Senatus Populus Que Romanus/ Rome, Italy (9.11.09 – 9.16.09)

Rome: a city whose streets are littered, seemingly equally, with scooters and dead cigarettes. “Roma, non basta una vita.” Translated: “Rome, a lifetime is not enough.” It really is true… I stayed five nights and left feeling as though I had seen nothing of what Rome had to offer.

I arrived in Rome on Friday in the evening. I settled in and took it easy, despite it being Friday. Suddenly, I realized that hours had passed since my arrival and it was 9:30, but I hadn’t eaten. I ventured out and before too long, found a pizzeria that was still open. I ordered one that looked good… and as I ate it, wondered what the hell it was. Potato pizza. It was like eating overdone hash browns, with the occasional island of cheese. It was strange and not exactly appetizing… but it was food, and it satiated my hunger. As with many of my meals these days, it was washed down with beer. I returned to the hostel to find everyone rampant… people were drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage, supplied from a large bowl in the center of the hall, surrounded by signs that read “Free Cocktail Party. Tonight.” I found myself a cup, and joined in… for a while, at least. Before long, I decided to call it a night, because train travel will really wear you out.
I woke the next morning with a killer headache… and no, it wasn’t a hangover… I didn’t drink nearly enough for this headache to be a hangover, but whatever it was, I just wanted to stay in bed. At 11 o’ clock, I was woken by one of the hostel employees, who informed me that I needed to get up as there was an 11 to 4 lockout so that they could clean. So much for the shower I had planned for. My departure was far from expedient, as I’m sure, the said employee would have liked… but before long, I was gone and off to explore Rome. After only 10 minutes walk, I was breathless… and no, not from any physical exertion, thank you. At the end of my street, I was within view of the Colosseum, countless other exquisite views of ancient architecture, and carefully excavated and preserved ruins. My jaw dropped as I let out a meek, but genuine “Wow…” What words do such sights justice? “Wow” certainly doesn’t come close… but what exactly does, when you are within minutes of reaching out and touching such ancient treasures? I for one, cannot come up with anything I feel is sufficient.
As the Colosseum was within my sights, I decided that that would be my first port of call. I approached it and was even more awe-struck, every step I took. As I approached this magnificent beauty… I realized: I need to sit down. I sat for a good twenty minutes, surveying the gargantuan building in my sights. Over and over I kept thinking “This was man… not machine.”
Think about it. The Colosseum was built just shy of two millennia ago, finished in 80 AD. It is an architectural feat of MAN. There were no machines involved in this… no computers, no design programs… this was simply, the genius, the willpower, and the capability of man. And now… now what? Now we have an endless number of machines and programs and who knows what to aid us in our journey into tomorrow… and we build… but we do nothing like this.
To quote from my journal, so you know my precise thoughts upon first experiencing the Colosseum:
“Rome. A city built by men, not machines. I am sitting, staring at the Colosseum, and I am in awe… which is a poor description for this overwhelming sensation, for what I feel when I look upon this grand and astounding architectural feat.”
After a while, I decided that I should probably get up, and walk myself along to see the other wonders of Rome… however awestruck I was by the Colosseum. I marched down the Via del Foro Imperiali, and took in the sights of the Foro Traiano, Colona Traiana, and Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II. All of which were just staggering… I really must applaud Rome and the efforts it has taken to preserve its past. The Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II is jus… magnificent, and as various inhabitants of Rome have told me, this is Rome’s most beautiful piazza. The monument is giant, the main structure shaped like a block parenthesis: [. The two sides are each topped with huge statues of a winged man on a chariot being lead by 4 horses. This structure is truly splendid. I walked around this magnificent city, trying to absorb its very essence… and before I knew it, it was 4 o’clock. I returned to the hostel because this meant that I could return to my bed. I napped for a while, and before long, everyone was drinking again. I stayed in, because hey… some nights, you just don’t feel like drinking. Yes. I did just say that. No. I have not lost my mind.
The next morning I awoke. For all of two seconds, I considered going to the Vatican… and then considered the fact that going to the Catholic capital of the world on a Sunday would not be the best idea I’ve ever had. So what instead? I decided that a walk through the city to find the Trevi fountain would be an excellent idea… so that was exactly what the day consisted of. I walked up towards the Rome Termini Station, and then west. Along my route, I saw the Piazza della Repubblica, the Santa Maria della Angeli, the Trinità del Monti, and the Villa Medici, before heading south to find the Fontana de Trevi.
Once there, I was, again, awestruck by this beautiful, exquisite, and ornate reminder of the Romans who built these magnificent works of art, and left these reminders of times past. I spent some time here, gawking in admiration, and of course, threw a coin into the fountain in exchange for a wish. It was not until later, upon reading up on the fountain, that I knew its tradition. You must throw with your right hand over your left shoulder. One coin means you will return to Rome; two means you will find love; three coins ends Rome. After the Fountain, I wandered the streets for a while, and purchased some gelato. I feel that now is as good a time as any to mention the fact that my Roman diet almost, if not, exclusively consisted of pizza, pasta and gelato. After making the said delicious purchase of gelato, I ended up sitting in a piazza… Piazza Farnesse for well over an hour. At first, I sat, just people watching… but then I read my book: Hello I Love You, perhaps one of the most important books I have ever read. After well over an hour, I decided that it was time to return to my hostel. Shortly after leaving the Piazza Farnesse, I came across some graffiti. First, the words “I Love You.” Followed by the words “Out of Control.” This seemed too perfect considering the material that I had just read, and I walked on, relishing in the sensory experiences that I was taking an active part in.
Upon returning to Hostel Ivanhoe, Sunday was a fairly uneventful night… it consisted of me making myself pasta with pesto, drinking casually with other hostel patrons, and making lovely friends. Fellow dorm-mates convinced me to go out with them… but their lack of an expedience more than an hour later, caused me to change my mind and stay in. However, later on, I was convinced to go out to experience some of Rome by night. I enjoyed sights such as the Foro Traiano, Colona Traiana, Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II, and the Castel Sant’ Angelo. Rome is gorgeous by day, but exquisite by night… it’s like an entirely different world. After the night’s exertions, I was ready for bed, and fell asleep merely seconds after my head touched upon my pillow.
On Monday, I awoke, by 11 of course, to evacuate the premises, and caught the metro to head off to Vatican City. Upon arrival, I was astonished by the line of people waiting to see St. Peter’s Basilica. Luckily, the line moved quickly, and after only 25 minutes, I was through security and inside the Basilica. Inside was just magnificent… as you will see in pictures below. I passed time, gawking at the decadence within this building… and after a while, decided that it was time to head off to the Vatican museum. I paid my entry and perused the various areas and exhibits, sadly, without zealous fervor… I’m really not an admirer of religious art. Perhaps somewhat quickly, I made my way through the museum, and headed towards the Sistine Chapel.
Oh. My. Gosh.
There really aren’t words. As I said, I’m not one for religious art, but… wow. This literally made my knees quake… it is an astonishing work, attributed to a single man… which simply borders on the unbelievable. Before entering the Sistine Chapel, you are greeted by signs warning “No Pictures,” and “Silence Please.” Upon entering, you are greeted by obnoxious employees, and more than likely, your ears will be subject to the following sensory offenses: CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP. “PAS DE PHOTOS. NO PHOTOS. SILENCE. SILENCE. SILENCE.” Etc. etc. Change up the word order a bit… etc. etc. So much for the signs requesting your respect… the asshole employees really take care of that for you. Despite the offensive interruptions, I found myself unable to keep from fixing my gaze above, unable to take my eyes off of Adam reaching out for God’s hand… and eventually, surveying the rest of the equally impressive scene.
After as long as I could manage to look above, I left the Sistine Chapel, and quickly enough, the Vatican Museum. I feel it necessary to mention that if this, if THIS, cannot make me appreciate the magnificence and splendor of God… then I just don’t know what could. Despite the length of the day I had already experienced, I decided to go to the Castel Sant’ Angelo, to see it during the day… but before long had gotten myself extraordinarily lost. As this was the case, upon discovering a metro stop, I welcomed the opportunity to call an end to the day, and returned home to the hostel. Again, I cooked myself a dinner of pasta and pesto, followed by drinks that warmed my body and reassured me that life is good. The slick tongues of liqueurs speak the truth: Life is truly good.
Melanie, an Aussie girl at the hostel who I befriended, and I decided to go out see more of Rome by night… but first and foremost, we decided that we must get gelato. Eating our delicious treat, we headed for the Colosseum, gelato dripping down our fingers as we walked along. We took some pictures of the Colosseum at night, and headed for the Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II, and the Fontana de Trevi. All of these things, were, of course, incredible by night… but perhaps the most incredible is the fact that the Fontana de Trevi seems never to be anything other than swarming with tourists… but I can’t really speak, I suppose… I’m as guilty as all the others.
Tuesday morning arrived before I knew it. And with it came my last full day in Rome. The plan for Tuesday: wake up early to see the sunrise, go back to bed for a while, wake up again, and tour the Colosseum… and that is exactly what I did. I woke up at about 6:00 AM, got dressed, and headed to the Colosseum. The sun was due to rise at 6:49 AM, but unluckily, the weather was dismal, overcast and rainy. I stayed out until 7:00, so I did catch daybreak and got to see the night disappear, but sadly, there was no magnificent sunrise to be seen. I returned to my hostel, quite damp, and ready for a few more hours of sleep. Once up again, I headed back to the Colosseum, ready to tour it! No, I didn’t take any official sort of tour… I let the sights and the placards speak for themselves, and spent over two hours absorbing all that I saw, and trying to process the sheer magnitude of it (note: MANY photos to follow). After eventually deciding to leave and explore the Palatine Hill, I headed off to do exactly that. Along the way, I met a man from Milano, who spoke no English, but spoke French. So, I got a tour of the Palatine Hill, and got to practice my French at the same time. My new friend told me that my French was very good… news that I thanked him for, but told him I didn’t quite believe… after four years of no lessons, unfortunately, my French is quite poor for what it should be.
After exploring Palatine Hill, I walked further to go and see the Pantheon. To my total disappointment, it was closed off for A WEDDING. Can you imagine getting married in the Pantheon… CAN YOU IMAGINE THE COST??? Goodness… so… sadly for me, I only got to see the Pantheon from the outside, but it’s alright. I’m sure to return within the year. After my attempt to see the Pantheon, I decided it was time to walk home. Tonight, the signs around the dorm read “All you can eat spaghetti, and all you can drink Sangria: 3 Euro.” And well… of course, I was game… because that’s a hell of a deal. And what it means it: One serving of pasta, and two glasses of Sangria, if you’re lucky, for 3 Euro… regardless, it’s still a good deal. While enjoying my Sangria, I met two English blokes who were off to Amalfi the next day… but you know what this means? I’ll tell you what: new friends in London! Matt and Ben were among many friends I made in the highly social Ivanhoe Hostel: including but not limited to: Melanie from Australia, Alix and Lou from Paris, Phil from Australia, Savio from Brazil, and the aforementioned London boys.
The next morning, I awoke, began to pack, and began my walk to Roma Termini Station, so that I may begin my journey to Florence(Firenze). Just before entering the station doors, I remembered that I had left two shirts and my jacket hanging off of the side of my bunk at the Ivanhoe hostel… so off I went…to retrieve my belongings. Once I had gathered the remainder of my possessions, I headed off, once again, for Roma Termini, so that I may begin my journey to Florence… and soon enough my journey had begun.

But of course, before I discuss my time in Florence, pictures from Rome are necessary. WARNING: Large number of pictures to follow… including far too many of the Colosseum.

colosseum

First viewing

forotraiano

Foro Traiano, just down the street.

monumentoavittorio

The Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II

vittorio

Part of the Vittorio monument.

doorsantamariadegliangeli

The door to the Santa Maria deli Angeli church… very strange indeed

treviday

Trevi Fountain by day!

lizfontaine

Hello lovelies

love

LOVE

outofcontrol

OUT OF CONTROL (Seen one after the other was just too good)

bike

And then this is what I saw next. This is just beautiful.

forotraiananight

Foro Traiana by night

castlebynight

The Castle by night.

stpetersbasilica

Next day. Vatican City. This is St. Peter’s Basilica.

stpetersinside

Inside the Basilica

stpetersstaintedglass

Stained glass in St. Peter’s

vaticanguards

The Vatican guards

stpeter

A mosaic of St. Peter, from the Vatican Museum

vaticanceiling

Ceiling in the Vatican Museum

colosseumnight

Colosseum by night

colosseumlizmelnightbus

Mel and I at the Colosseum, at night. AND A BUS!

fontainenight

The Fountain by night

fontaineliznight

1.righthandleftshoulder

Two coins.

2.morningview

My view as I walked to the Colosseum in the early hours of the morning

3.colosseummorningrain

My rainy but pleasant view

4.standinghereintherain

It started raining really hard, so I sought solace under a tree. Then I slipped because the ground was slick. I’m very clever.

5.colside

Daybreak view

6.colmorning

And again…

7.colosseumside

And part 2 of my Colosseum day!

8.colosseumback

9.colsidetopinnards

Insides!

10.coltopgood

I won’t bother to comment on the following pictures… because as you will soon see, they’re all pictures of the inside of the Colosseum

11.colpanside

12.colosseumin

13.coltopsideagain

14.colosseumbottomtier

15.colosseumtopside

16.lizcolosseum

Oh hey! I’m in this one!

17.bestseatsinhouse

This is where the best seats in the house were– right above the cross. So obviously, this is where the Emperor would sit. It had a fantastic view of all of the floor entrances.

18.colosseumviewup

19.palatine

This is the view from Palatine Hill.

20.lizrome

Hello Rome!

21.palatineandvittorio

View from Palatine Hill… you can see the back of the Monumento Vittorio Emmanuele II.

22.creepy

This delightful (see: creepy) guy was holding the menu for a restaurant near the Colosseum… it definitely made me want to eat there.

23.pantheon

And the Pantheon… only from the outside though.

OK. Florence up next!

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2 responses to “Senatus Populus Que Romanus/ Rome, Italy (9.11.09 – 9.16.09)

  1. Great post. So true love is what Liz is looking for? May the resident fountain sprites make it so.

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