Italy Trip: Capitoline Museums

It was about this point on or first touring day that we became utterly exhausted. Jetlag was cajoling us with full force to ditch our schedule and take the Metro back to our hotel to sleep the rest of the day away. In fact, we found a nice sitting area within the museum and managed about 30 seconds of sound sleep before Errol woke me and I saw one of the staff staring at me. Not wanting to mean anymore disrespect to the artwork, we managed to carry on. YOCO, right?

TIP #1: There are 2 separate museums that comprise of the Capitoline. As you arrive at Capitoline Square, you have to enter through at the right hand building.

TIP#2: Be careful because when you go to the Cafe there, you have exited the museum (we learned this as a staff member asked for our ticket when we entered... And all we had to show was our Roma Passes and an explanation that we had just exited a few minutes prior without realizing it.

TIP #3: There is only ONE entrance to the museums. In order to get to the left side, there is an underground floor that connects two.

Yes, these tips are based on our own mistakes. We exited the museum twice and has to explain ourselves twice. The attempt to get to the left half of the museums must have been a common mistake because they just let us back in no problem. 

I would highly suggest the second part of the museums. Sounds bad, but they must make you go through the first part initially so that they are not skipped. The second half is where it's at.

Not only was it our first glimpse of the awe-inspiring sculptures of the Italian renaissance, but you also get an amazing view of the Roman Forum from a distance.

Elaborate busts

Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome

I swear I respected the art...
High-fiving Constantine
Overall this was a good museum. I'm sure we would have appreciated it more without the jetlag haze, so I would suggest not doing Colosseum + Roman Forum + Capitoline Museums not being done on the first day of your trip! 


Italy Trip: Galleria Borghese Art Lesson

I may be forever biased because this was my first course in any art piece, but this was definitely my favorite art museum of Roma. Because of the required reservations, there are only about 350 people in the building at once. This allows you to enjoy pieces without being herded and shoved around (as I experienced in the Vatican Museums... More on that later).
Beautiful facade; it looks smaller than it is in person! 
Getting there was an adventure on its own. 

TIP #1: It is required to make reservation to this place at least days in advance.Have the place you're staying book the reservation for you (saves the international calling fee). They'll provide you with a booking number that you give at the Galleria to confirm.

We got off the Metro in a place that didn't at all look like the entrance to a museum. 

TIP #2: The VILLA Borghese is the name of the entire grounds (which includes horseback riding, a zoo, numerous museums, and an expanse of green grass for picnicking). Keep this in mind and leave AT LEAST 45 minutes to find the place.

Errol and I got horribly lost because we exited the metro at the galoppatoio (Italian for "gallup"). It took us asking 4 different people in the rain, "Dov'e' la Galleria Borghese?".

TIP #3: Italians don't give good directions.

TIP #4: Don't ask a question in Italian if you can't understand the answer in Italian.

Unfortunately I couldn't tell you how to properly get there without walking through horse sh*t, but here's a map! 

I'm pointing to where we got off with the dotted line the roundabout path we took. And circled for you where you should ACTUALLY get off.
We finally arrived around 8:50 for our 9am reservation and there was still a line despite our Roma Pass. We were  all there for the same time slot, just waiting to get our tickets. It wasn't until about 9:10 that we finally got in.

TIP #5: They make you check your bag because there's no picture-taking allowed.

We were in the first marvelous Room of Emperors before we realized we had no idea what we were looking at. It was then we decided to use an audio guide that we saw many people using.

TIP #6: If you're with someone else, bring your own pair of headphones and share a guide to split the cost! It takes coordination, but definitely works.

I have to say the audio guide was essential to enjoying the Galleria. As much as I would like to be, I'm not an artwork connoisseur. The audio guide gives you an overview of a room, then you walk around and can listen to other specific works.

Here are some of my favorite ones (found these images from the internet). The information is what I can remember from the audio guide. I do not claim to be any sort of art expert, so if I'm wrong please feel free to correct:
Caravaggio's La Madonna dei Palafrenieri: Our first exposure to the painter , who we saw a lot more of in the Vatican Museums and in Florence. It demonstrates the his typical dark background with unseen light source. Virgin, with the help of her son, tramples on a serpent (emblem of evil). 
Titian's Sacred and Profane Love: "Sacred" as fully dressed and "profane" as nude.  In the center, is Cupid mixing the waters within the well/sarcophagus the ladies are sitting on, suggesting that the ideal love is a mix of these two kinds.
Canova's Paolina Borghese: I really loved this one just because of how real the sculpture looked. Not just because of her body, but the cushions she lays on. They look so comfortable!  
Bernini's Ratto di Proserpina: Depiction of the abduction of Proserpina to the underworld (represented by the three-headed dog behind the two figures, you can't see from here) by the god Pluto. On the left, you can see how soft the marble flesh looks in Pluto's arms. Tons of action and detail in this sculpture.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne: This is the final room of the Gallery, and for good reason (this is a compilation of it at multiple angles). It depicts the climax of the story of Daphne in Metamorphosis. Apollo is hit by Cupid's arrow and sees Daphne, daughter of Peneus the river god. But Daphne has been struck by Cupid's love-repelling arrow and denies love of men. As Apollo catches up to her, she prays to her father to destroy her beauty, and she becomes a tree. The sculpture depicts her as the bark begins to engulf her body and her hair turns into leaves and branches. My favorite piece! 
After the Galleria, you can spend the entire day in Borghese Gardens. 

It's compared to NYC's Central Park, and if it hadn't been raining (as it did every day we were in Rome), we would have done so. The original plan was to have a picnic there, but we couldn't find a nearby market so we walked off site to a restaurant and came back to walk around. 

This was a lovely day; I highly recommend going to this place! 


Italy Trip: Ancient Rome

It seemed appropriate to begin our journey at the start of Rome's majestic history!


Started the trip off with a bang with this colossal (pun intended) structure of Ancient Rome. With this site, we used our first audio tour from the Rick Steves iPhone app. It is very normal for people to have audio guides (that look like old-school telephones) taking them around various locations, so us holding our phones with headphones in didn't look [more] touristy compared to everyone else.

The audio guide, though a little cheesy, is highly recommended (and free!). We started at the cross on the West entrance and were led around the first floor, second floor, and even great look off areas where you can clearly see the Arch of Constantine and Roman Forum.

With Rick Steves, you get about an hour's worth of information and site seeing, but you can definitely spend a lot more time here thanks to the exhibits - ours in particular was of Constantine's life. The timing was perfect, because right when we finished the audio tour, it started to thunderstorm. The exhibit proved to be a perfect way to pass the time as the God-like thunder resounded through the Colosseum's archways.

Our homemade itinerary originally had us spending a mere hour in the Colosseum, but it ended up being closer to 3 hours because of the rain, and consequently, the exhibit. By this time, we were extremely hungry but we tried to stick to the itinerary, which had us eating lunch after Roman Forum. What was the solution to holding off until then? Errol's first Italian gelato (pistachio)!

Palatine Hill and Roman Forum:

Honestly, after the Colosseum all I wanted to do was eat. But the first day we couldn't possibly veer from the itinerary so we chugged along with our snacks (beef jerky and trail mix from home) and took another couple of hours seeing the heart of Ancient Rome's government and activity.

We saw the Palatine Hill first. With a ticket to the Colosseum, you get combo tickets to Palatine and Roman Forum (which are both the same entrance, so technically you just get 2 entrances in one).

Maybe I was spoiled by Rick Steves who doesn't have an audio guide for the Palatine Hill, but I didn't find It that interesting. It could also have been the hunger and jet lag haze that prevented me from fully enjoying the experience. In general, it's difficult to imagine it in its hay day (palace upon palace of glory - in fact, the word "palace" comes from "Palatine". I guess I did learn something!).

The Roman Forum is a much more classic place. We've all seen the pictures of the few remaining columns, the grand arches, etc. on top of that, there's a Rick Steve's audio tour for it!

This first full day was quite exhausting, especially when we remembered we were not immune to jetlag. However, it was impossible not to awe at the massive structures carved with everlasting masterpieces of art. 


Italy Trip: Getting to Rome

Starting May 28th, the day after my little sister's 16th birthday, Errol and I embarked on the trip of a lifetime! After months of planning and saving up, I was excited for my FIRST trip to Europe: 2 weeks in Italy. We would spend it in four cities - Rome, Greve in Chianti, Florence, and Venice.

Errol's mom dropped us off at the airport very early (4AM!). Looking back at these pictures of the beginning of the trip, we look quite refreshed. While the trip was a dream, it was also pretty exhausting!

The schedule of events:
Orlando (MCO) --> New York City (JFK): 6AM-8:30AM
JFK --> Moscow (SVO): 2:20PM-7:45AM (Russian time, 9 hours total)
SVO --> Rome (FCO): 9AM (Russian time) - 10:45AM (Italy time), total 3 hours

First time on a Russian airline, and I must say we didn't like the plane food all that much. Sorry, Russia! I hope to someday have some of their true delicacies, and not through air travel.

BUT, they did have a TV for everyone with some good movie selections! Tried to sleep as much as possible, but still managed to watch The Hobbit, Tangled, and Pirates of the Caribbean :)

By the time we cleared customs, got our backpacks (which we gladly checked for free through Aeroflot), and figured out our next move it was around 1PM.

First step was to purchase a ticket from the airport to the Termini Train Station in order to walk to our hotel. There's lots of places to buy tickets (bigletti) so we just picked whatever looked most official (many tobacco [tabacchi] stores sell tickets too). 

It's a €19 ticket on the Leonardo Express train to the Termini. There are other trains with stops but we didn't want to take the risk, with our first time riding (more on train travel later... it's quite simple!). Even with no stops it's still about a 30 minute ride. 

Hotel Corallo was the first place! (I'll have a separate post about Rome housing)

We refused to let jetlag get to us, but 3 hours of napping later we felt quite refreshed. Not wanting to waste the entire day, we set off walking around. We found a place for dinner that was empty because it was only 6PM, and Italians eat a couple of hours later. There's one way to look like a tourist!

It was a Napoli pizza (mozzarella and anchovies) on for dinner along with 250 mL white wine and an Italian beer (birra). A lovely first day in this amazing city.