The streets of Rome can range from dirty and gritty, to open and beautiful, lined with monuments and ruins. Unfortunately, the former is more prevalent.
I arrived in Rome around 8 in the morning, dressed for Zurich weather in a sweater and a jacket. It was blazingly hot. My hostel’s check in time was 3pm. Thus, I dropped my heaviest bag off and wandered around in a sweater and jacket like an idiot.
If you recall, back in London, I did a piece about the poor driving qualities of the English. I take that back. The Italians have upped then ante.
There are no lanes.
And they just zip around like crazy doing whatever the hell they want to do. Add to this the lack of crossing signals, and the only thing separating you from death is an Italian’s desire not to get sued.
My first stop was the Spanish Steps, which didn’t know were an actual sight until about halfway up.
At the top of the Steps lay a church. One of many.
If the Germans are still feel guilty, and try to make amends for World War II, Rome takes that to the next level. For the guys who killed Jesus, Romans sure are trying to make up for it. There are literally infinity churches around the city. After a while, they all just blend together.
Wandering throughout Rome gives you a chance to stroll through some lovely old style plazas and streets.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, Rome can be very dirty and gritty, reminiscent, at times of a third world country.
Then again, there are times when it opens up into something like this.
This is Il Vittoriano, a gigantic marble goliath of a building situated a few blocks away from the Colosseum. Not ancient by any means, Il Vittoriano was built in the late 1800s to celebrate the unification of Italy under one king, Victor Emanuel.
Italians hate this place. Probably because it seems so jarringly out of place with the rest of the city, being composed of clean, white marble. Regardless, for idiot tourists who don’t know what it is, it’s worth a look.
I finally made my way towards Rome’s premier claim to fame, the Colosseum. They’ve gated off a lot of the big arches, so it looks a little less epic than it’s supposed to.
It costs about 12 euros to go in, which is a bit of a steep price. The inside is a little less exhilarating than I would have liked.
Most of the former arena has been torn away to expose the under workings of the venue. A bit is left, though.
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to jump into what remained of the ring, proclaim myself “Spartacus: God of the Arena” and fight other tourists to a grisly death.
That’s only allowed on Thursdays.
It was about then that I read that the Pope holds an audience every Wednesday at 11am. That sealed my fate for the following day.
I never actually got really up close and personal with the Pope, as he was situated at the top of the steps to St. Peter’s Basilica, and I was on the opposite end of the plaza. That’s okay, he probably couldn’t handle my in-your-face attitude, anyway.
Also, if the Pope says “God Bless You” after you sneeze, will you never sneeze again? Something to think about.
After an hour long, multi-lingual service and mass blessing, the Pope rode away in his Pope mobile and I was left to check out St. Peter’s Basilica, which is an amazing feat of architecture and sculpture.
I was just surprised that I could actually cross the threshold of a church.
Next up was the nearby Vatican Museum, which houses several impressive rooms full of art, including the Sistine chapel. No photography there, but I can assure you it’s much better than looking at it in a book. Although, I do prefer the version with this guy:
There were a few paintings we could take pictures of, including perennial favorite Raphael’s The School Of Athens:
And this one:
Which I particularly enjoy, because this dude in the corner seems to be all about the rainbow:
The greatest thing about the Vatican Museum is that they constructed it so that it is the most perfect fire hazard ever known to man. It is one long circuitous hallway with old, flammable paintings and tapestries lining the walls, and no other exits save for the last one. It takes about an hour to walk through quickly and about two if there are a lot of people, which there always are.
A bit of an aside:
“Prego” in Italian means “You’re Welcome”.
This presented an interesting interpretation, to me, at least, of the following events. In the bowels of an Italian Subway Station (I say bowels because they’re not very clean, and there’s spray paint everywhere, even on the trains), I give up my seat to a woman who is obviously with child (because I’m a goddamn gentleman and I’m classy as shit). The exchange is as follows.
Pregnant Woman: “Grazie”
Ganesh: “No problem, Prego.”
The way I said it, not on purpose, would’ve gotten me a beating in America. But in Italy, I’m saved by a technicality.
The next day was taken up completely by a trip to Pompeii. The train ride there and back took about six or seven hours. Unfortunately, there were no preserved human remains to be seen, just the ruins of the city.
And that bastard Vesuvius sitting smugly off in the distance.
I hope you’re proud of yourself, jackass.
My last day was a bit low key. I visited the Roman Pantheon:
And the famous Trevi Fountain, from the hit Kristin Bell film “When In Rome”
Both very beautiful, interesting sights, but that pretty much maxed out my trip through Rome. Next up is Venice.