We are warned to stay away from Rome's bus route no. 64. That route hits all the popular tourist destinations and is therefore a favorite among pickpockets. We dutifully follow the suggestion and decide to take the train instead.
The Colosseum is the first destination on our list.
Even in its dilapidated state, even with resplendent visions of Gladiator floating in our minds, even with Russell Crowe nowhere in sight, the Colosseum does not disappoint. Running our hands down the pock-marked walls and feeling history at our finger tips is a sensation we indulge in time and again on this trip, first in Pompeii and now in Rome.
We take a slow walk around as much of the inside perimeter as we can, before we are stopped by barricades set up for maintenance work. Even from two stories high, the dungeons seem foreboding.
From the dungeons to the top of the Palatine Hill that showcases a Rome whose ancient splendors can now only be imagined, the ruins of the hubris of an empire lie bare.
The subway is convenient and quick so we head right back to the underground.
At the entrance to the Vatican Museum (visiting which was one of the best decisions we made during our stay in Rome), our hearts sink at the long, winding lines. We make our way to the main doorway, wondering whether to try again the next day or strike it off of our itinerary. A guard spies us, with a young son and a toddler in a stroller and he waves us in along with other families with members in wheelchairs. We flash him a grateful smile and head in.
The next two hours are spent gaping - at the walls, at the ceilings, at the statues, at the paintings, at the treasures encased in glass cases. Room after room after room, the splendour of color, form and design is a treat for the eyes.
Our heads immediately look upward, following the large dome as it soars toward the sky, its vast circular sweep unblemished by supporting pillars or beams. Daylight streams in from a circular opening above, the oculus.
Even in the midst of the crowds, the hall feels intimate yet open to the universe. Wiser minds than mine have wondered the "how" of it all. We're just content to stand and gawk at its beauty.
OK, a year and a half later I can still feel my face going hot at the memory. Maybe I'll laugh at it in a couple more years.