When in Rome…

The trip to Europe was great. I had very little internet access (unlike in previous trips) so I really only updated my status on Facebook instead of my blog (where I’m supposed to be more creative). Though, with jetlag, there’s no guarantee creativity will be in evidence today.

Without dragging this post on forever, I will say that Rome was much better than I’d expected. I kept hearing how crowded it was and how dirty. Yeah, that was the case, but overall it was a fascinating city. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it pretty because, let’s be honest, everything is either old or ruined (hence the “ruins”).

However, the dirt and crowds add life to the place. We ended up tackling just about all of the major attractions while we were there:

Piazza Navona – we went there our first night after a lovely meal on a tiny side street (I should mention that nearly ALL Roman streets look like alleys because they’re so narrow). Throw in cafe seating, parked Smart cars, speeding scooters, and masses of pedestrians and it’s quite an exciting mix. Anyway, Piazza Navona was fun and we also walked to the nearby Pantheon.

Spanish Steps – this all seemed a bit over-rated to me. At the bottom of the hill are exclusive shops….the likes of which you can see in any major city. Boring.

Trevi Fountain – wow. It’s such a beautiful fountain, but it’s so damn crowded! I think half of Europe was there the night we visited.

Collosseum – fascinating. It’s amazing that you find this enormous thing in the middle of the city. We visited it at night when it’s spectacularly illuminated, then toured the inside of the place the following day. Nearly 2,000 years old!!!!!!

Forum – this cluster of ruins took up a large chunk of the middle of the city and was filled with ruins in various states of disrepair and repair. I must admit, with 90 degree temperatures and no trees for shade, I don’t think I appreciated the Forum as much as I should have.

Vatican Museum – stupidly, Randy and I tackled the Forum, the Collosseum, and the Vatican Museum in one day. This was our last stop of the day. Truth be told, I didn’t like it. Even if this was the first stop of the day, I don’t think I’d have liked it. The place is mobbed…the most crowded museum I’ve ever seen. It’s laid-out in a way that ALL people have to follow the same route. Many rooms are roped off so you can only look from afar. The rooms you can enter are so packed you can’t get close enough to anything to enjoy it. There is no air-conditioning (which surprised me in terms of visitor comfort, but more for the protection of the art), and the Sistine Chapel is such a let down. You’re squeezed into the chapel along with probably thousands of other tourists and the security just keeps yelling at everybody to not speak and not take photos. It doesn’t even feel like a “chapel”…it’s just a room in the museum. All in all, at 14 euros (nearly $20) I would have to say that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience at all. We felt like cattle being herded through it. Besides, I hate the idea that, collectively, Randy and I gave the Catholic Church $40.

St. Peter’s Church – enormous! I thought Notre Dame (in Paris) was big. You could fit at least 4 of those in here. We toured the lower level (free), then paid 7 euros (nearly $10) to climb the rotunda and onto the roof. This was worth it for some up-close views of some amazing mosaics and great views of the plaza and city.

We did other things in Rome, like visit the neighborhood of Trastavere where we celebrated my birthday with a dinner at a cute restaurant, and go to the Museum of Modern Art (situated in an enormous and lovely park shaded by big trees…a welcome relief).

The last two days in Italy were spent in Lido di Ostia. I supposed the equivalent would be the Boston area’s Revere Beach. It was a rowdy little beach town (techincally an area of Rome) that was pleasant during the day, but became fairly ghetto at night with rowdy drunk British tourists screaming, singing, and drinking all night. We did have a lovely Mediterranean view from our window, though. On the last day, I laid out on the beach for many restful hours while Randy explored the Ostia Antica ruins (which he said were the best Italian ruins he’d seen).

And that’s it for Rome. Tomorrow? Paris!

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