Written on October 28th, 2018
Published on February 2nd, 2019
On October 13th, Kelly and I woke up very early to make our way to the airport to head to Italy! We took the whole week off and traveled all around Italy, so they’ll be plenty more posts about this trip!
Normally we fly out of Charles de Gaulle or Orly, but when I booked the tickets for this trip, I saw some pretty cheap flights out of Paris Beauvais airport. It turns out Paris Beauvais airport is not in Paris, and it’s not particularly close to Paris either – from our apartment in Paris, it’s almost 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) away! Luckily, our flight was relatively early and it was a Saturday, so there wasn’t much traffic. There is a bus from Paris to the airport (which you have to pay for separately), so we took an Uber to the bus, and then the bus to the airport. Once we got to the airport though, everything was fine and we were able to get onto our plane no problem. So travel tip – if you’re traveling to Paris, you might want to avoid Paris Beauvais unless the prices are really cheap (and you have enough time in your schedule to travel to/from the airport). Here’s a picture from the Swiss/Italy border!
Our first stop was Rome, which (according to legend) was founded in 753 BC. Romulus and Remus were twins who were raised by a she-wolf. Romulus and Remus founded a city, but after an argument, Romulus killed Remus, and the city became Rome. However, there is actually archaeological evidence that humans have lived in present day Rome for the past 14,000 years, and that in the eighth century BC, a number of smaller towns were connected to each other, and that this could be considered the founding of Rome.
Since we didn’t have a lot of time in Rome, we booked everything we could in advance, and with a very tight schedule. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and went over to the Vatican Museum. Since we had timed entry tickets, we got to skip the very long line and go right in, and right away, you’re surrounded by amazing art. Roman statues, Egyptian works of art and a beautifully decorated sarcophagus, and many paintings and tile murals. One side note – in the 1800’s, Napoleon’s forces took many pieces of art that had been in the Vatican Museum and brought them to Paris!
But of course the main attraction in the Vatican is the Sistine Chapel. On the path they laid out through the museum, you could really only go in one direction, and as we got closer to the Sistine Chapel, everything got more and more crowded, and we soon realized why. The hallway keeps narrowing to the point that barely two people could stand next to each other – meanwhile large tour groups and other people were all trying to go to the same place. It also started to get really hot – lots of people and very little ventilation – I can only imagine what it would be like during the summer!
After the narrow hallways though, we finally got to the Sistine Chapel. I hadn’t really seen many pictures of it before, and one of the reasons I hadn’t is probably because they don’t let people take pictures inside the Chapel (the pictures below are from the Vatican Museum website, here). Either way – I didn’t know exactly what to expect, I had just known that it was painted by Michelangelo. I’ll put it this way – it’s very overwhelming. All the walls and the entire ceiling are completely covered in incredibly detailed frescoes (paintings). If you took the time to really take in all of it, you’d probably need a few hours and a very tall ladder. The ceiling is high above you, and there are so many different scenes depicted in it. The paintings all have a lot of blue in them as well, which makes it appear as though you are looking into the sky. It’s an amazing, albeit disorienting room.
We then got some lunch at the Vatican (it was now close to 2:30 pm and we hadn’t eaten since 8 am at the airport), walked around one of the courtyards, and the walked around to Saint Peter’s Basilica. I knew Michelangelo was an amazing sculptor and painter, but I had no idea that he also helped to design Saint Peter’s. We didn’t have time to go into Saint Peter’s though, as the line was quite long, and we had to get to our next stop – the Colosseum!
After a quick metro ride, we were at the Colosseum – it’s a massive structure, on the scale of modern stadiums – it is estimated that it could hold 50,000 to 80,000 people (it takes up 6 acres!). At almost 2000 years old, it is in remarkably good shape. I hadn’t realized before, but the Colosseum is not round, it’s oval shaped. It’s of course known for the gladiatorial shows, where gladiators would battle animals and other gladiators. Back then, gladiators were basically rock stars/celebrities (called gladiators because they would often use a sword known as a gladius). One other interesting point – if a gladiator fell in battle, the audience would ‘help’ decide if they should live or die. There is apparently some debate about this, but it seems if the audience member thought they fought valiantly and deserved to live, they would conceal their thumb and put their arm out; if they wanted the gladiator to die, they would put their thumb up and wave their arm in a slashing motion.
The Colosseum was also used for other events as well – when people were condemned to death, they would sometimes be thrown into the middle of the Colosseum, completely naked, and animals were released to eat them alive. The Colosseum also had trap doors in the floor with elevators where things could be lifted onto the Colosseum floor – these 24-28 elevators were used to lift decorations and animals onto the floor.
After the Colosseum, we walked around the Roman Forum. This is where the market and some of the government buildings (including the Senate) were in ancient Rome.
We made our way back to the hotel, and then went out to get dinner at the Trevi Fountain. Even though it’s not peak tourist season, the fountain was stilled packed with people.
We ended up having dinner at a great Italian restaurant, and set next to a nice young couple who lived just outside of London. A very successful start to our trip!
PS – apparently we just missed a freak rain/hail storm in Rome – guess we got lucky and picked the right days to travel!