Roma Reunited

After my bodacious airport bungle, we land in Rome and proceed to the hotel via a private service, we wind down what appears to be narrow back alleys with 6 floor buildings looming at every corner. In a sudden, intentional manner he pulls over next to a non-descript building and starts unloading our bags. I suss him out and think: "he's old, I could take him...please tell me our hotel is tucked-in somewhere." He rounds a corner with one of our rolling bags and walks us upstairs to the front desk. The sign for the hotel was tiny and I would have never found it had I just hired a taxi. Throughout Europe I have found tiny business signs and pocket countertops make-up many chic hotels. Our's thankfully had a bistro attached that served dinner well past 23:00.   
Pantheon at Night
Roman Forum
Trevi Fountain
 Because of our deviation from the original plan in England, the well spaced laundry options had evaporated. We all were out of underwear, not to mention the third or fourth time wearing much of our clothes. Thankfully, most of our Mediterranean wear (read: summer clothes) were still clean. As John travelled from London to join us, we had to handwash the essentials. Anxiously, Ethan peered over the wrought iron window grille, hoping to see his papa arrive, and I hung wet bras and t-shirts in as many creative places as I could think of. As the timepiece ticked past the appointed hour, John snuck up another alley and into our room, surprising us all!                   
Outside Coliseum
Arch of Constantine
Inside Coliseum
Viva la Roma! After many hugs and kisses all around, feeding the hungry man and sharing a generous bottle of wine for both of us (and Evie), we proceeded to the Pantheon. A 2000+ year old building that used internal brick arches to create an enormous dome, thereby distributing the weight throughout the foundation. This is considered an engineering feat as it was built prior to the advent of flying buttresses. It is very much like a giant, columned, marble igloo. This was the religious pagan center for the Romans. What I find interesting about the Roman belief system is it was an ever encompassing religion, adopting and accepting local gods or deities as part of the greater universe. As we have found, the Romans separated the religious buildings from the business and government centers. Thus the Forum and the Coliseum are found south and west of the Pantheon. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent wandering a maze of alley-roads orienting us to the tourist city center.                         
When we went to NYC, I equated the Big Apple to an inverted anthill, with little humans crawling up and down through a skyscraper maze. Rome is more like the Grand Canyon. There is so much to take in it's impossible to conceptualize how colossal it is. Layers upon layers of history, marbling itself around the winding Tiber river. There is Etruscian Rome, Ancient Rome, the Empirical Rome and the Papal Rome. One can carelessly walk around Rome, successfully get lost, and all the while pass 2200 year old artifacts intermixed with modern life.                   
Roman Forum
Piazza Navona
Tiber at Night
    As you walk the Forum, the NYSE at the time of Christ, it's easy to imagine gladiators, senators, sacrificed animals and vibrant togas (unlike Hollywood has portrayed, the Roman's loved color: on statues, on clothing, on art, everything). In Ancient Rome, the very first palace was built; in fact the word itself comes from "Palatino," this was the expansive residence for some early Roman Emperors and was reported to have rivaled the Great Pyramids of Giza. Now it is only an outline of foundations as it was later dismantled for materials by the powers that succeeded it. In fact, many Roman archeological remains (if not co-opted by the Chruch and renamed some Holy St. Papa Blah Blah and ornately decorated with angels and demons) were intentionally denuded and left to the flood plains. Much of Rome was built on a swampy, flood plain but it was Roman's ingenuity that drained the area. Wisdoms' loss during the dark ages.    
                   The Papal period: the consolidation of Italy, the Christian seat of common society, white robes, the Mitre, Michelangelo, Rafael and kissing the ring, the home of the Embrasure and a gilded Death Star. The Vatican, the Mussolini country within the Eternal City. Yes, in the late 1800s the politicians of Italy forced the King of the Vatican (the Pope and he is considered King) to sequester himself inside the Papal residence. It wasn't until 1929 and the rise of Mussolini that the Pope was granted the Holy City to be an independent country from Italy (hmm...WWII?). Now, the Vatican is the smallest country in the world, located within the city limits of Rome; however, there are no hospitals, no citizens of Vatican, one is not allowed to give birth within its' borders, as this would create a citizenship.   
St. Peter's Dome
Papel Needle
Papel Death Star
  I find the Vatican to be disappointingly commercial. The crowds and the tour groups and the general push-through makes it hard to appriciate the spiritual side of this holy space. I find much more connection to God in a small, quiet chapel (or even a Gothic, flying buttress cathedral in Germany) than where King Papa resides. But I will give Pope Francis a little respect, he lives as humble of a life as his position affords him. As far as Michelanglo and the Sistine Chapel are concerned, I remember going through when I was 16 and feeling unimpressed with the art, it was grey and dark and smokey. Since then they have painstakingly cleaned the art and it is far more vibrant and impressive.  It's a mixed bag whether you take a tour or not, I think it best to take a small or private group and find a theme you want: General, Art, Catholic, Angels&Demons and plan at least 3 hours or more.    
Pineapple Corridor
Goddess of Fertility
Looking towards Vatican
Raphael Mosaic
  I feel we really hit all the highlights and I won't bore you with the names. (If you're like me you'll pretend to read a few of the Latin/Italian words and then start saying "ravioli, fettuccine, ciao bella and prego, prego!" It's a city worth more days than less, it's nearly impossible to feel satisfied with a short visit. Like the immensity of the red and gold sandstone Grand Canyon gorge, the juxtaposed green piƱon pines and the Colorado river, Rome is impossible to take-in fully except in the abstract.      
                 However, sometimes breaking away from the 900+ churches and taking in some mode art is necessary. At the Vicctoria was a concurrent exhibition of Mucha and the History of Barbie (to the girls' delight). The more intense study was of Alfonso Mucha, he was the artist who inspired the Jinn Gin label design and, much to John's delight, also a freemason. This rounded-out our Passions of the Illuminati tour of Rome. Mucha was a man who deeply believed that art is education, he fought for the freedom of the Slavs, and his final days, at 79 was played-out by Nasi questioning, broken health and pneumonia, this also rounding-out the full impact of WWII for the kids.    
  From here we rented a car and zipped out of Rome. If I wasn't already impressed with John's driving, this secured my whole confidence. Overall, my impression with drivers in Europe is not that they are crazy, they are actually very alert drivers, it's that or die. Unlike in the US where driving is an after thought. I am also very thankfully for John's vigor and positivity; I know I would not have been able to cover as much of Rome as we did with him. Between he and I, we navigated, got lost, recovered, explored and herded our way through Rome, together.