Monday, May 14, 2012

rome even if you don't want to

I have always said that I do not like Italy.  Whether it be the food, the fashion, the people, or the coffee, it just never appealed to me.  I decided to give this country one more try though so I flew from Athens to Rome to meet Alexis.

Unfortunately, upon my arrival, my dislike of this city seemed to be confirmed - it cost me 16 euro to simply get from the airport to the city centre!  Despite this annoyance, I grit my teeth and tried to remain positive.  After a train ride and a few stops on the metro, I emerged from the underground to find my hostel.  As I proceeded down the street, the sight of ugly Italian scarves made me cringe, but I carried on.  Finally, I arrived at the address on my directions and climbed the five flights of stairs to reach my destination.  The hostel called itself 'Happy Days Rome', but I quickly learned that this place was anything but happy.  The employees smoked like chimneys, the rooms were loud, no lockers were provided, and I heard whisperings that this place was run by the Italian mafia.  Welcome to Rome!  At this point though, I was just happy to be reunited with Alexis, and I drifted off to sleep with my pursue firmly between my knees.

The next morning I awoke to a line to oblivion for the showers - of course.  After we were finally able to use the bathrooms, Alexis and I bolted from Hostel Happy Days to begin our itinerary for the day.  Our first stop was the Vatican.  In spite of my trepidation about Italy, I will admit that I do enjoy the Vatican.  As an art history major, the priceless works by Raphael and Michelangelo that line the walls of the Museums are flooring.  We began our tour in the Museums, stopping in particular to admire the Stanze della Segnatura.  The four walls of this room are decorated by Raphael with paintings that highlight the four essential sources of knowledge: philosophy, theology, poetry, and justice.
The School of Athens
We ended our tour of the Museums in the magnificent Sistine Chapel.  I remember the first time that I visited this miraculous place.  At the time, I was completely apathetic to its' complex imagery and deep allusions.  Now, I studied the ceiling, with its' scenes from the Old and New Testament.
I also gazed at the infamous Last Judgement and considered the complexity and thought behind Michelangelo as an artist.  How could people have ever criticized this work?
After finishing in the Museums, we gladly re-emerged into the sunlight to admire the gardens.

We then returned to St. Peter's Square to get in line to enter the Basilica.  I was especially excited for this part of the tour as I anticipate my Bernini Art History seminar that I will be taking in the fall semester.  Once inside, I admired its' uncanny ability to bring light into darkness, truly creating a sense of heaven on earth. 
 Then, I found Michelangelo's Pieta marble sculpture.  I was only able to admire this creation from a distance, but I wished that I had an opportunity to view it in the round, for this is really the only way to appreciate the beauty of Renaissance sculpture.
Michelangelo's Pieta
Finally, I arrived at Bernini's Baldacchino which supposedly lies above the crypt of Saint Peter himself.  With its' swirling columns and ornate decoration, this structure exists as one of the most renowned examples of Baroque architecture.
Once we were outside again, we stopped to take photos of the Square, also designed by Bernini.  

Ultimately, I was truly glad that I had the opportunity to share this experience with Alexis because I know how much this place means to her.  

We ended our afternoon by relaxing on the Spanish Steps and taking photos at the famous Trevi Fountain.

While I certainly enjoyed our day, immersed in Roman art and Italian sunshine, I was glad that I only had one more night at Hostel Happy Days and in this city.  This short visit was enough of Italy to last me a while.  Perhaps I will consider coming back when they abolish the tourist tax...