A Travellerspoint blog

When in Rome...

70 °F
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Ahh Roma, the bustling streets, the ancient ruins, the architectural masterpieces…(okay that's enough, but I hope you read that in one of the voices from the travel channel haha). Walking into Rome, I was immediately hit with how different it is from Venice, the laid back island. It is definitely a metropolis similar to NY. Everyone has somewhere to be and the cars and buses don't care about all the pedestrians. But the one main difference: All of this is happening with ancient ruins all around them! As a tourist, you stop and wonder how the Colosseum was built or look at the amazing buildings, but the people that live there are already so used to it all.

Our first day, Alex and I arrived in Rome and it was a little gloomy but we decided to still do Ancient Rome: Colosseum and the Roman Forum. I was glad to start with this part of Rome because you get an idea of all the history.

The Colosseum was awesome. (First of all, can I say how many stairs I've had to walk up in this whole trip just to get some of these pictures?!) The engineer in me came out and the whole time I was just thinking, how the heck did they make this in AD 72? Not to mention, that amphitheaters are still designed in a similar way today (of course it's built with machines and different materials now).

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The Roman Forum are ruins of temples, basilicas and other public spaces. This area was actually the social, political and commercial heart of the Roman world. I don't remember what all the buildings were used for, but we rented a videoguide that came on an iPod touch and the video showed images of what the buildings would have looked like.

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Day 2: On the second day we saw the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Galleria Borghese. We've seen lots of fountains in the middle of squares, but Trevi Fountain is Rome's largest. This is Neptune in a shell-shaped chariot and Trevi just means 'tre vie' or 3 roads that converge at the fountain. I tossed a coin in, and legend has it that it ensures your return to Rome. :) My travel book says that on average 3000 Euros are tossed in daily!

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My favorite part of the day was going to the Villa Borghese. Before going to the Gallery, Alex and I had a picnic in the park that surrounds the museum. We picked up some cheese, meat, bread, and a baby bottle of wine (but we got white wine and since it was hot it was so gross!).

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the Galleria Borghese. If you know me, you know that I'm not really a museum person, but this trip is quickly changing that. Luckily, I was able to meet up with my friend from my internships at Pratt & Whitney, Margalit, and her boyfriend. It was really nice because then we had 2 more people to talk about the art with. This museum is in Borghese's palace (he was a cardinal) and we mainly saw Baroque (the time period after the Renaissance) sculptures. In each room, the centerpiece was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and after this museum whenever I heard there was a Bernini somewhere I would ask to go. We couldn't take pictures but my two favorites were: David and Apollo & Daphne.

Day 3: Vatican

Alex killed me today. I really thought my feet were going to fall off. But, I think that is common considering the Vatican is ENORGMOUS! On Wednesdays, the Pope comes out and talks to the people so we made it in time to see that. Alex was able to get some shots above the masses of the Pope!

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We had about 3 hours before our scheduled time to enter the Vatican. Alex mentioned that there was a Castle, Castel Sant' Angelo, that had "Rome's most beautiful pedestrian bridges" with angels all along it. He said it was a 15 minute walk, I quickly said "No thanks!"…But I changed my mind when he said who the angels were made by…Did you guess it?...Bernini!

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The castle was made as a fortress to guard the Vatican and in there is the "lair of the Illuminati" ( if you read Dan Brown's Angels & Demons). I didn't care too much after seeing the angels though :)

We then walked back to where we heard the Pope speak, which was in front of Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter's Basilica). This was a horrible idea - basically most of those people who came earlier to listen to the Pope waited around to go into the Basilica when it opened. It definitely was worth the hot and long wait in the sun though.

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When you first walk in to your right is Michelangelo's Pieta. The baldacchino or canopy, made by…Bernini!...is underneath the dome designed by Michelangelo. This was Alex's favorite dome and whenever we could see it at different points he would ask me to take a picture (I'm thinking of making a collage of all of the pictures lol)

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Here Alex and I saw some pretty cool paintings, but when we looked closer they were actually Mosaics. It just made it 10 times more amazing.

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Afterwards, we went to the Vatican Museums. At this point, I'm already exhausted. I felt like I had just completed Tough Mudder and then I was forced to do another lap of it, except this lap was just longer and saturated with more obstacles. In this case, the obstacles are just more art! There is way too much to remember, but my favorite parts were Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) and the Sistine Chapel.

Raphael's Rooms are 4 rooms that Pope Julius II asked Raphael to paint frescoes (paintings on the wall) with papal history and biblical scenes. The School of Athens is Raphael's most famous piece of work. It includes Plato and Aristotle at the center.

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Day 4: Pantheon and Sant' Ignazio (another church!)

The Pantheon, not to be confused with the Parthenon (the one with the replica in Nashville :) ) is probably the biggest dome we saw and was the largest dome until the 15th century. Again the engineer in me thought this was interesting, the diameter of the dome is exactly equal to the interior height. The light coming through in the picture is because the dome has an oculus, or hole in the dome.

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Last, but not least, Sant' Ignazio, a 17th century Jesuit church, may have been my favorite site in Rome. When you walk in there is a huge fresco with flying angels and you can see how 3D it looks.

But the real kicker is the main dome. Well…Sant' Ignazio actually doesn't have a huge dome, but even after reading that in the book I was still tricked. The "dome" is a fresco made to look 3D because funds to build the real dome dried up. Like what the heck! The only reason I figured it out was because the sky from the windows was gloomier and darker than it actually was that day!

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Later that day, we got onto the train to Florence. As you can see, my time in Rome was a whirlwind. There was so much to do, and so little time. But I am very happy with everything we saw. I'm also glad I was able to see Margalit, who I haven't seen for 1.5 years, and we were able to have a really nice double date!

P.S. I already miss Pepsi.

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Posted by EscapewithKay 08:06 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

Venice has 409 bridges

...and I feel like I walked across half of them...

sunny 60 °F
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My first stop in Europe and I'm already learning how to go with the flow. The flight from JFK to Milan was awesome. We (my boyfriend Alex and I) flew Emirates on a Boeing 777. They gave us blankets, pillows, headsets, and a really nice TV on the back of the seat with a choice of like 30 different movies and tv shows (maybe more). But first, Alex and I learned the hard way that, although we bought the flight in December, because we didn't check in online our seats were moved apart. I spent the first 10 minutes on the plane "crying" to get the stewardess to help us figure out a way to sit together.

Our next hurdle was getting to Venice. We successfully got to the Milan main train station (most people speak English), and bought 2 one-way tickets to Venice. We didn't realize until we got onto the train that there were assigned seats and that our ticket said "1 Adulto". We must've dropped one of the tickets or never picked it up out of the machine! Alex ran off the train and said he would meet me in Venice because we read that we would get fined for not having tickets on the train. That ended up being false as I saw many people buying tickets aboard (although they had no seats for 2 hours).

(Note: With the blog I was going to write very little and then post all the pictures, but I really became interested in the history and architecture and felt this was a great way to preserve it. But all the pictures will be in the photo gallery or at the bottom if you get bored :) )

Now on to the main attraction. Venice. My first city in Europe. I was pretty jetlagged, but I knew the show must go on. And I have to say: Venice. Is. Beautiful. Yes, there are 20 million visitors a year, but with the 117 islands, 150 or so canals, connected by 409 bridges, Alex and I were still able to get lost in Venice. We found hidden canals and bridges with amazing views and just enjoyed ourselves.

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First on our list was a visit to the Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark's Square. From the Bacino San Marco (Saint Mark's Basin) the entrance to the square are two columns, one with a winged lion (which we were confused about and saw everywhere - it is the emblem of Saint Mark and thus the symbol of Venice) and the other one has Saint Theodore, the city's first patron. The square includes the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) and the Basilica di San Marco.

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The Palazzo Ducale was our first "musuem" it is a Gothic marble palace that served as the doge's residence, and also the administrative center of Venice. This was so interesting to me because that meant that we would be walking through the doge's rooms (filled with art collections), and then into a court room, and finally into the prisons. When we got to the prisons, I was so confused as to why this was in the same building haha! I was very jetlagged here and just wanted to go take a nap, but my favorite part was the architecture of the palace. The palace has these quatrefoils, which I later found out is a traditional Christian symbolism, on the second floor. The word literally means "four leaves", I just thought they were so beautiful.

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Within the palace there is a narrow canal that separates the prisons from the palace called the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).

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The Basilica was a close 2nd favorite. When you walk in and look up, there are 5 domes in the shape of a Greek cross. This means that each side of the cross is equal, instead of what we would normally see where the bottom of the cross is longer than the top and sides. The domes and all around the church were these amazing Mosaics. How do they put these tiny little pieces together to make something that has different colors, shadow effects, and images of people? It was amazing…I wasn't supposed to take pictures but after getting frustrated because everyone else was doing it, I decided to be a rebel too.

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Alex also wanted to see two other churches, Santa Maria della Salute and Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the main thing that I got from there is that there are A LOT of paintings of different saints with a Virgin Mary and a fat baby Jesus.

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Lastly, The water buses or vaporettos were always packed! So Alex made us…I mean, we decided to walk most places ;) Walking up and down the little bridges every 5 minutes quickly got annoying, but when you find beauty like this I couldn't help but be glad we lost our way a couple of times.

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After a beautiful weekend in Venice, it's time to see Rome!

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What here doesn't belong?

Hint: Let's go Mets!

Posted by EscapewithKay 01:19 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

3...2...1...Lift Off


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After 6 years of college, I have decided to cap it all off with a 70 day Europe trip. I'll be going to 9 countries and 31 cities, and meeting up with 10 different people from moments in my life (high school, undergrad, grad school, and also my Mom and Dad!). And through all this traveling, I'll only have with me this carry-on bag and little bookbag. For those that know me, you're probably thinking: "Kayla with that carry-on for 70 days? Impossible". Well I definitely encourage you to open up the betting pools now :)
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At this moment, I am a mixture of emotions. I'm still reeling from the fact that I have just graduated from Georgia Tech with my Master's. I'm sad that I won't see my sister and Abuelita for 2 months. I'm nervous, scared, you name it...But, I'm also ecstatic and grateful that God has given me this opportunity to explore and travel before I start work in August.
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I know traveling for this long won't be easy, but I'm hoping to embrace all the lessons that travel has to offer. While I know this trip will be filled with many sites and monuments, confusions and frustrations, my ultimate goal is to immerse myself in the various cultures and appreciate everything no matter what happens.

I invite you to go on this journey with me. First stop - Italy. Ciao!

Posted by EscapewithKay 14:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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