When in Rome...

Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
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Trip End Feb 04, 2008


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Monday, January 14, 2008

This entire journal entry is an understatement for what we saw, the heights of history, art and romance, one of the zeniths of past civilizations in the world:  Rome.  We had visited individually before, but this is a city well-appreciated when more mature and, well, sober.

We whirled our way through Rome's spectacular sights including the Colosseum, the Forum, the phenomenally preserved and still used Pantheon (my favourite), the Palatine, the rich and glorious Vatican (technically another country), the numerous charming and well-known piazzas, and the Spanish Steps where - you need to follow closely on this one - a man obviously trying to con Scott into something (not sure what) simultaneously accused me of accusing him of trying to steal from us because I was grabbing our bag to get to my camera. Huh?  I know, bizarre, we're not sure what he was onto.  Whatever.  

Now, imagine a perfect evening in Rome: the weather is breezy and pleasant, and you take a stroll to the Trevi Fountain down cobbled alleyways and glittery streets.  Once there,  you ceremoniously through a coin over your shoulder to ensure a return to Rome, and then buy a genuine Italian gelato to have while sitting at the magnificent fountain as you watch the night take shape and the world go by.  THAT was our first night in Rome.

The first time I ever came to Rome, the weather was ghastly; rain was pounding down so heavily you could not see a couple of meters in front of you.  For Scott the weather was sweltering hot, almost unbearable.  This time around it was overcast and occasionally rainy, and so a different experience for both of us.  I was desperate to see the Colosseum in dry weather and my wish barely came true, as it started to rain minutes later.  We did tours of the Colosseum and the Palatine which were led by two men, one an older Italian man that got so deeply involved in describing the barbarity and carnage of the games he would close his eyes when describing them, and the other, a New Zealander earning a Masters in History that was so animated, loud and excited about his topic that spit would sometimes gather around his mouth when talking (interestingly enough, this exact thing also happened to the PhD student that was my excellent T.A. in first year History, maybe it's a physiological reaction to being a happy History major!).  So, here are a couple of incredible facts.  The underground labyrinth of the Colosseum had holding cells for animals and people alike which were winched up onto the main Colosseum stage by elevators.  Incredible!  Also, in the 100 day inauguration of the Colosseum the grounds were flooded to recreate naval battles, clearly to the death.  If a seaman (ha ha, yes, get it out of your system) decided not to fight, jump into the water and swim away, hordes of crocodiles imported from Egypt no less awaited him below.  So, the human enemy, or the croc?  All took their chances with each other, even clambering onto "enemy" ships rather than become croc chow. Wouldn't you?  The barbarity of the other ground battles held there I won't go into, just imagine the most inhumane (for man and beast) and vile clashes you can, and you are probably correct.  As for amazing fact number two, the Palatine, which was the palace on top of Rome's highest point, is acres in size and was completely covered by a roof which at points was 50 meters high, had a mirror fountain room and an indoor sports stadium, or as the spitty guide so amusingly described, the Roman version of a flat screen TV with a recliner for the Emperor.  Needless to say, history in general is such an interesting focus but it's all the better when being described by aficionados.

Rome restored our belief in Bella Italia.  We were so shocked by Naples, we thought time had possibly changed things for the worse, but no, Italy is as glorious as ever and Rome couldn't possibly disappoint, it is just too rich in everything sensory.

Speaking of richness, I believe we "discovered" a secret.  Quickly, think of Italy's famous cities...  Done?  You named Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan didn't you?  Did you mention Verona?  That is the secret.  Maybe not so mysterious, it is the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but we did not know of it as a must-see destination.  It MUST be seen.  Verona is inarguably beautiful and quaint with its perfectly preserved historical buildings, immaculate cobbled and tiled streets, mouth-watering bakeries, faultless piazzas and river views to rival those of Rome

After a two hour wait to get into our guesthouse (long story) we bused it into Verona for the evening and were dumbfounded by how beautiful the city is.  Fair Verona is an understatement, you could spend hours simply walking around its streets taking in the views.  This city is a postcard come to life, and the people seem to have a healthy and relaxed attitude towards living, walking their dogs, riding their bicycles to the cheese shop, sitting at outdoor tables, drinking wine, eating olives...  the drinking at an outdoor table experience was a no-go, as it costs up to four times more to drink or eat while sitting. An example was a coffee we purchased, it cost 1.20 Euro to take away or drink standing up (at the "banca" as they call it) or 4.50 to drink it at the table!  So, take away and standing was the name of the game for us in Italy.  Maybe one day, when we grow up, we'll get to sit!

There were two highlights to our Verona visit.  The first was Juliet's balcony and house, who's  gated entrance is an eruption of graffiti from people professing their love for each other.  Now, it's not really Juliet's balcony, but it's the house that has been traced back as belonging to the Capulets of literary fame, and Shakespeare apparently did research into the feuding history of Verona and these two families (names were spelled a bit differently) were bitter enemies.  If there are any literary geniuses reading this, and I've recounted this all wrong, you can correct me in the comments.  Also, a bit on the morbid and strangely appropriate side, the balcony was originally a sarcophagus.  Hmm.  Why not?  I've always been one for recycling, why NOT sarcophagus...es?  Sarcophagi? I think the second one's right.

The second highlight, a complete visual delight was the Arena, or old Roman amphitheater in a large piazza which is still used for concerts this day.  It is stunning, amazingly preserved, and to add a modern, glittery touch, a white shooting star is seen to be coming out of it.  At night it is all lit up and gives an enchanted appearance to the plaza.  Gorgeous.  Inside the amphitheatre people had written the countries they had come from in the sand, Australia and Colombia already represented!  Down I went to do my patriotic duty, and in giant letters added "Canada, eh" to the sand list.  One problem:  the jump down to the arena base was quite high and there was no way for me to get up again, it was horrifyingly funny.  Scott came over to try to pull me up, but nope, not possible.  I tried to use my wall climbing skills (if they're called that!) from when in university, but nope.  Big surprise.  Finally, another girl jumped down into the sand, turned out she was also Canadian and wanted to add Quebec below the Canada I'd written in the sand, so her boyfriend and Scott pulled us up one at a time.  Too funny, I was getting ready to camp out in the sand!

Oh, I almost forgot, how could I?  No food to report, except a very important one:  it is called a something or other "mela".  Ok, get ready:  it is a whole - peeled and cored though - apple filled with custard, baked and enveloped in thin, soft pastry, sprinkled with icing.  That is a dessert dream come true!  Even Scott snarled like a rabid squirrel (a rabid dog is an overstatement, he didn't look that scary, plus he likes squirrels, which has nothing to do with this) if I even glanced at his and he doesn't love apple pastry-type things as much as I do.

And then we were off to Barcelona, Spain.  Pretty uneventful stuff on the train really... we played "Spot the model" during our layover in Milan.  We only spotted 3!  C'mon!  Then Scott kindly reminded me that models don't do trains, they do planes, in first class.  Ahhhhh.  Of course, what was I thinking?  Once on the overnight train we sat behind two older Argentinian ladies that were like little children, couldn't sit still, looking out the window (and taking pictures with a disposable through glass, at night, from a moving train), exclaiming with excitement!  Such talkers they were, and very sweet.  It was really fun being in the same compartment as them, they made us smile.

Ciao!

Canaussie rating:

Colosseum and Palatine tour:  4

Gelatto at Trevi Fountain: 5

Verona in general!:  5
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Comments

cbepurush
cbepurush on

Lively Photos
Hello Jenn and Scott,

You have brought life to the olden day Rome. Your photos have life. Keep it up.
I had a feeling of travelling on a bus top and viewing the entire places.(may be i have seen so many other photos too)

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