This September, I had a chance to go around Italy: Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Florence, Pisa and Venice. I only manage to review the photos now and will start writing the “What I did…” series. First destination: Rome and Vatican City!
1. Explore the Coliseum
Coliseum is a huge stadium. One cannot but be amazed by the sheer size of it, the fact that its still standing after so many years and the reason for its existence. Everybody – citizen of all class – are allowed in to enjoy shows. An Italian tour guide mentioned an Italian phrase ‘bread and circus’. Romans know how to enjoy themselves. They understand entertainment. I can envision criminals fighting wild animals for a chance of freedom. Gladiators putting their life at risk for money and glory. Oh, this place emits such intense energy and display such great history!
2. See the Pantheon
I vaguely remember reading about in ‘Sejarah Dunia’ or somewhere else. What make this structure an architectural success is its unsupported dome. After 2000 years, this Pantheon is still the building with the largest dome which stand on it’s own. I stood in the middle of the pantheon, look up and admire how Romans back then, without the technology now, manage to build such a colossal and perfect structure. Naturally we took a lot of photos of the dome! It is also where Rafael is laid after his death.
3. Roman Forum
Roman forum is like a park, where people meet and discuss about everything including politics. Naturally it’s situated at a prime location – near Capitoline Hill where palaces are built and the coliseum. Oh, this is by Michelangelo’s design. He’s truly a genius! And I admire him not because of his natural talent, but his dedication. He once said that people wouldn’t be amazed if they see the hardwork behind his mastery.
Ah, the forum is like a valley. There are plenty of places you can get a good photo with it including the Capitoline Museum…
4. Capitolini Museum
I’m a big fan of museums, though I know many who aren’t. So I shall not bore you with uninteresting facts. But I do feel this is a must-visit. You have to see the Capitoline Wolf – a figure of Remus and Romulus drinking milk from a she-wolf. Legends says that Rome is founded by these twins. A local tour guide told me that the she-wolf euphemism for a prostitute. So do not look down on sex workers, they might raise Kings!
5. Pretend to have an audience with the Pope
If you’re a devout Catholic or just like to see the Pope, it is possible on one weekday. I would have like that but we wouldn’t be in Rome at that time. So all we can do it be at the space where the Pope give his talk to million of followers.
6. Pray at St.Peter’s Basilica
I had my longest and most serious prayer at St.Peter Basilica. Despite the fact that it’s a tourist attraction, I can feel the solemnity and peace. I sat and pray for what I think could be half an hour. Quite conflicted in my faith – to believe and yet embrace other religions – I prayed for wisdom.
I feel that even if one is not Catholic, it’s a beautiful experience to sit down and connect with a higher being. Which is why I wasn’t particularly happy that a guard did not allow a man in turban to go into a prayer room. Religion has the ability to make some people irrational or intolerant.
7. Visit the Sistine Chapel
One of Michelangelo’s best work. I look for a seat and admired it for many minutes. This artwork a testament of faith and hardwork. This is also the place where my favourite story took place. Michelangelo took a long time to paint something of little significance. Someone asked him why he even bother since nobody can see. He answered “God can see”. Aww. Now you know why I like this guy!
Ah, no photos are allowed and the guards are very strict on this. But the Boyfan somehow managed to snap one. When he showed me, I didn’t know if I should praise or reprimand him!
8. Lookout for handsome guards
I haven’t been around the world, but I have been to a handful of countries to make this statement: Turkish and Italian men are probably the smoothest men in the world. Bestowed with good looks, men from these countries are incredibly charming. They smile, wink, gaze and compliment. I’ve never felt so delicate in other countries – they walk me to the ladies and hold me when I walk down the stairs amongst other things. Oh, and I can’t help but notice that guards at Vatican City can pass as underwear models!
9. Piazza Navona (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi + Egyptian Obelisk)
It seems that each European city has a ‘square’ or piazza. Here, we saw fountain of the four rivers and an obelisk. Wikipedia told me that Angel & Demons were filmed here. Sigh, if only I have time to reread that and The Da Vinci code my trip will be much more meaningful!
10. Devour Italian food!
Tip: never eat at a piazza. If you wan’t view, you have to sacrifice taste and money. So we seek Foursquare’s help and walked to a narrow alley for pizza, pasta, bruchetta, wine and gelato!
Throughout our trip, we had a lot of pizza and pasta, tried all types of gelato and side dishes. My favourite is margherita pizza and caprese. Tomatoes were so fresh; they tasted amazing though simply with fresh basil, mozzarella and olive oil!
This trip is entertaining and educational. The (ancient) Roman’s intelligence, skills and faith overwhelmed me. I admire their belief in democracy and paid little emphasis on class system as compared to other civilisations. Oh, they know how to have fun too!
Note to self: Must see the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain next. The latter was on construction, how unfortunate!