#Europe2017 Day 22: Roma still, Da Vinci Museum and the Secret Castle (aka Castel San’Angelo)

Guys, we are TIRED. Seriously. William told me a few hours ago that we’ve walked 126 miles since we left on May 17th. That’s not a ton, I guess, but it’s been non-stop, averaging six miles a day. I am doing this out of major bedrest earlier this year, although Sam said “I feel like I’ve been walking non-stop for six months!” She did a lot of walking in the Dominican Republic (since January).

Today we had three things planned, but we only hit two of them. The first was to go back to the Da Vinci Museum and actually go through it. I looked it up this morning on Yelp and… uh… no bueno 🙁

And this: roma_5_yelp_davinci2

And another one that says it only has three rooms (one big, two small). Ugh… not good.

HOWEVER, William has been looking forward to this since we saw it two days ago, and I am a bit of a Da Vinci fan… the girls seemed excited to go… so I wasn’t going to cast a negative shadow on this experience… let’s just go, while in Italy (Vinci is in Italy, so he was Italian) and see how it goes. The worst thing that could happen is we spend ten euros each and walk out disappointed.

We sleep in a bit (remember, we are exhausted) and go shopping for fruits and veggies and other snacks at the grocery store down the street. Here are three tidbits of shopping at this grocery store… we haven’t come across this at any other stores on our trip (yet):

1. The shopping carts are chained up, and if you want one you have to pay a euro. The baskets are hit and miss… they are free, but this morning I didn’t see any (not even customers carrying them).

2. You have to bring your own bags. “Did you bring a bag?” Ugh… we were almost there, too far to go back and get one. This just meant that between the four of us we’d have to carry all the stuff back to our B&B in our hands, hoping the cheap fruit bags wouldn’t break.

3. Speaking of fruit, you pick out your produce, put it on a scale, type in the number (like 44), and then it prints a label for you. William figured that out on something he bought, and did it, but the girls didn’t weigh their stuff, so when we went to pay the cashier (who didn’t speak English) frustratedly communicated to us that we had to take it all back, weight it, and get a label. The girls did that, and now we know. That is very convenient for the cashier, but from a systems/process perspective, I can’t imagine how you can efficiently do that when not 100% of your customers are educated on that. Maybe some signs would have helped :p

Here’s a neat veggie that the girls spotted… any idea what this is?roma_5_sam_veggies

After shopping and showers we head out, probably around one or two o’clock. We go about nine or so stops down the metro ($1.50 each person – we are LOVING the price of transportation in Rome!), figure out where the People’s Plaza (Piazza del Popolo) is, and then go to the Da Vinci museum. I was hesitant, but here we go!

Final verdict: This museum was smallish (especially by European standards) but AWESOME!!! AWESOME! I think we spent at least two hours there, and I looked at and read everything. William came up to me more than once and said “I want to build these,” talking about some of the models based on Da Vinci’s drawings.


There were at least five different rooms/corridors, lots of models, lots of art, lots of explanations, and a few movies. Almost half of the models were touchable… you could turn cranks and move things… it was really awesome. The movies (very short documentaries) were well done, and I learned a ton. I have a much greater appreciation for Leonardo than I did before, and I’m inspired to think about writing the movie script I had come up with a few years ago about a very specific part of his life and legacy. It was so inspiring to be there!

When we left we had some very important business to do! Fortunately, across the street, Burger King had free bathrooms. We go down the stairs and I go to the mens/handicap room, thinking “if you are handicapped, you are NOT going to make it down those stairs.” This would not have passed for handicap in the U.S. But it worked for me… quite nicely 🙂

After that we were ready for food. I was not interested in paying a lot for lunch, like yesterday (still feeling the sting of that), but was very interested in trying a kabob place that we passed by a few times. It was awesome, great food, and only $22. It was right outside the metro, so if you ever go there, just wander from the metro exit to the first and brightest kabob signs you see.

Here’s the pizzas and kabob meat to choose from: roma_5_lunch_food

The “dining area” is a super thing bar, with a window in front of you, so you get a CLOSEUP of yourself eating (actually, this was cool because I could see Sam’s reflection when we talked to one another):roma_5_lunch

Then we are off to find the secret castle, which is a nickname for Castel Sant’Angelo. On the way we crossed a bridge and saw kayakers… the girls said they wanted to hike or do something in nature… so this seemed good. Ellie went down some super long stairs to see how much it was, but you have to take a class and the teacher wasn’t there and blah blah blah it just wasn’t going to work out. Oh well, we tried to do nature in Rome 🙂

On our walk around town William got this… he is now obsessed with getting pictures of birds standing on things… I liked how this is a bird on a bird :proma_5_bird_bird

We also passed by a Persian rug store. The door to get in must have been four feet high, then you go down some stairs… but it was authentic (I think). I told the Trio that when I was in Istanbul I spent a couple of hours with a vendor who was named, according to him, Donny Osmond. He said if I didn’t buy something from him I was taking food off of his kids table… lots of schmoozing and guilt trip. We didn’t have that experience here… we were really just in and out: roma_5_rugs

There are gorgeous and amazing buildings all over the place here. While they are old, they are still A.D., so I guess that’s not very old :p I am not sure what this building is but it is by the castel we were going to:

And this one: roma_5_bldg_trio

There are scooters and tiny cars all over the place here. Part, I think, is because of the crazy driving (not as crazy as Paris), and part because a lot of streets are tiny ally-sized roads. Here’s some tiny cars and scooters parked on a narrow street:

Speaking of tiny cars… great gas mileage, no matter how big you are 🙂roma_5_smartcar

The Secret Castle is an amazing and fascinating building… it was originally built in the FIRST century (almost 2,000 years ago!) by a guy as his (and his family’s) mausoleum. That is, “when I die, bury me (and later, my family) here.” Reminded me of the purpose of the pyramids. Here are some of the views from outside the castle:roma_5_castle_fortressroma_5_castleroma_5_bridge

I love this shot Sam got of the bridge right outside… how many statues can you fit on a bridge?


Here’s a more macro view: roma_5_castle

The cool thing about this super old building is that after that, it became other things, and because of that it never became ruins. It was a fortress (the amount of fortifying and safeguarding this building was awesome), personal castle to the Pope (likely because of how close it is to the Vatican), I think a market, and now a museum. It never went into disarray (or at least ruins) and we now get to enjoy some amazing, awesome history in a way that we haven’t yet enjoyed in Rome: the building is still standing!

This castel was huge… much bigger than the Hever castle we visited in London (which is still awesome, by the way). After getting our tickets (and a potty break) we went around the top of the castle where you would think guards would be, shooting arrows and pouring hot oil on people. That was pretty neat.

While up there, overlooking the park, we saw this coach and two students learning parkour… I love seeing this in my travels… people working on being better, learning, growing, etc.

Then we went down this long ramp, but when we got to the bottom realized that was “the end” of the self-guided tour, so we went back up the ramp. It was amazing… you can see it now below, but they said it had marble 9 feet up the walls, and a beautiful floor (remember, this is 2,000-ish years old). roma_5_castle_rampDown

I guess there was more to see… up more stairs and through hallways so old the art looks like it was on cement from ages ago (it was)… around more and then through a courtyard (we passed by, over, and through this a dozen times as we wandered around).roma_5_castle_sam_courtyard

I love the difference in design in this castle, probably because it’s a thousand years older than other places we’ve been… very rounded instead of square, curved corners, etc. roma_5_castle_stairs

In the courtyard was a statue that had some additions… I consider this rare (based on what I’ve seen)… to add stuff after the statue was done (maybe it was made at the same time, just in a different medium):roma_5_castle_wings

Here’s a cool shot from the top(ish), looking at the castle, St. Peter’s, and the Italian flag:


Turns out, there was a second loop to walk around… not part of the fortification part of it, but more like to stroll around. This was quite beautiful and fun to walk around. There was a four-room area with super ancient war stuff – guns, knives, uniforms, etc. In this loop I loved how it felt like a regular nicely attended city street… not a fortress. How could you not love these vines all around?roma_5_castle_sam_foilage

Speaking of war stuff, there are plenty of places they stacked their cannon balls… you can see some here, although I think that is just for decoration… there were no cannons or holes in the walls down that low (they were all on the top rings):roma_5_balls

So why do some refer to this as the Secret Castle? Because in 1527(ish) during one of the Sack(s) of Rome (when Rome was getting overtaken) the pope ran from the Vatican to the Castle and holed himself up there. It says it was in a covered bridge, so probably not this bridge, but you get the idea… this is a pretty cool connection between the Vatican and the castle. So: it’s not a secret because the castle is hidden, rather because the bad guys didn’t know the Pope would be able to escape to it.roma_5_castle_secret_path

This is a pretty big window (there were bunches of them), looking over the Vatican side of the city:roma_5_ellie_boys

This was a great shot Ellie took… from the top of the castle you could see awesome views… this was one of my favorites:roma_5_ellie_castle

Okay, now are we done? Apparently not…. we were about to leave but then we found a set of stairs and went up to…. holy cow, this is the library. It was HUGE. We’re in the center of the top (I thought) part of the ancient castle, and this is a big living area. There’s one room where all the treasures were stored (the walls were lined with walnut cabinets…. William and I recently learned just how hard walnut is, so props to the craftsmen who worked with it back then! Inside were chests and chests that had multiple keys/locks. The biggest one, about the size of a twin sized bed and perhaps six feet tall, had six different keys to open it! I bet they had some good stuff in there!

Now we’re done, right? Oh, just go in this room, and that room, and hey look, more stairs! The next set of stairs led to the antechamber (huge) before the anteroom (where the Pope had a throne) to the Pope’s bedroom. What a trip… this was crazy. This castle didn’t stop with the surprises (or the stairs). roma_5_pope_bed

Throughout the day (and the whole trip) The Trio will pose at the drop of a hat… here’s the difference between girl posing and guy posing: roma_5_modelsroma_5_model_boy

It was getting close to closing time (about 7:30) and we were all feeling it… Sam is starting to feel sick, and we’re just tired… ready for a rest back at the B&B. We fill our water up at the free watering station… thank you Rome for putting these all over the city!!! Here’s an example of a watering fountain (obviously for water bottles, and always running):

We start to head back to where we think the metro is. But there’s a walkway that runs along the moat area… let’s take a shortcut (and a nicer walk, lined with trees) and go there, no? Turns out, it’s no shortcut. It didn’t let us out at the corner… it forced you to walk all the way around the castle! No big deal, and a great view, but our dogs were barking and we were ready to get on a metro!

Finally, we’re pointed in the right direction… we walk about ten or fifteen blocks to the metro stop and take a twenty or thirty minute ride winding left and right and up and down, under the hustle and bustle of Rome.

We get out of the metro station and head straight home… no shopping, no nothing. And we finally get to rest. We get in earlier than normal, and just chill. I do some JibberJobber work, checking in with my team and on projects, William does a workout, Ellie is on the phone, and Sam is looking up what her sickness might be (according to Google she is near death).

Tomorrow we do laundry and then head out to the Vatican Museum… which is at, but not the same as, the Vatican. We’ll be there by 1 p.m. for our skip-the-line tickets… hopefully we are well-rested and ready for a lot more walking!

1 thought on “#Europe2017 Day 22: Roma still, Da Vinci Museum and the Secret Castle (aka Castel San’Angelo)

  1. Rosemary Mark

    The pretty green vegetable is Romanesco! Seriously! Appropriate eh? I’m enjoying reliving some of my travels via your experiences. 🙂 Your trio is lovely.

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