Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rome Part 1

Let’s start by saying first, having the Retrosi family out here was great. The kids all got along, entertained each other, and I think my kids asked more questions as we went around because they were there. Second, I have come to realize we are spoiled. I don’t envy the families that come to Europe for their two week whirl wind tour. Even Rome in four full days is exhausting. We saw pretty much every major site there is to see. By the forth day I looked at Carey and said something to the effect of “I think I am having a Rome over-dose.” To have the opportunity to spend a couple days at a time in one place or the other, AND be able to go back whenever shouldn’t be under appreciated. For instance, at some point Carey and I have already said we will take a day trip back to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel just to sit and look up. To have that kind of time is priceless.

An hour and 47 minutes train ride into Rome. Easy. Takes you along the coast vice in-land like A-1 (the autostrauda). We arrived and walked about five blocks up the street to our Hotel. A nice place centered pretty well in Rome. That night we all went to dinner at a restaurant just up the street. Not bad and not to bad priced.

Monday: And we’re off!

We walked up to the train station and bought our Roma pass. For €23 you get your first two sites free, discounts on a number of others and transit is covered for three days. We took the train to the closest stop to the Vatican (about another five blocks to walk). We got lucky and there was just about no line to get into the Vatican Museum. They do have quite the collection in the museum. One of the more interesting things was that they had mummies. Real mummies. Lots of sculptures. Like other places we’ve been you spend a lot of time looking up at the ceiling because some of the best art work is there. Once through the museum you go into the Sistine Chapel. Hard to believe one person painted that on his back on scaffolding… Unfortunately you need a lot of time to just sit and look up. Unlike some other museums we’ve been to, the Vatican has a lot of information you can read right next to the paintings and sculptures. Between that and tourist books (Rick or any of the Rome books…) you really can just take your time going through and soak up as much as possible.

On to Saint Peter’s. I should probably go to counseling, or church…, but personally I walked in and it felt like another giant capital building built as a demonstration of size, power, and wealth (which in part is true…) more than the foundation of the world’s largest religion. Having said that, it is amazing. The marble, columns, paintings, sculptures, 7 ft tall inscriptions that don’t look that big because they are so high up…

In between the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s we got our first lesson on where not to stop for lunch (or any type of refreshment). We stopped outside the museum and had lunch. €182.00 for eight of us. The food wasn’t that good. The wine was little bottles of Chianti… This is the type of place my parents and Aunt and Uncle ate… One other morning we stopped for hot chocolate and café for €52 across from the Coliseum. On the other hand, we later walked about 4 blocks away from any attraction and had some of the best pasta I have ever had for €82 for the eight of us. Four blocks, less than half the cost, and amazing quality. I digress…

That night we left the kids for a while and went up the street from the hotel and had a glass or two of wine, just the adults. Then we just picked up some pizza from a small shop for dinner.

November is one of the rainiest months of the year in Rome/ Naples on average. The averages held accurate; it rained every other day. We saw the Coliseum in the morning, in the rain. Still impressive though. You have to use your imagination a little bit for the full seating affect (50,000 screaming fans). The floor is mostly gone, which is good. There is a portion rebuilt so you can see the arena floor level. Below that, since the floor is gone, you can see the holding pens and other areas, such as where the people used for raising and lowering the elevators were crammed in.
Like I said, it was raining so that is when we stopped for hot chocolate and café. By the time we came out the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing.
Next was Palatine Hill. This is the area where the Emperors lived. It wasn’t nearly as preserved as say Pompeii, but you got the point. The best part of it by far was the view from the gardens that overlooked the Forum. By now the sun was shining and it was clear. You could see from arch to arch and imagine the parade of animals, new slaves, and soldiers returning from battle (kinda like the streets of Boston after the Red Socks win a World Series…). As you walk through the forum you start at the Arch of Titus which was built around 70 AD to celebrate defeating the Jews in Israel and pretty much making them homeless for the next 1,875 years (until after WWII). 50,000 had a home in Rome. They were the slaves that built the coliseum… The 1/3 of Constantine’s Basilica that remains is next. There are still three arches that stand about 80 ft high. The mid-section had arches at 130 ft. Near the end of the forum you can go into the old senate building where Rome’s 300 elected senators did whatever it is senators do (some things don’t change). Finally, you can see what is left, 8 huge columns, of the Temple of Saturn built 2500 years ago. There is plenty in-between, as this was the center of business, law, and politics in ancient Rome but to describe it I’d be just plagiarizing a Rome book…
After the forum is when we went to the restaurant a few blocks away. Sooo good.
That night Tony, Stephanie, Carey and I left the kids again and did a night walk through Rome. Most notables:
Piazza Navona with The Four Rivers Fountain. Wow. Now would be a good time to point out that Bernini was amazing. Sculpture/ painter, he re-did Rome. If you come to a large sculpture in a Piazza you can probably just guess Bernini did it (especially if it is amazing) and you would probably be correct. Go to Google images and type in Bernini sculptures. If you grabbed a hold of someone’s side or leg you would notice your hand pushes their skin in. So do his sculptures…
Piazza Navona is pretty big and also has a bunch of people selling paintings. Some prints, some oil paintings. Carey and I bought an oil painted canvas roughly 3 x 2 ½ feet big. The guy was asking €280; we got it for 100. It still needs to be framed but there is a local frame shop that does nice work and is pretty cheap (it’s where we got our painting of Vietri Sul Mare framed). I anticipate leaving Europe with a lot of art work…

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