Pictures of St. Peter's do not do the building justice. Actually, pictures of anything here don't do the actual site justice. But especially with St. Peter's. The Vatican is HUGE. Everything inside of it is huge--statues, columns, even the letters circling the ceiling writing something in latin are huge. Amazingly ornate and beautifully gilded, there is not an inch of this place untouched by mural, mosaic, or gold leaf. Pictures cannot show just how impressive the building is.
If you dare, the climb to the dome and the cupola contains upwards of 800 stairs. 800 spiraling, twisting, completely vertical stairs. But your reward for climbing them is the best view in Rome. 360 degrees of Rome: the Vatican gardens, St. Peter's Square, the Tiber river, the Pantheon's dome, and hundreds of churches in the distance. Even on a somewhat overcast day, the view was breathtaking (which, admittedly, was not hard seeing as we'd just climbed up 800 stairs...) and a little surreal.
The next day, we ventured to the Spanish Steps down Via del Corso, the glitzy shopping street containing Prada, Dior, and Gucci, just to name a few. The stairs and church are at the end of this street, just sitting there like every important building here seems to be. It's such a squished city that monuments and historical sites aren't given a National Mall or fancy park--they just pop up around every corner. The Spanish Steps were my least favorite of the sites I've seen so far--maybe this was due to the fact that St. Peter's the day before greatly overshadowed anything else. The church is pretty, but nothing near the basilica, and the view was pretty great. Up at the top, a few rooftop restaurants are undoubtedly prime real estate.
Last night, we finished up our first week in Rome with a traditional Roman meal--one that lasted 3 hours and had 5 courses. I know Dad will want details so I'll try to remember... First was the antipasta with salami, prosciutto, pizza, stuffed and deep fried olives (which I tried and actually liked) and some pastries with cheese and spinach inside. Next was the pasta course when we got 4 different kinds to pass around the table. All of them were really good. The meat and fish course was interesting, with snails (which i decided tasted like what I would imagine rubber bands to taste like), fried anchovies (very salty) and two kinds of what I believe was pork. The guys in the kitchen liked us a lot, but they didn't speak english, so we asked very few questions about what we were actually eating. Dessert was fabulous: flan, tiramisu, a raspberry-covered pudding, pastries, candied nuts, and granita di cafe (iced coffee with creamy stuff--sounds interesting but this was probably my favorite dessert). It was an amazing meal and we all ate so much we were stuffed! I managed to try a bite of everything, which I forced myself to do, including the anchovies (my least favorite, by far). There were 10 of us BC kids, and we were the last ones in the restaurant, and the kitchen came out to shake our hands when we left. Dad, i got the card of the place and I know where it is, so maybe I'll take you there! A great ending to a great first week!!