Thursday, May 01, 2008

I is for Italië

We have returned from Rome. By my mother's counts, it was a five day vacation. (She counts travel days.) By my count, it was three full days. The two traveling days don't really count to me. Sure there's a lot of knitting time, but there's not that much actual touring time on those days.

I'd never been there before, so there was tons to see, and with three days you can barely scratch the surface. But we did our best. It was broken up in three sections, three days. I'm not sure if Fred did it intentionally, but it worked out beautifully.

The first day was the Classical period. We saw the Colosseum and the Forum and then a couple of extra things that we were passing along the way from here to there. The Colosseum was fun to see. We'd been to a giant (and ancient) amphitheater in Tunisia, but it was outside the city - and really dry and hot. This one had a different feel and was in the center of it all. Think: lots of gift shops.

The Forum didn't really thrill me as a concept. We went in because Fred wanted to. But it was pretty amazing. I really enjoyed it. Of course reading a guidebook helps. Also, in a space like that, the annoyance of the throngs of tourists is a little less.

The second day was all Vatican. We got there at 9:15 and after an hour of standing in a really long line, we were in. The two young women ahead of us didn't get in. Fred thinks that it's because they didn't have cash to pay to get in. (Note: Bring cash. The Pope doesn't accept plastic for the entrance fee.) Also, when we were leaving, at around 2:00, there was no line. So my whole "Arrive early and avoid the lines" rule didn't translate to Italian.

The museum was pretty great - lots of old religious art. You have to tour the whole thing to get to the Sistine Chapel. There are signs pointing to the Sistine Chapel, and you think you're right around the corner, but you have to walk through the whole thing to see it. If you look at our photos, you won't see any of the Sistine Chapel because it was against the rules to take snaps. Of course that didn't stop hundreds of others from taking pictures and videos, but we respected the rules - plus the lighting would have been crap with our camera.

My feeling on the museum is that they could really work on the Modern Religious Art wing. It's sort of sad and spooky. It's like they know it's going to be walked through (and not looked at), so they haven't redone it in about thirty years. Almost every inch of ceiling in the museum is decorated and painted. It's sort of ridiculous, but it is the Vatican, after all. Actually, there are tons of things that no one looks at. They're not labeled or not lit well, but no one cares. Everyone is on the way to the Sistine Chapel. My advice, by the way - Get the audio tour.

Saint Peter's is really big. Too big. Less of a church, more of a museum. If you can manage it, go to the dome. There's an elevator for part of the way, but then there are lots of steps. Lots. They say its 320, but it feels like more. And there's some cramped little spaces, like the towers at Notre Dame or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Small, circular and never ending. But the view is pretty fabulous. Then you have to go down.

By the end of the second day, which was twelve hours of walking, my dog were barkin'. I got up in the middle of that night and the tops of my calves were in agony. Fortunately, I was better in the morning. If you're planning a long walking weekend in Rome, get your legs in shape.

The third day was church day. Lots of churches in different styles. Our goal was twelve. I think we saw five. We went across the river to the "bad" side of town, which really did have more homeless people and a trashier feel - a little more run down. Very "Early Nineties Williamsburg, Brooklyn" if that means anything to you. In other words, tons of potential. All they need is a Starbucks and a Gap to get that neighborhood going.

It was a really nice long weekend. Lots of work with the walking, but I'm stubborn enough to keep going for about a half hour after I'm miserable and Fred is good enough to let me rest and get a coffee when I need to. Fred is a robot. He doesn't get tired or thirsty. He just laughs at twelve hours of walking. Then he'll sleep for ten hours straight. (After I've plugged him in and switched him off.)

One little thing about coffee. At coffee bars, if you stand, you can get a couple of espressos for less than two euros. If you sit, it's sometime twice the price. Strange. And don't stop for a cup of anything after the Vatican until after you've crossed the bridge. One restaurant wanted six euros for a cappuccino! We walked on.

Fred heard lots of Dutch tourists and I heard hundreds of American tourists. I would have thought that with the dollar being so low, there would be less Americans there. But when you've got to see Rome, you've got to see Rome.

As I said, there's tons to see. We'll probably go back, maybe next year at this same time. All in all, Rome is sort of dirty and big and busy. Post-Easter was not the best time to go, but it was what was possible. But Rome is really lovely and really old. When I first moved here, Fred gave me the choice of a long weekend in either Rome or Venice. We went to Venice, which was great and still makes me sigh and smile. Rome is great in a different way. Much more go-go-go, but well worth the effort.

If you want, you can check out some of the snaps that we took. We whittled it down to about a hundred. We take a lot of pictures. Some of them are quite nice.


Mel said...

Actually, late September/early October is a really good time to be in Rome. The crowds aren't as bad and the weather's decent.

When I was there a few years ago, the Coliseum workers went on strike and I had to be content with snapping photos through the bars.

Anonymous said...

One restaurant wanted six euros for a cappuccino! We walked on.

You are now officially Dutch!

RedScot said...

Rome! You lucky thing! I've been there once for 18 hours on a different and hectic concert tour but there was no time for sight-seeing. I can't believe you managed to fit in so much in only 3 (5!!) days!

Anonymous said...

I've been to Rome once, for a long weekend in October. The weather wasn't so great (it rained) but there weren't many tourists either. I'd love to go back again some time. Like you said, there's just so much to see.

Nice photos (but I'm still gonna win)!

Littlelou said...

Looks like a great trip. I especailly liked your photo titled 'Bocca della Verita' as it reminds me of the movies 'Roman Holiday' and 'Only You'. Did you dare put your hand in the Mouth Of Truth?

Grace said...

so happy you had a good trip!!!