I don’t usually know what you’ve been touching… Or Tonight we could push the beds together!

Happy Three-Quarters Trip-iversary! Yes today marks the 3/4 mark of our trip which, on a four month trip, means that one month from today we will be setting foot on Canadian soil once again. This is a sad thought, as we are loving Europe and everything we have got to/will get to see, do & experience here, but also happy, as we miss home, our families & Tim Hortons.

Today also marked our exit from Rome and our last full day in Italy. After a brioche breakfast (Yum Yum!)…
…we boarded the train north. After 5 hours of training and a quick stop over in Milan we arrived in Genoa…or Genova if you are Italian…again with the Englified names…so weird… Our hostel turned out not to be a hostel at all…it is actually a cute little bed and breakfast. Upon arriving Kristin remembered that those were pretty much all there was in Genoa, so we had a nice romantic little room.
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It’s so nice to not sleep in a bunk bed for a few nights. No climbing up & down (if you’re Kristin) or having to listen to someone creak over you all night (if you’re Justine). And our room had that adorable little table and a fan and tons of room spread out.

We spent our afternoon just wandering around. We walked along the boardwalk and checked out the boats. Then we went out onto the pier and appreciated the beauty of coastal Italy. It looks so cool how they build right into hills. It creates a very dynamic appearance. Plus the colors are really pretty.
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Genoa is one of those towns that shuts down on Mondays instead of Sundays, so finding supper was a harder task than one might guess. Eventually we found an open restaurant that had actual meals…and not just kebabs, donairs and pizza by the slice. It ended up being a great meal for our last hurrah in Italy. We each had a heaping plate of seafood spaghetti. It was topped with all sorts of creatures: shrimp, clams, mussels, calimari and plenty of thing with squiggly little legs (Justine couldn’t bring herself to eat these so Kristin volunteered to take them). We paired this with white wine on tap. Yes this classy place has wine of tap. It was a bit fizzy when you poured it, but tasted just like normal white wine. Italy, we will miss your meals!

We should probably mention how much we enjoyed your responses to the Roman Gods question! So much thought put into it! We will be writing a little something up about it sometime soon, but until then people can still submit their answers!

Love, Luck & Legs…or should we say tentacles….

I just don’t see how your bed doesn’t just light on fire!

We started our day with a delicious brioche breakfast. It had been quite a surprise yesterday when we had visited the lobby to use the Internet and the man at reception gave us directions for how to get to breakfast. The hotel has no common area for serving a continental breakfast so they have cut a deal with a cafe around the back of the building. When we got there we just had to hand over some tickets reception man had given us and we were presented with a brioche & hot beverage each. Free breakfast is the best.

After eating, we walked to the train station and caught the metro to the Colosseo stop. Can anyone guess what we saw when we emerged from the station?
The most famous building in Rome has to be the Colosseum. This building is 2000 years old and is an example of perfect Roman engineering. The Romans pioneered the use of concrete and the rounded arch which allowed them to build on such a grand scale. But with function you sometimes lose the fashion, and the Romans weren’t the best at making things look nice. To fix this they added some Greek columns for esthetic value. From the outside the building looks incredibly impressive. The arches stack up perfectly for 3 stories of architectural marvelousness. We did a whole lap of the place to see it from all angles. The north side has remained the most intact; it still has it’s top floor.
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The Colosseum was built in 80 AD when the Roman Empire was at its peak. It was an arena for gladiator contests and public spectacles. Killing had become a spectator sport and the Romans wanted to share the fun with as many people as possible. At its height, the Colosseum could accommodate 50,000 roaring fans and entrance was entirely free. In the present day we had to pay to get in, but it was definitely worth it. The interior is more what you picture when you think fo ruins. There is only one small section that contains any seats, and those are a reconstruction. You have to use your imagination to picture how so many people could sit & watch the games. What wasn’t hard to see though were the structural components. Without floors & seats covering them, all of the arches and support columns are on full display. You don’t think about how strong a simple Roman arch is until you see 3 more stories of arches, floors and various other stones stacked on top of it.
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Gladiators, criminals and wild animals fought to the death here in every conceivable scenario. There was beast vs beast, man vs beast and the main event: man vs man. The floor has been reconstructed at one end to give you an idea of the depth of the lower level where the animals were kept before they were lifted up in elevators. The animals (including lions, tigers, bears (Oh My!) and other exotic creatures) would pop out from behind blinds into the arena…the gladiator didn’t know where, when or by what he’d be attacked. Gladiators were the modern day equivalent of star athletes, they even had there own fan clubs and cheering sections. The underground passageways really were a treat to see. It is a vast maze of cages, cells and open spaces for warming up.

The Arch of Constantine is important for anyone who is a Christian, was raised a Christian or is simply from a Christian nation. This arch, from 312 AD, marks the turning point in history where Emperor Constantine defeated his rival and made Christianity the religion of the Empire. Almost over night it went from being illegal to worship Christ to being illegal if you didn’t. The arch is a hulking big piece of white marble. In itself it is impressive, but it is made all the more picturesque by it’s placement, right between the Colosseum & Palantine Hill.

The Roman Forum is ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center. In the Roman empire, the forum was the center of any city (much as present day Italian cities revolve around their piazzas) and as Rome was the center of the empire, this set of ruins was really the core of the entire civilization. In other words, although it may look like a crumbly bunch of bricks it was a huge deal in history. Walking around it’s hard to picture what this place would have looked like all those years ago. The forum would have been full of blinding white marble buildings with 40 foot high columns and shining bronze roofs, as well as rows of statues painted in realistic colors.

Each end is marked by a large white arch. They are similar to that of Constantine but celebrate instead Titus & Septimus Severus. They were two other emperors, the first of early Rome and the second during it’s decline. A couple of other things stand out on the almost flattened area: The Senate House stands as the only whole & operational building…due to the fact that it was converted into a church upon Rome’s fall. The Basilica of Constantine stands towering over everything else, despite the fact that it is only a fraction of it’s original size. All that is left now are a triplet of the most massive arches we have ever seen and will probably ever see in our lives.
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The Temple of Julius Caesar is where Caesar’s body was burned after his assassination. There are constantly flowers on the site…given to remember the man who, more than any other personified the greatness of Rome. Although publically Julius Caesar refused the laurel headdress that would have made him sole leader of Rome, privately he slowly abolished the power of the senate until he ruled as a dictator. This ushered in a new era of control for emperors during which their title changed to “Ceasar”. Though loved by the masses, not everyone liked him. In the end he was ambushed and stabbed to death by a conspiracy of senators. The temple where he was burned is not an overly impressive sight; it is the significance of it that really hits you. People worship this political leader like he was a god! Not something that would happen today, that’s for sure!
The Temple of Vesta is perhaps Rome’s most sacred spot. As long as the sacred flame burned, like the fire at the center of a Roman home, Rome would stand. The flame was tended by priestesses known as Vestal Virgins. These women were chosen from noble families before they reached the age of ten. The 6 Vestal Virgins would serve a 30 year term in which they took a vow of chastity. If she served her term faithfully she was given a huge dowry and allowed to marry. However many women found it difficult to keep there virginity. If found out, she was strapped to a funeral car, paraded through the streets if the forum, taken to a crypt, given a loaf of bread and a lamp and then buried alive. Yikes! Their sacred home is still a lovely garden with large reflecting pools & statues of those women who were able to retain their virtue.
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Palatine Hill, located above the forum is full of even more history and ancient ruins. This was where the emperors lived. The hill was once so filled with palaces that later emperors had to build outwards & downwards. On the hill we saw the remains of the Imperial Palace, the huts of Romulus and Remus (orphaned twins who legend tells us were raised by the she-wolf on Palatine Hill and founded Rome) and the House of Emperor Augustus, which we were able to enter and see newly discovered frescoes.
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By the time we finished with the ancient sites it was well past lunch time & we were starving. We found a place on a side street and sat down for some pizza. We were back to Italian thin crust, versus the raised crust required to hold in the pizza soup served in Naples. We went halvesies on a margherita & mushroom.

We spent our afternoon in the only way we know how in Rome, apparently. We sat at the Trevi Fountain for over an hour and then on the Spanish Steps for almost two. In between we wandered the streets that link the two sights and did some stellar shopping. Couple more Christmas presents checked off the list…including a couple of gifts for ourselves 😉 Eventually it got dark and we meandered to the fountain again. It looks beautiful when it’s all lit up!

For supper we found a place not far from the fountain, but far enough that it wasn’t crazy expensive. It was still a touristy enough area though that we didn’t have to eat alone for once! Kristin had cannelloni, as it was on her To Eat Before we Leave Italy list, and Justine had tortellini with mushroom & cream sauce. The portion sizes look small but we were both stuffed by the time we finished!
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Thing We Learned Today:
– The word ”palace” comes from Palatine Hill, because this was where the Emperors chose to live.

Random Observations:
– You cannot walk around Italy in a white & red or white & blue striped shirt…you just look like you should drive a gondola. We had a gondola man (or man who dresses like he wants to be one!) spotting at the Trevi Funtain today.

Highlight of the Day:
– The Colosseum obviously!
– But also haggling with a street vendor so that instead of getting two bags for €45 each we got two bags for €40 total.

Love, Luck & Lupa the she-wolf,

And because it’s been awhile, how about a participation question!?!?!?
The two of us have found this young adult book series that we enjoy listening to the audiobooks of at work. It’s called Percy Jackson and is about Percy who is a Demi-god. A Demi-god is a person with one human parent and one God parent. Now it’s research time! We want you to look into the Roman gods, and the Greek ones who they are originally based on. Now imagine that we are all Demi-gods…based on our personality traits who do you think our Godly parent would be & why? And how about you…who do you think your Godly parent would be? If you answer for both us and yourself we will give you lots of points & maybe even reply with who we think your parent would be!

It’s not a country unless Telus tells us it is!

Today we visited country number 17! Well it was country #17 for Justine…for Kristin it was #18 since Telus texted her that she went to Croatia… But this is all besides the point… Today we went to another country, without really ever leaving Italy! Vatican City is a tiny independent country of little more than 100 acres. The Vatican has it’s own postal system, armed guards (called the Swiss guard & who have the most ridiculous outfits ever), helipad, mini train station and radio station. Being so small in size, the Vatican is religiously powerful, being the capital of over 1.1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. The Vatican is the home of two main sights: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel.

St. Peter’s Basilica is the richest and grandest church on earth. The atrium itself is bigger than most churches. There are actually markers on the floor telling you where other churches would end if they were placed on top of it. From the outside it looks like a hulking palace of a place. The dome points up above a great columned portico. The white columns at the entrance date from the first church on this site in the 4th century.
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A highlight in the church is the main altar which sits directly over St. Peter’s tomb and under the fabulous seven-story bronze canopy designed by Bernini. This is a marvel of carving with intricate designs running all the way up to the cross studded top. Then behind it lies a stunning stained glass window depicting a dove in the golden sunlight. Surrounding it is a mass of golden statuery that appears to be both drawn into the light and overcome by it’s intensity. Basically, it’s beautiful!
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But that is just the center of the curch. Below lies a crypt containing the bodies of centuries worth of past popes. Each side of the Greek-cross shaped church is lined with biblical figures, candles to be lit and small altars ready for prayer. Many of the works found here are world famous, but none more so than the Pietá. Michelangelo sculpted his Pietá (any work that represents Mary with the body of Christ taken down from the cross) when he was only 24. This one is so well loved and protected it’s kept behind bulletproof glass.

Once we had absorbed the majesty of the church we climbed the 551 steps to the top of the dome. This dome was Michelangelo’s last work and is the biggest anywhere. It is such a feat of engineering and even the present day Romans are so proud of it that no buildings in Rome can be taller than the dome of St. Peter’s….its actually a law. The dome is huge, taller than a football field is long. And it takes a lot of energy to climb…but we did it…even with Kristin’s reduced lung capacity. In the end we decided it wasn’t even the hardest climb we’ve done on this trip. The view from the top was spectacular. You get a great view of the Vatican, with it’s key shaped square & enormous museum, and of the vast expanse of Rome. It really is a sprawling city…just not for us tourists who just want the ancient part.
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We had been able to pretty much just walk into St. Peter’s but by the time we left there was a solid line up forming. Good timing on our part. We knew that lunch time was the worst for line ups at the museum as well so we took a break & had lunch. Venturing down the side streets away from the Vatican you could see a clear development in restaurants. They start cheap, touristy & with annoying people out front trying to convince you to come in. They develop into expensive, sorta touristy & still annoying. Then cheap, not touristy & not annoying. And lastly expensive, not touristy & not annoying. We opted for the second last group…cheap (Yay!), not touristy (=better quality food) and not annoying (because we would rather pay more than listen to some guy bug every person who passes by while we eat). The place had a daily special of spaghetti (your choice of sauce) with wine & dessert. We jumped at that and ate some spaghetti bolognese with red wine & tiramisu to finish! It was great quality food…the pasta was cheesy, the wine was fruity and the dessert had a delightful texture 🙂
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The Vatican museum is big, over 4 miles of ancient statues, Christian frescos and modern paintings. They all culminate in the end at the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. We had heard from the Padget parents that this place could be super busy…when they were there they were walking shoulder-to-shoulder with those around them. We were ready for a long line & packed exhibits…then we were suddenly inside… Apparently the line-up runs along the sidewalk and we had wandered into it, but it was moving so fast that we had just thought it was a busy street. We were into the building, through the ticket line & at our first gallery with zero wait time.

First up was statues. The collection of Greek and Roman statues contained many originals but even more Roman copies of Greek originals. To put this in laymens terms, there were really old statues that were actually just knock-offs of even older statues. Interestingly, one of the Popes was not a fan of the naked men scattered about. To remedy this he had all of their privates hacked off and the resulting nothingness covered up by a fig leaf.
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As we walked though the rooms we learned some random things by eavsedropping. The best was when we followed a random private tour guide around while we talked about the developments of light & dimensions through the Renaissance. Rick Steves accurately described the museum…after long halls of tapestries, old maps, broken penises and fig leaves, you’ll come to what most people are looking for…
The Raphael Rooms are filled with frescos, which are actually paint mixed with plaster so are considered part of the wall and not paintings. These rooms were frescoed by Raphael and his assistants. This series of chambers is exquisite to walk through, even for “art for dummies” folks like us. The use of color and the realistic nature of the people was a wonder to behold.
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Finally you come to the Sistine Chapel, the Pope’s personal chapel and also where a new Pope is elected. The chapel is famous for its paintings by Michelangelo, who spent 4 years on this work. The roof is a perfect depiction of the story of creation. Also one wall is covered with a painting of the Last Judgement. As in all similar paintings the message is clear: Christ is returning, some will go to he’ll and some to heaven. This place was just incredible. We stood and stared for so long because there is so much to take in & all of it is worth seeing. The details & dynamics of the paintings are so amazing that you understand how this work of art could inspire many of the ideas coming out of the renaissance movement.
Sorry the photo is a bit blurry…you’re not actually allowed photos in the Sistine Chapel so this was a sneaky one!

Leaving the Vatican we slowly meandered our way through the streets of Rome. We popped into some tourist shops and bought some souvenirs off the street. We’re on the last leg of our trip and need to finish up souvenir and present buying! Eventually we made our way to the Spanish steps where we partook in our favorite pastime of sitting on steps and writing some blog post. It was crazy to watch the scene on the street below. There was hardly room to walk on the streets, yet once you climbed up a few steps there was hardly anyone around. We couldn’t understand why more people weren’t just loitering on the steps…we swear it’s good fun!

It was slightly chilly on the Spanish steps so we headed back towards our hostel, looking for somewhere for supper along the way. We wandered the streets near our home looking for a place that was a) open and b) had people eating at it. We only succeeded on the first point. Like we have many times already, we ate supper alone. Tonight Justine dined on spaghetti & clams while Kristin has gnochetti with tomato sauce & sausage. We weren’t sure what gnochetti was, but since Kristin likes anything with sausage she thought it was a good choice. The meal was topped off with some wine…an entire litre of wine to be exact…a wonderfully cheap liter of wine!
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By the time we had finished eating (and drinking all our wine) other people has finally started to come to the restaurant. Crazy Italians who eat so late! At this point we were a little giddy and didn’t really care if we were alone of not.

Tomorrow is ancient Rome…and Kristin can hardly contain her excitement!
Love, Luck & Lots of wine 🙂