5/23/10

Italy: Day 6, Rome

I might not have slept more than five minutes at a time on Friday night. About an hour after we all went to bed, two intoxicated gentlemen from another group began pounding on the outside door. Apparently, they had lost their key. I can’t imagine how… Also, some people in our group talk in their sleep. And the pillows were as flat as toilet paper. But some people don’t have beds, so we were thankful.


Though we were all disgusting from the day before, only one person decided to shower. We were ready by 9:30 to tackle a week’s worth of Rome.


On the way out, we made a friend from the University of North Carolina. He was in Rome studying city planning, and asked if he could join the group on our adventure. He was nice, wore glasses, and had a bit of a southern accent, so we didn’t see the harm in it.


First, we realized that we had a lot of ground to cover, so we went, armed with our maps, to the nearest metro station. There, it took us thirty minutes to get everyone a day pass. The ticket machines in Italy are ridiculous. Some only take 5 Euros, some don’t take change, some don’t take credit cards, some simply don’t work at all. It’s silly. But we did it, and we felt accomplished.


Our first stop was the Vatican. For the first time since being here, I was sweating. The crowds permeated the square of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and a line wrapped all the way through the arches (to see the Sistine Chapel). We took some pictures, found a tour guide who would tell us where the Pope slept, and moved along.


Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

Me, Annie, Ashley, Amanda, Anna, Elise, Ricky and Danny



But I should note that I think I recognized Kseniya Simonova’s work in the square of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian sand artist who won Ukraine’s Got Talent in 2009. If you want to see her work, look her up on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.


Here’s a picture. I think the people looking at me thought I was taking a picture of them. They look rather frightened.



Before we left the Vatican City, a few of the girls wanted to shop. We stepped in some stores to try on Italian clothes, and realized that – like shopping at J.Crew – shopping for Italian clothes comes at a cost. A high cost. And personally, not a cost I wanted to incur in the heat of midday at the Vatican City.


We caught a bus that took us down to the Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuele, a gorgeous palace in the heart of Rome. The statues in and around it are really incredible. We all kept commenting on the fact that these palaces and temples were built hundreds of years ago without the technology we have today. The dedication and design that went into creating these monuments of historical and architectural significance is epic. We were seeing buildings that have been the prototypes for modern architecture.



At that point, we were hungry again, so we scourged the city for McDonald’s. Yes, McDonald’s. Mostly because I had heard that it was different here, and I wanted to understand the hype; also, I didn’t want to spend more than 6 Euros. Oddly, in Italy you can’t just turn a corner and find a McDonald’s. You have to follow signs that direct you through five different streets before you find the McDonald’s. That’s how we ended up back at the Pantheon.


Some of the group sat down at a restaurant for the typical Italian lunch. I and two other students stood in a long line at McDonald’s for a chicken sandwich. I was missing chicken. I haven’t seen Italians eat a lot of chicken.


We then took our chicken to the Pantheon. This was a building erected in AD 128, and we were eating lunch underneath its massive pillars. Inside are the tombs of Raphael and two Italian kings. I felt a bit sacrilegious.


After lunch, we toured the inside because we weren’t able to enter the night before. I really loved the architecture of this building, especially the beautiful ceiling.



We found our way back to the place where we got off the bus and headed from there to the Colosseum. On the way, we spotted the Roman ruins of the Foro di Augusto and the Foro di Cesare.


Then we saw it: the Roman Colosseum, dating back to AD 72. 55,000 people could have sat in the stands of the Colosseum at one time. Thousands of gladiators lost their lives here, fighting to the death. Missing sections reveal its use as the source of building material during the Middle Ages. The Colosseum is a fascinating piece of history.



Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine:



By the time we were done wandering, it was time to catch a subway to the train station. Luckily, it too was next to the Colosseum.


When we arrived at the station, we still had a bit of time to kill, so the boys went off to find our track number while the girls looked in the shops. Thirty minutes later, Danny (one of the guys) came back with some bad news. The 5:43 train that we planned on taking didn’t run one day of the week – Saturday. We would need to take a 6:45 train to Florence, and then hop a train from Florence to Assisi, arriving in lower Assisi with one minute to catch our bus up the hill. It wasn’t good, but it was doable.


So we all got something to eat, looked around a little more, and started walking toward our track fifteen minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. The track number said something like “PE”, which confused us, so we asked a gentleman what it meant. He didn’t speak English, but pointed toward track one. Once we got there, we realized that our train was not on track one, but the track 1,000 feet behind track one. It would be leaving in 5 minutes. We began to run. And that’s when it started to rain.


We got on the train and tried to sleep. I had to use their revolting bathroom twice.


When we arrived in Florence, we had a thirty-minute layover, so we used the bathroom (again) and crossed over to our track. We got on the right train and everything seemed to be working out nicely. That is, until we thought we had arrived in Assisi, but we had really arrived in the town before Assisi.


We got off the train. As the doors were closing, we noticed a sign claiming our error – this was a small town between Perugia and Assisi. One of the guys tried holding onto the doors as the train started to move, but it was no use. The train moved on, as did every fiber of composure left in me.


Thankfully, we ran into a woman who was able to tell us where we needed to walk. She said we had three miles to go before reaching lower Assisi; from there we would need to climb the hill, which was another three miles. All we could do was start walking.


It was an interesting walk. Inter-Milan beat Bayern in the Champion’s League Final (first time in 45 years), so the town was on fire. Almost every car that passed was honking and waving the Italian flag. To blend in, as proper journalists do, we took out the souvenir shirts that we had bought in Rome and hollered along with the best of them. Here’s a blurry picture of a crowd we passed:



This was right about the time (3 miles in) we hit the underpass. We took a vote, and it was pretty clear that almost no one wanted to go down there.


But we were saved: Ricky (one of the boys) saw a taxi van, flagged it down, and asked how much it would cost to get us up to Assisi. “4 Euros,” the taxi driver said, and I almost kissed him.


We piled in, and headed in the direction of sleep.

1 comment:

  1. almost kissed ricky or the taxi driver?
    hehe.
    sounds like an amazing and adventurous time. miss you babe.

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you!