Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(Europe trip, post 14 of 14) Vatican, last day in Rome, headed home.

June 14, 2013

We'd been having the trip of a lifetime and loving every minute of it, but we did miss our kiddos.  By this point we had been away from our boys for 2 weeks and we were really missing them.  I especially remember that last day in Rome noticing it more than normal.  It seemed that everything I noticed was something that the kids would like.  For example, right when we left our hotel that morning we saw a police car driving by and I thought the boys would think it was cool to see an Italian police car, so I took a picture of it:

We also thought the boys would enjoy seeing the giant underwater vacuum that sucked up coins from the fountains every morning, so we took a photo and video clip of that to show them:

Then we hurried off to the Vatican to our reserved tour there.  I really should have taken pictures of the ticket line that went on forever at the Vatican Museum.  We were able to bypass the whole line since we made tour reservations in advance.  Thank goodness for that.  Plus our (3 hour) tour included both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica so we didn't have to wait in lines before entering the basilica either.  Saving that time left us time to go back and re-visit one of my favorite on of my favorite areas of Rome later that day too!  For now, here are a few pictures from our visit to the Vatican.  View of St. Peters from where we met our tour guide and started our tour of the Vatican Museum.

These mosaic floors would have taken forever to complete.  Very cool...

More stuff that we wanted to show the boys when we got home.  All sorts of animal statues!

Emperor Nero's giant bathtub taken from his Domus Aurea palace in Rome.  He was emperor from 54-68 AD.

Statue bust that I should probably know...

Lots of ornate ceilings...

And speaking of ornate ceilings...I loved this one.  This gallery houses maps from the 16th century of Italy's various regions.  It was an impressively embellished (and very long) hallway.  Very beautiful.
We actually thought that Noah would think it was cool too, so we took a quick video clip as well:

Another thing we were excited to take a picture of and show the boys...This bird flew right into the museum through this open window and just made himself comfortable there for several minutes before flying away.  (See, I told you we were missing our boys.  Centuries of art history around me and I'm photographing a bird.)

Books on the virgin Mary in languages from around the world.  I thought the books were so beautiful.

Other than the Sistine Chapel, seeing Raphael's "The School of Athens" was the highlight of our museum tour for me.  This fresco captures the epitome of the Renaissance, and I really enjoyed studying it in the humanities class that I took once upon a time ago.

This is a really quick, choppy clip of the fresco, but right at the beginning notice the doorway which helps you realize just how big the work of art actually is.

I have to say that I didn't have huge expectations for the Sistine Chapel.  Yes, I know who painted it, and yes it was definitely a bucket-list item for me to see.  However, maybe those mediocre expectations were a good thing because I have to say that I found the Sistine Chapel breath-taking.  I wish I could have taken a seat (if there were any) and just soaked it all in for an hour instead of being herded through the chapel packed with bodies all standing there gawking.  I wouldn't say that it was a spiritual experience for me, but I did find it inspiring.  I suppose it was a combination of the caliber of art combined with the content.  I found it truly amazing.  Photos were not allowed, so here are just two that I pulled from the internet to remind me of that awesome experience:

After our tour at the Vatican Museum was complete we continued on to St. Peters Basilica.  The sheer size of the building was impressive.  It was gigantic.

Bronze statue of St. Peter.  Pilgrims traditionally touch or kiss his foot, so it is worn quite thin.

One of Michelangelo's Pietàs displayed in the basilica.  I have to admit that it was truly lovely, but it was such a disconnected experience to see it amidst throngs of people and set back behind bullet proof glass (thanks to the crazy guy from 40 years ago who attacked it with a hammer).  I had to hold my camera above my head to get this picture without people's heads in the shot.  This more disconnected experience here was such a contrast for me from the deeply personal and I daresay spiritual experience I had when viewing another Pietà of Michelangelo's at the Duomo Museum in Florence...where Mark and I were the only ones in the room and I could really see it up close and allow myself to really experience the piece of art.

A massive 448 feet from the floor to the top of the dome.  Huge.

Bernini's tomb for Pope Alexander VII.  It was completed in 1678 when Bernini was 80.  The area provided for this sculpture and monument had this existing door which Bernini nicely incorporated thematically as an entrance into the eternities and literally with draping "fabric" and the bronze skeleton of death holding his hourglass hanging down.  The figures of white marble are to represent Truth, Justice, Charity and Prudence - virtues to be practiced by the Pope (who is shown kneeling at the apex of the monument).

This figure is Truth.  I could not get over how marble was so realistically fashioned into draping fabric and hair.  Amazing.  And I loved the bold color of the Sicilian jasper that was used.

Lunchtime!  We ate at the nearby L'Insalata Ricca.  I'm pretty sure it was the only time we ate at a chain restaurant on our trip, but a salad just sounded so-o good...and at least it was an Italian chain restaurant :)  First, a little appetizer...

My salad!

Mark's pasta!

We traveled, did sight seeing, and enjoyed almost every lunch and dinner (breakfasts were usually in our room) for 9 days of our trip with these two fantastic people.  It was such an amazing experience and we were so glad that we were able to share it together with them.  We couldn't have asked for more fun and laid-back travel buddies for the Italy portion of our trip!

After lunch we hit a popular Gelateria.  It was so heavenly that even the nuns frequent it!  (Sorry, I had to.  It really was excellent though)

Eating our gelato on the go.

Had to snap a shot of the super steep escalators in the public transit station.

We took things pretty easy that last afternoon/early evening in Rome.  The main thing I wanted to do was to go back to Piazza Navona and just wander and relax.  With the fountains, architecture, street musicians and artists - it just all combines together with such a great vibe.  Romantic, but still such a great energy too.  I think if we come back to Rome some day I'd love to stay very near beautiful Piazza Navona next time.  Two Berninis in one day...here we are back at the Four Rivers Fountain.  Megan was kind enough to snap off a few pictures of Mark and I enjoying our last romantic evening in beautiful Rome.

We capped off our time in Rome with a perfect meal at Da Francesco, located on Piazza del Fico just steps away from Piazza Navona.  One last Caprese before leaving.  Even something so simple I swear tasted better there.


Our meal was delicious, and we enjoyed the busy street-side energy where we were seated (note the man trying to sell flowers to us romantics).

Random bikes rode by sporadically during the meal...

And there were all variety of "souvenirs" being peddled for sale...

After dinner Tommy popped his head in on a game of chess being played nearby, and Mark joined me while I captured a night shot of a lovely nearby street.  Just wandering the beautiful streets of Rome is a not to be missed experience in and of itself.  Beautiful and so full of energy and romance.

Speaking of romance...one last shot in front of my favorite fountain.  I love the time lapse shot in a place like Rome.  The movement and energy should try to be captured, I say.

The fountain of Neptune by night.

Pantheon by night.

Anyone who has been to any major city in Italy knows that there is all sorts of random junk being peddled, and it seems to be the same items in each major city.  Some kind of splat toy, laser pointers, and these toys you shoot up into the air that glow.  Here is Megan with her laser pointer, and you can see a few local guys demonstrating their shooting glow toys...

For our final hurrah we returned to our favorite Gelateria in Rome (Cremeria Monteforte) - I believe we went there 3 times?  Seriously, this gelato was amazing.  I didn't expect something so delicious to be located right by a major tourist site (directly next to the Pantheon)...I figured all these places were off hidden on some side street only known to locals, but I kid you not this is the first place I'll go if I'm ever back in Rome!

Every flavor we tried there was amazing, but one of Megan's and my favorites was their rose flavored gelato.  It was a new and delightful experience.  My mouth is watering now.
The last night shot on my Rome-photo-bucket-list...the Trevi Fountain.  Thanks to Tommy and Megan for letting me take this from their hotel room window :)

June 15, 2013
Our day to fly home and see our little boys!  Here is my mandatory shot of the exterior of our hotel (that's me in the top right corner)...

Our re-do photos tossing a coin in to the Trevi Fountain (while it was ON this time)...

Now come on, Trevi Fountain.  We fed you an excess of coins.  Please live up to your legend and bring us back here someday!

We had an amazing vacation.  However, after being away for 15 days and then traveling for 20 hours to get home (better than our travels heading to Europe I guess though)...we were beyond happy to see Noah and Lincoln greet us with my dad at the airport!

I don't have a photo or video, but when we pulled in to our driveway my mom was sitting on our front steps with Max and I don't know if I even waited for the van to stop before I was out and running to scoop up my baby boy.  He turned 2 just one week after we got home from our trip.  I missed all three of those boys immensely, and every now and then it's probably good for a mama to feel that.

A huge shout out to my amazing husband for insisting that we finally take this trip.  I'm grateful that we had a tax refund that year that was able to cover the expenses of our trip, and that Mark convinced me to go through with the trip even when I felt foolish using that money when we could have used it elsewhere.  I don't know when else I would ever have gotten to see my beloved Elisabeth musical (one of the highlights of my trip), and heaven knows how long I've dreamt of Italy.  I will never regret taking that trip, and spending that time with my sweetheart.  While we adore our children, and we missed them so much while we were gone...it was good for us to get away and just be a couple and enjoy time together. 
Of course we also couldn't have taken this trip without our amazing parents who each spent a week at our home taking care of our three busy boys so we could have this amazing experience.  Danke, grazie, thank you!

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