Rome is the best history lesson ever!!!

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
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Trip End Jan 30, 2013


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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roma

The eternal city? Is that what they call it?  I think it's a fitting term, one of the oldest and most magnificent places I’ve been to it’s an amazing place if you have a good imagination…actually amazing place period.  For the lovers of ancient history there’s this little place called the Colesseo, you know just the capital of ancient Rome and all, for the renaissance…hmm the Trevi fountain? Spanish steps, more churches than there are maccas and 7elevens in Melbourne CBD! =P  Food!  Art! (I didn’t even check that out!) and more sights than you can imagine.  I’m sure the party scene won’t be bad either haha.  Anyways, it’s a tourist favourite for a reason and I’m just really glad I came back for a second look =).

Day 1

Touch down and it’s back to the old neighbourhood of mine right beside the Termini station.  Hostel looked kinda dodgy on the outside (I wasn’t even sure there was a hostel cos the street was so seedy, especially at night!) but once inside the rooms were MASSIVE!  Serious, I’ve seen hostels squeeze 8 bunk beds in the same place =P and it was a room for 4 =D, I think we were quite spoilt, check it out, Legends Hostel, Rome! 

Morning time, nothing like a good Italian cappuccino to wake you up in the morning =), started off the day just walking haha as always.  To the Piazza della Republica, down the Via Nationale, the Victorriano (ever as imposing and magnificent as ever…if a bit over the top) and to Chun Kiu’s Assassin’s hideout.  A continuing theme I think in this leg of the journey from Rome to Venice.  Needless the say the island was cool but no signs of an assassin’s hideout in sight.  Went finally down to the Roman Forum and Palatino while going past the Circus Maximus, I really wish we had spent more time there the places were just fantastic.  If the views from Circus Maximus (Maximus is correct!  Though it’s really just a BIG field) weren’t enough, once inside the places really come to life…sorta haha.  I would suggest an audio guide, despite the horrible map and the fact that many places were blocked, once you got to the correct spot you it really gave you some amazing information and helps to visualise the place as it used to be.  Way better than just wandering by yourself and looking at random columns and bricks since the signage/information is not comprehensive and not located in many places at all =S. 

Key moments for me was finding the dining room in the Palantine…still with the marbled floor, the grand lower entrance hall with the Amazonian fountain (still visible…sorta) and the Stadium!  Ah I knew the Romans were admired but standing there at the Forum with the temples, and basilica, and arches is really something.  The scale of it all, and the age of some of them!  AWEsome is a very appropriate word…I just wish we had more time instead of having to rush cos of closing time.  Finished the day off with a nice meal down by Tratsevere (my suggestion =P), remembered the awesome time we had there last time so I figured I should pay St Maria del Tratsevere another visit =).  Had really good food too at a bar, was cold and we were sitting outside but didn’t take away from delicious pasta and pizza we had.  Apparently the best carbonara in Italy so far according to Brian.

Day 2

Yes!  Keeping it short! =P  I split off with the others in the morning…they wanted the Colosseum and I wanted museums =)  So off the to the Baths of Diocletian I went, only to realise I was there 2 years ago at the same museum‼ XD  That’s alright, this time I took an audio guide and learnt so much more.  I actually wanted to learn about the epigraphs (writing), telling us about store owners (doctors, tailors, jewlers), official decrees and even obitituaries (a freed woman who was praised for her good looks…blond hair blue eyes with a nice bosom! XD…I guess it’s something you want to be remembered for 2000 years in the future =P).  The thing hit me the most though were the Jewish and Christian tomb stones, probably because they still exist today but each contained their characteristic symbols and traditions that you could recognise today!  The candelabra, the cabinet, double fish, the XP, the fact that all the Christian ones contained the date of death and the words "restos in pace"…just the fact that these stones were 2000 years old and still had connections with modern day was kinda amazing. 

Had a wander around by myself since the others took a while at the Colosseum and found myself wandering along the same trial Yee-Ling and I took to the Vatican all those yours ago in the hot summer heat with complaining feet.  Was actually quite nice in the winter! Eventually made my way to Piazza Navona, my favourite place in Rome only to discover it was overrun not by tourists but by Romans at a massive Christmas market!  Well that kinda ruined the feel of it haha but still was cool seeing the market.  Even tried out (what I thought) were a couple Italian things…Ciambella and Porchetto…tasty!  Finally met up with the others and we ticked off the must see of Baroque Rome…Piazza Navona of course, Trevi Fountain (maybe it was the throngs of tourists but I still like the Barcelona one better =P), the Pantheon (looking magnificent as ever ), the Spanish Steps…was a good wander.  Oh should I mention that we had some amazing gelati…San Crispino!  Thanks Kathleen for the suggestion‼ 

Met up with Sin Ki’s friends…Steph, Kor and Bel for dinner, it was their first full day and they were really excited after seeing the Colosseum and the Forum that day =P.  Ate at a suggested pizza place which had tasty pizzas but the pasta wasn’t fantastic and the place was kinda pricey…even had a 20% service charge!  Try the pizzas if you have money.

Day 3

Was all about Pompeii that day.  Woke up at 6:30 for the 7:40 train to Napoli, man we were tired and hungry, grabbed a quick brekkie and off we went on the intercity.  Got to Napoli in 2 hours but it was not the city I expected…or maybe it was?  Ok, it was the city I expected but not the city that I had hoped for.  Dirty, a bit rugged with a definite dodgy vibe though it is very possible that’s only because we were in the wrong parts of town.  Wikitravel does say it has one of the biggest historic areas in the world… Anyways, we stopped there for a tour of the Naples Archaeological museum with all the supposed treasures from Pompeii, Herculanum and surrounding areas…and it did I suppose, if only they were open at the time! =(  Still I saw some amazing things!  The massive statues for one, outdid anything I saw in Rome…the size of them was one thing but the quality as well!  I don’t know how much of it was repaired but I always had in my mind that the Roman sculptures were quite primitive compared to the Renaissance masterpieces thrown throughout Italy and Europe.  Probably cos I only saw the bad/weathered ones but the ones in the museum really were something.  Take a walk around them!  The detail is quite something.  There were the mosaics as well!  Admire from afar, then walk closer and you realise it’s all tiny little tiles…I just find that amazing and apparently these covered entire floors.  I was only finally realising how colourful Romans were…it wasn’t until I reached the paintings though that it finally hit me.  Especially this one room where three of the walls were preserved, a bright red colour with scenes painted at the centres, when I say bright red I mean BRIGHT red.  Roman houses back in the day must’ve really been something to look at.  So in short!  Go to the Naples museum if you have the time, it’s where all the good stuff from the digs go.  The things we missed out on though…the plaster casts of Pompeii, a reconstructed model of Pompeii (I was really sorry to miss that!) and the exhibitions showing the finds from several villas that were buried in the eruption.  So to think there was even more‼

Then it was finally off to Pompeii…FINALLY.  Things to note, the station is dirty as and signage horrible, also if people seem REALLY friendly and helpful…there’s a reason, be expected to pay.  I was punching myself for not realising earlier, wasn’t until halfway through that it hit me…ah wells, he was kinda helpful and we probably would’ve taken twice as long to find our way through the station.  My advice, just read up on travel guides and maybe print out a metro map…cos there’s none.  Eventually made it onto the train and got off at Pompeii Scavi…to find ourselves in the pouring rain!  Yay, what better way than to spend 2 hours walking around Pompeii in the rain!  Haha it was alright, once you’re inside you kinda forget about the rain (having water proof gear also helps =P).  The concept of Pompeii and what it represented didn’t occur to me till quite late, I spent most of my time in the beginning trying to make the most of my audioguide in the rain and getting to as many 'sights’ as I could…wasn’t until later when I relaxed a little more that I could really just soak in the place.  The Forum is a must see of course, but I enjoyed a lot more the little villas scattered around the areas…a lot of places were closed but the ones I did manage to get into had a the interesting mosaics scattered around with the frescos and paintings. 

The bath houses too were particularly well preserved…at least one of them was, I didn’t realise how many baths a Roman town had!  Although at this point I should say that Pompeii is BIG…a lot bigger than I gave it credit for and it really seemed to be a thriving city at the time of eruption.  Anyways, the baths!  Not a lot of decoration was there of course but what little remained was enough to give you a picture of the place, just use your imagination to bring back the faded colours and refresh the reliefs…it must’ve been the most coloured baths ever!  Also inside was two of the Pompeii casts, one of which you could see his clothes and his face.  That was disturbing, not finding out about weird fetishes disturbing but an actual troubled feeling in your gut like thinking you had just seen the body of a homeless person frozen to death on the street (Paris…thank goodness he was alive!).  Anyways, I still have trouble looking at the picture I took…despite it being blurry and dim (I don’t know if want to put it up but comment below if you wanna see it). 

Spent the last moments in Pompeii looking around the other public places, the theatre (for plays) and amphitheatre (for gladiators) are particularly well preserved.  I even tested out the acoustics haha, very good and penetrating!  I think it’s because many of the houses in Pompeii collapsed from the weight of the ashes but since the theatres are open, they just remained preserved.  It was one of the few times on this trip that I had a proper wide angle lens (you’ll see why), for pretty much the whole trip my 50mm has been the lens of choice.  Composition is slightly harder but it makes you look for a slightly different shot/angle that thousands of other tourists haven’t already done, makes it more unique =P.  Anyways, was quite amazing.  The thing that made me really realise I was in an ancient Roman town was on the way back from the amphitheatre, as I was rushing all the way back to the Porta Marina to return my audioguide I passed by one of the marble benchtops that were used to sell hot food and imagined what my favourite eating place would be, how there’ll be this area where people all around town would come for food (I saw several of these marble tops in a row).  Then I starting imagining the streets as they were, bustling with people, the wagons making their groves in the cobblestones, little kids jumping between the stone crossings…was poignant…I think that’s the right word anyways haha (thank you Word thesaurus).

We were pretty buggered that night and just had station food, mmm potato and chicken =P.  Was so worth it though.  I reckon you’d need two days at least to do the area justice…maybe even more!  One for Naples and the museum, one for Pompeii and who knows maybe more for Herculanum where I hear the buildings are even better preserved!

Day 4

Haha so much for keeping it short…2000+ words and counting, are you still with me?  Last day!  Vatican City!  I did this place so wrong last time and so rushed, barely had time to admire St Peters and before we knew it we had skipped through Sistine chapel to outside the museum =(.  This time there were no queues, no awkward waiting, no feeling the sweat of people and the yelling of staff saying “NO PHOTO!”.  Oh btw, for all those wondering, DON’T do the tours…please, unless you really just want the express guided edition with no queue, the queues move along fairly fast, St Peter’s is free and there is so much in the Vaticant museum to see you won’t be doing it justice with a beeline to the Sistine chapel.

Take your time in St Peters, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…despite the tourists this place is AMAZING and still retains some sort of dignity for a church just by the sheer size of it all.  You don’t notice the tourists (me included) simply because they are so insignificant!  The marble statues, the patterned floors, the gold gilded ceiling, the beams of light shining through…just go there and soak it in, they sure as hell don’t make anything like this anymore.  I think it’s because these days it’s all about the architecture and designer (who do great work and I love modern buildings) but the craftsman and artists are almost non-existent.  Cost I guess, combined with the fact that these trades are disappearing just as fast…

Onto the museum!  If I had to choose just ONE museum to visit in Rome (maybe even anywhere!), I would pick the Vaticant.  Serious!  It has some of the most amazing pieces…starting with Egyptian hieroglyphs and mummies (yes they have one), then to Roman antiquities of statues that were collected from around Rome and the Papal state, to more ‘modern’ tapestries, maps, and paintings and even the rooms painted by Raphael.  I was never a big fan of the older Renaissance period art and never felt I could appreciate its symbolism or its style….save on two occasions, the first was with El Greco in Madrid, the second was with Raphael in the Vatican.  The audio guide helped a lot to explain what each fresco meant and like all things, appreciation comes with better knowledge.  If the colours and tones and the way light interacted with the scene (the way the light was painted is amazing…especially when compared to other works) was enough to bring a scene to life, then knowing all the characters in it and the story certainly did.  Get the guide and take your time, it’s worth it!

Hmm other things…sculptures of adsfa and asd was particularly emotive, the torso drew my eye and after listening to the audio guide apparently the eye of many other famous sculptors and painters, a vivid painting by Van Gough of Mary and Jesus and Roudin’s statue of the thinker.  It’s already famous and I never thought much of it but after a short explanation from the guide about the portrayal of movement I stared at it intently.  Maybe people are right, you need to be told that it’s art to think it’s art but if you need someone to explain to you why it’s special before you can truly appreciate it…well that’s fine in my book.  Anyway, still wish we had the chance to check out the rest of the exhibits (some of which were closed) but it’s definitely worth the visit both for the history and for the artwork.  The rooms of the museums themselves are a sight to see =).

Finished off our day checking out the Castello di Santo Angelo, can’t believe it used to be a mausoleum!  And grabbed some amazing Roman food at a place called Su e Gui, it’s an acquired taste for you to truly enjoy it I think but the waiting was super friendly (and skilled at hustling tourists for 3 courses =P) and the food introduces some really cool Roman specialities!  Ear pasta, shellfish and seafood, tripe and even cow’s tail‼  A dish Brian got which turned out to be quite nice!  Lots of crunchy cartilage! mmm

So that’s it for Rome!  An amazing historical place and a place where people with an eye for history/art/religion/food will really love.  Partying?  Who knows, probably! Haha though with so much walking during the day I doubt many will have the energy to party it up at night.  I really enjoyed Rome despite the second time, just the fact that there’s still so much more to see‼  And even the places I revisited were just as amazing the first time round =P. 
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