A Funny Thing Happen on the Way to the Forum....
Feb 15, 2006
|For all of you who have been to Rome, you're going to be - "well, yeah..." after reading this. So please permit me to run on; not our first visit to Italy, but my first visit to Rome. So...
We had a great 8 days in Rome last week. I'm an on-line Weather Channel addict and was monitoring the weather in Rome for a month before we left. It was supposed to be cloudy and rainy while we were there; but so much for worrying about doom and gloom. The weather turned out to be sunny albeit a tad cold (relatively speaking). It was great going in the off-season; we didn't have any lines for any of the must see sights. Everything was open except for Nero's Golden Palace, which was closed due to water damage. There were no scaffoldings anywhere and only lack of time kept us from seeing Bernini's "Swooning" Ste. Teresa; supposedly a great "what was he thinking?" statue.
Our hotel was well located at the top of the Via Veneto (think Felini and la Dolce Vita) just across from the Borghese Palace. If you triangulate the points of interest; Borghese, Vatican, Coliseum, you can walk the entire historic area. You will definitely get in your daily 10,000 steps (and then some) but it is doable. And we did it!
The first thing we noticed after being ripped off by the cab driver...
(an aside here. We took the train into Rome's Termini Station from Fiumicino, which was a piece of cake. Then we got a cab to our hotel which was only 8/10 blocks away by the map...here's your first major travel hint from us...never, NEVER, answer in the affirmative when the cab driver asks you if it's the first time you've been to Rome. That "yes" costs you about 10 Euros more! But you do get to see a lot more than 10 blocks of the city on the way to your hotel as a trade off. Now back to the main narrative...)
is that there is a definite opportunity for PETA to open a branch in Rome; haven't seen so many women in fur coats since I don't know when. If PETA does open up, buy stock in the red dye manufacturers 'cause the activists will be busy. The second thing was that there has to be somewhere (we missed it) a separate museum for the noses (all) and other more tender parts (male), missing from 98.3% of the statues. (According to rumor, Pope Pius IX in 1857 did the damage to the Vatican collection with a chisel and hammer and a supply of plaster fig leaves he had designed in Art 101 class.) The Bernini statues were something to behold. He was a major storyteller, as most of his work needs to be placed so you can walk around them. You only get bits and pieces of the story if you look at the statue from one angle. We saw the work of Napoleon's sister posing as Venus....naked. She was asked HOW could she have posed like that. She replied, "The room was not cold."
I guess walking through the Roman Forum area was the most mind-bending for us. Everything was so easy to visualize and it was easy to squint your eyes and see the citizens of Rome 30CE strolling down the avenues. The temples are still there; the Senate is still there... It really was a WOW for us both. Rome lasted a 1,000 years... what...500 getting there, 200 on top and 300 on the skids. But still - 1,000 years ... The Vatican is impossible to see in a day. The Sistine Chapel is smaller that I thought it would be but more magnificent than I expected. I was talking to a Swiss Guardsman and he offered us two tickets to a Papal audience (5,000 people in an auditorium instead of 50,000 in the square) but time constraints interfered. If it had been John instead of Benedict though... The Trevi Fountain was a surprise. I always pictured fountain equals piazza. Not so. This magnificent fountain backs up to a beautiful renaissance building. So it's only viewed from 3 sides. Then the Spanish Steps were a disappointment...street construction at the bottom, no flowers (winter) and no couples sitting enjoying the sun; so the Steps for us ended up just being steps with a small "s".
We did a day trip to Pompeii. Another spectacular experience. There were no tourists to speak off, so we were able to just stroll down the streets from the first century by ourselves for a couple of hours after our guide had walked us through the main areas. When Mount Etna erupted it was the 7th time the city had been destroyed...the 6th time was by an earthquake 6 years previous. They were just rebuilding when the mountain blew. (Although...you would think they would get the idea it wasn't a great place for a city after the 3rd or 4th time wouldn't you...) We also did a day trip to Florence. Much too quick a trip for that city, but we did see THE David. Big shrug as far as I was concerned. It is on so many T-shirts and swizzle sticks, it now seems a cliche. Unfortunate. But the city is beautiful.
Every guidebook we had mentioned pickpockets..."be on guard." We weren't paranoid, but did take precautions; wallets in our front pockets...etc. On one subway ride, we were standing and Rob realized his jacket was hiked up a tad more in the back than was prudent or modest. He adjusted his jacket and felt to make sure his wallet, in his front pocket was ok. As he reached down to check, he discovered he was holding hands with someone near to him who was in the process of unsnapping his pocket. Bit of a shock for him but he was able to prevent any nasty surprises. So ... but for Rob getting a cold the second day of the trip when we were in Pompeii, being nice and keeping it to himself the whole time and then changing his mind and giving it to me for the ride back on the airplane, we had the best of times.
We had two nice surprise visits when we returned. Our friend Quentin and her brother Andrew were down from Delaware and New York and stayed over night. Our friend Debbie was in Key West on a cruise stopover and we had a great lunch-time visit with her.
We only have 1 more week here in Key West and then we start the journey "North to Alaska." Can't wait. First stop Koreshan SP (a beautiful state park) to see my sister Kitty, in Cape Coral.