Roma…coulda used a soma. I admit to a little anxiety before heading into the largest city in Italy. If all the stories were correct the main train terminal is a denizen of thieving gypsies, restless youth and carnivalesque troupes of con artists…so, basically, Santa Cruz. The train ride had taken me from the idyllic Tuscan hillside back to the coast before heading straight east picking up more and more people at each stop and at each stop I was wondering who would take advantage of me first: the nun with a patch on her eye, the large african-american nun that took up two seats, or the nun I made stand as the train jostled toward the city center. We all have our cross to bear…and I had two. She only had that funny thing on her head and a shopping bag no doubt to stash the spoils of whatever scam she had planned.
Well, come to find out, I didn't need to go to Roma Termini as the B&B (which I wouldn't recommend) was closer to the Tuscolana stazione. By this point, I booked places based on their proximity to the train station. If there were multiple, I'd try to get a place equidistant between the sites and the most convenient station. The location of my place in Rome turned out to be functional (close to the train and Metro) but the neighborhood couldn't have been more different than sweet, sweet, Siena. I mean, some of the aforementioned restless youth were smoking weed in a park where Caesar created his masterful salad. Oh, the blasphemy!
I got into Roma on a Sunday, Day#13, as it were. After check-in, the proprietress explained the Metro system and how I could get to the Vatican if I wanted a chance to see the pope. I took a nap instead. View the pope? Um, have you seen the guys they elect pope? I'll pass. A long time ago these guys created a religious profession based on their inability to get laid (rightly so) and they called it a vow of celibacy. From the same country that elects porn stars to congress, no less. Talk about a disconnect. Pope Francis only perpetuates the line of scary grandpas in the papacy. Sorry, I'll get some shut-eye and repent.
After my recovery slumber, I headed towards the Colisseum on foot twisting my map of the city this way and that. So many interesting things on that walk so new to me yet so old. Pic#1 shows the Colisseum in all its ur-glory. This was the only section not blocked by scaffolding and cranes but I’m also a sucker for framing my shots with the moon.
A lot of construction going on and still everything is a ruin (get it?) except the capital of course (pic#2) which is gleaming white… and under construction.
The capital is pretty damn impressive but between the two the street performers stole the show (pic#3).
I wanted to ask how they choose who gets to be on top but they didn't have much of a sense of humor (or any other expression) and their handlers stood close by demanding money of anyone who approached with a camera. Hence, the long distance shot through the crowd.
Pics#4 and 5 depict all the lesser sites that don't make the guide books and pop up all over town. The statue of St. Francis of Assisi was intriguing for the Peroni beer bottle and the man looking for something (or passed out) at his feet. Some interesting goings on back in the day. The final shot is from a church by my B&B at sunset. People were touring in and out but it hadn't made my travel guide, however, I'd made it through my first day in the big city…BRAVO
Roma Day 2
It wasn't sex that bothered the church; it was marriage, with its rights of inheritance of ecclesiastical property. Mistresses, male lovers, and bastards posed no threats to the posterity of the church…And so the word celibacy came to denote lack of marriage, rather than lack of sex. Morality became a bit twisted when sex without marriage was deemed a lesser sin than sex within the bonds of holy matrimony.
I happened upon a copy of Eleanor Herman's book Mistress of the Vatican at the library last night. Boy was I wrong about the whole celibacy thing…sign me up! I awoke on day2 in Roma from a pizza coma and went directly to the Vatican. The cold shower and pre-packaged breakfast at the B&B had slowed me down so by the time I got there the line was like Golden Gate park with the announcement of Jerry's resurrection and subsequent reunion tour with the (not so) Grateful (not so) Dead. The couple I met in Siena said the secret was to get there at 7:30am as most people don't know it opens that early. All a part of the Do as I Say, Not as I Do travel guide.
Instead of waiting in line, I walked the length of Via della Conciliazione to the Tiber River. I have tons of close-up pix of the impressive Vatican buildings but I like this view from the river (pic#1). For some reason, walking along the river effected me a lot more than standing in St. Peter's Square. So much history along this river, it reminded me a little of crossing the Arno in Pisa. The legends I've read of walking along this same walk gave me goosebumps of surreality as I meandered along the banks back through a multitude of piazzas, fountains, and more architectural wonder, towards Rome.
It doesn’t look like that long of walk from here though I did get to see a side of the day-to-day life in Rome as I meandered through neighborhoods and office parks surpisingly not drawing the attention of the Roman Guard. Here’s a shot of the Vatican looking across the city from Villa Borghese where I had my first plate of fettucine alfredo on the trip and definitely not my first glass of wine.
My date was a bit stoned which is the only explanation I have for sitting at a table with a French flag. Afterwards, I headed to the much overrated (in my humble opinion) Spanish Steps—I mean, we had more impressive steps on the University of Illinois campus (again, my humble opinion). I do have pictures of tourists sitting and talking on these stone steps but I thought I'd spare you. They actually do look kinda cool but I think I'd developed a dis-taste for any kind of steps and eyed them as suspiciously as a soccer mom at a Fiat convention.
I didn't feel the same need to spare you from the Trevi Fountain (pic#4) where I could've sat all day. It was crowded but the crowd there seemed a little more fluid (excuse the pun). I was able to sit in a prime viewing area and watch the different aspects of the fountain unbothered by the stream of touristas around me.
Eventually, I followed the crowd as it filtered down the narrow streets until I found myself in front of the Parthenon. It was one of my favorites because you could enter without a biglietti or "city tax" which I'd come to expect everywhere including the water closet.
This last shot is from the inside looking up. There were a lot of very elaborate displays but I thought this pic best displayed my abilities to capture an overused emoticon on an ancient Roman treasure.
Ahh, the sin of pride…good timing, too, as I head south to the bay of Napoli which has washed away many a sin so mine should be a drop in the bay.