Rome


Oh man, I can’t believe I’m just getting around to this now. I left you, I believe, at the Pantheon. Well, after that came…. ITALIAN DINNER! Yes, and after that came the next day, with a bit of an interval between the two that I will call “Romebulating”. Why? Because I can.

It was in the middle of this lovely open square with a fountain. The pasta was AMAZING!
It was in the middle of this lovely open square with a fountain. The pasta was AMAZING!
On the walk home (hostel), getting rather far from the city centre.

On the walk home (hostel), getting rather far from the city centre.

 The next day we set out for the Vatican. The next day also happened to be Easter Sunday (just our luck; we didn’t plan this) so there were no shortage of others setting out for the same place. While our particular timing did make transportation a bit more of a hassle than it otherwise would be, we actually had an easier time finding the place than we otherwie might have: we just followed some nuns. We figured they must be going to the same place.

Thank you, Guide-Nuns!

Thank you, Guide-Nuns!

I’ve never actually met nuns before.  I don’t know what I expected, exactly… I mean, those of you who know me know that I’ve never really had a particularly rosy view of organized religion in general. I could just never quite picture how one could really live (or live well) in such a society. The whole concept is still a bit beyond me.
Now I can’t understand Italian, either, so my insights into what these women were like and what they were talking about were limited, to say the least. But one thing I could see, that was impressed and rather humbled by (should I have been surprised? Perhaps not), was their manner toward others, partularly beggars and street performers. They never gave money. But one in particular (middle, slightly turned toward camera) always, always had a smile to give, at least. This is important. More than most people realize, perhaps. It was her reaction to most types of contact with others, and I don’t mean in a “bare-teeth phoney-smile” kind of way. She just seemed so genuine, like she would like to foster happiness in those around her and do no harm. We parted ways shortly after the subway. I left with a vaguely different view of nuns.

Anyhoo, on to the vatican.

WHOA crowds.

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There is another curved wall on the other side (left) so the whole area is a semi-enclosed circle.

There were two line-ups for the service that were about four hours long and went most of the way around the compound. We did not wait in these. Emily and I were looking specifically for the Cistene Chapel in the Vatican Museum.

There were pillars everywhere.

They made me feel small.

 

…. more later, once again. Wow. Slowest post ever, Zann.

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Same day as before, just left Palatine Hill.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we left the Colosseum and Palatine Hill behind us and decided to look for the next big thing, which happened to be the Pantheon. It looked close on the map, so we just kind of set off.

Rome is made up of these little twisting streets aided by a few major traffic arteries. What is so cool about these little streets (or rather, one of many things that make them cool) is that they turn all of Rome into this crazy treasure hunt/ chocolate box of incredible architectural and historical sites. You’ve seen a hundred photos on posters and in textbooks and then BAM! There it is, right in front of you! Completely without warning.

That’s how it was with the Pantheon.

“Oh hey! A chocolate shop” “Look at that sculpture!” “Wow! Awesome fountain!” “Hey, those are some big pillars that buiklding has…”
Wait a minute… that’s the Pantheon!

I can’t describe how cool it was to just come upon it like that.
OK, maybe I just did, but I still didn’t do the experience justice. But without further ado, here’s what the thing looks like, from where I was standing.

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And then... there it was!

We couldn’t go in just yet, as there was a mass going on inside (is that how I would say that?). So we walked around the outside for a bit and discovered the world’s best chocolate. Really, we did. Well, I did. 😛 I just wish I could remember what this place was called…

Oh well. More photos of the Pantheon, anyway.

The outside curve. It SO doesn't hint at what's inside. Seriously.

The outside curve. It SO doesn't hint at what's inside. It really doesn't.

Eventually… we were allowed in.

My new favorite place in the world.

My new favorite place in the world.

Huge.

Huge.

Oh that ceiling...

Oh that ceiling...

Aand on that note… I’ll be back tomorrow. Sleep is needed for the now. It’s 2:30am. ‘Night.

Rome was amazing.

This is actually one of the reasons it has taken me so long to post about it; I really wanted to give it it’s due in photos and explanation. Even the rifde over deserves some mention, as it was quite the experience (I can say this easily due to the great deal of hindsight and time between now and then).

So, Rome. We arrived at 2am after our Ferry managed to be six hours late and leave us in the middle of nowhere. We appeared to offload onto a random bit of dock, with all the organization of a sneeze hitting confetti.

These are the doors to the sleeping cabins. Even the lowliest of these were more than double the cost of the option we selected, which was the floor in the chair-sleepers area.

These are the doors to the sleeping cabins. Even the lowliest of these were more than double the cost of the option we selected, which was the floor in the chair-sleepers area.

Here is our room:

Our sleeping quarters.

Our sleeping quarters. At least they were dark.

Like the last time I was on a “cruise” (as it called itself) we had a great big storm. Night was spent thumping up against the legs of a chair as the ship pitched, a situation I gave myself the occasional break from by going outside to observe the vortex of spume that would shoot up the side and rear of the ship with every gust of wind.

Don’t get me wrong though, I really quite liked the stormy part. I don’t get seasick (thank god). It was the daytime that I found dull and unpleasant.

What an ugly brown line we left in the sky.

What an ugly brown line we left in the sky.

From the Ferry “terminal” (if you could call it that) we found a bus to Rome.

Arrival in Rome: 2:00am, April 8. Taxi to Hostel. Sleep.

Next day! This one was a real corker. I got to see the Colosseum and Palatine hill, I discovered perhaps the finest chocolate in all the world, ate some, and then got to go out for Italian food – in Italy. This day was three days, all jammed into one. Let’s start with the Colusseum.

We opted for the tour so that we could get a bit of a history lesson as we went, and MAN am I ever glad we did. There are so many cool things about this building that I never would have known that make it even MORE impressive even than the incredible 2000 year-old architectural marvel that I already knew it was.

We came upon the Colusseum from its best side. We stood and just stared for a bit before registering the rest of our surroundings and noticing a couple of guys who made the ferry trip with us and were on the same train, too. It’s cool meeting up with other travellers more than once. Anyhoo, Colusseum.

And suddenly, there it was!

And suddenly, there it was!

There is an entrance and an entrace fee (a difference, our guide informed us, from ancient times when you had to have a ticket but they were handed out for free to everyone) just around the corner, and tour guides filling the space between here and there. We allowed ourselves to be nabbed by one and in we went.

Inside the colosseum.

Inside the colosseum.

Arches, from the inside.

Arches, from the inside. The uppermost area is the womens' row.

Our guide explained how the Popes of Medieval times sanctioned the looting of the Colosseum. Its marble was stripped and later even some of the bronze bars that held the stone together were dug out. It is now pocked with holes (for which I originally blamed the pidgeons that now inhabit them) both inside and out. Still, there are pieces of marble here and there buried halfway into the ground, so you can see this beautiful white stone and somewhat imagine how incredible it must have been when the whole thing was clad in that crisp, shining white and decorated with coloured stone and precious metals. As Andrew Bird might say “Oh! The Grandeur!”.

The mazes under the floor.

The mazes under the floor.

The floor, or rather, the space under the floor, is an incredibly complex series of corridors, lifts and trapdoors. There were over 40 slave-powered elevators for popping wild animals into the arena at unexpected times and places. I would have liked to stay longer here to ask about each little corridor down there. Alas. Next time. And yes, there will DEFINITELY be a next time. Emily? You in? 😀

Holes for a roof.

Holes for a roof.

I include this picture because it shows the holes and ledges that were used to draw a roof across much of the arena. There were slaves on the ropes to tighten it and control it in the wind, and for each of those holes there was an anchor and mechanism on the ground where we were standing. The movie Gladiator has the roof in it. It was really cool to see the actual parts that created it.

After the Colosseum tour, we were led to the nearby Palatine Hill, where Rome was founded. On it are the ruins of centuries of houses of the Roman Aristocracy, including the Flavian Palace and some of the fist brick-and-mortar buildings. Ever. The Romans can claim dibs on all SORTS of firsts.

Me, near Palatine Hill. Fun much?

Me, near Palatine Hill. Fun much?

And here are a few other sights from that afternoon, just for kicks. Then we’ll get into day two, and the Pantheon!

The Arch of Constantine.

Not the Arch of Constantine; different Arch but quite close by.

Me and a Giant Head.

Zann and the Giant Head.

There was a little museum on the hill with some sculptures that had been salvaged from the ruins. We took a peek, naturally.

…OK, once again I’ve got to take a break from computering. It’s sunny. I’ll be back when it’s icky outside.