'When in Rome (.................)!'

Trip Start Dec 16, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, June 5, 2004

This trip has begun with a very fuzzy plan, along the lines of a pub chat with Jay months ago in London. Hey, we should go away again....how about Europe.....um, Italy...Venice? Instead we end up meeting in Rome at 11pm at night and sitting in a smokey little pizzeria with the locals. A couple of old Italian guys were playing cards in the corner. In these auspicious surrounds we made our plans, tomorrow we should go see some history.
Jay is pretty handy with his SLR, the pics are often worth checking out when he gets them online. (user: jrcormack, on this site)

Its been awhile! Thwarted by the new job and moving half way across the UK, but at last I have made a break for it. Had a brief moment of panic when I realised that I couldn't remember which box the passport was packed in, so tipped them all out and just started the rummage.

Roma is the postcard capital. We spent the first day wandering around the forums and just wandering around in general. It's all fascinating to look around, but the atmosphere for me was most evident on the triumphal way at the top of the forum, looking back down the valley past Palatine Hill towards the Coleseum late in the afternoon. You will just have to go and check it out for yourselves! :)

Need a new handbag, come to Rome! New shoes, Rome. Silk tie, Rome. Sunglasses, I'll give you one guess. This is the city of accessories. Every corner there can be someone trying to sell you the latest imitation designer handbag (apparently very good ones!)....but wait, is that rain threatening...handbags disappear and umbrellas flood the marketplace!! Literally by the time the first raindrop hits the ground you have been offered an umbrella by about 3 different guys. Nevermind if you have one already, they will try to sell you another. The guys are all illegal, they are constantly twitching whenever the polici are about. Occasionally this works in your favour, during the bargaining process just drop in a comment like 'is that that polici'....and watch the price plummet.

We have seen a lot of partial brick walls (aka: ruins) in the last 9 days!! Initially this is very exciting, those walls are very old! But after awhile I became a little less enthusiastic and starting looking for brick walls with a difference. A little bit of ancient graffiti, an old fresco or one centered in a majestic location. Many of the walls were supposedly covered in marble frescos at some stage, but have since been recycled into other structures. The tomb of the unknown soldier seems to have the most marble I have ever seen in one location. Frankly I want more from my walls now. Being the wonderful city that it is, Rome kept on delivering.

I think 'Gladiator' ruined the Coleseum, I expected a bigger and somewhat more preserved structure, but the inside has been gutted and much of the outside is a patchwork of repairs after various earthquakes and restoration work. If you sit on the ground nearby you can feel the ground vibrate as the metro train rumbles beneath you. The nearest gladiators were in plastic costumes outside....refer to cheesy photo of Jay and I! Still, can't compalin too much, we did end up in Rome during 'culture week', very handy as most of the entry fees are free.

My taste buds were quivering with delight with the anticipation of a whole week of Italian food, but alas the bread has been dry and the food quite salty...so far...haven't given up yet! Jay and I did monopolise a table at a local restaurant for a good 4 hours one night, much to the disgust of the waiter who was keen on move us on through the courses and free his tables up. The biggest mistake he made was seating Michelle next to us, who was just as keen to sit around and chat! The trick is to keep ordering small dishes, any self respecting Italian would have polished off twice what we ate in that time frame.

Now for a little word association: Vatican City - QUEUES
Its all about perspective, you don't feel so bad if you can't see how the queue extends 1km in front of you. And that's just the first one for the museum. The second queue for the cuppola (top of St Peter's Basilica) was only a few hundred metres, that's good because it means we won't get so sunburn waiting! A quick crisis meeting, a little mathematical reasoning....if the man in the orange jacket has moved 1.4m in the last 10mins, how long will it take for him to travel to the entry point. Students should assume that the queue moves at a constant rate and that no old Italians are pushing in front. Plan B meant we came back early the next day, still a good distance from the entry even an hour before opening, but a vast improvement. The museums were great and the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica have the best walls I have seen. Our plan to meet back at the entry fell in a heap though, there's a one way exit point. Having spent about 4 hours in the museum and made 2 circuits through the crowds in the Sistine it was definitely time to eat! Gail locates us a local supermarket (more difficult than you might expect!) and we sort out a small picnic, and what better location than under the columns of the Piazza San Pietro.

Water fountains here are amazing. The obvious ones with tourist appeal; Fontana Di Trevi and the Fontana Dei Quattri (Four Rivers) in Piazza Navonna. But best of all, the tired hiker can pause and partake of beautiful cold refreshing water at one of the numerous public spouts..the water is great and safe!

A day trip to Tivoli, crammed onto a rickety regional bus that required a good deal of shoving to enter and packed with a number of people that prefer 'odour naturale'. The lure was Emperor Hadrians Villa, a 'little' countryside retreat. The whole layout is based on symmetry and symbolism. Much of the traffic was in underground tunnels, and buildings lacking a symbolic meaning were obscured below ground. So the emperor could walk in mystic wonder whilst the plebs worked below him! The emperors also believed an eagle would come to carry them up to godhood when they died....hmmm, well who am I to question!

Naples is crazy, but humming with people so interesting from that point of view. Hang on to your gear, don't go out alone at night and try not to get killed crossing the road. Most of the cars have significant impact points on them and the 'safety' barriers along the road have all been flattened. Crossing the road can only be achieved by stepping into the flow and having vehicles dodge around you....don't pause or hurry, it just confuses the Napolise. Jay has by this time returned to work in the UK, so missed out on this 'fun'! This was just a stop-over for Pompeii. I could nearly write another essay on Pompei, but will restrain myself! In perfect timing I met Nat and Crystal, both studied classical history and were great tourguides! Everything falling into place! :) Much of Pompeii has been dug up and sent to museums, but the general layout and the Villa Di Misteri (walls 7/10!) are really worth the visit. Enough said.

The book of scams has not developed much on this trip. A good thing! Usual stories of pcikpockets and harmless pushy sales.

Gradually my trips have developed into a process that evolves as I go. Its much more relaxing! I am never behind schedule, there isn't one-well except for that flight back! It shifts and flows as opportunities arise and one of those has been meeting some very cool people that have become mates in the UK; admittedly a lot of Aussies, but can't help that! :)
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montecarlolou on

Trip next week
Hi shmikes,

We are off on a coach trip along the Amalfi coast next week, my friend and I, following a great wish to 'see' Italy, and I thought I'd cheat and see how other people have found it. I loved your entry! I think we may give Vatican City a miss - limited time, none to waste. Keep up the blogging! Lauren

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