We chose to travel to Italy, Spain and France with my parents for our twenty-fifth anniversary. During our stay in Rome, we chose a hotel not far from St. Peter’s Square, The Leonardo DaVinci Jolly Hotel. The hotel offered small rooms, but clean and decently appointed. It also boasted a very nice restaurant with a delicious Italian breakfast buffet included and a bar at night. We liked that there were many local cafes within walking distance, and we were also able to walk to St. Peter’s Square. We didn’t see any children at the hotel itself.
When in Rome, you must see the Vatican Museum. The Vatican’s priceless treasures are vast. The Vatican’s museum boasts Greek and Roman sculptures, Medieval European tapestries, paintings of the masters, and of course, Michael Angelo’s paintings of the Sistine Chapel, and his statue, the “Pieta”. The Sistine Chapel is painted not just on the ceiling, but on the walls, so there is no solid wall. Therefore, there is no solid ground for your eyes to give you a bearing. It’s impossible not to get lost completely in the art. There is no talking in the Sistine Chapel and a priest is always present to remind the crowd with a stern, “Silencio!” After the awe inspiring museum and Sistine Chapel, we continued into St. Peter’s Basilica. The basilica itself is enormous with smaller chapels along each side. The first chapel on the right holds Michael Angelo’s “Pieta”.
I did not expect my reaction to the Pieta. It’s a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus. I am not a mother, nor will I ever be, so I didn’t think it would affect me at all, but it did. Perhaps because I trained as a classical singer and I love music and art, and have an understanding of artistic expression. Perhaps, the “Pieta” is the closest I’ll ever get to artistic perfection. Every muscle in Jesus’ body, every fold of Mary’s robe was so life-like. The statue emanated heartrending grief. I can’t quite describe what came over me except that I was overwhelmed. I had to sit down in one of the pews and have a good cry. Jim was thoroughly confused by this, of course. My parents were with us, and my mother understood. She just smiled and told my husband to give me a moment. We would very much like to go to the Vatican museum again and spend more time. While we were there, it was crowded, so we paid to “skip the line” and do a tour. It was worth the price since lines extended all the way around the walls of Vatican City.
In addition to the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basillica, we also visited the church of St. Mary Major and Trevi Fountain. We did not have time, but on our next visit, will also visit St. John Latern, the residence of the pope before the Vatican was built. These are only a few of the many old churches in Rome worth visiting. Even if you are not religious, (Jim is not Catholic) the churches are worth visiting for the architecture and the priceless art works they hold. Just be aware that in Rome, it is not custom to go into the churches without having shoulders covered or in short shorts. Jim wore golf shirts and I wore sun dresses and carried a pashmina shawl with me at all times. At some churches, a priest will be present to monitor visitors. If shoulders are showing, you’ll be asked to cover with a paper shawl, girls and guys both. There was a box of paper shawls at the entrance to most of the churches.
Besides the Vatican museum and historic churches, you’ll want to visit Palatine Hill, the Colessum and Forum. When we visited, we went to the Colusseum first, and walked all the way around reading everything we could and viewing the artifacts. Then we walked through the Forum, where the Romans had their political gatherings. Then we climbed Palatine Hill which is terraced. There are ruins all the way up the hill, much of which archiologists believe was housing and shops for the higher ranking government officials of ancient Rome. On the top of Palatine Hill are the ruins of the Emperor’s palace. There is a small museum which encloses some of the palace ruins. The museum offers not only information about the palace, but a history of the people who have lived in the Eternal City through the ages, and is well worth visiting. You can easily spend most of a day at the Colusseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. We found it exciting that there was an active excavation of the hill while we were there.
We also had the most entrancing evening at an 1890s Puccini era opera house. The opera house puts on dinner shows. Jim was worried that it would be low level like some of the dinner shows in Orlando, but it was not. We had a choice of regular seats on the floor and small buffet of pasta for 35 Euros per person or our own private box seats with a four course dinner for 70 Euros per person. Since it was our 25th anniversary trip, we opted for the box seats. We were treated to a luscious dinner with wonderful canapes of cheese, octopus, and pastries of meat, then two kinds of pasta, salad and a desert sampler. We split a bottle of wine as we listened to a concert of Italian opera from Mozart, Verdi and Puccini in period clothing. I am a classically trained singer, so I know what I’m listening to and have sung some of the arias. I had to admit that the voices were incredible. The singers and the instrumental combo that accompanied them were fantastic. I nearly floated back to the hotel room afterward. Mom and Dad had chosen to do their own thing, as they are not opera lovers. I told them they really missed it! There is always opera in Rome, so get on the internet or ask the hotel where you are staying to find out what is available as opera performances will vary by season.
In addition to history and opera, Rome boasts incredible food. I loved that we didn’t see big chain restaurants. Restaurants in Rome are small family run affairs where people take pride in making food from scratch. Pizza, paninis, pasta were available on every corner for lunch. Dinner was usually pasta, but I had roast lamb one night that was incredible as well. I can honestly way we didn’t have even one bad meal in Rome. Mom didn’t find a gelato shop she didn’t want to try either. She ate gelato every day, sometimes more than once a day. Interestingly enough, I am normally dairy and gluten free. In Rome, however, I ate everything and I was okay. From what I could find in research, it seems as if the wheat and dairy are both processed differently in Europe than it is here in the United States. I only know for certain that I loved every bite I ate in the Eternal City. The average lunch of pizza or paninnis cost us between 10 and 15 Euros. Dinner cost on average 20 Euros. Not that much more than here in the United States.
I would recommend travelling to Rome in the Fall or Spring. We went in July, which is high season for Rome. That meant that we paid more for plane tickets and hotels. It was also hot. By hot, I mean Florida hot. It was 95 degrees most days. As I am a teacher, we didn’t have much of a choice but to travel in July, but if you have the option to travel another time, it would be advisable. Rome is definitely worth visiting and for us, it is a definite do again. I made sure to throw a coin in Trevi Fountain just to make sure.