Roma, Italy

Tuesday and Wednesday, September 13-14, 2011:

The temperature in Rome is supposed to be 90 degrees so I dress lightly.  We travel quite a few hours to Roma (Rome) but the drive into the city that afternoon left me in excitement and awe.  We’ve grown up with Roman History, heard about it, watched it, read about it and studied some of it in school.  We all know who Julius Caesar is…but their history doesn’t start and stop there.  What about Vatican City and the Pope.  Rome’s history goes back more than 2,000 years!!

As we drive into the city Elzo talks about the driving tactics and traffic in present day Rome.  They drive whichever way they want.  And if Amsterdam had a biking culture, Rome has a moped or scooter culture and motorcycles…of course.  Drivers in Rome do not heed to lines on the road or red lights.  The drivers squeeze in wherever they can but there is hardly any honking or screaming out windows.  The mopeds are daredevils coming so close to our bus, I’m amazed an accident didn’t happen.  Elzo was surprised they wore helmets (he said they’ve finally learned their lesson…oh geez!).  Elzo and another guide claims it’s the most fun place to drive because you “play” with people.  It seems interesting but I might have a heart attack driving there.  Also, they park anyway they want.  They double park, triple park, they squeeze their small cars into the tiniest spaces and you can see the scrapes on the cars and bumpers!

Another thing common in Rome are immigrants and hawkers.  They are everywhere and it’s a little annoying…but Italy sits on the mediterranean and is close to Africa and the Middle East.  As Elzo says, they are just trying to make a living but the best way to avoid them is to ignore them.  Hard when they are shoving things in your face.

We reach our hotel first and prepare to leave again for a Roman Feast dinner and some sightseeing in a short hour.

View from our room.

 Our drive takes us through ruins and famous landmarks and this is Rome!  New construction in Rome is almost impossible because when people start to dig they find roman ruins and the archaeological organization has to come in and protect the site.  So it’s a fascinating city full of so much history…to be in Rome is to walk in history itself.

Dome of St. Peter’s Basillica

Castel Sant Angelo

Once upon a time a roman shopping mall 

Part of the Roman Empire

 We made a quick stop to the Trevi Fountain.  Another thing about Rome traffic, people walk into the roads even with cars coming, because they know the cars will stop and they do!  The trick is not to run into the street, but walk slowly and smile.  It’s kind of refreshing, once you get over your fear of stepping on the road with on-coming traffic!

The infamous Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is gorgeous and on this very hot roman afternoon it was seriously PACKED with people.  Also, hawkers were everywhere.  One of them took our picture with my camera and then I realized he was a hawker and wanted us to take a picture with the camera around his own neck so that we could pay.  I declined nicely but you have to be serious or else they will follow you.  I was hounded by about ten of them in the span of one hour.  So annoying…

We left the Trevi fountain and made our way to the restaurant for our roman feast.  We drove by sculptures by the infamous Bernini.

At the restaurant called, Mino’s we ended up sitting with Kobayashi-san and his girlfriend.  Kobayashi-san is the lone person in our tour group that EVERYONE had to keep an eye on because he spoke 4 words of english: “thank you”, “sorry” and “picture”.  It was a running joke and no joke on our tour when we would ask “where’s Kobayashi-san?”  We were so worried about him because he would take off and leave our group!  He traveled with his sweet girlfriend who was Korean and spoke some Japanese but not totally fluent.  So communication with him was kind of hard, but he was so much fun and always in good spirits.  Well..we sat with him and we found out how much he liked to drink!  LOL…Josh became his best friend after this night.

The table setting had FOUR forks, two butter knives and a dessert spoon.  It included unlimited white white, red wine, beer, sodas and water.  Josh started drinking the white wine and Kobayashi-san made sure he drank the whole bottle…it was crazy.  I think Kobayashi-san finishined the bottle of red wine.  And when Josh finished the bottle, he asked the table next to us if he could take the bottle of white wine.  I told Josh he had to tell him enough, if he’d have enough….lol…it was really hilarious.

So the mood was loud, rambunctious and then the food came.  We had salad and we also had a singing duet, some entertainment for dinner, which was fun.  Then we had one course of pasta…but the waiter (and this is part of their entertainment) said he had a “special” plate.  The special plate meant he picked a woman on each table to be fawned over.  He would place kisses from their fingertips to their cheek, it got us laughing really hard because the faces of each woman was one of shock and embarrassment.  Then he gave them a rose.  Well I was waiting for my plate and realized everyone on my table got served except me so I thought…oh no….

Sure enough he called out he had a VERY special plate and told me to come with him…I was like…what?!  So he took me to the middle of the room, as Josh videotaped it, and everyone was laughing and I was blushing and scared!  Why was I picked to stand in the middle of the room when everyone else got to sit in their seat?  Well I found out quick…so the waiter, said, “where’s my friend?”  so two waiters, each holding one of my arms proceeded to place kisses from my fingertips to my shoulder to my neck and then my cheek!   I was thoroughly embarrassed and then I was shocked when one guy pinched my butt and then the other pinched the other cheek.  The room was roaring with laughter.  I can’t believe they touched my ass with my husband watching!  Of course, Josh was pretty tipsy and enjoying it all.  I got a rose of course but I was so red in the face.  One of the tour members said in Italy it’s a compliment when they pinch my butt….THANKS.  It just solidified the fact that I have a big ass!

Josh got picked by the singing duo to sit in the middle of the room as they played the Godfather theme song, which was funny.  Also, we had another pasta dish (so 2 pasta dishes) before the entree even came out and then we also had dessert.  I was SO full.  The whole night was a blast, lots of food and alcohol…and never again would we sit with Kobayashi-san for dinner.  Josh loved the guy, but it was just too much.  We left the restaurant in very fine spirits and continued on a night drive in Rome, which Josh didn’t care for because he drank so much he needed to pee a lot.

St. Peter’s Square at night without the massive crowd

Full moon over Rome

Hey there’s our bus 🙂

 What a night.  We went to bed right away but I couldn’t sleep.  The a/c unit was dripping water and it kept me up.  Also, the bed wasn’t as comfortable, not sure why.  We woke up in the morning and realized it was our only day we have left to see as much of Rome as possible…I didn’t know just how hot and strenuous it was going to be until way later…

 First stop?  The Vatican Museum.  We are informed by our guide Patricia that the Pope would be doing his weekly public address today so we’d get to see him outside BUT that meant we couldn’t go into St. Peter’s Basilica.  I was bummed.  I didn’t want to really see the pope, I wanted to see the buildings and art…is that bad? So we go into the museum and our guide is really surprised at how empty it is, saying she’d never in her years as a guide seen it so empty.  So it was nice, because we got it all to ourselves, including the Sistine Chapel.

Huge urn

Tapestries

While in the Sistine Chapel, our guide hears from another guide that the Pope changed his mind and that it’s too hot outside to have a public address, so instead he’ll do it privately meaning, we get to go in St. Peter’s Basilica.  AWESOME!  In the Sistine Chapel we have a chance to sit on the benches and look up.  Our hawaii guide says she’s never had the chance to sit on the bench and look up because it’s usually so packed in the chapel.  What a lucky day for us!

Pope was going to do his weekly address right here, see the stage?  But it was too hot.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica.  It is massive!!

Michaelangelo’s Pieta… 
Michaelangelo’s Pieta is absolutely beautiful.  He carved this piece using one large piece of marble at the age of 25…genius!  Look at the robes, look at the fluidity in the body…how do you do that with rock?  It’s absolutely stunning.  It’s also blocked off by bullet proof glass, why?  Because an incident years ago occurred where a man came inside, with a hammer and started to hit the Pieta and damaged parts of it.  Idiot!  So now it’s protected.

The letters are at least 6 feet tall…

Domes

This is a mosaic, not a painting!

Tomb of Pope John Paul II

Bernini’s hand is everywhere as well as other artists

Swiss Guards still guard the Vatican and Pope

Later on the screens are set up in the square and the Pope is doing his address

 Now we head over to the Colosseum!

A monument…modern, not ancient Roman

This is THE roman arch that inspired Napolean to create the Arch de Triomphe in France

The first thing you notice at the Colosseum are the crowds and the hawkers lining up the sidewalks and coming at you from every angle.  Then you notice the heat!  There is no breeze and lots of bodies, eww…they need to grow more cypress trees around here!

  The heat inside the Colosseum was so hot, I thought I was going to pass out.  Add the crowds and it was almost unbearable and to me was not enjoyable at all.  The stones are uneven so wearing proper shoes is crucial or else your ankle will bend and you could sprain it.  One day I would like to go back…in the winter!  We barely went around it because it was just too hot.

Then we went to the Forum, this was the center of ancient roman life!  Still hot and dusty, I needed cold, cold water.

Check out the archaeologist working!

We finally got our ice cold bottled water, cheapest one yet at only 1 euro each, I should have bought 2 more since they don’t come cheap.  We went back to our hotel just for a 90 minute break but I was quite done.  Rome is lovely, but there is seriously no relief from the heat.   You would think I would be used to that since I live in Hawaii…in Hawaii we have something called trade winds!  Haha…it’s nature’s way of giving us some sort of relief from the harsh sun.  Josh took a nap an hour nap, I took a 15 minute one because I had to finish doing laundry (handwash baby…I bought some Tide travel packets for the trip, it came in REALLY handy!)

After our nap and still feeling drained, we headed out again!  I had to change clothes because my clothes from before was stinky with sweat.  We met up with our local guide Patricia once more and headed to the Spanish Steps.  Okay…we had to walk, in the still hot afternoon TO the Spanish Steps on narrow streets, so I continued to sweat..lol…anyway the Spanish steps are the widest steps in Europe.  It is also slippery and slopes downwards!  That’ll get you to the bottom faster, no?  As with anything else in Rome, it was packed with tourist and hawkers.

Crowds…

 The hawkers at the Spanish Steps were handing women roses, but our guide told us not to take it because you have to pay for them eventually, but the men thrust them in your face.  It’s really, really annoying.  I had kept turning away from them, I think one guy got so annoyed with me and made a gesture, but hey, don’t push me buddy, you’re in my face and I keep telling you no!  I was ready to take their roses and bash them over the heads with them.  I think I was PMS-ing, which is even worse. :-p

 Then we did more walking through Rome, I forgot what we saw, I was just hot and wanted some gelato and shade.  The walk was harder for a lot of the older people in our group.  Uneven streets and cobblestone is unforgiving on your feet…you feel every stone.  But one thing I do love about walking in the cities is that you get a feel for the local life in Rome.  It’s important for me to feel that when I travel.  It’s the moment I’m transported into another world and culture which is an exciting feeling.  Also, I was waiting to eat some gelato, our guide kept mentioning it and I was like…okay I need to eat one right NOW.

We stopped here for some shade, but I wasn’t listening to our guide at this point. 

I had my gelato and consumed it as we gathered outside the Pantheon.  I’d say I think this was my favorite structure in Rome.  It was created as a temple to all gods of ancient rome.  It was converted into a church later on.  This was built almost 1800 years ago and here it still stands with the original granite columns which was quarried from Egypt.

Theinscription M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIUM·FECIT means: “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, during his third consulate, built this.”

Oculus at the top of the dome…this dome is made of CONCRETE…perfection…

I loved the oculus at the top of the dome.  When it rains, water falls into the building and the floor is sloped with drain holes in the marble.  How beautiful is this dome?  

This place is covered in marble

 The engineering from the civilizations of the past is so ingenious.  And they had no technology…it’s what makes me stand in awe of these buildings.  The bronze doors in the pantheon are 15th century and still work open and close.

Drains in the floor for when it rains.  I want to be inside the Pantheon when it rains!

Rafael is buried here

 Two kings and one queen is buried in the Pantheon.  After the Pantheon and my awe of the Romans, we walked over to the Piazza Navona, the “square” in Rome.  It’s more rectangle than square haha…time for our last dinner and night in Rome!

Forget premium seat charges outdoors, it was our last night in Rome, so we ate outside in the Piazza and enjoyed the outdoor ambience (and helicopter flying overhead).  I got Fettucine and he got Spaghetti.  The pasta is fresh, the ambience is perfect, and music was playing.  It was Italy and we were soaking it up!

After that meal we had to WALK…so we walked around the Piazza and found an interesting entertainer…check it out!

A night in the Piazza, beautiful isn’t it? 🙂

And that was Rome.  So much to take in, so much to explore and quite entertaining.  I would visit again in the winter when the crowds are so large and the heat not so oppressive because there is so much to learn and see and do in Rome.  Everywhere you turn is a historic sight.    “Buona Notte, bella Roma and arrivedercci!”

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