Viva Italia! Part II: More Rome

The Phoenix song “Rome” for day two of Mink and Fox’s Roma adventure, because they are brilliant:

We awoke early, scarfed down our adorable breakfast provided by the Shiva Bed and Breakfast owner (adorable herself, might I add), slathered ourselves in SPF 35, stocked up on water, and set off into the already sweltering morning.

Day two began with a tour of the Colosseum, for which we had fortunately reserved tickets beforehand – Mink and I aren’t much for planning our trips, but this was one thing we wanted to do for sure, and knew that the line would be horrendous for it. Sure enough, we strolled right through the gates with our prepaid tickets, blithely passing by a line that would have entailed at least three hours of waiting.

And, just like that, walking under a simple arch, we were in one of the most impressive structures on the planet.

As we didn’t much feel like taking an organized tour, we made our own way through the Colosseum, pausing to read the information posted or slipping easily into English-speaking tour groups from time to time.

The magic existed in the small details as much as in trying to understand the breath-taking scope of the Colosseum in its entirety.

We mostly attempted to take everything in – the sheer age of the walls we touched and the floors we walked on; the fact that anything human-made is capable of withstanding time like this, despite the frailty of the individual bodies that originally constructed it – the entire concept astounds me.

Of course, there was a lot of discussion about where Russell Crowe sleeps and fights in the Colosseum, based on that wonderfully accurate documentary, Gladiator.

Some Roman building blocks:

The view of the Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum, which is much bigger from the ground up:

Next, we did some more wandering around the city. Saw some piazzas, and walked up the Spanish Steps.

There is a fountain at the bottom, where people and pigeons alike were drinking out of the taps (ew),

and a church at the top.

After a quick stop into H&M for some neon nail polish and feather earrings (when in… Rome?), we walked to another country: Vatican City!

The photo I took of St. Peter’s Basilica doesn’t really do it justice, and there are a bunch of sweaty people and tiny cars in front of it, so here’s a different one:

The pope was very pleased to see us!

I must say, they really love ol’ John Paul II there – there were huge posters of every year of his 30-year papacy, and everyone was devastated when he died in 2005 (we saw this in Krakow as well, of course).

Snapped a photo of some other dudes just popin’ around:

And then, Mink and I decided that we would hop on in to the Basilica and waited in line for half an hour eagerly, not even considering our fatal sartorial choices we had made earlier that day. As it was a hot day in July, we were both wearing shorts and tank tops – all well and good, until we tried to get into the holy building. We were turned away at the doors for not being appropriately attired.

Awkward.

We sat by the gate for a while, commiserating with other women who were turned away and not wanting to leave to buy scarves to cover up and then wait in line all over again. A small man with a backpack sidled up to us, offering four scarves for 20 euros (we needed two each, one for the shoulders and one to wrap around the waist as a makeshift sarong). We decided to haggle a bit, and he went down to 16 euros, but I rejected his offer and countered with 10 euros for all four. He walked away, miffed, but then returned and agreed. I felt pretty badass as the deal went down. Our vendor surreptitiously handed me one bunched-up scarf at a time, which I stuffed into my purse, and then I shoved the tenner into his hand and he scuttled away.

So, we had four of the same ugly scarf, in which we swathed our bodies. It was hilarious when an American girl dressed the same way made her partner take photos of her posing with us. Despite the humiliation of looking like complete idiots in Vatican City, we were waved in without a second look. Apparently women’s naked shoulders and knees are offensive, but hideous tourist-trap scarves that say Roma and smell like a factory are fine. Success!

And the inside was incredible, and totally worth the wait and the trouble, even though we got a lot of smirks.

We tried to see the Sistine Chapel afterward, but it was closed by the time we’d sorted out the Basilicia debacle and it wasn’t open on Sundays. Peter was in Rome the week after us and said it was amazing, so there is my excuse to go back to Rome some day. Can’t let Michaelangelo down, after all.

The soft Italian night was filled with more rich pasta and homemade red wine at a local restaurant, and then wonderful, wonderful sleep.

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