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Monday, July 2, 2012

Italy Day 7: Angels and Demons Tour

Our FINAL day in Italy (don't get too pumped, there are like 4 blog posts to cover this day haha). Originally we planned for Friday to be a "catch up" day, to hit highlights in Rome we may have missed earlier in the week. Since we fell asleep on arrival day and then over slept on the Vatican day, it was more like a balls to the walls hardcore no-break do it all day. End with a bang right?!?!

We got to sleep in a little bit that morning as our Angels and Demons tour didn't meet until 9. We enjoyed yet another breakfast...
I first had these pastries in Paris and now I always grab them whenever I see them. Filled with chocolate chips and super yummy :)
Since our tour didn't start until 9 we thought we would take advantage of a "free" morning and stop on the way to the tour to see a few of our Rome sights in order to make sure we could squeeze it all in. Of course we had subway trouble! Something went wrong with the one we were on so the entire train had to get off at a random stop and wait for another train. Of course it was a work day so it was jammed packed as was every next train that came by. We ended up walking to the next metro station to catch an emptier train. It worked out fine, but was a mega time kill and we ended up being a few minutes late to the tour.

I know, I know...an Angels and Demons tour sounds SO CHEESY. It was a tour based on the Dan Brown novel. We re-watched the movie while on our trip so it would all be fresh (even though the book and movie have some major differences!). We really, really like Dan Brown books and this tour sounded so fun! I HIGHLY recommend reading the book. If you haven't read it then this blog entry will have a lot of spoilers...so read the book first then come back (like you'll actually remember to come back haha) and read this post. I'm not going to try to explain the book to you as I write this, I'm going to write it as if you've already read it since that's how we experienced the tour!

We had a pretty full day planned. Our tour was supposed to be from 9-12 then we'd hurry back to the room so I could pump, grab some lunch, then take a walking tour of the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill (which we originally didn't plan on doing but booked it with Peter on our first day in Florence to save the hassle of lines and because I knew Zach would enjoy all the knowledge a tour guide would be able to provide). We'd go back to the room and pump again (eliminating the need for that heavy book bag!) then head back out and hit up the Spanish Steps, other must see things nearby, the Pantheon, then ending the night with dinner there. Yes, a FULL DAY for sure but we were ready!!! Like I said...end the trip BIG :) It didn't go AT ALL as planned...but we'll get to all of that :)

Even if you haven't read the book and don't plan to, don't skip out on this post yet! It still covered a LOT of great info about Rome and several wonderful sights! Here we go :)

The church where we met for the tour (Santa Maria del Popolo) is considered to be the most important and valuable church in Rome as it is the first church by the main gate.
This is the main entrance into Rome. Only the wealthy and elite could enter through here!
This is an Obelisk. There are only 32 in the world and 13 of them are in Rome. Roman soldiers stole them from Egypt as war trophies. This one is over 4,000 years old and is made of pink granite and covered in hieroglyphics.
The square where our tour began is called Piazza del Popolo.
Since it was our last day in Rome I tried to capture as many pictures as I could so I would be able to remember as much of Italy as possible. Beggars are everywhere you go in Italy. We passed several in the metro station each time we would go to catch a train. Often they had small children sitting in their laps. Typically they just sat on the ground with signs but some would actually perform attempting to earn money. I have SO much more respect for those who work than those who just ask for a handout (not trying to get political on yall!). We saw an older brother and his younger sister on one train. They went from cart to cart, he played music and she held out the dish for money. We also heard from our guide in Florence I think? That many families would purposefully hurt their children and disfigure them in some way so they would become the family beggar. That child would be forced to live a life of begging. How horrible is that?!?!
Another view of the square.
Our tour would be following the Path of Illumination, the same path that Robert Langdon followed in the book (side note: I ALWAYS picture Zach's cousin and his best man in our wedding, Ryan Cooper, as Robert Langdon. He's super into history and our whole trip we kept saying how much Ryan would like Italy. Random!). This is the poem from which Langdon figured out the path.
Our map
Our first stop was inside the church. This is where they found the first cardinal, killed using the element "earth." It is "Rapheal's (Santi) tomb" because he is the one who built it.

The word "chapel" means something different to us than it does in Italy. In Italy a chapel is place where a family is buried together.
This is the "Demon's hole" that the poem was referring to. It's just a hole in the ground where bodies are buried below. People had to pay a lot of money to be buried in the bottom of a church like this one and even MORE money to have a chapel like the one above. Most people who could even afford to have their remains in a church, were tossed into "demons holes" like this one.
More images of the beautiful church.

Since everything is so well preserved it's easy to forget how OLD it all is. I liked seeing this on the ground, I guess it's covering up where someone was buried? Seeing how worn it is reminded me of just how old of a place we were visiting.
Since the area where the statues we were looking to see was closed due to renovations (and our guide said they had been working on it for over 4 years now!) he passed around a photo of what it looks like. The statue is by Bernini and is of an angel pointing to the location where the second cardinal was set to be killed.
I happened to see this on our way out...is it not so freaky?? Check out the skeleton towards the bottom of the picture. Freaky!
Bernini was commissioned by the church to design the entire square. Although he was hired and paid by the church, he still included many pagan tributes.
Crest of the family who built the arch, the official entrance into Rome.
Zach in front of the obelisk...also in front of a lady who will have an interesting story later in this post :)
Entering the gates!
Something I have yet to mention is that in Italy they drive on the right side of the road. I mean, that doesn't seem that random since we drive on the right side as well...but it surprised me. I assumed all other countries drove on the left since that's what we've typically encountered during our travels.
Another entrance into what is known as Modern Rome.
In the book there was a secret passage way from the Vatican to Saint Angelo Castle. This passageway is really not much of a secret. It's actually a passage inside the walls surrounding Vatican City!


I also wanted to take a picture of the street. All the streets in Rome were made of stone, like this one. We saw TONS of motorcycles everywhere and neither of us could imagine trying to drive a motorcycle on these streets! Needless to say, they weren't too comfortable on our feet either.
Family's put their crest on anything that they owned or paid to have created. The Medici family was a  power house in Florence but they also left their mark in Rome. This is their family crest, on part of the wall surrounding Rome.
I kept laughing to myself thinking that our tour guide had left his tags on his jeans. I was wondering if he was planning to return them or if it was some sort of fashion symbol over there or something...I snapped this picture to show Zach later but he saw me take it and thought I was using the tag story as an excuse to take a picture of our guide's butt! I'm sticking with the tag story though...this legit looks like a tag even though Zach told me it was actually just a label attached to his jeans. Whatever.
Once we reached St Peter's Square our tour guide wasn't allowed to come in with us. When Sony made the movie they requested permission from Vatican City to film there. The Vatican said they would allow it in exchange for a "donation" to the church (since the church is a "non profit" they couldn't straight up asked to be paid). Sony donated 2 million dollars to Vatican City. Then word somehow got to someone high up about what the book/movie was about...and suddenly Sony wasn't allowed to film there anymore (all the scenes in the movie are fake). But the church sure did keep that donation! On top of that, the Angels and Demons book is not allowed within the walls of Vatican City. No tours can take place there. No mentioning of it is even allowed. Scandalous huh?

This square was the location where the second cardinal was murdered. The killer punctured his lungs and Robert Langdon couldn't save him in time.
The element use to kill the cardinal was wind and all around where he died were stones on the ground showing wind as well as telling the directions.
This is the one Robert used when deciding where to head next. In the book English was considered a secret language used by the Illuminati because it was not allowed in the Catholic church. The Vatican required that the bible remain in its Latin form and would not allow it to be translated into English. This stone was the clue on the path of Illumination because "west" is written in English, not Latin. Latin does not contain the letter "w" at all so this word would be impossible to even pronounce. In reality, the real reason the artist chose to have the word "west" in English was to pay homage to America.
awkward ;)

When we visited St Peter's on Monday we didn't realize how fortunate we had been just to walk right in with no wait. The lines to get in where MASSIVE. Another couple on our tour said they waited in line a few days prior and it was so bad they ended up going and jumping in a tour group so they could use the skip the line feature that tours offer. Speaking of tours...we were ON a tour yet we got hounded like crazy by people trying to get us to join their tour. I'm so thankful it wasn't like that when we visited or we probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much!
had to take one with the shades, duh

I offered to take another couples picture so they returned the favor. The girl who took it said "oops I accidentally took one!"

Water break! At the height of the Roman Empire 11 aqueducts brought the city 25 gallons of water per day! The free flowing fountains all over town are always cold and safer to drink than their tap water.

I was terrible at it...I ended up with a lot more water all over me than I did in my mouth!
More of the stone streets
Before entering St Peter's Square, our tour guide told us we would only have 15 minutes to look around. He even made sure everyone had the same time on their clocks. We had left our clock on the tour bus so we just snapped a couple of pics and then hung close to our guide. We all got on the bus and our guide did a head count. Remember that lady who was behind Zach in the picture earlier? Well she was on the tour solo and was MISSING. We waited and waited and no one knew her or had seen her (I didn't even know who everyone was talking about). Her bag was on the bus so we were kinda worried about her. What if something bad had happened ya know? At some point though, the tour had to go on. We had waited a good 20 min for her and our guide made the call to leave her. He called his company and told them we were leaving her and that we had her bag.

We were all feeling bad for this poor woman as the bus pulled out of the parking space. We were driving along when someone yelled "there she is!!!!" She was walking down the street eating some ice cream! Our guide hopped out and asked if she wanted to continue the tour or not. She was completely oblivious to what was going on. It was THE funniest thing. As she got on she even said "I was board wandering around trying to waste time." Our whole bus was trying not to laugh but couldn't help it. Our guide tried to keep talking but had a hard time and then I just busted out laughing so hard I was crying. I couldn't stop myself. Watching everyone else try not to laugh made the whole thing even funnier. Right now I'm laughing to myself just remembering it.

Our next stop was where the third cardinal was found. He was still alive when Robert Langdon found him but he was tied, in the crucified position, across this alter - on fire. The third element, obviously.

This church was built for it's "wow" factor. Literally every single inch is completely covered in some type of decoration. At the time it was built people were leaving the Catholic faith in masses due to the church accepting money from people in exchange for the forgiveness of their sins. This church was meant to inspire people to come back to the faith...odd logic, not sure if it worked or not?!? But it was beautiful!

This organ was playing while we were there. We do not have musical instruments during our worship service (long explanation of why musical instruments aren't scriptural during worship...maybe someone would like to write a guest post on that for me?) so it was odd to hear music at a church. But it was also beautiful.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was raised Catholic. One of the seven sacraments you go through as a Catholic is Confirmation. Don't ask me the details on it, as I do not remember! But I know I had to pick a Saint to be named after. My Grandmother's (Nana's) Confirmation name was Theresa. It was also my middle name (I'm not a huge fan of Theresa...pronounced Teresa...so I dropped it when we got married and used my maiden name as my middle name). Being that it was an easy pick, I chose St Theresa for my Confirmation name as well.

While on the bus ride to the church our tour guide gave us some insider scoop about St Theresa. Now, I know there are a LOT of saints so I could have been named for a different St Theresa, but this one was pretty interesting! Supposedly this nun would have dreams at night where angels would stab and "penetrate" her. She would have these "dreams" and would enjoy the pain and even claimed that God penetrated her in such dreams. To become a saint someone would have had to perform a certain number of miracles in their lifetime. Well when Theresa died they found cuts all over her body and thought that her dreams had been true...that the angels had been stabbing and penetrating her. Her miracle was that she had survived all the ordeals as they were not her cause of death. Of course today historians believe that she probably just had some mental issues and was actually a cutter, who caused those wounds on herself. The statue is done by Bernini and depicts the saint in a state of ecstasy. The angel who is stabbing her is smiling and everyone seems to be enjoying the whole episode. This statue was so controversial that it was removed from the Vatican. In the book and movie the angel is actually pointing the opposite direction so it will fit in with the storyline. 
Beautiful ceiling
This church is named Mary of Victory (Maria Della Vittoria) because some soldiers saw Mary in a dream prior to battle. When they won the battle they claimed their win was due to her help and influence from that dream. These are actual weapons used in that battle which was Catholics vs Lutherans.
The photo in the center of the alter is of Mary.
Another view of Ecstasy of St Theresa.
 You can see the angel smiling as well as Theresa's look of pleasure...
This is an actual person, covered in wax. Victoria was originally placed where the main metro station (Termini) is located. They moved her body and covered it in wax when they built the station. Those are her original clothes and teeth. As you can tell, she died from a stab to the neck! In the movie this was actually shown melting away in the fire.

Close up of teeth
And her legit hand showing through, so gross.
Me with my saint ;)
I saw this billboard everywhere we went...I actually sorta got the punchline so I enjoyed it :) Or at least I think I get it?
Tiber River
Our tour stopped for a break...and we realized it was much longer than the website said it would be. It was supposed to be from 9-12 (we booked it at home through Viator) but the tour guide said it wouldn't be over until 1:45ish. Yikes. Another couple said they signed up for a 5 hour tour...we only signed up for a 3 hour one, or so we had thought. It's not that we weren't enjoying the tour, it's that my chest was going to be screaming "EMPTY ME!" at 1:00. And we were supposed to be back at our hotel (across town) to pump then. And eat lunch. And make our 3:00 tour at the Colosseum. We were in trouble. Thankfully we noticed it when we did. We went to the potty and loaded up with some lunch during the break and planned to just enjoy the rest of the tour and go as fast as possible back to the room when it ended.

Tiny Coke can
I laughed at this gelato flavor!
The blue gelato was originally called "Smurf" until Viagra came out, then the name was changed ;)
This was our cheapest lunch of the whole trip but OMG I loved it! Best sandwich of my LIFE. They toasted it for me and it was massive and delicious and I never wanted it to end ;)
Our next stop was Piazza Navona. This was the original entrance to the area back when it was used as Nero's Circus.

Another obelisk in the center of the square, I just liked how this picture looks like the obelisk goes into the heavens because of the way the sun is catching it.
This is where the last cardinal was found. In the book and in the movie this is supposedly deep enough for Robert Langdon to be swimming in. Obviously, that's not the case! It's only about calf deep, not deep enough to really drown in like as depicted in the novel and film.

It was tough to get a picture of the entire thing because our group was all huddled around the base of it so I took pictures of sections. This is Bernini's Fountain of Four Rivers. It features four reclining figures representing the Danube, Plate, Ganges and Nile.


The dove  on top of the obelisk is the last "angel" along the quest and is facing the opposite direction in the book and movie. It was neat to learn little changes Dan Brown (the book's author) made in order to make his story work. I love how Dan Brown uses true history yet blends it with fiction to create exciting stories!
outdoor market we passed

SPQR - remember from my Latin days (I was SUCH the Ragina Latina haha) means "the Senate and People of Rome."
Our final stop was the final place in the movie as well. It was at Castel Sant'Angelo where the illuminate supposedly met. At one time the pope would actually serve as the king of Rome and would hold his prisoners here. It later became where pope's would live. The "secret" passageway connects to this location from Vatican City.

Another view of the Tiber River



St Peter's
chillin' ;)
Angels, like the poem in the book talked about, lead the way as they line the bridge leading up to the castle. They are actually copies of originals done by (who else?) Bernini. Each figure holds an instrument of the passion of Christ.
The angel on top, pointing downwards. Fits perfectly with the storyline! It was so neat to see it all visually come together.
holding the crown of thorns
A very popular movie that came out a few years ago had two characters in love who put a lock on a bridge in Italy, locked it, then threw the keys in the river to show their eternal love for each other. The bridge where the movie actually took place is now SO over loaded with locks that people have started doing it on other bridges. They also write their initials on the lock. I soooo wish we'd had one with us. I LOVE this idea!!! It's neat because Emily on The Bachelorette actually did it in an episode a couple weeks ago!
The holes left inside were where medals and decorations once hung. They were removed over the years...during times of war to be used as protection, during times of economic crisis to be sold. It's actually the reason the Colosseum is in such poor condition, many times the things hanging on the walls that people tore down were helping to hold the structure together and by removing them they also removed a lot of the support for the walls.
some of the original flooring left from when the castle was built

close up of the holes
This symbol was added prior to the popes living there. It's a symbol of Christ and it was added in hopes of forgiveness for the bad things that had taken place within the castle walls when it was used as a prison. In the book and movie this castle is where all of the cardinals were held captive.
the castle is dedicated to the angel Michael
This is some of the decorations found in one of the pope's apartments...we weren't allowed to take photos in most of them.
In the end of the book Robert Langdon threw the bad guy from the balcony we were standing on. He pushed him over the ledge and the bad guy fell on this rooftop. It's not physically possible for that to happen, but it made a nice ending right? Good guys win!
Secret passage
We had a beautiful view of the city so while the tour guide finished up, I snapped some pictures. One of the best views of Rome is from the top of the castle...but we were mega pressed for time and weren't able to go to the top for that view (I don't think our feet would have handled it anyway...I told you we didn't do much climbing stuff on this trip!).



You should know by this point...this is St Peter's :)

We LOVED this tour. Our guide was so fun and made the whole thing interesting. He didn't make it lame by pretending we were in the book or anything like that. He made a lot of jokes, that were actually funny (although none of them could possibly top that random lady wandering off from our tour hahahaha I'm sure it's waaaaay funnier to me than it is to any of you, you TOTALLY had to be there. And you weren't...but I'll laugh when I reread this) and he gave us a lot of interesting facts. Both about the book/movie and just about Rome in general. We really liked him and enjoyed the whole thing! This picture captures him perfectly, he used lots of overly exaggerated hand gestures :)
We left and ran to catch a bus. We weren't close to a metro station so we asked our tour guide for the best route back. We jumped on the bus then had to wait for it to leave. We then got on the subway and were literally walking up to the hotel room at the time we should have been leaving in order to make it to the walking tour of the Colosseum. Yikes. I was hurting the most I had hurt the whole trip because I needed to pump and it was the first time that my pumping had really messed us up. We should have brought the book bag with us as I could have found a place to pump and we would have made it on time. But I really didn't want Zach to mess with carrying that thing! I felt SO GUILTY. We had paid $130 for the tour that we weren't going to make. I had no choice. I had to pump. :( Really though it was the companies fault for booking us two tours so close together. Our info said the first tour should have ended over 2 hours earlier than it did. That's not our fault!

We decided that while I pumped Zach would call the tour company and demand a refund for the tour. Usually I handle those types of phone calls. It's not that Zach can't handle it...I just kinda think I am better at that type of thing? I can be a lot sweeter than he can...and I can burst into tears when needed ;) However he rocked it! He had to speak to several different people and eventually get a manager but he was able to get us a full refund for the Colosseum tour. I relaxed a little and finished pumping then we decided to take the book bag so we could take our time finishing out the rest of what we wanted to see in Rome. Our last night and we weren't leaving until we saw it all!!!
In and out of our room and ready to take on more WALKING ;)

2 comments:

  1. This was such a good post.  Actually all of them have been.  Your are the best photographer your photos are wonderful, light placement, all just beautiful.  Well done and I'm loving all your stories.  Great writer too.  Keep em comin!  Have a great 4th.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your dress. Where did you buy them? I always love your outfits...You should write a post about where you shop .

    ReplyDelete

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