In my Italian class last semester we watched the movie Caterina va in città, or Caterina in the Big City. Caterina and her family move from rural Italy into crazy and chaotic Rome. The movie is extremely dramatic, but it shows the chaos and contrast of this great city. Before I went to Italy, I hadn’t seen anything older than the most historic buildings in Boston, but Rome completely changed that. Iconic structures and ancient ruins are surrounded by cars and modern civilization, and it can be a big adjustment. Though my time in Rome last spring was short, here are the highlights from my visit.
1.) Rome at Night- We split a van service with some other people on our first night and went around to the monuments lit up at night. We saw the Vatican City right when it was starting to get dark, so the sky was a deep blue, and this tiny country looked incredible. We continued on to the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, The Wedding Cake, and the Spanish Steps among others. They weren’t quite as crowded at night either, so it was a good way to see all these major landmarks for the first time.
2.) The Vatican City- During our stay we saw both the Sistene Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Michaelangelo’s fresco in the chapel is spectacular, and this iconic image of the Last Judgment takes time to really observe and take in. St. Peter’s Basilica is gigantic: there are markers in the floor to show how long other churches from around the world are in comparison, and none of them stand up to the size of St. Peter’s. There’s also a gift shop within the city, and you can send mail from The Vatican City here.
3.) Piazza Navona and Tartufo- After going to the Colosseum, we stopped for lunch around Piazza Navona and then got tartufo, an odd-looking, chocolate ice cream blob that’s creamy, indulgent and incredible. A short walk away from Piazza Navona there are lots of great churches filled with art by Caravaggio and Michelangelo .
4.) Colosseum- We went into the Colosseum one day, and it was completely worth it. It’s been stripped down to its skeleton from what it would have been when it was used in ancient Rome, but seeing the inside is truly something else. Because the stage is no longer there, the tunnels and passageways they would have used to transport gladiators and lions into the coliseum are visible.
5.) Churches- Everywhere we went in Italy, the churches we saw were truly incredible–simple churches which you find off of a small street are beautiful inside and filled with great art. As I mentioned above, Rome is filled with churches, from St. Peter’s Basilica to the slightly macabre Bone Church, or the Capuchin Crypt in which these monks made artwork and decorations out of the bones of the deceased monks, Rome has it all. Some other great churches we visited are The Pantheon, Santo Luigi, San Luigi Dei Francesi, and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
The Pantheon is one of the few pagan monuments left relatively intact as it was Christianized and became a church very early on. The ceiling is incredible, and people like Raphael are buried here. San Luigi is home to painting of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio, and Santa Maria houses both a Michelangelo sculpture and in front of its entrance stands an obelisk from the Temple of Isis.