Rome, Italy – Hotel Danilo

When you are in Rome, if you don’t mind not having the amenities of a typical mainstream hotel, you should think about staying at this bed and breakfast in the Trastevere district (across the river from the ancient center of Rome).

Hotel Danilo is a little bed and breakfast housed in 2 separate (across-the-hall-from-each-other) apartment units in the same building.

Our room was across-the-hall from the main unit, at the end of the apartment unit. It has 3 twin beds in it (but they pushed 2 together for our king size bed). And the bathroom was *technically* across a hallway and not connected, but it was private, which was nice.

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our view:

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The bathroom : really hot water in the shower which was lovely ….

looking across to our room from the bathroom doorway

and our keys….. 4 of them.

One for the street-level door. One for the apartment building. One for the apartment unit. One for our bedroom door.

Slightly elaborate, but totally cute. Very DIY vs those interchangable credit-card sized “keys” at hotels.

As long as you KNOW you’re not going to get the same amenities as at a hotel (no room service, the breakfast isn’t served until 830a so if you leave before that you’re out of luck, no 24 hour checkin desk), this is a great deal …

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Continuing our night walk through Rome on our last night in the city …

From the Pantheon, we continued through the narrow streets … looking for the Trevi Fountain.

You can hear it before you see it. ….  You can hear you’re getting close to a crowd of some kind, and … is that water I hear?

Then you turn the corner and see ….

From Rick Steves:

The Trevi Fountain shows how Rome took full advantage of the abundance of water brought into the city by its great aqueducts. This watery Baroque avalanche was completed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, hired by a pope who was celebrating the reopening of the ancient aqueduct that powers it. Salvi used the palace behind the fountain as a theatrical backdrop for the figure of “Ocean,” who represents water in every form. The statue surfs through his wet kingdom – with water gushing from 24 spouts and tumbling over 30 different kinds of plants – while Triton blows his conch shell.

From Rick Steves:

The magic of the square is enhanced by the fact that no streets directly approach it. You can hear the excitement as you approach, and then – bam! – you’re there. The scene is always lively, with lucky Romeos clutching dates while unlucky ones clutch beers. Romantics toss a coin over their shoulder thinking it will give them a wish and assure their return to Rome.

OK. I know that sounds a little silly and superstitious. … but Rick Steves always does it – so Andrew and I did too. We can’t WAIT to go back!

For dinner, we decided to actually open up the guidebook to the ‘eating’ section and find something a little bit nicer for our last dinner ….

and we came upon Ristorante Pizzeria Sacro e Profano (Sacred and Profane). This restaurant fills an old church with some fun and a bit exotic dishes.

Ahi-wrapped Zucchini (appetizer)

Grilled veggies

(Amy’s) shells in meat sauce (it was REALLY rich mmmm ….. )

(Andrew’s) Wild Boar (with asparagus covered in cheese on the side)

Well worth our little splurge :)  …. such a great way to end our trip. We probably should have eaten inside (it was pretty cold), but still the BEST. One of my favorite meals on the trip.

The end of the last night.

We walked back through Rome to our bed and breakfast, and fell asleep with the alarm set for something atrocious like 6am.

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After our LONG afternoon in the Vatican city, Andrew and I just had one more evening to live it up in Rome before heading home early early Saturday morning.

So heart-breaking. I really love Rome ….

Rick Steves has a ‘Night Walk’ across Rome in his guidebook that we *kind of* followed …

It was nice to have that guidance of where everything was in relation to everything else and have the path basically set up, but we didn’t really do *everything* on the walk …

But, we left the Vatican city and walked back across the bridge to Rome-proper just at sunset …. look at this beautiful light!

The first major stop on our night walk : Piazza Navona. You might recognize this as the final location in Angels and Demons for the cardinals. I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but that is the fountain in the movie.

From Rick Steves:

Rome’s most interesting night scene features street music, artists, fire eaters, local Casanovas, ice cream, fountains by Bernini, and outdoor cafe’s.

This oblong square retains the shape of the original racetrack that was built by the emperor Domitian. Since ancient times, the square has been a center of Roman life. In the 1800s, the city would flood the squre to cool off the neighborhood.

The Four Rivers Fountain in the center is the most famous fountain by the man who remade Rome in Baroque style, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Four burly river gods (representing the four continents that were known in 1650) support an Egyptian obelisk that once stood on the ancient Appian Way. The water of the world gushes everywhere. The Nile has his head covered, since the headwaters were unknown then. The Ganges holds an oar. The Danube turns to admire the obelisk, which Bernini had moved here from a stadium on the Appian Way. And the Rio de la Plata from Uruguay tumbles backward in shock (wondering how he ever made the top 4). Bernini enlivens the fountain with horses plunging through the rocks and exotic flora and fauna from these newly discovered lands.

The next stop on our night walk …. the Pantheon

really different being there at night …. kind of a different crowd …

We were tired, but we were trying to really really enjoy every last second we could possibly stay awake ….

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Part 2. Because this place is so.darn.big.

looking up into the dome.

In the image below … if you look carefully, in the middle of the circular part there is a bird with wings outstretched.

From Rick Steves:

Bernini’s dove window shines above the smaller front altar, used for everyday services. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a six-foot high dove, pours sunlight onto the faithful through the alabaster window, turning into artificial rays of gold and reflecting off swirling gold clouds, angels, and winged babies. During a service, real sunlight passes through real clouds of incense, mingling with Bernini’s sculpture. This is the epitome of Baroque – an ornate, mixed-media work designed to overwhelm the viewer.

Beneath the dove is the centerpiece of this structure, the so-called “Throne of Peter,” an oak chair built in medieval times for a king. Subsequently, it was encrusted with tradition and encased in bronze by Bernini as a symbol of papal authority. Statues of four early Church Fathers support the chair, a symbol of how bishops should support the pope in troubled times.

Below is the statue of St. Peter, the ‘first pope’ and of course the man this church is named after:

From Rick Steves:

Back in the nave sits a bronze statue of Peter under a canopy. This is one of a handful of pieces of art that was in the earlier church. In one hand he holds the keys, the symbol of authority given him by Christ, while with the other hand he blesses us. He’s wearing the toga of a Roman senator. It may be that the original statue was of a senator and that the bushy bead and keys were added later to make it Peter. His big right toe has been worn smooth by the lips of pilgrims.

There was a big crowd and line of people waiting to touch Peter’s toe.

A sweet tiny nun changing the flowers at an altar ….

St. Sebastian. Kinda cool. Kinda gross. Check out his red Pope slippers …

in the photo below, look at the people in the very bottom of the image and just *imagine* the size of this place …

A final look at the Pieta as we head out ….

The floor had all these markers like this, showing where various other international churches would come to if that church was placed INSIDE St. Peter’s  …. below is the marker for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

And finally, a look at St. Peter’s square …. just before sunset …

Lovely, yes?

Just one more evening left in the eternal city ….

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Again : awe-inspiring.

I know I keep saying that.

But, for reals y’all

We walked around the corner from the Sistine Chapel and stopped for a bit in the atrium. No tour guides were allowed inside the church, so Jimmy stopped basically just outside the door to prepare us for what we were about to see … and then we said goodbye (sad)!

But, then we still had the whole of St. Peter’s Basilica to explore. AND we were getting to skip the WHOLE big line out in St. Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s Basilica is not only HUGE but has some big significances for Catholics (and any Christians, really). ….

From Rick Steves:

Nearly 2000 year ago, this area was the site of Nero’s Circus – a huge, cigar-shaped Roman chariot racecourse. Romans had no marching bands, so for halftime entertainment they killed Christians. This persecuted minority was forced to fight wild animals and gladiators, or they were simply crucified. Some were tarred up, tied to posts, and burned – human torches to light up the evening races.

One of those killed here, in about AD 65, was Peter, Jesus’ right hand man, who had come to Rome to spread the message of live. At his own request, Peter was crucified upside-down, because he felt unworthy to die as his master had. His remains were buried in a nearby cemetery located where the main altar in St. Peter’s is today. For 250 years these relics were quietly and secretly revered.

Peter was considered the first pope, and the main church for Christianity (once it was legalized) was built on the site of Peter’s martyrdom … until about 1506 with “Old St. Peter’s” was falling apart and not really worthy to be the center of Western religion ….

rebuilt into what we’re going to see now …

(note: I really am not up on my Catholic history, and he IS a Lutheran, but I heard on a Rick Steves podcast once that one of the subtle political reasons the Catholic church don’t let their priests marry is to ensure that all their money (the priests’) when they die is left to the Church. Just think about that when you’re looking at these pics)

The atrium (pictured below) from Rick Steves:

The atrium is itself bigger than most churches. The huge white columns on the portico date from the first church (fourth century). Five famous bronze doors lead into the church.

Made from the melted-down bronze of the original door of old St. Peter’s, the central door was the first Renaissance work in Rome (c. 1450). It is only opened on special occasions.

The far-right entrance is the Holy Door, opened only during Holy Years. On Christmas Eve every 25 years, the pope knocks three times with a silver hammer and the door opens, welcoming pilgrims to pass through. After Pope John Paul opened the door on Christmas Eve 1999, he bricked it up again with a ceremonial trowel a year later to wait another 24 years.

And then we walked in.

And were stunned.

We *may* have stood inside the doorway a little too long.

Even though the Rick Steves guidebook advised us to save it for last, the first thing we saw was La Pieta, inside and to the right. Easily identifiable by the big crowd of people trying to flash their cameras through the bullet-proof glass.

you can read more about this amazing piece below the image …

sidenote : this is likely the only sculpture actually signed by Michelangelo. After it was commissioned, completed and placed on display, Michelangelo overheard another artist taking credit for the work. So, in the dead of night, Michelangelo snuck into the church and chiseled his name across Mary’s sash. But it appears that he didn’t properly estimate the space needed because the beginning letters are a lot larger than the end!

From Rick Steves:

Michelangelo was 24 years old when he completed this Pieta of Mary with the dead body of Christ taken from the cross. It was Michelangelo’s first major commission, done for the Holy Year 1500.

Pieta means ‘pity.’ Michelangelo, with his total mastery of the real world, captures the sadness of the moment. Mary cradles her crucified son in her lap. Christ’s lifeless right arm drooping down lets us know how heavy this corpse is. His smooth skin is accented by the rough folds of Mary’s robe. Mary tilts her head down, looking at her dead son with sad tenderness. Her left hand turns upward, asking, “How could they do this to you?”

Michelangelo didn’t think of sculpting as creating a figure, but as simply freeing the God-made figure from the prison of marble around it. He’d attack a project like this with an inspired passion, chipping away to find what God put inside.

The bunched up shoulder and rigormortis legs show that Michelangelo learned well from his studies of cadavers. But realistic as this work is, its true power lies in the subtle “unreal” features. Life-size Christ looks childlike compared with larger-than-life Mary. Unnoticed at first, this accentuates the subconscious impression of Mary enfolding Jesus in her maternal love. Mary – the mother of a 33-yr-old man – looks like a teenager, emphasizing how Mary was the eternally youthful ‘handmaiden’ of the Lord, always serving him, even at this moment of supreme sacrifice. She accepts God’s will, even if it means giving up her son.

The statue is a solid pyramid of maternal tenderness. Yet within this, Christ’s body tilts diagonally down to the right and Mary’s hem flows with it. Subconsciously, we feel the weight of this dead God sliding from her lap to the ground.

{re: the bullet proof glass}:

At 11:30 on May 23, 1972, a madman with a hammer entered St. Peter’s and began hacking away at the Pieta. The damage was repaired but that’s why there is now a shield of bulletproof glass.

So, without a doubt, this place is HUGE:

  • the golden window at the far end is 2 football fields away
  • the church covers 6 acres
  • the babies at the base of the pillars along the main hall are adult-size.
  • the lettering in the gold band along the top is 7 feet high (!!)
  • The church has the capacity for 60,000 standing worshipers.

But really, a lot of the design is intentionally trying to make the space feel more intimate and small. The altar in the photo above is directly below the dome and designed to make the dome feel not quite as high (since you have this closer piece to relate to) …

DUDE. SEVEN FEET HIGH.

We actually got there *about* the time of evening Mass. Which means we saw a little (tiny) bit of the ceremony and heard the singing. … pretty spectacular in that space!

HOLY.COW.

There’s really a lot more details I want to tell you all …. but that would make this post a bit word-heavy.

So. You can vote.

Leave a comment with whether or not  you want to learn more about St. Peter’s Basilca (the design, the history, the context, etc).

I’ll count the ‘votes’ Tuesday 4/6 at midnight PST.

If the YAYs have it, I’ll make edits to this post and make sure to add in all the detail to post 2 (Thursday).

Otherwise I’ll leave it as-is.

Either way, make sure you go when you visit Rome.

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The Sistine Chapel was …. sigh. Just fantastic.

Seriously.

We watched Angels and Demons recently … and all I could think about afterward was “I can’t believe I’ve been there”

One of the stories – as told to us by Jimmy, our incredibly adorable Angel Tours guide – is that in the early early 1900s there was a little boy who wanted to be an artist. He had heard about the Sistine Chapel and lived his whole life waiting to see it. Learning about Michelangelo’s amazing work is what helped spur this little boy toward being an artist when he grew up.

When he got older, the dreams of being an artist faded. While he still practiced, he wasn’t as critically acclaimed as he had hoped. This man soon found something else to be passionate about, but he still dreamed about seeing the Sistine Chapel in real life.

As a man, he traveled to Rome and the Vatican city several times but each time he was disappointed. The Sistine Chapel was closed to visitors for restoration, or to vote for the new pope or for another reason.

As he got older, he still wanted nothing more than to visit the Sistine Chapel.

The last time he visited Rome was during World War II. Rumor has it the pope heard this man was coming to Rome, and closed the Sistine Chapel ON PURPOSE to keep him out.

This man was Adolf Hitler. He never saw the Sistine Chapel.

Amazing to think that Andrew and I have seen something that even Hitler at the height of his power didn’t get to see.

Pretty crazy, huh?

p.s. I love history

The Vatican museum has does not allow talking inside the Sistine Chapel – and so does not allow real guided groups. BUT what they have done (which I think is a great idea) is set up in this courtyard several sign/displays of the Sistine Chapel images so guides can show their groups and teach their groups about the paintings.

Also in the courtyard (from Stuardt Clarke’s Rome):

So, what’s with the gold ball in the courtyard! I have gotten many e-mails wanting to know what the unusual sculpture is that is the centerpiece of the Courtyard of the Pinecone at the Vatican Museums.  This bronze sculpture is called Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera) and it measures four meters in diameter.  It was created by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990 for the Vatican Museums.  Pomodoro’s specialty is the casting of gigantic columns and/or globes.  In this magnificent sculpture, the fractured surface of the outer sphere reveals a very complex inner sphere that represents the harsh difficulties that the modern world finds itself in at the end of the second millennium.  One needs to view this masterpiece from every angle.  Many people want to have their picture taken beside it, so be prepared to stand for a while before getting a picture of it in the way you wish to.

Jimmy was THE BEST!

He was so knowledgable about the Sistine Chapel and all …. and he would get super excited or animated about something and start talking really fast.

Pretty funny!

We learned a little bit about the commission of the artwork, about the method of how Michelangelo painted, about the themes of the images, and the style he painted in. About how the first few images are very detailed, and then when he got to the floor and realized noone would be able to see those details he started painting much more simply. We learned about the self-portrait in The Last Judgment. and a million other interesting details ….

You can read about the process and controversy of the restoration of the Sistine Chapel at Wikipedia. Very very interesting. There is no doubt the colors were much more muted and dark from centuries of stove smoke and lamps, but there is a question about what also was lost during the restoration.

No photos are allowed in the Sistine Chapel. None. If I remember correctly, it’s in part because a major company (Sony, maybe) paid for the restoration recently in exchange for owning the copyright….

So, don’t tell anyone I took these :)

very stealthily.

In the image below, down in the right corner you can see there is still a black spot. That is what the ceiling looked like BEFORE restoration …. they left that part dirty to show the difference …

We saw the burn mark on the floor where the stove sits during the Papal Conclave

We safely exited …. without sliding down the stairs …

…. and turned the corner and walked right into St. Peter’s Basilica.

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… continuing our tour of the Vatican Museum with Angel Tours ….

So. …. I will admit, the place was a *bit* crowded. But it’s best not to dwell on stuff like that or you’ll ruin the whole experience for yourself.

There was literally art EVERYWHERE.

Ok. So I have already forgotten this guy’s name … but I *think* he was a tutor for …. maybe Nero’s kids? Shoot. I forgot. …. Andrew?

Anyway, I love this sculpture because it is so NOT heroic like the rest of them. Apparently, this guy specifically requested that his likeness me more true-to-life than Mount-Olympian. ….

If I remember correctly, this ceiling (image below) is *painted* to look like a relief and not actually carved. Those shadows are painted on, rather than naturally occurring. Pretty amazing when the WHOLE ceiling looks like that ….

Image below: The Hall of Tapestries (and Jimmy’s totally involved face!)

From Rick Steves:

Along the left wall are tapestries designed by Raphael’s workshop and made in Brussels. They show scenes from the life of Christ: Baby Jesus in the manger, being adored by shepherds, and presented in the temple. The Resurrection tapestry, with Jesus coming out of the tomb, is curiously interactive …. as you walk, Jesus’ eyes, feet, knee and even the stone square follow you across the room.

The Resurrection tapestry … looks like Jesus is saying ‘Peace’ to all his groupies ….

Below : The ceiling of the Hall of Maps (originally known as the War Room)

From Rick Steves:

This gallery still feels like a pope’s palace. The crusted ceiling of colorful stucco and paint is pure papal splendor. The 16th century maps on the walls show the regions of Italy. Popes could take visitors on a tour of Italy, from the toe (entrance end) to the Alps (far end), with east Italy on the right wall, west on the left. The scenes in the ceiling portray exciting moments in Church history in each of those regions.

These maps were AMAZING – especially considered the low-tech way they were made. It’s not as if the 2 brothers who scouted and drew out these maps had any aerial way to get up above the landscape for a view.

Pretty crazy.

Like I said, we only saw a small portion of the Vatican Museum. But the true value of the tour was in A) Jimmy as the tour guide. He really really did a great job and taught us a lot. Much more than we could have learned going through the museum on our own … and B) the SISTINE Chapel. seriously …. swoon.

Coming up ….

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Our last day in Italy – our last day in Rome.

We did another Angel Tours Rome tour …. this time of the Vatican Museum (and Sistine Chapel).

I’ve mentioned before how I love Angel Tours. Highly recommended. Love love them.

This particular tour they got more attendees than they expected. But to counter that, without even asking us, they refunded us all about 10% per ticket since the group was a bit larger than usual.

Awesome. Classy. Wonderful customer service.

I LOVE them.

Also, I LOOOOOVE our guide – Jimmy (I think). Irish. 20s. Angela describes him as having too much info in his head to get out and that leads him to talk really fast and excitedly. He certainly is animated! I LOVE him.

Seriously, Jimmy. If you read this, you can come visit us in L.A. ANYTIME.  xo


Remember that long line of people in St. Peter’s square? yea, we skipped all that.

Suckers.

We walked around to the other side completely and started with the Vatican museum. (Also, somehow I was at the front of the group talking to Jimmy as we walked. I wonder how that happened.)

Note: We did the Vatican museum which INCLUDES the Sistine Chapel, and then drops you off right at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica and you get to skip the line. True story.

This sculpture is one of a handful of REPLICAS of the original : Laocoon and His Sons. Time frame ranging from about 160 to about 20 BC.

True story: When the sculpture was originally discovered, the arm (the one that is up and holding the snake) was broken off at the elbow and missing. The ‘authorities’ brought in something like 9 or 10 sculptors to have them take a look and figure out how the broken piece should look. They all said the same thing, except Michelangelo.

Years later, when the broken piece was found it turns out they were all wrong. Except Michelangelo. The arm should bend at the elbow and come down – something Michelangelo knew from looking at the position of the muscles in the back and shoulder (learned from studying cadavers).

That’s how we know this is a replica. It was made before the missing piece was found.

Jimmy telling us about this sarcophagus (below)

And – the ORIGINAL Laocoon (and the correct arm). Check out the Wikipedia article for more details about the restoration (as late as mid 20th century)

P.S. Michelangelo was A) all over the place during this week and B) a genius

P.P.S. You can see the different color in the broken off part.

This sculpture below was believed to be what ‘The Thinker‘ was based on (notice the positioning of the torso)

Big (expensive) bathtub …. those emperors and their luxuries!

For Constantine’s mother and daughter … 2 HUGE sarcophagi made of red porphyry – a stone extremely rare and ridiculously expensive

That was just part 1 – and really only a tiny piece of everything we saw, which itself was only a tiny piece of the whole museum. I think we skipped over the Egpyt section of the museum all together ….

…. but the Vatican museum really has some unique pieces …. so amazing!

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In a word : awe-inspiring

St. Peter’s square is basically the home of the Vatican. Roughly.

This is the street leading into the Vatican city, with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica directly ahead …

Also – lots of nuns !!

me! in St. Peter’s Square!

From Rick Steves:

St. Peter’s Square, with its ring of columns, symbolizes the arms of the church welcoming everyone – believers and non-believers – with its motherly embrace. Numbers first : 284 columns, 56 feet high, in stern Doric style. Topping them are Bernini’s 140 favorite saints, each 10 feet tall. The “square” itself is actually elliptical, 660 by 500 feet. Though large, it’s designed like a saucer, a little higher around the edges, so that even when full of crowds (as it often is), it allows those on the periphery to see above the throngs.

The obelisk in the center is 90 feet of solid granite weighing more than 300 tons. Think for a second about how much history this monument has seen. Originally erected in Egypt more than 2000 years ago, it witnessed the fall of the pharaohs to the Greeks and then to the Romans. It was then moved to imperial Rome by the emperor Caligula, where it stood impassively watching the slaughter of Christians at the racecourse and the torture of Protestants by the Inquisition. Today, it watches over the church, a reminder that each civilization builds on the previous ones. The puny cross on top reminds us that Christian culture has cast but a thin veneer over our pagan origins.

From Rick Steves:

This gray building is where the pope lives. The last window on the right of the top floor is his bedroom. To the left of that window is his study window, where he appears occasionally to greet the masses.

Note: That line is to get into the Basilica. Skipping the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel completely …. don’t make the same mistake these people are making.

We people watched for a little while in St. Peter’s Square, waiting for 1p when our Angel Tours tour would start.

So so so fun!

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Andrew is the only person I know who would go record shopping when he’s in Rome for just a couple days.

On our walk across Rome (from the Cappuccin Crypts to the Vatican) we passed by this little tiny street market.

Tiny. Just one row ….

A row of booths set up along the river.

I loved it!

While Andrew DID find some fun records, we didn’t end up buying anything. ….

We just grabbed a quick (likely overpriced) lunch at one of these nearby carts. Sandwich and soda. Shared.

Coming up  : Vatican city!

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The original plan was to visit the Cappuccin Crypt, then catch a taxi across town to the Vatican – where we were scheduled for a tour at 1p.

But, it turns out Rome is not *quite* as large as I thought, and we had enough time to just walk over. Which, as I mentioned, is a fantastic idea. (It still took us close to an hour or so, so don’t go thinking it’s a stroll)

We visited the Spanish Steps :

We came upon the top of the steps first (below image is looking down at the bottom of the steps).

From Wikipedia:

The Spanish Steps (Italian: Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the church of Trinità dei Monti. The Scalinata is the longest and widest staircase in Europe.[1]

The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, today still located in Palazzo Monaldeschi in the piazza below, with the Trinità dei Montim the church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, above.

In the photo below : see that guy IN the fountain letting the water run over his hands? He DRANK from this fountain. He washed his hands, and then cupped his hands full of water and drank from it.

But, considering the fountains in Rome are all powered by the same aqueduct that powers the fountain we drank out of, it’s not really all *that* weird.

But still kind of weird …..

From Rick Steves:

The Piazza di Spagna, with the very popular Spanish Steps, is named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican, which has been here for 300 years. It’s been the hangout of many Romantics over the years (Keats, Wagner, Openshaw, Goethe, and others). In the 1700s, British aristocrats on the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe came here to ponder Rome’s decay. The British poet John Keats pondered his mortality, then died in the pink building on the right side of the steps. Fellow Romantic Lord Byron lived across the square at #66.

The Sinking Boat Fountain at the foot of the steps, built by Bernini or his father, Pietro, is powered by an aqueduct. All of Rome’s fountains are aqueduct-powered; their spurts are determined by the water pressure provided by various aqueducts.

More of our walk …. window shopping by ALL of the big Italian designer stores. Seriously. All the big designers. …. Slightly intimidating.

Below : an example of one of the BIG tour groups I never want to be a part of. Where you all where purple scarves to indicate you’re together, and follow the guide with the matching purple flag.

No thank you.

Just before we reached the Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square, we passed Hadrian’s Tomb or Castel Sant’Angelo

I wish we had had time to visit.

Next time, I guess.

Bottom left of this image is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica:

Saxophone player I listened to for a bit ….

From Rick Steves:

Built as a tomb for the emperor, used through the Middle Ages as a castle, prison and place of last refuge for popes under attach, and today a museum, this giant pile of ancient bricks is packed with history.

Ancient Rome allowed no tombs within its walls – not even the emperor’s. So Emperor Hadrian grabbed the most commanding position just outside the walls and across the river and built a towering tomb (~ AD 139) well within view of the city. His mausoleum was a huge cylinder (210 by 70 feet) topped by a cypress grove and crowned by a huge statue of Hadrian himself riding a chariot. For nearly a hundred years, Roman emperors (from Hadrian to Caracalla, in AD 217) were buried here.

The bridge pictured below is the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

From Rick Steves:

The bridge leading to Castel Sant’Angelo was built by Hadrian for quick and regal access from downtown to his tomb. The three middle arches are actually Roman originals, and a fine example of the empire’s engineering expertise. The statues of angels (each bearing a symbol of the passion of Christ – nail, sponge, shroud and so on) are Bernini-designed and textbook Baroque. In the Middle Ages, this was the only bridge in the area that connected St. Peter’s and the Vatican with downtown Rome. Nearly all pilgrims passed this bridge to and from the church.

And now …. our walk into the Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica straight ahead (blog post next week):

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Friday morning we set aside for visiting the Cappuccin Crypts. Monk bones. Thousands of them. Amazing.

The crypt is underneath a church (one of the many many churches in Rome).

We found it on this gorgeous tree-lined street. Very unassuming.

You would never know what amazing creation was in (under) this church just by walking by.

From Rick Steves:

If you want to see artistically arranged bones, this is the place. The crypt is below the church of Santa Maria della Immacolata Concesione. … The bones of more than 4,000 monks who died between 1528 and 1870 are in the basement, all lined up for the delight – or disgust – of the always-wide-eyed visitor. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem 400 years ago, and the monastic message on the wall explains that this is more than just a macabre excercise: ‘We were once what you are … you will become what we are now.’”

{Images OF the actual bones are scanned from postcards we purchased. There was no photography allowed inside, and I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try to be stealthy}

Here’s the way it’s set up (so you know what to expect when you go. And you should go.):

You walk in, and on your left is a cute Italian woman helping all the tourists. On your right is a hallway. Directly in front of you is a little gift shop. About the size of … a kitchen. Small.

The cute Italian woman tells you what’s up. I mean, she welcomes you, and asks you if you’ve been here before and asks if you speak Italian. We said, “No.” …. She then proceeded to give us all the directions in Italian (cost, no camera, etc). … Surprisingly we basically understood it. She seemed so proud of us! It was almost like she wanted to prove to us that we’re smarter than we think.

It was pretty cute.

Anyway – the crypt itself is a series of small rooms, all off of the same hallway. No doors, but rather open archways looking into the rooms.

The last image below is of the hallway.

This pic is of the ceiling in one of the rooms …

(we bought a little pocket guide to the crypt. Explaining the layout and the bones and the intent. Pretty cool).

Not only are the walls and ceilings covered in bones-as-art, but there are actual graves of monks in the earth in the floor.

It’s incredibly intense to be there.

SERIOUSLY.

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If you are just joining us, I’ve been taking my sweet time blogging all the pics from our week in Italy.

Here begins a series of posts about our FINAL day in the country – a very long day of touristing in Rome. And some of our favorite times …

We allowed ourselves to sleep in (much needed) since we didn’t have anywhere we HAD to be until 1p.

This was actually the ONLY morning we had breakfast at our bed and breakfast (Hotel Danilo). They served breakfast too late for us to have it Monday morning (before the Colosseum) or Saturday morning (before our flight home).

Cute little girlfriend of Danilo. From Milan. Served us breakfast in the tiny kitchen.

So cute.

We left all morning available for visiting the Capuchin Crypts. Monk Bones. One of Andrew’s #1 requests (post tomorrow).

Which means that we had all morning just to get there.

So we decided to walk. All the way across Rome.

And it was all kinds of awesome.

I highly recommend WALKING if you have the time. We saw all kinds of corners of the city that we wouldn’t have seen if we had taken a taxi or bus. ….

Um …. and randomly came across what is generally accepted to be the ugliest building in Rome: the Victor Emmanuel monument:

And right across the street from there ….

Trajan’s Forum

Trajan’s Column:

Trajan’s Market

And all of this ON OUR WAY to the intended destination!

Rome is amazing ….

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Just a handful of shots of our traveling from Florence back to Rome.

This is about when we realized that Rome drivers are completely insane.

Notice the lack of lane lines in the image below.

Then un etto of pizza at a small place near our b&b.

And more gelato.

Only one day left of our trip! How sad ….

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Florence, Italy – Floralia Bed & Breakfast

As we are finally leaving Florence, it is time for a slightly more intimate look at the bed & breakfast we stayed in for the 3 nights we were there.

I highly (highly) recommend staying at Floralia if you go to Florence. Not only is it extremely reasonably priced for the center of town (~80-90euros/double), but the owners are this super sweet Italian brother and sister team.

Sabino (doesn’t live there but) arrives when he knows guests are checking in or out to give them the tour, the keys, take the money, etc. Really friendly. Really generous. Hooked us up with a dinner reservation.

Silvia lives in the apartment and does all the cleaning, cooking, etc. She is sooo cute. Waiting until we leave and then vacuuming or washing sheets with her music on loudly. And so so sweet. Really made an effort to help Angela find a wedding dress.

For, yes, it is just an apartment.

I don’t understand the floor plan AT ALL. At least how it works with the neighboring apartment units. So I won’t try to explain it.

It’s up (I think) 2 floors. When you walk in there is a tiny tiny little entryway right ahead of you with a short hallway to the right. When you are standing in that hallway, the kitchen, dining area, living room, one bathroom and Silvia’s bedroom are to your left. The other (shared) bathroom and 4 bedrooms are to the right.

There are 3 double rooms available (one with a private bathroom) and 1 single room. When we stayed there, all the rooms were filled with wedding guests – so at least we were sharing the bathroom with people we know …

The decor is SUPER cheery. Yellows everywhere, flowers and happy happy bright colors.

Breakfast at 8a. Continental breakfast set up for us with hot water and coffee, cereal. Good good stuff.

KITCHEN:

P.S. The yogurts are labeled in Italian and it took a couple days for us to figure out what ‘Frutta di Bosco‘ was

The “living area” was I think just a futon and a desk with a computer. There was a TV in the kitchen/dining area (which we kind of half watched for the weather) … . and even though we had no real reason to, it was nice to be able to check our email at least once that week. Sometimes (especially on a whirlwind European vacation) you just need some downtime, right?

LIVING AREA:

Image below shooting from the kitchen, into the living room, and the dark area just past it is the hallway and laundry room (which actually opens up to the sky, I think).

As I mentioned, we shared the bathroom with other guests. We kind of had to schedule morning showers over a couple hours. …. which was totally fine and not at all inconvenient.

What was slightly odd is that the shower …. well, the tub was a full size tub (like any of you have in your bathroom), but the shower curtain only covered 1/2 the tub.

Weird.

You can see in the image below, how the shower curtain literally cut off half the tub space. It was just kind of unexpected.

The window opens into the laundry room (pictured above).

BATHROOM:

Angela booked our room – to make sure we all got in at the same b&b – and had to figure out which couple got the room with the 2 single beds.

Yup. Andrew and I did.

No matter. A bed is a bed is a bed.

Or so I thought.

When we got there, it was pretty obvious we were in the kids’ room! hahaha! The sheets had little cartoon animals on it, and the beds themselves weren’t even real twin beds. They were more like those roll-away beds you get from a hotel when you have an extra person.

Pretty funny!

BEDROOM:

The first night we were there, we left our window open … towards the street, and it was *incredibly* loud. So ridiculously loud between merchants moving furniture and people talking on the street (yes, after midnight) and then early early in the morning a cart going by on the cobblestone. We decided it must be a cart of broken glass. Bumping along on the uneven street. At 5am.

Absolutely absurd how loud it was.

But then, the 2nd and 3rd night we slept right through all that. We must have been pretty exhausted.

Again – I can’t tell you how great this b&b was if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.

Less than a block from the Duomo. Fantastic proprietors.

Loved it!

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