Friday, March 12, 2010

Italy - Rome

Our Honeymoon in Italy

March 5th, 2010 - Rome Day 1

The 8 hours of flight time seemed to be very long, I tried to sleep so time goes by faster but my excitement kept me waking up once every hour or so. Every time I woke up, I checked the LCD monitor in front of my seat to see how many miles more to ROME! After half a year of planning for our wedding and honeymoon, we finally arrived in Rome! This was our first trip to Europe so I was very excited but yet nervous that this was also our first time in a foreign country where English is not the primary language. I did all my homework so at least I felt comfortable on how and where to go! I booked the Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center and the hotel offers airport shuttle for 5 euros each way per person so it was convenient. We followed the direction from the hotel's website and found the shuttle/bus stop! While waiting for the next shuttle bus to arrive, I kept thinking "am I dreaming, am I really in Italy?" I couldn't believe that we made it to Rome!


Within 30 minutes of wait, the hotel shuttle came. I gave the bus driver my name and he checked off the list and we boarded a comfortable mini-bus. During the short ride (less than 30 minutes), I was looking out the window and had my first view of Rome. I saw many buildings but not like the skyscraper at home, the surrounding still has it ancient-feel and not modern which I like. We arrived at the hotel and checked-in without any wait. The front desk lady was very helpful, she gave us a map, and told us about the hotel shuttle bus to the city center for 3 euros per person (return trip is free). The hotel was clean and our room was spacious. 

After we settled down, we took the hotel shuttle bus to the city center. On the ride to the city center, we keep looking out the window trying to find what is what haha. The first sight we arrived was Palatine Hill ruins. Standing in front of the ruins that has been around for two thousand years was incredible!! I was overjoyed that we are in Rome, this is Rome!


The weather was cold but manageable compared to New England's winter! We walked down the road and then it started to rain! We walked back to our shuttle stop and waited for the next shuttle to go back to the hotel since it was raining! I was people watching while waiting for the shuttle and this horse carriage passed by which I felt pretty special:


Our first day in Rome didn't went far but fully rested for our full adventure tomorrow! We had dinner in our hotel which was buffet-like and it was pretty good!

March 6th, 2010 - Rome Day 2 - Vatican City

Today was a gorgeous day for sightseeing..the weather was just perfect!  We woke up nice and early and all prepared for a whole day of Rome!  First, we took the bus #31 directly from our hotel to Vatican City! We boarded the bus and I had my eyes on the route map and counting the number of bus stops left. So good so far until as I was counting 4 more stops left, I lost count!!! Why? I was completely confused by the bus stop names! We passed by at least 3 stop names that were exactly the same thing! We had no clue which is which since we don't know any Italian and then the bus stopped at a stop that named like Vatican.  We were about to get off the bus and then the lady behind us asked if we are heading to Vatican City. She told us it's the next stop not this stop! Super nice of her!! We got off the next stop and there were signs everywhere to point us to Vatican City!

We walked for about 5 minutes and we arrived near a city wall like structure.  We saw a line of people waiting in line to enter an entrance and I went up to the line and found out this is the entrance line to Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums)! We quickly joined the line and we were early so the line wasn't bad!  We got in, bought our tickets, and went through security and off we go navigate one of the most famous museum in the world. 


First, we saw the Ceiling of the Gallery of Maps! First time seeing something this grand in my life, I was amazed by the artworks on the ceiling! My head was up and looking at the ceiling for at least a few minutes!



The museum was huge! We walked by hallway after hallway and I kept looking up at the arts on the ceilings! 


We spent almost 2 hours in the museum! At last we reached the famous Sistine Chapel! In the Sistine Chapel, no photography is allowed so I can't show you how incredible it was. Sistine Chapel was truly Michelangelo's masterpiece. We sat on the bench and spending our time to appreciate Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  The artwork was magnificent, I was speechless when looking at it. I couldn't even tell if the columns are real or they're part of the painting! Hard to imagine how could someone painted a ceiling like that!

After Sistine Chapel, we walked down this stunning staircase to exit the Vatican Museum and out to St. Peter's Square. Before we headed out, we got to the cafeteria area to grab some paninis to eat and rest a bit. The food here was expensive but already expected since we are inside the Vatican Museum!



After we walked out of the museum, we headed to St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica was right in front of my eyes! The structure was just stunning, first time in my life seeing such beautiful architecture! The view of St. Peter's Basilica was very beautiful with the blue sky! 


We were just amazed by all the structures in the square that we didn't immediately get in line before the line gets really long. We stopped and think for a second if it's worth the wait to get in and since we were here, maybe once-in-a-lifetime, we had to go in!  We joined the line and it was moving along, at least there were so much to see to keep us entertained. 



Be here early! Look at all the tour buses parked already!


The impressive sculptures:


Almost through the line!


We got in finally after half an hour of waiting in line which is not bad at all!  It was definitely worth our wait, the interior was impressively decorated with arts from famous artists like Michelangelo and Bernini!



Afterwards, we joined the line to go up to the Dome because I read that the view of Saint Peter's Square from the top of the Dome is the best! We have two options to go up: elevator to the bottom of the Dome and then walk up or walk the whole way up! Walking the whole way up, 320 steps, was the least expensive and we thought it was a good challenge for us! It was easy at first then gets harder and harder that I had to stop and rest a few seconds haha! We finally made it to the base of the Dome and here's the view of the Basilica, very different than looking from bottom up:


We had to get going since the space here was little and people had to get through! The outside view of Rome was very nice from here:


We were still not reach the top yet! We went back into another entrance to the stairs up to the Dome, the stairway here gets narrower and narrower till this point:


We finally made it to the top! So proud of ourselves completing the 320 steps! The view from top of the Dome was simply the best view of St. Peter's Square! This was what I saw in postcards and here I am seeing it myself!


I think that's the Vatican Museum:


Another view of Rome!


I love the pale-blue color of the domes!


The "little" sculptures we saw on top of the basilica from the square but those sculptures are actually huge!


We even saw a huge crowd coming, thank god we came early!


The walk down the 320 steps was fast and easy! We got down and took some more pictures of this incredible basilica!


Got a picture with the Swiss guard on the back :)


Then, we left Vatican City and walked toward Castel Sant'Angelo. Hard to believe that I just walked from one country to another LOL! The walk toward Castel Sant'Angelo was very nice, passed some beautiful bridges especially Pont Sant'Angelo! 



Here is Castel Sant'Angelo:


We entered Castel Sant'Angelo and somehow it was free today! I have no clue what holiday was it! Once again, we climbed some stairs up to the top. After completing the 320 steps up to the Dome, this few flight of stairs was nothing haha! The view of Pont Sant'Angelo from up here:


We just relax and enjoyed our view of Rome - such a beautiful ancient city!

Picture of us on the Pont Sant'Angelo with Castel Sant'Angelo on the back:


View of Vatican City from Pont Sant'Angelo:


We walked across the bridge and saw a gelato shop so we went in and tried out Italy's famous gelato! I had a hard time picking out which favors I want since there were too many to choose from unbelievable! There were all sorts of chocolate favors, fruit favors, mix, etc OMG so hard to pick!


Lastly, I made up my mind on Tiramisu since I love Tiramisu! After we bought a cup of gelato, we walked across the street and sat down in front of this church and enjoyed our first gelato.  Absolutely delicious, it was so creamy, rich, and smooth, it was 10X better than the ice cream at home! We both loved it!


After we finished the yummy gelato, we walked along the river bank, it was just so romantic to walk around in this beautiful city! We walked pass by the Palace of Justice, another beautiful architecture:


We continued our walk at our own pace and ended up in Piazza Navona! The square was very beautiful with fountains, music, and street performers. In this square, I felt the livelihood of tourists and locals!



Another beautiful baroque style church - Sant'Agnese in Agone:


Next, we ended up at the Area Sacra dell'Argentina, it was some ruins from the Roman empire. The truly unique thing about Rome is that as you are seeing a beautiful building in the city then you realized that there's an ancient ruin right next to it! Unlike many developed/developing countries where many old structures are destroyed to make room for new buildings in the city center, Rome kept and protected all those ruins. I was very amazed that in the middle of all the modern buildings, there was this thousands of years old ruins!


We continued following our map to get back to where the hotel shuttle bus stop and stopped by two more stunning buildings.  First, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, this great marble white building!


And then Capitoline Hill:


I just love Rome! It has both the ancient ruins and great architectures!

At this point, we were getting hungry so we decided to have dinner in one of the restaurants nearby. We walked toward the street where mostly restaurants are located and then passed by another ancient ruin! 


We picked this restaurant with a special menu for 15 euros included drinks and walked in. The waiter speak efficient English and have an English menu! I picked a mushroom with meat pizza and ended up it was a medium-sized whole pizza! WOW...I thought I was getting slices! The pizza was so good, it was so fresh, the crust was very crunchy and not hard at all! This was the best pizza I had in my life so far! I was so thrill to have "real" pizza!!!!


Beautiful lamps in the restaurant:


Dinner was very good and very reasonable priced too! After dinner, we walked toward the hotel shuttle bus stop and came across a fountain. I have heard that fountain water in Rome is very drinkable so have to try it! Yup, they were right, the water tasted very clean and with a little bit of sweet taste to it, very refreshing, absolutely safe to drink, no odor, and no chlorine!


We took the shuttle bus back to the hotel, it was a long day, but well worth it! First full day in Rome, we already felt in love with it!


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