A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Roman Holiday Remix

We got to Rome in the afternoon and went on a search for a budget hotel. The area around the Termini train station has hundreds of hotels to choose from and can be dodgy in places after dark.

We wandered in to one of the dodgier places, y’know the kind you stand in front of and ask yourself, should I knock or just run away? A frumpy Italian lady appeared and didn’t have room for a whole week but was nice enough to direct us to another place. Their “car” picked us up with our packs, sometimes a scary venture if we decide against staying there, and we drove the short distance away.

The place, Cristina’s Residence, was set out of the bustle behind a locked gate and near a residential building. It was perfect for us, if a bit expensive, but Italy is not cheap. We had a little fridge, clean bathroom, and wifi - what more to ask for! They brought breakfast every morning to our room but the stack of biscuits and croissant out of plastic wrap was no Ca Valeri. After day 3, Ron pouted about having to eat it, but free food is free so we choked it down day after day.

The food, in general, was nothing to write home about as we tried to mainly eat on the cheap and from the grocery store - lots of half roasted chickens (only $4) and premade pastas. There was a great Indian food place near the train station aptly named Indian Fast Food. We had some great pizza near Piazza Navona. And a delicious early evening mojito out at Campo di Fiori one night with cabaret style street dancers tapping out the entertainment.

Rome, like all of Italy, in August is jam packed with tourists and too hot to want to leave the haven of your hotel room during the day. Unfortunately most sites of interest have regular business hours so it forces you, begrudgingly, out on to the streets. Once outside you are dripping sweat from the heat and the humidity almost instantaneously and then irritable for most of the day thereafter.

One of my favorite sites has to be Trevi fountain, it is just so beautiful and unexpected as you round the corner towards the piazza and see the massive fountain towering over you. The white marble and intricate statues and spraying water transfixes and uplifts your spirit - you crave to just jump right in and swim around awhile. Nevermind the mob scene of tourists crawling all over it. We threw a coin in the fountain, so legend has it we are guaranteed to return to Rome (though I promise you, never ever ever in the summer).

The Pantheon is another must see with the famous columned façade and huge oculus in the center of the ceiling, letting in the natural sunlight - and rain and birds and anything else that wanders through it. Also the final resting place of our good buddy Raphael.

We visited San Pietro in Vicolo mainly to see Michaelangelo’s tomb for Pope Julius II. It was planned to have over 60 full size sculpted figures but the final result was much less ambitious. Like most churches, admission is free, so it was worth a quick peek. I wore a tank top that day so to get in past the respectful clothing police, I fastened a shawl from two mismatching bandanas. Ron said I looked like some kind of a homeless superhero and refused to stand next to me.

We went to the Colleseum again during the day. We didn’t go in, as I had seen it a few years back when I went on an Italy tour (Milan - Florence - Rome) with my friend Tina. It’s not all that impressive inside, just a bunch of holes in the ground where the prisoners and tigers were kept. But we sure had fun fake fighting and laughing at guys dressed up like gladiators smoking cigarettes on their break. Yo T-dog, wassup girl!

The same day, we hoped to tour around the Roman Forum but it was way too hot, the sun too brutal to sift unshaded through broken pillars and piles of rubble. Maybe if I was more of a history buff…but only maybe.

As the Romans are the inventors of the aqueduct, there is no shortage of fountains and free flowing fresh water from spouts and spigots all over the city. It was especially important that we could fill up our water bottles as the stupid filter we bought (the First Need filter that Jonathan recommended!) had already cracked. We had barely used it since so many countries had clean water but we will soon be heading to Africa and now have a serious headache to try and get a replacement filter on the road.

We had a real kick watching Roman Holiday one afternoon, and seeing Audrey Hepburn at all the sights we had visited. All except the famous scene of Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth, that had already closed when we went at the unsocial hour of 6pm, the sun still hours from setting, we had to shoot photos through the bars. I’m not sure what I’d even say if I could put my hand in the ancient lie detector...what would you ask if you knew I had to tell the truth?


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