGuire moment.
Monday morning (June 6) I said goodbye to the App State group and started my solo adventure through Northern Italy. I took the bullet trail from Rome to Bolzano. Bolzano is a small town in the Dolomite Moutains, where I’ll be based for a little over a week.