... I started day 3 with a open air bus tour, well worth the 12 euro for the convenience of being bused around Rome to some of the major sites. You can get a idea of the city's layout which helps orient you and they have a flexible hop-on-hop-off option. The pass is also good for 48 hours. These buses run till about 9:30pm. If you've never been to Rome or are just sick to death of walking and being crammed on the #64 bus this is a nice option. I went with Cristiana Tours and got my ticket at the bright yellow office on the Via Conciliazione just outside The Vatican. The buses are bright yellow double decker open air buses and the stops are clearly marked with "Open Air Bus". It was easily the most organized and self explanatory part of the city.
This was also my first experience actually being *in* Roman traffic as opposed to just dodging it. Clearly to own and ride a Vespa in Rome you have a death wish. Vespa's don't have to stop for red lights, yield for pedestrians, or observe a speed limit.
On Day 3 I saw and climbed the 242 steps of the gleaming white Vittoriano, a monument that is famously loathed by Italians.
I checked out the Colosseum, The Forum and Palatine Hill.
My next stop was a vigil mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
First let me describe the mass itself. Those familiar with the flow of the Eastern Liturgy would find nothing odd at all about the environment. I suppose protestants would find it a discombobulated mess and quite a few *Romans too.
*When I say "Romans" I mean "Romans" as in Roman Catholics. Not "Romans", regional Italians. And more specifically, American Romans... the breed of Catholic that worship in unison and view any deviation or distraction with scowls and accusations of blasphemy. You know the type.
The mass was in Italian and it was very... uh, spirited. Lots of hand waving. It was a vigil mass after all. Maybe those masses our universally the Hippy Masses and it's not just a North American phenomenon. I didn't mind it though. I was there just taking it all in. While the Italians were being charismatic in the pews, a group of elderly Filipino women [about 20 or so] proceeded to crawl on their knees from one end of the church to the other, stopping at every chapel to pray... audibly. In the back a group of Hispanic pilgrims prayed the rosary over a young man in wheel chair. It was the most fantastic mass I have ever been privilege to be a part of. So many devotions and languages all mixing with the mass. Whenever I hear the phrase "make a joyful noise" I will always recall to mind the sounds in that church that evening.
The Borghese [or Pauline] Chapel
From St. Mary Major's I hopped back on my big yellow bus and headed back toward to Vatican for the vigil excitement, making a point to stop at Circus Maximus to see the crowds and news crews.
I crossed the Tiber via the Ponte Sant'Angelo.
Have you ever seen stone so life like it looked like it would step down off it's pedestal or move to the slightest breeze?
Next, I simply had to see the view from atop the Castello de Santo Angelo.
It was well worth the climb, as you can see. This is the view that elicited my squeals of "I'm in Rome! I'm really in Rome" turning to the people beside me and pointing like a lunatic, "Lookit! See it?! Roma!"
Day 3... to be continued.