Bongiorno from the Eternal City! I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Rome, so I’ll reserve judgement about how much I like it until I have more to base it on. Suffice it to say, I’ve enjoyed my first day and a half, and I have a feeling it will only get better from here.
Yesterday can be recapped quickly, so I’ll start there. I took a very late flight on Friday night (nonstop on Norwegian air; my first time flying with them and it won’t be my favorite airline, but it got me here in one piece) and spent a couple of hours getting to my hotel and unpacking. My hotel is lovely, but my room was very small and lacked any space to comfortably use my laptop (where am I supposed to type my blog posts?!). I mentioned it at the front desk and came back later to discover they could move me to a larger room (with a desk) today. I decided to walk to the Vatican yesterday to pick up my ticket for the Papal Mass, but it was a long walk and I ended up cabbing it back to my hotel. While at the Vatican, I walked around in St. Peter’s Basilica for a few minutes and stopped in the souvenir shop. I ate my first Italian dinner in a quaint little restaurant across from my hotel last night.
Today, the obvious highlight was attending the Palm Sunday Papal Mass at St. Peter’s Square. I got there early and was near the front of the line to get in, which meant I had a pretty good view of the mass and a front row seat as the pope passed by in his popemobile. The square was decorated with palms and there were piles of palms to take on the way in. The mass itself was almost entirely in Italian, so I didn’t understand much. The best part of being there was seeing the pope as he drove through the crowds (about 50,000 people) in his popemobile after the benediction. It was probably a once in a lifetime experience.
I walked from the Vatican to Villa Borghese, home of Galleria Borghese, one of Rome’s many art museums. Along the way I stopped for a mini ham and cheese sandwich, cannolini, and hot chocolate. The Borghese has it down in terms of making a visit as pleasant as possible. You pre-book tickets for a 2 hour time slot, and you show up at the appointed time along with 359 other people who were also lucky enough to snag tickets. I opted for an audio guide since I’m not much of an art person and knew I wouldn’t appreciate it much without some background knowledge. I would liken the gallery to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in that it had many small rooms with laminated guides you could pick up to learn more about the artwork. The audio guide hit the highlights, but I had a hard time listening through some of the commentary. My new mantra while in Rome is “look up” because the ceilings contained the most amazing artwork in the gallery (in my opinion)!
I continued to look up at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria where I stopped after leaving the museum. The main attraction at this church is Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa”, but the ceilings were equally impressive. I was also surprised to discover the church contains the preserved remains of St. Vittoria. They are in a glass case in one of the side chapels. A quick stop at my hotel (my new room is more spacious and has a desk, but is very dimly lit – I guess you can’t have it all), and I was off to Enoteca Barberini for dinner, where I enjoyed a Quattro formaggi pizza (good, but I felt like I could have gotten the same thing at home) and a glass of Prosecco. To finish off the night, I found a local gelateria for two scoops of gelato (one milk chocolate and one white chocolate – yum!). I’m hoping to catch up on sleep tonight and then tomorrow I’m off to explore ancient Rome!