With less than 36 hours in the city, we didn't try to do too much. As far as major sites, we saw the Trevi Fountain on Saturday night, which was absolutely gorgeous all lit up. I had no idea it was so big! I'd seen pictures of it, and of course seen La Dolce Vita, but I still somehow didn't quite get it. Just beautiful.
Sunday, we tried going to the Vatican to tour the basilica and museum, which are free on the last Sunday of the month. Unfortunately, after standing in line for about an hour, we were turned away because of a pocket knife we weren't willing to toss. It was a little frustrating since the scanners picked up the knife but not the multi-tool (with knife blade) that I carry in my make-up bag, but the day was not lost. The Piazza San Pietro was still beautiful, complete with enormous Christmas tree and Nativity (presepio, nacimento, creche, what-have-you . . .).
After wandering around the square, we walked down to the river and along to Castel Sant'Angelo.
The view was amazing, too.
More compelling than just the castle, though, was the exhibition going on through the end of January: L'Arma per l'Arte: Antologia di Meraviglie. This was a trove of artwork that had been stolen and recovered by the carabinieri, the theme being the carabinieri's role in protecting Italy's cultural heritage. The paintings, sculptures, and religious objects were stunning. The placards for each piece featured the usual information (title, artist, and date), plus two other dates: Furto (theft) and Recupero (recovery). Almost every recovery was made within five years, although one of my favorite pieces, the "Madonna Salomon," painted by Giovanni Bellini, was missing for 27 years!
Oh, and we also discovered a statue of Voldemort there at the castle:
Although my impressions were somewhat skewed by it being a holiday weekend, I really noticed the wide streets, mellower traffic, clean air, and different accent/dialect. I could understand so much of what I heard around me, which was great for my self-esteem. It was also strange to hear so much English when we were at Piazza San Pietro; I've never experienced that in the city here.
Best of all was getting to catch up with our friends. They were incredibly generous with their time, their home, and all their resources; and we got to chat for hours. Cosmopolitan European capitals may be great, but friends are better.