I had a quiet morning yesterday and in the afternoon made my way to the airport for my flight from Vienna to Rome. When I arrived at Fiumicino airport in Rome, there was a driver waiting for me from my hotel. The hotel offers a free pick up service from the airport and I must admit it was really, really nice just being able to get in a car and be taken to where I needed to be – no catching trains, no trying to follow directions ad no hassle. I really must be waited on more often!
As to the hotel itself, let's just say that the photographer obviously used a room-widening lens when he took the shots of the single room I am in. It's far smaller than the room I stayed in in Prague, and unfortunately not nearly as hotel like. Kind of ironic! For instance, I realised that I have to pay for use of the internet – which I think is a bit rich given most hostels have free wireless access and I am paying a lot more than I would if I were at a hostel. I hope it's not too expensive (I am writing this currently in Microsoft Word and will copy and paste it to the blog so I have yet to find out how much it will be). Also, there is a bidet in the bathroom! I'm sure as hell not using it (sorry my Italian friends – our conversation in Tasmania has scarred me for life:)
This morning I spoke to Mum, Dad and my younger brother which was fantastic – I won't have another chance before Christmas so I wanted to have a chat. It's my first Christmas away from home – sniff! I also finished my book, Middlemarch, last night. I was sad to have it end – I always get attached to characters! I shall have to find another book now – though I don't know if my chances of finding a novel in English over here are that high.
The good thing about this hotel is that it is right near the Vatican City (in fact you can see the Dome of St Peter from the hotel restaurant), so this morning, after calling mum and dad, I went exploring.
I looked up the weather forecast for today and it was 17 degrees! No snow, no fog – just a bit of wind and would you believe it, sunshine!! That's the first sunshine I've seen for a while (and that's including the last few days in Melbourne would you believe). Having been walking around in temperatures of around -5 degrees in central Europe, it felt like summer when I went outside today! It made me laugh to see people walking around in jackets and scarves and saying 'e freddo!!' (it's cold!) I suppose it's all relative.
After a quick lunch (for which I think I paid for the luxury of sitting down in the cafe rather than for the quality of the food!) I headed up to St Peter's Square. I came around from the side, so it wasn't until I was actually walking through the columns to the side and turned a corner that it actually came into view. And I must say, buildings don't usually inspire an emotional feeling in me so I was surprised at my reaction to being in the square. I just couldn't stop smiling and giggling in sheer delight. It sounds like of totally uncool I know and generally I would think that such a place would inspire a more sedate reaction of wonder (that happened once I got inside) but it was absolute excitement that dictated my reaction – St Peter's!! And at Christmas! And the sun is out!
I spent a good 30-40 mins just walking around the square, basking in its greatness and the amazing feeling of actually physically being there. Then I went inside. At this point I must say that the decoration of some of the churches I've seen in the past few weeks can look as though the architects have tried to cram as much opulence into a tiny as space as they can and can therefore look quite crowded. Not St Peter's. The decoration is definitely extravagant, but (to me at least) nothing seems out of place. Every statue and marble tile is balanced out perfectly. And St Peter's is lucky that it is in Rome in that it is not so dark as further up north in Europe, so it gets wonderful natural light.
A lot of seats were set up, presumably in time for the Christmas mass and most people were there to take photos and generally look around, so at first I wondered where one went to actually pray in St Peter's. However they did have a separate chapel on the side curtained off where one could go to pray. It was very quiet in there and mostly contained nuns and priests.
This brings me to make a certain gripe about cameras. Photos are fantastic to look at for memories and I also can appreciate a well taken photo. But I just can't fathom why some people go to places of beauty and look at them only through a lens. Time and time again I have seen tourists at various sites walk around, taking photos of absolutely everything, but never stopping to actually see with their own eyes. How can looking at them later on your computer or in an album possibly beat appreciating the real thing while you are there? That's not to say don't take photos (and I certainly do!) but this act of walking around with a camera or video camera glued to one's eye is ridiculous!
After that little rant, here are some shot I took. Believe me, I didn't take that many in comparison to others!
After doing the loop a few times I went to the museum of various treasures that the Vatican has been given or collected through the ages. Wow, there are some truly amazing pieces there. I think my personal favourite has to be the chest that holds the skull of St Sebastian (who was martyred by being shot with many arrows). Or if not that, then the cross that holds parts of the True Cross (that Jesus was crucified on). Some of the objects come from as far back as Emperor Constantine!
By the time I came out of the museum it was past 5 o'clock and the sun had gone down, so I grabbed something to eat and then have come back to the hotel. I now need to do my research as to what happens for Christmas Eve mass at the square – I've heard that tickets are notoriously difficult to get for inside the church. I tried a few months back but was unable to get any, so I will be outside in St Peter's along with thousands of others I suppose. The weather forecast is for a thunderstorm so I really hope that is wrong! In any case, given the popularity for Christmas Eve mass at St Peter's square, tomorrow I'll have to stock up on supplies and be ready to wait for a while out there I imagine! If I see a group of Australians I'll try to weedle in there!
I'm checking my world clock and can see that it's early Christmas Eve morning in Australia. I may not be able to get on to the computer again for a while, so I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Being overseas, away from family and friends at this time of year, has certainly been very hard and I miss everyone horribly. However, if I was to spend a Christmas away, then St Peter's is the place I would choose! I hope your Christmas is as blessed as mine. And mum and dad, save me some presents! ;-)