So after an amazing viaje con mis amigos, Tom and I joined my friend Christine in Rome for the ultimate birthday weekend. First I would like to thank my parents for again one of the greatest birthday presents EVER! I have wanted to go to Italy and especially Rome for the longest time and it was my number 1 place I wanted to visit.
Luckily for me there was another fiesta for the saint of Huelva, Rocio, so there was “no school” (AKA there really was school but no one showed up because they were all in the city of Rocio for this party) over the Thursday until Tuesday of the next week. So after adventuring to Barcelona and Madrid, we continued on to Rome on MY BIRTHDAY. Super guay!
So we arrive to Rome, and literally 5 minutes into our commute to the city center we run into ROMAN RUINS. Mind blown. Seriously. Real life in Rome. At this point, I couldn’t even contain my excitement. We arrived to our “bed & breakfast,” (that is in qoutations because it was probably the worst place I have stayed at all year) we headed out to do as the Romans do: EAT.
Once we bought the whole place out we headed to the main show: The COLOSSEUM. We took our pizza para llevar and decided that we would eat it in front of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Could we be any more Roman? Oh wait, we could have done this:
Sadly, I wasn’t mistaken as anyone beside an American tourist who has an eating problem of pizza, pasta, and mozzarella. So after we finished our feast of pizza, we headed into what I believe is the coolest historical place ever, along with Pompeii, the Roman Colosseum.
The Colosseum is an amphitheatre, which was the center for entertainment in ancient Rome. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world and can hold up to 80,000 spectators. Of course, the spectators were seated according to the classes of Roman Society: Nobles (Senators and Equestrians), middle class, and then women and plebeians (slaves) in the way back. This theater is located in the center of the city and was the place to go to see gladiator shows, animal hunts, executions, and Roman plays. DISCLAIMER: I have taught about the Romans, so be prepared for a mountain full of information. What are gladiators? If you have seen the movie Gladiator, you have a pretty good picture of what a life of a gladiator is like. Many times these “fighters” were slaves or people who were bought to fight. They had no choice in the matter, and their lives meant nothing. Their prize for winning was their life and not being killed. Sometimes gladiators had to go up against many different animals too.
Another interesting show that was put on in the Colosseum was a recreation of a Sea Battles. They would fill the bottom (look at the photo above and they have built part of a floor to show the tunnels below) with water and use specially trained animals to fight these battles. These tunnels were also used for the Gladiators to enter and exit the area. They also led to the surrounding training areas that the Gladiators used to prepare for these battles.
Next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum which was THE place to go to hang out. This area was were the government buildings and the market was located. It was the place where Romans met (the senators) to discuss things of government, education, society. Others came to shop and to socialize. Here political speeches happened, monuments were put here, meetings were held, etc. This area is the oldest area of ancient Rome.
Once that excitement was over we continued our tour of Rome with the Trevi fountain. This fountain was created because it is at the junction at 3 important streets and one aqueduct is located there. The scene of the fountain tells the story of a virgin who led the Romans to find this pure water source.
The legend behind the coin throwing is that if one throws a coin into the fountain they will return to Rome. FINGERS CROSSED!
Next stop, the Spanish steps. Not that I don’t get enough Spanish culture in Spain, but every time I go somewhere I’m always missing a part of Spain. These steps were built during the 1700’s to link the Spanish Embassy with the French church that is located at the top. The steps lead to the Piazza de Spanga which has the fountain, roughly translated as Fountain with Ugly Boat. It is a sinking boat because of technical problems…and was designed by Pietro Bernini and his son Lorenzo.
Our favorite spot, next to the Trevi fountain, was the Pantheon. We found ourselves there on our last night in Rome. No words can express what it was like to eat our gelato and just hang out in front of this amazing place. So the Pantheon is a temple that was built by the Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. The interesting architecture about this building start with the outside and go all the way to the inside. Inside there is a concrete dome that is the ONLY dome that is unreinforced. There is a hole in the middle of it to let in natural light, and when it rains the floor of the Pantheon is slightly slanted to drain in the middle. Fun fact: the famous painter Rafael Sanzio is buried there as well.
Our next day was a big one: Vatican City. WOOF. It was a biiiiiiigggg day with the Vatican museums (where we learned that it is completely impossible for the Papacy to go broke), the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basillica. Now I could throw a bunch of pictures at you right now, but lucky me my memory card on my camera was full by then. So my pictures are all on my friend Tom’s camera. Honestly, the museums were full of artwork from artists like Cavaggio about religious stories and science-y things that were “approved” by the Church. The Sistine Chapel was AH-MAZING. It’s ridiculously small and I have NO clue how all the cardinals and other important Church people fit in there when it is time to vote for a new Papa. But I literally kept running into people because I was too busy staring at the ceiling. Did you all know that Da Vinci spent 4 years on his back painting that ceiling?
It was a pleasant surprise to find out that when we purchased out Vatican tickets (I highly recommend buying your tickets online AHEAD of time!!!!) we were automatically dropped outside the Basilica. So we headed in there to check it out, again, it’s over the top amazing. Lucky us, we got in just in time to experience Mass IN THE BASILICA! I know I am not Catholic, but I live by the motto that Jesus doesn’t really care what “type” of religion a person is as long as they made it there to worship and praise him. I have to be honest, I really tried to listen and follow what was happening, but it was all in Italian and I couldn’t help but laugh whenever they said Papa.
Another fun fact: The people who guard the Vatican City are the Swiss Guards. These guards were created around Europe to protect many European Courts, and began in France. It wasn’t until 1506 than a small guard was brought to the Vatican. Now why the Swiss? Well it isn’t because it is a neutral country. Back in the day, Switzerland was a poor country so many men from there would go aboard to find their fortune, they were also known for being great soldiers in battle.
Sadly, again I will never be able to be apart of this guard. Here are the requirements: one must be catholic, a single male between the ages of 19 to 30 years old, have Swiss citizenship, completed basic Swiss military training and receive a certificate of good conduct, must have a high school diploma, and get this be at least 5 ft 8 inches tall.
By day two I should say I had my eating schedule down for the trip: Pasta, gelato, Mozzarella, pizza, gelato, annnnnd repeat.
Once we had done the EAT. PRAY part of our EAT. PRAY. LOVE. trip we headed out to Naples for two very important things: the birthplace of pizza and POMPEII. Please don’t make me pick what my favorite was. No girl can choose between ancient history and old school pizza.
First stop: POMPEII. DUN DUN DUN
One of the most famous Roman sites ever. Why? WELL it’s literally an ancient village that was almost perfectly preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. in 79 AD. Vesuvius had it’s most famous eruption. However it wasn’t the lava that covered the city, it was the giant volcanic ash cloud that covered the city. Written evidence has people describing this cloud and how it covered the city in darkness. Since no one really knew what volcanic ash was many people didn’t have time to escape. About 2,000 people died, and the city was abandoned until 1748 when it was discovered again. Since most of the city, it’s people, buildings, artifacts were preserved historians have learned SO much about ancient life.
Now, if you are a little weirded out by dead bodies, or bodies encased in volcanic ash, I would skip over this part:
Once we had explored (well I explored, and dragged Christine and Tom around) we headed to back to Naples to STUFF our faces with more PIZZA. Along the way we may have hit up some of the local sites.
Probably the ONE MAIN reason people go to Naples is for this pizza place:
However, the Roman gods were not in our favor that day, and as you can see in the picture, Da Michele was CLOSED. Don’t fret friends, an Italian man came hobbiling out of his car just to tell us that there was another place across the street. Although, it wasn’t THE oldest pizza joint, it’s called Trianon de Ciro and started in 1923, and the pizza was STILL delicious.
We were pretty lucky, all the places we ate at in Naples were delicious. Buuuuttt there are some rules to be a TRUE Italian pizza place.
Rule #1 it can only be cooked in wood burning brick ovens.
Rule #2 the crust has to be soft and light, that’s why the dough is made the day before it’s used, allowing the yeast to rise for at least 10-15 hours.
Rule #3 the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) must be a real maestro, the dough stretching technique is essential and you need at least 2/3 years of apprenticeship to become a pizzaiolo.
Rule #4 the pizzerias that make the traditional pizza “verace” are members of the Pizza Napoletana Association (website: http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/index_eng.php)
Like every trip I have taken this past year, I have no words to describe it. However, it was my birthday weekend, I was in Italy, surrounded by pizza and pasta. SO IT WAS AWESOME. I cannot wait for another chance to explore more of Italy in the future!
As they say in Rome: When in Rome, do as the Romans do…