On Thursday morning we all headed out on the train for Rome and arrived around lunchtime. We sent the family (3 people) in a taxi to the rental apartment, while Chris and I took the bus, since we couldn't all 5 fit in a taxi. When we got off at the bus stop and walked through Piazza Navona to the apartment, we passed a couple very cute side streets with vines covering the walls, small market stalls of vegetables outside the shops, and homemade pizza eateries. The area of Rome between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon is probably my most favorite, and so when the option to rent this apartment in the heart of that area became available, I was excited to spend time there. It ended up to be a lovely place with very nice touches throughout...and we had a great time exploring a little of the smaller residential streets in this touristy area. After everyone set their bags down and freshened up a bit, we grabbed our unbrellas (as it was a little drizzly) and headed out for a walk around town.
We stopped in a pizzeria for a late lunch and then walked through the piazza and towards the Pantheon. When I knew we were nearing the last corner before the massive structure loomed before us, I turned around to watch everyone's faces as they saw the Pantheon for the first time. I love being with people around Italy who haven't been here before, or haven't seen some of the magnificent sites - because I remember what I felt like when I first saw these things. (And I'm blessed so many different days here to have that same experience over and over). The Pantheon is just so huge and indescribable to me...and everyone seemed to have a great time looking around. Even when we were about to walk outside, an group began to sing a beautiful old Mass type song, which seemed quite impromptu - but it was beautiful and we left smiling. Then we crossed the Corso towards the Trevi fountain and popped into a small church on a corner near the fountain. We continued our "walk through Rome" in the direction of Piazza della Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps. I really like this area of the city, as the buildings seem more colorful and there are palm trees that sprout up on the corners. We'd never walked up the steps, so we decided to this time and looked back down at the people and umbrellas and imagined the Cafe' Dinelli's (from my favorite movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley).
Later we took a walk across the Tiber River into the Trastevere neighborhood for our 9:15 reservations at Trattoria da Enzo. We ate here in the fall with my parents, after having it recommended by Shelley, and we loved the authenticity of the small restaurant, and the true Roman cuisine. Our table this time didn't clear up until about 9:40, but we enjoyed a good meal and watched as people were still coming in at 11:30.
On Friday morning, Chris and I got up and went to a cafe for breakfast and to a tabaccio to buy bus tickets for the family. We had to head back to Florence for work, but we marked up a map, handed the bus tickets over, gave our recommendations for the last 2 days in Rome, and said goodbye. They headed to the Vatican, and we started walking back to the train station, with a couple stops along the way. There were a couple of spots I wanted to see that we'd missed before in Rome that were on our way towards the station; the first being San Luigi dei Francesi church near Piazza Navona which houses three works by Caravaggio. It's so strange to me how you can just walk past random small chapels around the streets, and not even know that (for free) you can go right in and view some of the masterpieces of the world. We then walked towards Via Veneto and stopped in the Capuchin Crypt in a room located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. **Photos were not allowed, but Chris snuck some on his phone which he may post soon...you can also check out photos here and here**
It was so strange to see human bones used as intricate decorations in this place. Lampshades made of shoulder blades, door posts of vertebrae, crosses with arms, and even entire intact skeletons of children hanging on the ceiling. Even though this was known as an honor for your body to be used in this way during that time, it's such a stark difference to the way we treat the dead now -and almost seems irreverent. But the more I thought of it, the more I liked the idea that the bodies and bones were used in a decorative and honorary way as this, because it seems to signify even more what the church claims to believe...that the soul of a person lies somewhere else after death, and the body is just earthly material again.
I was hoping to make it to one last church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, before we left to see Bernini's sculpture, Ecstacy of St. Theresa - but unfortunately the church was closed on the mid-day break and we instead just caught our train home. Oh well, it's nice having things to see for our next trip, because it solidifies in my mind that there will be a next trip in not too long...
We talked to Chris' family yesterday and they had a great time seeing the Vatican, Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum - and they caught the flight back to the States this morning! It was great being able to see them and show everyone around, but now it's several days of recovery for us before we head to Sicily :)