Rome, Ruins and Floating People

After disappearing for a month from my blog, I’m back! Unlike some people, who travel too much to update their blog, I was actually boring and doing a mountain of school work. Fortunately, during the break week I booked an amazing trip to Italy! Our first stop was Rome, where we found a great hostel that was minutes away from the Colosseum (I finally learned how to spell that properly), Santa Maria Maggiore Church and the Monti neighbourhood, which is great for local restaurants/bars.

I took hundreds of photos during the first half of the week, only to be foiled by a super bad cold on the fourth day, which is why there are a lot less pictures from the other two cities. So without further ado, here are the highlights from our trip (the photos aren’t quite chronological since we darted back and forth between sights).

Since our hostel was close to the Colosseum, we dropped off our stuff and headed straight there. It was a really impressive site, even with all the tourists and construction around it. We came back in the evening to take a look at the lights, which were yellow that time. Apparently, the Colosseum has become the monument against capital punishment and whenever someone is pardoned from death row anywhere in the world, the lights are switched from yellow to white.

The next day, we got up early and headed up the street to Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. There’s a legend that a Roman couple wanted a sign showing them where to build a church. It began to snow in the middle of summer and they decided to build the church on that very spot, which is why the church is also known as Our Lady of Snows. We were there on Saturday and Palm Sunday, so we saw priests taking confession (which I’ve never seen before) and heaps of palm leaves being given out during mass. The church itself is very large, with several small chapels attached to the sides (containing the tombs of popes).

Our hostel had Wi-Fi, so I was able to look up how to skip the lines in the Colosseum. It turns out that if you buy tickets at Palatine Hill (a few blocks away), you visit both places without waiting in line. Our tour guide Antonio was great; he even had pictures of what the temples would have looked like in the first century so that we could really imagine what the ruins around us were. According to legend, two brothers, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf. When they grew up, Romulus killed Remus and founded the city that he named after himself. Our guide had a fun fact: the word for she-wolf is also the same as for prostitute, so the real story is a bit less savoury than the legend. The kid’s mother, a Vestal Virgin (ha!), abandoned them to avoid punishment, and they were adopted and brought up by a prostitute.

After the Palatine Hill, we made our way down to the Roman Forum, which is a mish mash of buildings and monuments from different centuries. The Forum was a place for political speeches, shopping, and trials. On our way there, we saw parrots flying around (I’m still surprised at how tropical Italy was).

Beside the Forum was a grandiose monument dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, who helped unite Italy into one nation.

Along the main streets we saw a bunch of different entertainers including gladiators and a lot of floating people (it got less impressive after the 3rd floater).

We also stopped in the Church of the Gesu, which is the “mother church” of the Jesuit order. All the Jesuit churches, especially in Latin America, are modeled after this one. What I loved about the ceilings was that the paintings “popped out” over their frames.

Finally, we  finished the day in Piazza Navona where artists and entertainers gather all day to make and sell artwork.