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Our final whole day in Rome, we had decided to go for some real sightseeing. I worked like a hero (read: idiot) all week before traveling, and four hours before departure I started booking (!) guided tours. First of all: For God´s sake, order in advance if you want to go sightseeing in Rome! You will skip all the lines, and be sure to have a proper guide to teach you all there is to know rather than a street selling one with minimal knowledge. Most of the tours were of course full, but one company delivered: Walks of Italy. I would recommend them to anyone, and here´s a thousand reasons why:
We chose the Rome in a Day Tour, which struck me as a little expensive, but when I saw - and later experienced - everything included, it was no question. We were to meet at the Colosseum at nine o´clock. We startet off by exploring the first and second level of the almost 2000 year old monument originally called Flavia Amphitheater. We were given headsets so that we could hear the guide just fine through the whole day. Perfect for me while wandering off to photograph ! Perfect for everyone really, due to the noise and masses. Our guide for the first part of the day was this tiny, super informative and witty lady called Rose, who represented herself as a true Roman, because her family have lived in Rome for more than seven generations. Even W, who seems to know all there is to know about ancient history, learned loads of new stuff. While looking at this great historic wonder, she told us all about what was going on there during ancient Rome: Gladiators, prisoners fighting each other or wild animals, and even one time where they filled the whole structure with water and watched a naval battle. Can you imagine?
We walked on through ancient Rome, passing the Forum which used to be a great market place, and past Piazza Venezia / The Wedding Cake. As we walked she talked constantly, not in an annoying way but sharing fun facts and interesting things. I noticed the letters S.P.Q.R. carved in everywhere: Rose told us that this was common during ancient Rome, and stood for Senatus Populusque Romanus, translated "The Senate and People of Rome." She explained that even though ancient Rome were barbaric in some ways, they were a proud democracy. The Colosseum were to the people, and food and show was provided by the senators to gain political favor.
Our next stop was the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. As I told you, the Trevi Fountain is under construction just now, but true to the tradition, I tossed a coin in anyway, wishing for my next trip to Rome. For the first time, we saw Pantheon on the inside. Pantheon were first built by emperor Hadrian 120 years AD, but since ruined and restored during Medieval times, the renessanse etc. We were told that Rome is like a lasagna, with layers of history on top of each other; every time they dig, they find a little piece of history. The Pantheon has a huge dome with a hole in the top, and the sunlight illuminates the inside art in a surreal way. Different artists and kings are buried inside, including Rafael, the painter who among other things did all four walls of the Vatican library.
We were assigned a new guide, as though I unfortunately can´t remember the name of, were just as informative as the last one. She had a masters degree in history, which impressively enough opened my history-student-to-be-husband´s ears even more up for more information. I on the other hand, were exhausted, and though I had a wonderful time can´t remember half the stuff we heard while in the Vatican Museums. Luckily for me, the Vatican Museums consists of over 7 miles of art in 54 different galleries, so even though my head was full of information, the art was stunning! To mention some, both DaVinci´s St. Jerome in the wilderness and loads of Rafaels works are displayed there. I looked at his The School of Athens forever! Even though we just walked 1,5 of the 7 miles possible, it was art overload. Every single wall was covered with art: Paintings, map tapestries, statues - even the ceilings were glorious !
And after two hours of the honestly most beautiful museum I´ve ever been to, it was time for the grand finale: The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo´s masterpiece and life work has two parts: The ceiling from 1508-1512, and The Last Judgement by the alter from 1534-1541. It is common knowledge that Michelangelo was a true artist, but he was also a rough edged, bitter man. When the Pope told him to paint clothes on them, he told him that he could finish the masterpiece himself. (After his death they painted over the genitals anyways, and since then rubbed it off yet again - that´s why some have clothes and some not). In the ceiling he has hidden different insults to the Pope and papal state, and in The Last Judgement it´s not even that hidden, for example in the angel showing a demonic sign just where the Pope was to enter. He´s also painted himself as a tired corpse. By the time he was finished, he was almost blind and could only see shades, so no wonder the last piece is even darker than the first. It is said that a reason for him painting it at all was to overcome his rival Rafael.
Unfortunately, when in the Sistine Chapel needed restoration in the 80´s, the Vatican claimed they could not afford it, and a Japanese television company paid the bill. They now have a copyright on photography, and so I was not allowed to photograph inside the chapel. I can´t imagine I say this, but it did´t matter - the sight was enough. All the art was too much to prossess, and so I just walked slowly through, gazing up and around, not saying a word. The day tour was over at five o´clock in the afternoon. After walking and learning so much for over seven hours, me and my husband sat down on a nearby café to talk. To prosess everything the day had offered, before heading back to our hotel.
And there, (almost) a thousand reasons to order a tour with Walks of Italy. They are welcoming, helpful, witty and really know their stuff. I will not hesitate to order them when visiting another major city in Italy. It was in many ways the most memorable day we had in that beautiful city.