Steroids, Earthquakes and the Pope's house

Trip Start Mar 06, 2009
Trip End May 07, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Milli says:
We explored Bracciano but did go into Rome for the day before picking up Matt and Erinn. We did see the Colosseum but ran from the throngs and hordes hassling us, and then wandered around the city seeing quite a few sights. It's a gorgeous and amazingly old city upon a city upon a city and its just a shame so many other people know about it. Tourists. Bah. And yes I am aware Shane is a tourist so I shouldn't be mean. Hehe.

I left Shane to meet Matt and Erinn and went home to cook like a good domestic housewife - cooking does make me happy so I pottered around until they arrived under the window to be let in.
Yes, Matt and Erinn arriving was very exciting and we got into a routine of eating and drinking the nights away, watching a bit of comedy on TV (our comedy like Flight of the Conchords, not the comedy that passes for Italian television), waking late to the sun and birds outside our window, and then lazily strolling around eating and having coffees. It was a really gorgeous time and while we didn't make it to the castle in Bracciano we did hang at a few local bars, the piazza and at the lake lookout. We made a fantastic Perishable minestrone that became a stew overnight (like Cinderella it was magical) and drank a lot of wine.

We did manage to make it into Rome one day while in Bracciano and saw a lot. The maps make it look like it's a long walk to anywhere and maybe it is but we got through quite a lot. The train ride took ages again and when we arrived at the station we wanted there was a sea of Italians wearing red that stampeded on. We had to literally push and fight to get out of the train and then up out of the station. Getting out we realised the sea of people continued and we had no idea what was going on. Seemed like a soccer match type madness but later found out it was a political left wing union issue regarding work conditions and pay etc. Interesting but not when you cant see the sights of Rome because of it

 We didn't get into the Colosseum again but wandered around and saw lots. Thanks to a Lonely Planet guide at the Bracciano flat, I found an unusual sight listed in Rome and we all went to check it out. It was a crypt under a church that had four or five thousand bodies of monks piled inside it. And hung in unusual shapes and patterns. Some were very small, obviously children and some had a monks robe set up with the bones. The air was stuffy and dank. Needless to say it was strange and definitely worth seeing.

Getting home we wandered over to the tattooist but it was again busy and that was probably good because if a coffee costs an arm and a leg we really wouldn't have many body parts left to get designs on...Europe is slowly draining the life out of us!

Shane was getting more and more sick so the next day we made our way to our Rome hotel (which was up a hill and around a corner and then another corner etc, not what we needed!) and then we went to the hospital while Matt and Erinn grabbed a bite to eat. The hospital had a metro station named after it so it was quite big. We ended up in emergency and got to see another side of Italian life. Not the nicest with many old people hobbling round, men with head wounds and some lady screaming but there was some nice parts with helpful people. Time ticked by and we kept questioning whether or not to leave as people were seen on a priority basis and Shane's cough couldn't compete with bloody heads. But the more time we invested the more we realised we had to see it out.
 After eight and a half hours we were seen and then it took another two hours of tests to get out of there. Luckily medicine helped and he is on the road to recovery. Yay for drugs, yay.

This started the Strangest Day Ever for us. Coming back to the hotel at two in the morning we hadn't eaten since lunch and went to sleep. An hour or so later we were woken by the room shaking as an earthquake hit Italy. I initially thought it was Shane tossing and turning and then when it continued and the whole room was moving we realised and it was the most bizarre experience. There were no cracks and no people ran out onto the streets - we later heard it happened two hundred kilometres away from Rome with lots of buildings damaged or flattened and people killed and injured. We woke up around nine in the morning to Matt trying to help Erinn over the phone as she had gone for a run and got lost. Upon her return in a cab we all went for a walk and had brunch in a beautiful park. We walked and walked in the warm sun and saw more sights, finally getting to the Vatican city.

 We organised a tour and it was expensive but the best thing we could have done because we lucked out and got a great guide who was A: Italian and B: very passionate about what we were seeing! He was full of information and I really cant complain because Erinn and I got the tour for cheaper as students - thanks Photography Studies College! The massive old wall surrounding the city was amazing enough but the whole tour was really stunning. I loved the artworks with the painters including themselves in somewhere, and the rooms and halls filled with masterpiece after masterpiece blew our minds.
 Everywhere something beautiful and ornate it was overwhelming but the guide really gave us so much information we would never have known. He was quite strict on any passing people taking themselves onto the tour for free information and they skulked away after being told off each time. While the Hall of Maps was amazing, the Sistine Chapel really was the highlight of the tour though the people shoulder to shoulder taking photos and talking really was annoying. Hard to imagine Michelangelo up so high painting alone, and so ahead of his time with his images really looking three dimensional.

 We ended up in St Peters Basilica and were lucky enough to be there at five o clock mass so a bit of Latin was added in to the immersion! We stumbled out and sat further out with a beer and pizza in the sun just taking in what we had experienced. Then we went out for a big dinner as it was our last night together!! We had yummy cheeses, bruschetta, pasta, cocktails, wine and was a magnificent way to finish off our time in Rome and Bracciano with Matt and Erinn!!!

The last part of the night  consisted of many photos being taken and some male derieres being flashed.....what goes up must come down....hehe
And that was the end of our Strangest Day Ever.
Tuscany and manual labour awaits!

Shane says;
We spent another day in Bracciano; sight seeing and sleeping - me coughing up my lungs for the 4th week straight. We didn't do much - just walked around wanting to take it all in. And we wanted to practice our Italian and Bracciano was the perfect place as no one spoke English - it was quite comical watching us trying to communicate and accidentally slipping in a gracious when it should have been a Grazie. A lot of wine was drunk and we went to bed finally at about 3am. The next day we all went into Rome mainly visiting the tourist sites and trying to dodge the British and American tour guides at the colosseum. This day was spent also eating and drinking (like Milli, Matt is in love with food, and he had developed a little paunch to show for us, I however still win in the pot belly stakes)

I hadn't slept well with my cough and spent most of the day as a zombie. That night Milli, Erinn, Matt and my pep-less self went back to Bracciano and realising that it was our last night, we made Perishable Stew. Everything that was left in the fridge and cupboard was thrown in; Hot sauce Matt brought back from Texas, spinach, potatoes, onion, Tomato pasta sauce, olives, pasta cheese and breadcrumbs (to thicken); A hearty meal for all.

Another sleepless night for me (and therefore Milli) resulting in the good lady instigating a whoopee ban until I motivated myself to see a medical professional and get rid of my nasty cough. So after a gruelling uphill walk carrying my 30 kilos of backpacks we arrived at our hotel, checked in and Milli and I promptly left for the emergency ward at the Hospital, where we waited for 9 hours. There were many times we were going to leave but as the hours ticked by we realised that we would have to do it all over again tomorrow if we did leave, and we had already invested so much time.

People came and went before us, we heard many people screaming in agony, while others were having seizures. I had read that Italy had the lowest standard of hospital care in the developed western world, not due to the doctors themselves who were expertly trained, but due to the lack of funding for the public health care system and this was very apparent when looking at the conditions, staff and services in the hospital. They had people lying on stretchers all over the halls due to a lack of space in the wards. We were about to give up as the clock struck 12.30am and my name was called up - 9 hours after we arrived. The doctor looked at me briefly before jabbing two needles into my arm, one a drip feeding cortisone steroids into my blood stream, the other needle in my wrist to take blood samples to send to the lab. After a quick whirl on the nebulizer I was sent to radiology for chest x-rays. More waiting around after that, watching the blood drip back into the empty bag still attached to my arm. My coughing fits had subsided and only then did it dawn on me that what I had been experiencing for the past month was very similar to the chronic asthma attacks I had as a child.

The doctor have me the all clear a little while later, sending me on my way with a prescription for seretide (which I would later find out would cost me $150 Australian to get from the Chemist). We arrived back at the hotel at about 2:30am - 11 hours after we left. Matt and Erinn were still up watching tv (an Italian show that had been on for about 3 hours - consisting of a woman who had been slowly getting undressed rubbing herself, and phone number to call in and speak to her on was strategically placed over her Naples)

We talked for a while, me pumped up on Ventolin and steroids (I certainly had my pep back) and finally dozed off when I was woken by a loud rumbling and the whole room shaking. We were having an earth quake - luckily it was not very close (150 killed and over 200 missing in the town where it happened; about 200 km from Rome) but it was violent enough to shake the door open and scare the hell out of us.

So we were all wide awake and I finally dozed off again at about 4:45am. Longest day of my life. That morning Erinn went for a run in the morning, promptly getting lost and had to get a cab back to the hotel. I slept in until about 9am, despite only having about 4 and a bit hours sleep it was the most restful slumber I have had in the last 4 weeks.

We all went to the Vatican City for a 5 hour tour, which was amazing - indescribable. To be in this place with so much power and history had an overwhelming effect on us all and left us with lots to contemplate. That night was our last night together and despite spending ridiculous amounts of euros in Italy we decided to have a big night - a fantastic dinner at the restaurant around the corner from the hotel; with lots of wine, bruchetta, pasta and Tiramisu and then back to the hotel room for more wine and lots of photos - some of which bare a few peoples distinguishable bare cheeks; the product of too much vino and a camera with a timer function.

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