I had this perfect plan for Rome. Since it was the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican Museum is free. So we were going to go there first thing in the morning, get in line, do the Vatican Museum, come back out at noon to be blessed by the Pope, then go do St. Peter’s, then blah blah blah.

Didn’t happen. By the time we got there at 8:30, 30  minutes before the Vatican Museum opens, the line was already at least half a mile long. We were crushed, me more than Schmoops because, well, I had my little plan and now it was ruined. I was not very good company for the rest of the morning, but at some point I (think I) got over it and just tried to enjoy St. Peter’s Basilica. It was also a blow because up until now, we had never had to stand in line to get into anything, because doing tours in winter is just awesome like that if you don’t mind a little cold. Finally, the fact that we couldn’t get into the Vatican Museum on this day meant that we probably weren’t going to be able to go in at all, since tomorrow our tour group was leaving the city at 10:30 AM.

So we cried a bit and went to St. Peter’s instead, at 9AM. Turned out to be a good decision because by the time we exited at around 10AM, the line to get in had curled around at least half of St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s Square is huge, in case this wasn’t clear. Then just for kicks we went back to see how long the line for the Vatican Museum was now, and discovered we didn’t have to go back at all, since then end of the line was now visible from St. Peter’s Square. So, about 1.5 miles long. Now utterly crushed, we milled around for two hours until noon. At least the weather was good. Got blessed by the Pope, then rejoined our tour group for the Colosseum and Roman Forum tour.

The Colosseum was smaller than expected, but that’s because only about 60% of it remains. The Roman Forum was … not very exciting. There is only so much bygone grandeur your imagination can wring from the one standing pillar that remains of some previously awesome building. Sorry, Rome.

In the afternoon we returned to the hotel area for a while before going out to dinner with everyone else. We had a couple of hours to kill so we went to the Borghese Gardens, which were absolutely beautiful. The only bad things about it were that the trees were so thick we couldn’t catch any sun, and it was such a lovely sunny day, and also … it was freaking huge. We walked to the Tempietto of Asclepio because the guidebook said it was a pretty spot, and I’m really not sure how I didn’t collapse on the way there. The moment I saw the temple I sat down on a conveniently located tree stump, and couldn’t budge. It really was an extremely beautiful place though.

Schmoops took all the pictures here. I was pooped out somewhere to stage right. And then we had to walk back to the hotel to meet the others.

I lived though! That’s more than I could have said for myself a month ago, when a one mile walk would have had me down for the count!

Dinner was at a restaurant on the Piazza Navona, some decent Bucatini All’Amatriciana and prosciutto and mushroom pizza. It was yummy, but frankly, I have made much better amatriciana. That’s pretty much how we felt about everything we ate in Rome. Next time, we’ll come by ourselves and pick our own restaurants!

The best part of the evening though, was getting to the Pantheon just 8 minutes before it closed, so that we could experience it. The Pantheon is amazing. You have to be there to understand this, but it is an embodiment of pure and awesome power. There is no decoration inside or out, no frills. Just mighty columns, clean lines, and the dome. This is not a temple where one goes to pray to benevolent gods for forgiveness, not a place to experience spiritual enlightenment. It’s a place to go to be awed by the power and will of both the gods, and the Roman Empire.