Saturday, November 5, 2011

Italy- Oct. 28-29: ROME Part 1.

The saying goes like this: When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
Well, after spending 4 full days in Rome, I can't say that I would call myself a true Roman, but I certainly got to experience a taste of the city.
After a 4 hours train ride in the most uncomfortable seats ever, we arrived in "the Eternal City" and promptly found our hotel. As a side note, it was stated in my travel book that Rome's streets were famously difficult to navigate, but we had more problems in Pisa and Florence than we did in Rome!
We stayed at the Legends hostel for 4 nights, switching rooms part way through. Once we got settled, we decided to explore a little bit around the area. We were pleasantly surprised to find that even buildings which are not as well known, such as the Santa Maria del Angeli church, were absolutely gorgeous! The detail that was put into this church is crazy, and it is very humbling to think about how much humans invested in building this structures.
We also wandered through the Piazza della Republica, which we often had to pass through to get to where we were going.
Piazza della Republica
 So after our little excursion, we headed back to our dorm room. We were sharing with three Americans who were studying in Tours, France for the year. They had been in Rome for a few days, so were just ending their trip. They were super nice, and we hung out with them for awhile. Then, one of the girls mentioned how she had all these itchy red spots on her, and how she didn't think they were bed bugs but just an allergic reaction. We were a little nervous, but we checked out beds and luckily my bunk was on the other side of the room. We were just getting ready to go to sleep when the girl freaked out because there was a bug on her book. Michelle and Brooke looked at it and sure enough, it was a bed bug! They took it to the front desk, who agreed with our conclusion and came to sanitize the bunks that had been "infected." The stripped the beds, sprayed everything with this anti-bed bug solution, and got all new mattresses. By the time the whole ordeal was done, it was around midnight. Brooke's bunk was on the side with the Americans, so she pulled her mattress onto the floor by our beds, just to be safe. I slept in my sleeping bag. We luckily did not get any bed bugs, but the phrase "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite" now has new meaning for me...
Anyways. The next day we woke up bright and early for what was probably my favourite day of the trip: seeing the Ancient City!
We got a tip from our American friends to go visit Palatine Hill and the City before the Colosseum, because the line was shorter and you could buy a ticket that would let you into both. Needless to say, the Ancient City was incredible. I wished that we had a tour guide, because we saw so many beautiful ruins but didn't really know what we were looking at. I also wish I had reviewed my grade 11 ancient history notes, so that I could have appreciated the ruins more. Either way, it was still amazing. We saw the place where the emperor Augustus lived (or what is left of it), the Roman Forum, the Curia, and so much more! Here are a few photos from the Ancient City:
Near Augustus' palace, on Palatine Hill

Looking out over the courtyard

The courtyard... so OLD

The Roman Forum
 We also, of course, got to see the famous Colosseum! There were tourists everywhere, as well as buskers and suspicious tour guides. While you were waiting in line, the guides would come up to you and offer to take you on a tour in your own language. If you paid their price, you could skip the line. It just seemed kind of suspicious, because they did not appear to be with any official organization, so who knows if they would have given you historically accurate information? We decided to wait and get in with our other tickets, ensuring that we got in without any weasels following us...
The line up wasn't long, since we already had our tickets, so we got in fairly quickly. It was really quite remarkable, but also sad at the same time. So much of the original Colosseum has been destroyed. The outer layer of marble (I think it was marble) is all but gone, having been taken to build other things in the city. It has also had to withstand a couple of earthquakes and well as some pillaging. It was really neat to look at pictures of what it used to look like, and what it currently looks like. It is also crazy to think about what took place in the Colosseum... they would pit not just man and beast against each other, but man and man, often prisoners or war or criminals, and allow them to fight to the death. And people wanted to watch these barbaric events! Anyways, it was just insane to think of all the atrocities that went down right where we were standing. Human civilization has come so far in so many ways, but we still have a long way to go.
There it is!

Making a break for the photo... it was hard! There were a lot of people.

Inside. The floor used to be covered, and the part underneath was where they kept the prisoners and animals before transporting them up.

Just roamin' around.

Damage estimates?
Oh, did I mention that the weather was GORGEOUS? About 20 degrees, hot and sunny. We really could not have asked for a better day. I would have zipped off my zip-off pants and worn shorts, but that's about the equivalent of wearing an "I'm a Tourist" sign on your forehead. Seriously, shorts are a no-no if you don't want to stand out! It's crazy.
Another fun thing about Rome is that there are water fountains everywhere, where you can fill up your water bottle. If only there were free bathrooms close by...
And they are OLD fountains!
After walking around for 8 hours, we had worked up quite the appetite, so we went out in search or our second dinner out. We found a restaurant that was reasonably priced and had a really nice atmosphere. Lights everywhere, music playing... it was great. The food was delicious, but Michelle and I ordered ravioli and the portions were so small that we had to order a pizza too! Which was okay, I mean we got to eat more pizza, no complaints here! But Brooke got lucky and her spaghetti portion was perfect. We also split a bottle of house wine, which was very good.
After such a long day, we were exhausted. Luckily, it was daylight savings time to we got to set our clocks one hour back in anticipation of our Sunday adventure...
Vatican City!

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