Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday February 13th

Intermission: Can't finish now, another day has passed and we walked even more!!!!!!

It all seems like a blur to me now…one day fading into the next… once one starts walking... who can remember where one’s feet have been.

Tuesday February 13th: Let’s see if I can recreate some of what has transpired. Day two, much like day one began with a trip to the bar to pick up another two bus tickets, but this time I bought six. Across the street to the bus stop near a small open market. I don’t know what the lady was selling in the front but the back of the stall was piled high with magnums of white wine shoved in all haphazard, a strangle thing to see in a sidewalk stall. And off we went.

As we approached the Terme di Carracala and the Circus Maximus I decided that what the hell, lets go see the Arch of Constantine and the Coliseum. So off the bus and strolling down the road. What a crowd! The line to get into the Coliseum looked like the lines at Disneyland. We immediately wondered if it was worth the trouble of that line to the thing. We decided to check it out in more detail. Through the security check point, metal detectors and such, almost like being at the airport except that everyone that went through was beeping and nobody was getting checked. I wondered to Donna if they only pulled aside the ones that don’t beep. Turns out the line of thousands was to buy a ticket to get in. Well, there was another ticket box with no line in it at all. They were renting out a little box that would tell us about the 100 most interesting details in the coliseum. We rented the boxes for 4.5 euros each and paid 20 euro each for a Rome Pass which was required to get the box rental. A Rome Pass is a pretty cool thing if you are a masochist and want to see the City in three days. It gets you in free to the first two pay per view museums or points of antiquity (the Vatican is not included because that is in another country as you know). The rest are half price for three whole days. It also gets you three days of use on the public transport system of Rome, which I must say is very good.
Well, into the Coliseum, actually a pretty big place. The present Romans have been going crazy with bricks and are rebuilding all of their crumbling antiques, give them another century or two and there won’t be a ruin left, they’ll all be as good as new. So, the Coliseum has actually grown since I was last there and since I am a builder, I notice things like areas of new construction. Some parts are just repaired, but they are actually adding back what hasn’t been there for centuries! Having noticed that once, I saw it again in many places, Imperial Rome is in the process of resurrecting itself.

We walked around and took some photos. Upstairs there was an exhibition of Greek antiquity, pretty cool stuff, lots of pots like the ones on my shelves at home except substantially larger. Turns out the talking box was a pain to use and far more informative than we wanted it to be. We turned the things in and it was time to recharge Donna’s batteries. Funny thing about Rome and coffee, back home I treat espresso with care, and in fact avoid caffeine entirely after dawn. In Italy instead, this legal form of speed is part of existence. You can drink it all day but when your head hits the pillow for a siesta or the night, no problem sleeping at all, it just stops working automatically when you get horizontal. Don’t understand how this happens here but I do accept it. We went across the street to the 'Met-ro' (Metro Romano) entrance and bought two cappuccinos there and some pizza sandwich, which was really quite bad. As we headed off toward the 'Wedding Cake' (as we used to call it when we lived in Rome) afterwards and found two good looking restaurants just around the corner we agreed that we should not be in a hurry to recharge because not everything is edible in Rome.

Down the via dei Fori Imperiali toward the 'Wedding Cake'. Across the road were the Four Maps of the rise of the Roman empire from a city state, They are missing the later maps that show how it contracted back down again after it fractured into two and was visited by one group after the other of central Asian maniacs. I explained the rise of the Roman Empire to Donna, helped put it all into perspective for her as we discussed the Diaspora of the Jews when the Romans initiated one more final solution in (was it?) 43A.D. Donna is a great person to go to Rome with. She is full of energy (so long as we charge her batteries with more coffee from time to time) and she is interested in all of it and just loves to hear me tell her about what we are seeing. She is about one hundred pages into the “First Man of Rome” and so she is starting to learn about the movers and shakers of ancient Rome as well as the culture. Everywhere we go, there are streets named after the people and the families that are coming to life on those pages, it is sort of like a Rome total absorption project.

We wandered along the edges of the imperial forum trying to figure out what was what and stopped to look at Trajan’s Column. I explained that the pictographs showed stories of parts of his life and explained that if she ran around and around the column she might figure out what that story was.

The primary goal of today was the Fontana di Trevi. Somehow I had missed it yesterday in the initial sweep of points of interest and importance in my old Rome. I was going by dead reckoning as I had done all of the previous day. About the time I decided that we must be there and didn’t want to bypass it by mistake, we were almost at the corner of Via delle Muratti and Via delle Virgini. Good guess, it was just around the corner and one block over. If I had just gone to the corner first it would have been within sight. Saldi! Saldi (Sales!) everywhere! This store on Via delle Murati was advertising scarves and ties starting at 2 Euro. Donna stopped and shopped and while waiting out front I met an African-American couple from back home. The husband went in to shop and I talked to the wife. She wanted to know where I had been and I started showing her on the map. Was she amazed! I had just gotten in the day before and I seemed to have hit every tourist spot for miles around. I showed her how to find the Pantheon and explained why she wanted to go there and that from there it was just a few blocks further to piazza Navona and then to the Campo etc., etc. Donna finished her shopping, she got two scarves and one only cost 2 Euro.
The Trevi was jammed with the sounds of visitors from all over the world. The sun was shining and the fountain was more than glorious. We discussed the fountain which I explained was an early example of artificial rock construction. I explained how the Romans had detoured rivers into their aqueducts and fed them out through the fountains. The water doesn’t re-circulate, it just moves on to the next fountain further downhill. We marveled at the power in the horses and watched this guy who was drawing that horse with a ballpoint pen with no possibility of erasing a mistake. What a drawing, I wanted it but that was out. We did take photos over his shoulder as he worked. There we discovered the other means of employment for Indians in Rome. They work the crowd in places like Trevi. Come up to the accompanied females and offer them a gift of two or three roses, then ask the man for money. There were four or five working the Trevi and we saw this again and again at other romantic spots such as the Piazza di Spagna. We didn’t get roses, but we did get Gelato. I got Nocciola (Hazelnut is my favorite) and Banana, Donna got, well I can’t remember what Donna got but the Nocciola was OK and the Banana was out of this world. Someone had just put a bunch of bananas in a blender and frozen them but they were white and creamy too. As we ate the gelato next to the fountain I explained that everyone who visited needed to toss a coin over their shoulder into the fountain while wishing they would soon return to Rome. I think that this was my problem when I left. I had been to Trevi so many times but was a local so I didn’t make offerings to the fountain before I left and see what it cost me-35 years! Be scared; don’t ever fail to make an offering to the Trevi gods when you visit Rome.

Watching the offerings was quite entertaining, it happens that there are all sorts of ways to do this and every one of them requires that a picture be taken. We are firmly into the digital age and every photo taken must be reviewed and another taken if the first isn’t good enough. Well they dropped them in, most did the traditional thing and tossed them over one shoulder or other while smiling at the camera. Many did as we did and captured the wish together in their minds and made the toss at the same time. A boy of seven tossed that coin like a baseball while his father got it on film. The people at the other side of the fountain were lucky they didn’t get hit. Naturally, it was just so romantic that it got me kissed a bunch and that was fun too.

Eventually, we reluctantly wandered out of that magical square and onward toward another icon of Rome the Spanish Steps. We wandered down the Via del Corso; the road was packed with cars. I guess that this is the one street that everyone is allowed to drive on. The sidewalks were tight and jammed with people. Locals, but tons and tons of tourists. I don’t know whose idea it was but everyone decided that February is the perfect time to visit Rome. Rome is absolutely jammed with tourists. I figured that this would be low season but if this is what low season looks like I can’t imagine what it must be like when people really decide to visit. The sidewalks were too crowded to negotiate and the streets were too full of maniacs in cars trying to get just one more lane of traffic out of the thin concourse. We stopped in Piazza Colonna. I need to check out and get a photo of every single one of those columns, and did I mention it? Because we are about to have Sprint build a cell tower in the shape of an obelisk at Alta Vista Gardens, I have been taking photos of every single obelisk I can find and believe me there are lots of them here. I told Donna that there are more obelisks in Rome than in Egypt or any place else in the world; I don’t think that I made that detail up. In and out weaving, what a relief when we turned up onto the Via Condotti to approach the Spanish Steps. I had chosen the Via Condotti because Donna had already heard of the street and the stores that are on it. I also chose it because it gives a straight on view of the steps as you walk up towards it. What a champ, she didn’t want to go into any of the stores and just glanced into the windows as we absorbed the flavor of the street. B.T.W. this street is blocked at both ends and is for pedestrian traffic only (almost) what a relief after the Corso.

We have also been taking pictures of almost every fountain in Rome, (tax deductible you know) and the fountain at the base of the steps was no exception. Donna and I have matching cameras and we both had cameras. It was pretty cool to compare what each of us were photographing each day, how the pictures tell the story from two points of view. It also created some redundancy and we have hundreds of photos of Rome now. Up the stairs to the top, a wonderful view of Rome is to be had from there, perhaps one of the best. I pointed out the domes of interest. After all, in Rome, any location can be defined (located) by the nearby dome, beyond that the winged chariots on top of the 'Wedding Cake' were also visible and Donna found that monument pretty impressive too (more hugs and kisses). We went into and walked around in the Trinita dei Monti. Only day two and church sensory overload is starting to set in. I wanted to cover the important ones, (actually I like the statues best) but there are so many. Back down the steps again, fought off the Indian guys trying to give away flowers for money and started down the Via del Babuino toward the Piazza del Popolo. By then the need for a bathroom was getting urgent and there are no (public) bathrooms in Rome. We wandered into a cool store; it was full of reproductions of statues of all sizes and from all periods. There were two-ton statues of popes and delicate reproductions of antiquity. The place had literally hundreds and hundreds of statues in it. It was very cool. The statues were stuffed in, room after room and on shelves and niches up to the ceiling. This is a must see place. They also had a bar there, I guess shoppers get thirsty looking at all of those statues. We ordered a fresh squeezed orange juice (cost 6 euro) and rested. The bathroom was hidden behind an enormous statue of a pope and as you walked around the statue, the wall opened up automatically to reveal the entrance to the rest room, pretty cool. With bladders relieved we exited and proceeded to Piazza del Popolo. The piazza was empty! No chaotic traffic machinations. You could just wander around any way you want, what a difference that that makes. We checked out the first of the twin churches but were beginning to experience burn out. Wandered around the square and failed to enter Santa Maria del Popolo. From there it was back towards the bus, which was nowhere near at all! Up via di Ripetta to Augustus’s tomb and along the side of the Ara Pacis (Latin for the altar of Augustan peace). Neither of us really wanted to go in though it was interesting to note that it is the first new museum in Rome since the time of Mussolini and the Romans are awfully proud of it. From there we didn’t actually go in a straight line because it isn’t easy to do so in Rome and somehow touched on the edge of the Pantheon, and I just had to find that little piazza with the elephant statue on top of a pedestal carrying a small obelisk on his back. After consulting the map I discovered that it was just around the corner from the Pantheon. Good thing because by this time Donnas' battery was permanently on empty. She did perk up and agree it was worth seeing on the way home. From there to piazza Venetzia, stupid bus shot right past our stop without even slowing down, we headed around the corner along the base of the Capitoline and finally caught the bus just above the teatro Marcello.
Home, so close, but there was a Hollywood Video store across from the bus stop and brave Donna agreed to go in with me to see if I could find a copy of L’Archidiavolo. No luck.

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