On October 3, we took the overnight British Airways flight from Phoenix to London. This was difficult for me, because although I really like British Airways and the stewardess' retro hats and how they offer you biscuits (that are really just cookies) with their lovely accents, and even how they sometimes serve weird airline curry that stinks everything up for hours, we only had one hour in London. No time for a West End show. No time for even a Cadbury chocolate bar from the Marks & Spencer, or a browse around the Harrod's in the airport, since we were running at top speed for like 4 miles between concourses. And then, to salt the wound, London was sunny and 70, which never happens. But whatever.
So, you probably want to hear about Italy, but first I need to tell you about a miracle. My eyes had been bugging me all night, but about an hour from our destination I decided: INFECTION. So then my Mom produced from her carry-on bag a bottle of prescription antibiotic eye drops. Right there, high above the French Alps! A miracle, I tell you. So then, I didn't have to go see a Roman doctor, or have to look like a 1950s librarian in all my Italy photos (my glasses are horn-rimmed, you'll thank me later). I literally wept with joy (although eyes were also perhaps already moist with infectious ooze).
Bacteria thwarted, we arrived at the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. Trastevere is supposed to be gritty and full of real Romans. But the Donna Camilla is also nearby the American John Cabot University, so it is also full of Valley girl accents and even a has place called T-Bone Station that serves (edible but not great) nachos. (I won't tell you how I know this.) Lots of restaurants and enotecas, gelaterias, pizza-by-the-slice type places (I really liked the potato and rosemary pizza).
Via Garibaldi, perhaps 9 p.m. By midnight, when we'd come back from our Rick Steves night walking, the whole street would be full of people, standing outside the restaurants and drinking.
Jake, in the gelato place just outside the hotel. Coconut? Or pistachio?
Some photos I 'borrowed' of the hotel:
The view from our room:
I liked it.
On day two, we hustled over to ground zero: the Forum/Coliseum/Palatine Hill complex. We toured Mamertine Prison (where Peter and maybe Paul were perhaps incarcerated. There is no historical record of them being there written before the 5th century, but pilgrims had already been showing up, and this was the only prison in Rome for a very long time.) They had a super creepy English audio guide that had a lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous voice saying cryptic things about water and tables. Then they made us stand in the dark, before having us watch a weird, equally enigmatic video. Only later, between the Bible and Rick Steves, was I able to figure out what went on there (or didn't).
|At Mamertine Prison. Sister Noel and Sister Beeson|
Then, we ate some super tasty paninis from a street cart, didn't get food poisoning, then met our tour guide at this little cafe with a great view. Jake is chatting up a waiter.
So here we are in the forum (ancient marketplace turned political and religious center of Rome). I included this photo because my arm looks skinny.
A view of the forum from Palatine Hill. This is where all the ancient Italian movers and shakers lived. They worked down in the Forum. The Curia (Senate house) is the tall building at the top left of the photo. The Vestal Virgins lived in the bottom right. Maybe.
|I smell a holiday card|
So I pretty much loved ancient Rome. It was really hard at first to comprehend how OLD this stuff is. Some of the temples are from the 8th century before Christ. (Although none of the really ancient ones are original, except for the foundations, but have been spruced up or rebuilt, then knocked down again, the new ones only like 2000 years old. Mussolini righted some pillars on the Temple of Vesta. He also built a horrid thoroughfare right down the middle of the Forum, but I think Rome got her (his? Since Rome is probably named for Romulus (Remus' brother) comeuppance with the whole shooting, hanging from a meat hook, stoning thing they did to him in 1945 in near Milan). 800 B.C. That's 1800 years older than Westminster Abbey! 1600 years older than the oldest Pueblo Villages found here in Arizona. 2400 years older than the oldest remaining early American buildings. (Don't look too closely at my maths.)
Tired and hungry, we headed back to Trastevere to change and eat before heading back into town. Jen was hoping to see something that wasn't ruined. She was in luck.
We met our guide, Jeb, and headed over to the Vatican. Those Catholics have collected and stolen some really great stuff over the past two thousand years.
The Sistine Chapel didn't do much for me. I wrote that small cuz it's pretty embarrassing. Sure, I appreciate that painting thousands of naked people, contorting and cavorting every which way, all in the throes of something (passion, sin, greed, pain, religious ecstasy, damnation, covetousness) is a tough project, and that until Mike and all his Renaissance posse dug up and copied the Roman copies of the Greek statues, nobody could do that stuff. Maybe I'm a closet pagan, but I found the Pantheon more impressive.
St. Peter's Basilica was something to see. It was like if you could take another cathedral, say, Notre Dame, and inflate it to like twice or three times the size. It was HUGE. It isn't crammed with graves like Westminster, (only saints or popes on their way to sainthood are in the church, the rest go in the crypt) so it looks cleaner, more beautiful, but maybe not as interesting, nook-and-cranny-wise.
So I think I'm getting pretty tired, because I just wrote "nook-and-cranny-wise," and I am planning to leave it as is, and hit publish. So I should probably quit for today.
Next stop: more ruins! Pompeii. And the pizza right across the street from the Eat, Pray, Love pizza. (Very tasty, and no line.)