Monday, May 6, 2013

Italy - Rome in a Day

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Friday, October 14

Confirming last evening's raucous scene had been a strike, indeed a national strike that closed bus and train service for hours, we were left to our own transportation for the day. We were still frazzled from the previous evening. As we learned, bicycles can complicate navigation: looking for signs, one way streets, frequently stopping to consult maps. To complicate matters, we'd discovered someone had rifled through our panniers (brief check assured nothing critical was missing). The hostel staff stored our bikes in a locked room – for a price.

First stop, Vatican City. We were surprised to be turned away at the door. Shorts are not allowed. After visiting many churches across Europe, this rule rankles us. We mutter about “conditional religion” then get over it. We decide to return tomorrow and abide by the dress code.

Castle Saint'Angelo
We head towards the Tiber River, pleased that the same avenue, negotiated in a darkened hustle, is a delight in daylight. Two bridges lined with elaborate statues glow in sunshine. We cross one to Castle Saint'Angelo, its round structure appealing, like a coliseum, overlooking shallow waters. It was built to entomb Emperor Hadrian (of Hadrian's Wall fame in England) except Emperor Aurelian had it converted into a fortress and connected to walls for defense of the city. It also imprisoned important personalities and because it's in a direct line with St. Peter's Square, it once served as papal refuge, accessed by underground tunnel.

Mingling with tourists in shorts, and the suits of Rome's business people, the long woolen robes of the celibate swing as they walk. Nuns clothed in white, grey, and black flutter around Vatican City and spill onto Rome's streets as we head down Corso Vittoria Emanuele. We sample the wonderful and inexpensive square pizza slices, choosing one of each: spinach, olive, potato and rosemary, and onion and cheese. As we lick fingers and stroll, we find we are following a priest who's munching on a slice of his own.

Victor Emanuel Monument.

At Victor Emanuel Monument, it's deja vu. This is home to last night's flag waving, yelling, and police barricades. The massive monument is striking for it's horse statues, steps and Romanesque columns towering above all. In the scheme of Rome's antiquities, it's new, constructed in the 1800s to honor Italy's first King, yet it seems to be the heart of Rome as it stands at the confluence of three wide avenues.

The Roman Forum
Heading towards the Colosseum we linger at what's left of the Forum, the old Roman center, and stroll the grassy columns, arches, and step on large paving stones. With Rome a busting capital, outside these calm antiquities it's a cacophony of Vespa scooters, cars, motorcycles, many walkers going on with daily life. I'm impressed with the marriage of old and new, while preserving and showcasing Rome's incredible past.

The Colosseum

Peering into an archway of the Colosseum.

The Colosseum is huge, repaired with stone, brick, a mismatch covering it's three stories of arches. It's oval stadium housed 50,000 spectators, most famous for its gladiator events. Animals were kept in catacombs below the floor and released upward to the crowd's amazement. Lesser known is the colossal space was once flooded and used for mock naval battles. What astounds us as we circle the structure, peeking into each archway - more so than it's voluminous presence - are the stray cats, even here.

Rome is full of cats. Cats sun in alleys, groom themselves near garbage bins, even accompany us while we cook outside the hostel or in campgrounds. Hundreds. In spite of feedings at communal curbside bins, it makes me wonder how they all survive.

Close up of the Trevi Fountain.

The lovely Trevi fountain.

Miles away from the hostel by now, we head back via different streets and stumble onto more fountains, old churches, domes with spires, beautiful statues. Travel down narrow streets, squeeze past cafes, rows of parked scooters. Windows open overhead. People call to friends below. And we discover the lovely Trevi Fountain. Full of naked and robed statues, and horses, spouts of water spilling, cascading into a large basin. I am undone. It's a lover's paradise. I take Andy's hand. Knots of other folks are clustered around the pool. Thousands of coins fill the basin. We toss our own coins over our shoulder, insuring that one day, we too will return to Rome.

A street scene in Rome

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tour of Rome, it is a beautiful place and you have captured it wonderfully. Vicki


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