The day after the marathon, Sabrina and I first headed to St. Peter´s Basilica on the metro. I hadn´t gotten a chance to go inside when I had been at the Vatican before, but I really wanted to, and also I really wanted to go to the top of the dome! It was kind of a gross day out, with clouds and a light rain, but thankfully it was the day after the race and we had great weather for the race. We got to St. Peter´s Square and waited in the super long line to get through security, which moved fairly fast. I was just annoyed because of the lack of spatial awareness amongst Europeans, I was constantly being jabbed or run into by people carrying umbrellas. No fun. Seeing the inside of St. Peter´s was very impressive. My classmate last semester gave a presentation about the construction of the basilica, and specifially of the dome, so it was awesome to be able to stand below it and look up. Bernini´s altar piece was of course stunning, the design made it look as though it was moving.
The real treat was the view of the interior of the dome and the view from the top of the dome. To get there, we had to wait in an even longer line, then buy our tickets to go up. We decided to hoof it up all 550 stairs since it was much cheaper. Halfway up, we got to inspect the interior of the dome, with the beautiful paintings and mosaics. The second half of the stairs was much more stressful as it was very narrow, and packed with people. It moved very slowly, thankfully along the way there were windows with vantage points as we climbed. At the very top part of the stairs, they even have a rope because it is very steep and you have to be careful not to fall. The panoramic over Rome was breathtaking from the top, most definitely my favorite view of the city. You could see all the way to the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument, the Coliseum, and the Forum ruins. You could see several different piazzas. People looked like ants in St. Peter´s Square below. I saw the highlights in the garden that I had seen on the garden tour a few days before. It was a birds eye view of the Vatican and the city of Rome strecthed out before us. We took a bunch of photos, absorbed the view, then began the challenging descent. At the botton, we sat by a fountain in the square and ate nutella sandwiches we had packed while admiring the view.
The day was getting cooler due to the weather, so we stopped back by the hostel on our way to the second church of the day, Santa Maria Maggiore. We grabbed jackets, then were temped by panini and gelato since we were still hungry from walking and climbing to the top of St. Peter´s. We walked along the street towards Santa Maria and stopped when we came across a store which is most certianly one of my new favorites! Sabrina and I both would have loved to buy a bunch of dresses there, if they didn´t cost over 100 Euro each! The designs were all very original and super colorful, feminine and cute. One day, when I have money, I will return. Their clothes are perfect for a little beach town during summer! After our little distraction, we made it to the church, which really doesn´t look all that much like a church from the outside.
On the inside, the church is gorgeous, without being overbearing. The main highlight there is the intricate mosaics, which really look more like a painting. You can only see the tiny tiles pieced together on the dome over the altar when you get up really close. After Santa Maria, Sabrina’s ankle was super sore so she went back to the hostel for a nap. I really wanted to see St. Paul in the Lateran, so I took the metro there. I got there around 5:30pm, and my timing was impeccable because I got to listen to the part of mass where everyone sings. The voices of the congregation and the choir filled the church, it was so beautiful and peaceful. The many sculptures depciting Biblical scenes in the church were very impressive, and I was glad I got to see them.
I still had some time before I wanted to head back to the hostel, so I walked through Rome, past the Circus Maximus and the Forum, and headed towards the River. I wanted to get a good look at the Travestere neighborhood across the river, with it’s narrow alleyways, bustling restaurants, and cute little squares. I got to walk around there for a bit and also saw the mosaics on the outside of the church there, which just as it said in my guidebook, they almost seem to glow when the sun is down since the colors are so bright. Then, I needed to get back to the hostel, but Rome’s transporation network is horrible so I decided to just walk the 3 miles. Along the way I passed through several piazzas and landmarks and got back a little later than I planned due to all the walking.
I was famished but Sabrina had already prepared the pasta and veggies we’d gotten the night before, so I got to dive right in. We enjoyed dinner with some more white wine in the hostel common room. Then we ended up going out for gelato with a group of students from China and another woman who was traveling alone. She bought us all gelato and we hung out by the Triton Fountain while eating it. I enjoyed every scoop of my last trip to La Baita, the gelato shop on the Piazza Bernini. Then Sabrina and I went home and popped in The Gladiator. I sipped limoncello and watched the film that took place in the very city we were in so many years ago. After the movie, I went to bed to get some rest for my last day in Italy!