Intro: Accordion, soft, sweet tune…sets a nice mood…conjures up images of romance and relaxed dining….
I have arrived in ROME! Unbelievable! I think perhaps this is the most shocked I have felt on this entire trip, because Rome is so full of places and things that are icons in western history, and to see them and touch them is like reaching for a valuable jewel, holding it and knowing it is real.
The sights, sounds, and smells of this city are perhaps the most impressionable of any city I have been as of yet. It is truly a beautiful city. No words can really describe the feeling that I have of history and culture right now. Immense. To know that I am in the city that was the seat of the greatest and most influential empire to ever grace (and then wreck) this earth, is a profound realization.
To walk around and see all the architecture…..to wander the back streets and little alleys full of shops and restaurants….to see some of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen…and people of this place who rush to and fro…I bet they take it for granted. The architecture looks….well….Roman. What can I say? We all know what Roman architecture looks like…it has influenced so much of our own, even in New York City. If you served jury duty, you know what our courthouses look like. If you have ever been to Washington DC, you know what many of our government buildings look like. Well, you have tons and tons of that type of buildings here, but it looks so much more authentic, ancient, and colorful. In fact, all the ones we have are copies of the ones here!
I arrived yesterday by train. It was a three hour ride from Naples. I was glad to leave Naples behind. But the gods snubbed me with sunny weather on the day I gave up the hope of seeing the Amalfi coast. Well, I saw parts of it anyway, but without the sun, it wasn’t so incredible. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. The train ride passed through some pretty impressive landscape….as we neared Rome, mountains started to spring up. I thought to myself, “Hmmm…these are pretty ancient mountains…the same that Caesar himself looked upon.” How profound of me.
We pulled into the train station, called Termeni. I got smart and booked a hostel in advance, because I heard it was getting pretty busy in Rome and I might have a hard time if I just show up and start the typical quest. I was glad I booked it, cuz I had a destination straight away, and that always makes it easier. But the problem is you never know what yer gonna git, if you book ahead. Gamble.
Once I checked in and got settled, I made a beeline for the nearest laundromat….whoa boy, was I in need. After dropping off the goods, I decided the absolute first thing I must do is go to the Coliseum.I mean, that is THE epitome of Rome and Italy, pretty much, right? It was a bit of a walk, but walking is the best way to see and get to know a new city. I set out.
As I walked down the avenue called Via Cavour, I approached the Coliseum piazza…and I caught a glimpse of it through an alley way. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I stared. I thought “Whoa. That’s the freaking Coliseum. I am in freaking ITALY. THIS IS ROME. HOLY SHIT!” Nothing I had seen so far in Italy had really brought home the fact that I was in Italy. But when I saw the Coliseum, it was a pretty heavy realization. It’s one of those things you see in movies, in books, or hear about all your life….it’s like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Empire State Building in NYC. It’s THE thing you associate with Rome, more than anything else, at least for me. And there I stood, in its very presence. I kept walking until it came into full view. There is no way to explain how it feels to come to a place like this. I hope I am doing a good job.
The whole area was crowded with tourists, as expected. Around the Coliseum, you have a lot of the standard sights and archeological areas, so it’s a big attraction. I went to the entrance and bought a ticket and went inside. Again, I thought, “I am standing in THE (insert exclamatory 4 letter word) Coliseum!!” It was here that the Romans staged some of the most elaborate spectacles of ancient history, from naval battles to Gladiators fighting for their lives against lions, to prisoners being thrown to the very same lions, much to the amusement of the roaring crowds who gathered to watch in gory fascination. It was here that the Emperors gave their famous “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down” calls when the life of a prisoner was in question. Thumbs up, he lives. Thumbs down, he dies. It was all for the sake of entertainment. And there I stood in amazement. I tried to imagine what it must have been like…but I don’t think anyone can ever really know the depth of what went on here.
By the way, I have not been pick pocketed yet. No one has thrown a baby at me…though I saw one women who looked like a baby thrower…. but I folded my arms and passed her by….
After I left the Coliseum…I was there for several hours, just taking it in…I went back to my hostel, after picking up my clean laundry (oh thank gawd!). I met some people who were staying in the same room as me, and we all decided to go to a “Pub Crawl.” Anyone know about these? WHY HAVEN’T YOU TOLD ME THEN??? I had such a good time. Basically, you pay a flat fee and drink as much as you could want for an hour, and then pay discounted prices for whatever else you drink. You all get together at one bar, stay there for a bit, then go to another, and then another, and then another….and each place gives you a free shot. Needless to say, I was more wrecked then I have been in a great while. Wrecked in Rome. I met some really cool people and had a great time hanging out. It was nice, because I was feeling a bit lonely. We started at 7:30pm, so by midnight I was pretty ready for bed. Took a cab back to the hostel. Found out about “night fees.” RIP OFF.
I’ve still been eating pizza for almost every meal. Gelato too. Can’t get enough. Found a cheap pizza place near my hostel…they cut you a slab and then weigh it….
Woke up. Waited approximately one hour for my chance to bathe…ate pizza for breakfast….set out to explore. I headed for the area of the Coliseum again, because that’s where a lot of the sights are located, as I stated above.
I wanted to go to the Palatine Hill, the plateau where the Emperors and senators lived, and one of the first settlements of the city. I climbed up the hill, turned around and got another view of the Coliseum, had another wave of shock…and then plowed forward. The ruins on the Palatine Hill are not as impressive as the knowledge of what went on there…but I can save you the history lesson…look it up…truth is I don’t have a clue.
After the Palatine Hill, I went to the Roman Forum, which is a huge conglomeration of ruined temples and buildings that were important to the empire. Between the two, I spent maybe an hour and a half. From the Forum, I walked a ways to the Pantheon, an impressive building of 2000 years, housing a perfect semi-circle dome made entirely of poured concrete, as well as some fascinating statues and paintings.
Onward. Had to cover the bases. Next I went to the Fontain Di Trevi, the absolute most beautiful water fountain I have ever seen. It comes out of the side of a building and water cascades down several tiers, in the midst of daunting statues of the gods and heroes.I threw a few coins in, at my mother’s request. It’s a tradition…..
Moving on, I went to the area called Campo De Fiori, which, under Papal rule, was where lots of nasty executions occurred. Now, it’s basically a vegetable and meat market, but there is an eerie statue in the middle of it of a hooded guy looking down…he looks all evil and stuff. Coooooool. I sat under the shade of the statue and read a bit of Lord of The Rings. I was getting tired at that point, because much walking was taking place in between all these sights. It’s a HUGE city ya know.
Afterward, I made my way to the Jewish Ghetto. Being a Jew, I had to see it. Nothing much of the Ghetto still exists, but it was fascinating to know I stood in the midst of what it once was. There is the Ashkenazi Synagogue, inside the former Ghetto, which is an immense and beautifully adorned building. There are 16,000 Jews living in Rome today…many of whom are descended from Jews who came in 160 BC, sent by Judah Macabee to request that the Romans help the Israelites defend their land against the Assyrians….so I saw that too.
I did a lot of walking and stopping to sit where there were amazing views, and that was many many times. There are so many breathtaking sights and views, that it is really sensory overload. It’s late in the afternoon of my first full day here, and I am very tired from all the walking. Tomorrow I am meeting Rob, owner of the Luna Lounge…he’s coming to Rome for a little vacation and we’re gonna hang for a day while he waits for his woman to join him. Come on down, Rob.
I think that’s it for now. My feet really hurt. Need a nap. I’m getting old. Last night I hung out with 18 years olds…I have never hung out with someone born after 1980…weird for me….
Till next time,