Circumnavigating a Country on Foot

My last day in Rome, I start by attending the Papal Audience. This is an event every Wednesday in which the Pope appears, talks to and prays with pilgrims and visitors to Rome. Though free, I had to pick up a ticket the night before, which I got from the fantastic Santa Susanna American Community in Rome which is run by the Paulist Fathers, an American religious order, one of my favorites, as they’re big into education and music, who also ran the church I attended during my years at the University of Minnesota. Because it takes a while to get through security and find a seat, everyone arrives early to St Peter’s Square, and I take an empty seat next to a few people who happen to also be from California. While waiting, speakers in various languages recognize all of the large groups of pilgrims in attendance, mostly in their native languages. When going through the English-speaking groups, I notice almost all are from England, or Scandinavia, just a couple groups from the US. The Pope also arrives early and moves about between the crowds shaking hands, blessing babies, and the like. He passes pretty close to where I am sitting, and it’s neat seeing him in person. I’m glad to see this pope does not feel the need for a bullet-proof Popemobile anymore.

Continue reading “Circumnavigating a Country on Foot”


Food Variety and Rome at Night

I’ve finally finished all of my day trips from Rome, and just about all of the things I wanted to see in Rome, with the exception of attending a Papal Audience, which I will do in a couple days, and attending an opera, which I will fail to do, due to tickets being sold out far in advance, and I’ve not been in to advanced planning on this trip =).

I spend time catching up on my blog posts. I’m glad I’ve been doing this as I go along, as it really encourages me to think twice before taking a photo of every interesting thing, and I think my photo collection from my trip is better for it. I do, still, take a picture of almost every meal, though. On one outing for lunch, I decide I want something non-Italian, do a search for Indian, and a few restaurants in the area pop up. I go to the first one, only to be turned away because they don’t have room for one more person. As I leave the restaurant I find another group of Americans, also turned away, also getting tired of Italian, who had just come from the other direction and let me know that the Indian restaurant over there was full too. They decide to settle for “ravioli again”, but I set off towards the remaining two Indian restaurants on my map. Continue reading “Food Variety and Rome at Night”

The Smallest Country in the World

This morning I board the Metro and head to another country. I really like the look of some of the Metro stops – underground, mostly dark, but shiny metal walls reflecting the light of trains coming from afar. Small and compact – no two-way traffic or additional trains at these stops, just big enough for one train to come through.
1292 Metro

I arrive at the entrance St Peter’s Square, which is mostly blocked off for some event, and spend a while in the hot sun waiting in the security checkpoint line to leave the country. Well, the security is to enter St Peter’s Basilica because it’s a significant and important site that has bee attacked in the past, not because I’m walking from one country into another. My audio guide tells me to “go through security, past the gaggle of backpackers in shorts being turned away for not reading the dress code, and into the square”, but it seems the dress code must have been reduced in recent years, as I don’t see anyone being turned away, and see some people in shorts inside. Continue reading “The Smallest Country in the World”

Ancient Roman Cats

Today I was planning on visiting the Vatican Museum and related sites, but, in preparation for where I’m heading in a few stops, I ended up spending most of the morning and afternoon figuring out how to get a Chinese visa for an American citizen in Italy. Luckily, there is a Chinese visa office in Rome, and they don’t care that you’re not Italian. Unlike the Chinese consulate I once stopped by in San Francisco, this one was almost completely empty, and on my two visits there I spent no more than 30 seconds waiting for someone (the same guy, who spoke good English, both times) to assist me, so it was relatively painless, though even with rush service they will return my passport, with visa attached, the day before my last day in Rome, so I hope all goes well! In order to get the initial Chinese visa, they required plain tickets to and from China, but I am not completely sure on my plans yet, so I booked some flights, printed out the tickets, submitted my visa application, and then canceled one of the flights (within 24 hours, so no cancellation fee) until my plans solidify. After this initial visa is granted, I can use it any number of times in the next 10 years to re-enter China without having to jump through any hoops, so I’m not sure why they’re so rigorous on the initial application/entry. Probably because people intending illegal immigration might just buy a one-way ticket and they want to protect against that.

After my Visa Quest, I strolled over to the Pantheon, as it was a bit of Ancient Rome I had not yet seen, and there were a couple other sites of particular interest to me in the area. The Pantheon used to be the temple of all gods, but when Constantine converted Rome to Christianity in the 4th century it was converted into the church of all martyrs and statues of Zeus and Apollo were replaced with statues of Andrew and Peter. Like most active churches in Rome, there is no admission fee, whether you’re coming in to pray or to be a tourist, and due to it being later in the day, there was no wait to go in.

Continue reading “Ancient Roman Cats”

Ancient Rome

I have always wanted to see ancient Rome, and though time traveling is not currently an option, today I wander through the ruins of it, starting with the double amphitheater known as The Colosseum. I shall avoid describing it as… colossal… but it is big, and a lot of the original is still standing despite the years of earthquakes and of locals using it as a “quarry” for gathering stone to build other (also now famous) buildings. Though there is no longer a floor and we can see directly into the basement, they used to hold all sorts of interesting shows here, from naval battles when they flood it, to hunts when they fill it with trees and pop dangerous predators up onto the field through trap doors, to, of course, the many popular forms of government-sanctioned murder entertainment. When someone asks if I would rather be a gladiator or someone watching the thousands of killings that would happen in a day here, I respond I’d rather be one of the engineers building the ingenious devices they used to spawn lions, tigers, and, yes, bears, onto the field.

From the Colosseum, I get a view of the Arch of Constantine and the remaining half-niche of Temple of Venus and Rome. Apparently two giant statues of Venus and Rome stood in the space that can still be seen here, and the circling inscription read, palindromically, “AMORA ROMA”. Continue reading “Ancient Rome”

All Trains Lead to Rome

My first sight of Rome is as I leave the metro station, and see, through the stairway, great, columns of stone. This pretty well sums of Rome – majestic stone buildings everywhere.

1080 First Sight of Rome
View from the Metro

My train to Rome had free, unsecured WiFi. But, to use it, to identify myself, it wanted me to put in my name, a password, and a credit card number, and submit it (without SSL) over unsecured WiFi. No thanks. I was really tempted to start a sniffer just to see how many credit card numbers of others flew by, but realized I didn’t have one installed, and I’d have to expose my credit card number to anyone listening in order to download one ;). Continue reading “All Trains Lead to Rome”