Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roman Holiday: a castle, a mass, and a basilica (and gelato).

Our original plan for Sunday was to go to an art museum, the Galleria Borghese. However, it turns out that you have to book your tickets further in advance than the night before, because they were all sold out when we tried to buy them.

Our back-up plan was Castel Sant'Angelo, which I'll admit I had only heard of because of the book Angels and Demons.

The walk there from the closest metro stop was, I must say, pretty picturesque.

Castel Sant'Angelo was built (in the 100s, nbd) by the emperor Hadrian to be his tomb. It eventually became a Vatican fortress. There's a tunnel underneath it that goes to St. Peter's Basilica, and once when Rome was invaded, the Pope was able to escape using it.

Approaching the castle:

We spent most of our time there walking all the way around the balcony that circles the tower. Some things we saw inside were a little art gallery and a fancy library, but by far the best part of coming here were the views of Rome from the balcony.

Here's what it looks like walking around in the tower:

And what it's like looking out over the balcony:

It took me a good 5 minutes to get a picture with the flag waving. Please appreciate my efforts.

This was my favorite view!

After we walked pretty much to the other side of the tower, I was scrolling through my pictures and I realized that I didn't like the picture of me that I got with my favorite view. Some guy's arm was in it, and my hair looked bad. Catastrophic. So I made Olimpia walk back around to the other side of the tower to take this picture. Poor Olimpia. Good thing she likes me.

I'm satisfied with the result, though. Nice work, Olimpia!

Then...when we least expected it...on our way out of the castle...WE SAW VOLDEMORT.

Someone needs to look into this. Why would the Vatican be displaying Voldemort? Concerning.

We had to hurry out of Castel Sant'Angelo because we had a noon appointment with the Pope. We enjoyed our time at the Vatican on Friday so much that we had decided to come back on Sunday to get blessed by the Pope. Why not, right? He blesses the crowd in St. Peter's Square every Sunday.

Castel Sant'Angelo is right down the road from St. Peter's, so right away when we started walking in that direction we were in a big crowd of people. Pope Francis was giving (doing? saying? -what's the correct Catholic-y term here?) a mass. It was broadcast on video screens like every few hundred yards. We kept creeping our way closer to the square, and eventually we could see (without the video screens) the little open tent where Francis and his cardinal friends were hanging out.

I didn't end up taking a ton of pictures of this exciting event because it was super crowded, and I was kind of just enjoying the moment. I did get this one:

You can't see the crowd really, but you can see the video screen! We ended up getting a lot closer than that, too. But no pictures from that.

My favorite part was the singing! It sounds soooooo cool when so many thousands of people are singing in Latin together. It also kind of reminded me of the Western Wall in that everyone is so happy to be there. It was fun.

After the mass, priests (or possibly people higher ranking than that, who knows...) come all the way down the road to give people the sacrament. And yes, I realize that that's the Mormon term for it. It was exciting to see priests that had just been hanging out in the Pope's tent suddenly standing right in front of you.

I took this (semi-sacrilegious) picture. Don't worry, I wasn't actually that close. It's all about the zoom.

I'm about to get more sacrilegious. We agreed afterwards that this priest was pretty cute:

Hahaha. Oh the memories.

So after that adventure, we made an attempt to find Mormon church but were unsuccessful. I braved the crowds around the Vatican for some souvenir shopping, and then we ventured out later to see the Basilica di San Giovanni. Jenna recommended this church as one of her favorites in Rome.


Knock, knock.

It was definitely worth the visit! Now enjoy a million pictures from inside.

The amount of gold was very satisfying to me.

Right next to the basilica are the 'Scala Santa,' a staircase brought to Rome from Jerusalem. Legend says that it's the staircase that Jesus walked up at Pontius Pilate's house. The tradition is to climb it on your knees while you repent. We considered doing it, because we're weird like that, but that idea went out the window when we got there :)

By this point, it was dinner time! We headed to the Trevi Fountain area because we really liked it there. I had my second dish of Italian pasta: fettuccine alfredo. Allow me to quote Jenna in order to describe my pasta: "Now I understand why everyone always makes fun of Olive Garden."

Of course, then we needed gelato to cleanse the palette. I believe this was only our second gelato? We ate it sitting in front of the fountain. Gelato is delicious, but I've got to say that custard is way better. Gelato is better than ice cream, but custard is better than gelato. There's some more food wisdom that me and Jenna came up with.

Here's the Trevi Fountain at night! An end to another great day.

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