Monday, May 30, 2016

Traveling in Beautiful Rome, Italy. Part 1

Last time I was in Florence, Italy(click the link to read about it), hopping on a fast train bound for Rome. I arrived, which brings us to me traveling in beautiful Rome, Italy. This is part one of three parts. Hey! I have over 45 photos for you to look at, I have to break it up. Keep in mind there will even be a separate post about the Vatican, but I think I can keep it to just one.

As I mentioned last time, you can say what you want about Italian trains but Trenitalia's high-speed trains, the Frecciarossa, scream across the countryside at over 150 mph (that's 250kph to my Eurotrash friends) and you can't even tell when you're on the train. I've gone over 150 mph before on a motorcycle, don't tell my folks, and it is a completely different experience. I will say this: If you want to go that fast, take the train.

As Stefano, my Florentinian inn keeper told me, Rome is a big city. He understated it, but his command of English, while good, might have played a roll. Rome is gigantic and there is almost no way to see all of it in one trip, unless that trip lasts a few years. I've heard people who live in Rome still haven't seen all of Rome. I believe it.

Colosseum in Rome Italy

So let's not pussyfoot around and just start with the Colosseum. There is a metro entrance 50 meters away from this thing and it will give you pause when you come from the bowels of the Earth and see it for the first time. The first time I actually saw it was at night on Good Friday and there were thousands of people there because the Pope participates in The Passion of Christ there on Good Friday. That was also the first time I saw the Pope in person, from a mile away, in a huge crowd, in the dark. He looks much bigger on TV, provided it was him. I couldn't tell. I left before things really got started. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

I got pretty lucky the first night that I actually went to go see and photograph the Colosseum. There were some brilliant clouds and amazing light. So it looked like a postcard, and a little HDR processing doesn't hurt either. Sadly, it was closed when I finally made it there the first time, so I had to go back. It's not really that sad, and it's super easy to get to. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

See, the photo just up there is no where near as cool as the other two even further up. It's really too bad for the nice Australian guy living in the Netherlands who asked my to take his photo in front of it for him. We sat for a while and talked while we waited for the light to get better. It didn't really, but I took his photo again anyway. I finally did return to the Colosseum when it was open and went inside.

There are tours of the Colosseum, and I will take one someday, but I went solo my first time. There are a few points that are important to know before you visit this place. The first is that you will stand in line for about 45 minutes while you wait to get in. The second is that people will try and sell you tours and accelerated entrance while you are in that line, many of those people are trying to scam you. The third is that there are QR codes around the Colosseum where you can purchase accelerated entrance legitimately with your mobile phone -- provided you have mobile data. Or you could just use the photo of the QR code I've provided below and buy the "Skip the Line" tickets from the comfort of your hotel, over WiFi.

Colosseum in Rome Italy skip the line QR code

Please don't let this QR code be the only reason you come back to my blog. 

Once you're inside the Colosseum it is spectacular to say the least. I'm sure I would have been even more impressed had I taken a tour. I did however get to eavesdrop on a few tours, one of my favorite involved a 60 something female tour guide explaining that there was once a fountain out front where winning gladiators, glistening with sweat and oil and wearing mere loincloths would go and bathe themselves to wash off the blood. She seemed to have a remarkably vivid picture of this in her mind. It was raining, so I found a snail. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

I did take this photo inside the Colosseum and it is a snail crawling along the top, or base I'm not sure, of a Roman column that is a few thousand years old. I suspect it was once flat. I really wanted a photo of a column head from the Colosseum and I got one. I just don't like it very much and this is my favorite Colosseum column-head photo. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

At the end of the day this place is really just another stadium, only a few thousand years old. To be honest I've been in more impressive stadiums. Also, some of the stadiums I've been in were looking pretty ragged at 80 years old. Jerry Jones seems to have built a nice one in Texas, but there is a lot more glass in that one that the one you see above. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

The other thing to consider is that the Colosseum has been fairly substantially restored -- a few times. If you walk over to the Circus Maximus, which hasn't seen nearly the attention the Colosseum has you'll get a better idea of just how much work has gone into keeping this ancient stadium standing. It's still a very impressive structure and it was amazing to be there. Like I said, I'll get a tour next time. There is one that lets you go onto the wooden "stage" part as well as underneath, but you need to book well in advance -- and pay a lot. The friendly Aussie I mentioned before took that tour and he said it was worth the 110 EUR. 

Colosseum in Rome Italy

See, I told you it's just another stadium. Really, the stair part you see here is so similar to every other stadium I've ever been in that it is a little depressing. Here we are, the most advanced that humans have ever been in history, so advanced that we decided to change our name to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, and yet we're using a design several thousand years old for sports stadiums. Maybe it says more about sports? It's hard to say. 

The Colosseum wasn't the first place I visited by a long shot. That was in fact, the Vatican but you're going to have to wait for that. I spent a pretty good amount of time wandering around Rome and I have to say each part of the city is different. It is broken into districts and I haven't the foggiest clue how they are determined, but they are different. There is one district that is a lot like Florence with narrow streets and whatnot.

Talking statue Rome Italy

That district is where I found the statue above. She is very important because she is essentially the first lady of free speech in Rome. It is Pasquino in the Parione district of Rome. If you don't want to read the Wiki the deal is this is a Hellenistic statue from the 3rd century B.C. About 100 years after it was unearthed a cardinal draped the statue with a toga and decorated it with Latin epigrams (whatever those are). After this it became common to criticize the Pope in verse written in the Roman dialect and attach it to this statue. Those poems were called pasquinades. 

I'm a huge fan of free speech and this was very cool to me. Unfortunately, free speech is generally the realm of drooling idiots and there were a lot of critiques of the then recent bombing in Belgium attached to the board on the right there. There may have been some impressive poetry about something, but my Italian sucks and my Latin is even worse and honestly if you're criticizing Pope Francis you are a complete bastard, the man is practically a living saint. Pasquino is the first of the "Talking Statues of Rome" which I didn't know until I returned. There are others and I want to see them. 

Classic Fiat 500 in Rome Italy

Rome, Italy has a lot to offer aside from old buildings and statues. Like awesome classic Fiat 500s. There were tons of them and they are very cool. I didn't take photos of all of them. I took a photo of this one because it's blue in front of a yellow wall and there is some art stuff involved there. Like color wheels and things. The other thing that is rampant in Rome, and most of Italy, is the scooter. Holy cow they are everywhere and in Rome, Italy they drive like bats possessed by demons. Speaking of demons, let's get back to churches.

Church in Rome Italy

I really just stumbled into this church and absolutely loved it. I loved that Jesus was there and the Penitent Thieves were represented as well. Especially on Easter, which I think was the point. I have more photos of the church but this is my favorite. It's the Oratório de São Francisco Xavier and from what I can gather, one of the few churches that offers and English Mass. If I lived in Rome, this would be my church -- hands down.

Fountain in Rome Italy

Wow! Look at that a photo of a fountain with no segue whatsoever. Rome has fountains all over the place, I'd say more common than gelato shops, and most offer potable water. No kidding, I carried the same plastic water bottle for five days in Rome and just kept refilling it from fountains all over town. I didn't have to sneak a fill up in a restaurant bathroom like in Germany. This particular fountain is near the Pantheon. 

The other thing I want to point out is that the fountain above bears the S.P.Q.R mark. This is the mark of the ancient Roman government and, evidently the mark of the government of the city of Rome. It is in a lot of places, like on garbage cans and I think sewer covers. 

Fountain in Rome Italy

Since were still on fountains and lacking segues I figured I'd toss this one in. I was wondering around in the Parione District and there was just this random open courtyard with a fountain in it. No real reason, it was just there. It was a little early in the year for it to be turned on I think. Obviously, it was a nice quiet place to have a picnic. Rome is full of these hidden gems. That is why it is impossible to see all of it, even if you live there. I feel pretty lucky to have "discovered" this special spot. 

Trevi Fountain in Rome Italy

One place that was no secret and I surely did not "discover" was the Trevi Fountain. It is absolutely beautiful and absolutely one of the most crowded places in Rome. So crowded in fact I had to go back at night to take this photo, which I don't particularly like but here it is. It was still crowded even when I took this, but you'll notice I left out the seating area around the front of the fountain. Yes, I tossed a coin in the fountain and even without doing so I'm pretty sure I will return to Rome. 

Pretty much every place that is remotely famous in Rome is going to be crawling with people, but I did discover something interesting. The magic hour is 13:00. If you get to places before 13:00 they won't be that bad, look to a future Vatican post for some real specifics on that. 

Fountain in Rome Italy

Look, another not quite so random photo of a fountain. They really are everywhere and it is cool to see them. I have a photo of the Fountain dell Baraccia, or Fountain of the Ugly Boat, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps but it was nearly as crowded at the Trevi Fountain. Also, the Spanish Steps were closed for restoration and didn't exactly make for the best backdrop. About the only good that came of my trip to the Spanish Steps was the gelato shop I found near the top and the fact that I was able to warn two British tourists that they were closed as I was leaving town and overheard them planning their assault on the city. 

The Roman Forum in Rome Italy

I'll finish up part one of my traveling in beautiful Rome, Italy post with this nice photo of some lilacs I took at the Roman Forum since part two will include it. Sure, I may toss in a tidbit here or there without any links, but if I'm writing a multi-part post I figure it's best to link the parts somehow. So, you have the Roman Forum to look forward to in two weeks. 

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