Heading off To Rome! Ciao, Bella! - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 32 Old 05-26-2013, 08:31 AM
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Have a great trip!

"On hyviä vuosia, kauniita muistoja, mutta kuitenkaan, en saata unohtaa,
Että koskaan en ole yksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Vaikka myrsky hetkeksi tyyntyykin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Ja pian taas uusin hönkäyksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Hei tuu mun luo, pieneksi hetkeksi. Puhutaan, varjoni, valkoiseksi enkeliksi."

Pelle Miljoona - Varjo seuraa onneain

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post #22 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 02:33 AM Thread Starter
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here is my very long account of the trip, if you have that much time to waste.

So, I am not sure if I should try to write my account of my trip now or not. I am so very tired from travelling for over 24 hours yesterday, to get home, and have been sick with a cold for nearly a week. And, to make matters worse, am ingesting a cold beer as I write this. But, I am trying to stay awake until a normal bed time hour, so maybe it’s just as well if I spend some time typing and see what kind of mess comes out of my befuddled mind.

We got back last night, nearly midnight. What a hellish return voyage. The first leg, 10 hours from Rome to Toronto, wasn’t so bad. I think that equals 3 movies, no sleep. But in Toronto we had problems getting through the correct immigration passport (getting steered the wrong way several times, running all over the airport, watching the clock get closer and closer to our departure time. Ended up just making the flight at “last call for Vancouver”. Our seats were literally next to the bathroom and last in line, so several inches narrower than the others. I can tell you, if you can, never fly Airbus 330’s. Boeing is the way to go!
Get to Seattle (Rome to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver, and Vancouver to Seattle) and my bag is missing. We wait; we stand in line to get the info to track it, and then taxi home, hacking the whole way. We have both been sick for days. So, anyway, enough about the return trip and my complaints, and onto the trip itself . . .

We made this trip to celebrate our 25th year of marriage, and Robin’s 60th birthday. With only being able to take about 1.5 weeks, we opted to stay in one place rather than spend the time going to a variety of locations in Italy. the trip to Rome was meant to be a nice time to explore at our own speed, take time to get to know one area and be free to just spend time in the apartment with each other. And, that is what it became. We only had one event preplanned. All other days, we just decided spur of the moment what to do, and every day we were so tired after our day’s wanderings that we came back to our apartment and often laid down and rested for several hours before going out again in the evening for a bite to eat.
I am glad that we had rented an apartment rather than a hotel room. In hotels you must go down a corridor and past other guests, and you only have one room, so you never get any space from each other. Our apartment had a sitting room, a dining room/kitchen and two bedrooms. It was kind of cave like in that it opened on one side only, toward an internal courtyard of this very old Roman apartment complex. So, we could not see the street, nor get an idea of the weather each day when we got ready to head out. On the other hand, we were not bombarded by any kind of street noise, and Roman streets can be very noisy with automobile traffic. There was some noise from the other residents, such as TV’s and voices, and one man who would literally sing Jazz Scat (think Elle Fitzgerald) at the top of his lungs for 2 hours at a time. I kid you not!)

Yes, you really must dodge cars in Rome. They interpret street rules very liberally, and streets are often VERY narrow, with a small strip painted on the side for pedestrians. Woe to anyone walking who loses their footing on the cobblestones at the very moment a taxi is passing close enough to take your elbow off with its’ mirror. They don’t honk at you unless you seem to be oblivious of them. Everyone on the road takes care of themselves, and expect you to do the same. It is not the rule of traffic law that dictates behavior, but the understanding that you are only really responsible for yourself, and you always ASSUME the other person will do the same. Thus, if you see open space in front of you as you drive, you can be sure that anyone ahead of you will take advantage of that space and move into it, because they are taking care of themselves. So, you will not be surprised by this, you won’t need to slam on your brakes or hit them, and you won’t get pissed off, you’ll just adapt. Amazingly enough, it works. Lanes don’t really matter, you just go. Scooters that are in front of you have the right of way, anyone behind you must adapt to your movements. Scooters go ripping between two lines of stopped cars with inches to spare, and yet I never once so a single accident of any kind. They are truly amazingly skilled drivers.

Speaking of drivers, we had our first exposure to the famed Italian drivers when taking a limo from the airport into the center of Rome. Our driver was trying to talk with me in my very limited Italian and he was literally driving something like 85 to 90 mph, while using his iPhone to check on online dictionary for the word “crisis”, for our talk of economics in Italy. And, of course, Italians cannot actually talk without using their hands. It is a physical impossibility, so if they are driving, they must use a knee or Divine guidance to steer while talking and gesticulating with both hands. Must do!

But, I found myself genuinely loving the Italians that I met in Rome. They have a keen sense of national and regional identity and pride. They are generally positive in their attitude, rarely complain, and were so welcoming and kind to us. We had not ONE negative interaction with any guard, clerk, waitress or guide, or just regular person that we met. Even though tourists are there by the millions, day in and day out, they are generally amiable and still able to smile at each person for the most part and are almost unfailingly courteous.
I think having some Italian language made a huge difference. I had started taking private lessons just a couple of months before our departure, and had Pimsler Method CD’s to listen to in my car. By the time we got to Rome, I could manage very simple conversations. With the Italians being appreciative and forgiving of my many, many mistakes, it was a delight to try speaking with them. When the listener doesn’t mind your stumbling attempts, you feel emboldened to try more, and thus you learn more. In Paris, I felt that for the Parisians (this is years ago, mind you) , to hear me try to speak French hurt their ears, and they’d rather I didn’t . But the Italians were very encouraging, so I tried more and learned more, and in reality, by the end of the 9 days, I could manage quite a lot, and understand a lot more. (I am a bit of a natural linguist, I can say without being too immodest. I speak Spanish pretty well, as I do Japanese, some French and now some Italian).

One of the things I had wanted to get from this trip was to see the man fine works of art on display in Rome. We went to the Vatican museum the first Friday evening that we were there. They had Friday evening openings (only Fridays) and I had reserved online. I was glad that we did. Normally it is insanely crowded, such that you cannot take time to admire the tapestries and such because people flow through as if on a current. But, the Friday evening showing was at about a third of normal capacity. We were able to stand in front of these huge tapestries and look at the tiny stitches and weaving, and then back up and see the whole pictures, which are simply stunning. After almost 3 hours (and this included a half hour in the Sistine Chapel where we could sit down and crank our heads up at the ceiling), we headed for home and found out that taxis cost more than double at night, or so we were told. Oh well . . .
Other museums we saw were the Capitoline Museum, which is just above the roman forum and the National museum of art at Massima something or other. Both had many wonderful statues from antiquity. You walk down these hallways with one Roman bust after another, some full size statues, too. Each head is of an INDIVIDUAL, not an ideal, not a concept, but an individual. They are not different from someone you’d run into on a Roman street today. Some are male, some are female, some young, some old, some with wrinkles or wide noses, some with ornate hairstyles. You can see PEOPLE, who were rich enough many centuries ago to hire an artisan to “take” their portrait. Only not with a camera, but with a chisel, in marble.
I walked down past each one and it just felt like I was meeting a lot of people, and I even said “hello!” to some of the children portrayed. And the stone sculptures that captured motion were simply amazing in their accurate portrayal of the human body, captured in a single moment of action. The ancients were far superior to any artists that came along for the next thousand years!
And, what we see in museums is a small fraction of what existed. Much has been destroyed, and more is still under the ground waiting for discovery, someday.

The other thing that made a big impression on me was the frescoes taken from rich villas. These were wall paintings that decorated the houses of the rich. We saw some of them “in situ” when we went to tour Pompeii, but they were very fragmented. The ones we saw in the National museum were stupendous! I was literally, and I mean literally, moved to tears! Robin (DH) thought I was nuts, but he didn’t spend years studying art at University. These paintings were so expressive, with such superb simplicity of line and richness of color that they were hands down my favorite thing to see in Rome.

But the Coliseum is also pretty amazing to see. When you walk up the stairs (after paying admission and going through airport style security) and you come out on the landing of the 3rd level, you see the largeness and steepness of it, and you can imagine how it must have been, filled with 50,000 screaming spectators, and multiple gladiator fights going on at the same time on the sand covered floor at the bottom. You could see the many chambers underneath where the wild animals were kept until raised up to the floor by way of 80 different elevators! They said that when it was inaugurated, in something like 80 AD, there were some games that lasted for a week and about 9,000 wild animals were killed in “hunting displays” and of course, hundreds of humans were killed, too. To be honest, when I walked around it, I felt a kind of malevolent feeling to it. I just can’t stop thinking of all the misery that happened there, for the “enjoyment” of the masses.

The tour of the Forum and the Palatine Hill, areas that are right next to the Coliseum, was very informative. I would give anything to be able to see what that area looked like in its’ heyday. It’s hard to imagine the wealth and sophistication of the ancient Roman world, two thousand years ago. That lasted for centuries, and then fell to decay and the destructive incursions of “barbarians” and the efforts of the Catholic Church to suppress, then to erase, the Pagan past. All these ancient buildings, and Rome is simply lousy with them, are now not much more than piles of bricks. It’s because the romans built with brick, and then clad those building with marble. All that marble was just waiting for the Christian church when they were looking for materials to build there churches, so they just took it. They stripped the marble facades, pulled down the solid stone pillars and filled in the buildings with earth, to then build on top of them. You now see only pock marks all over the remaining stone constructions,(some of the coliseum is brick and some stone) where the metal brackets used to be that held on the colorful marble facing. That marble facing is now in St. Peter’s Basilica! In the Vatican. (We did go up in the dome and got the view over Rome from there. Pretty cool!)
My husband and I are not religious, so we did not hold back our feelings of regret that these magnificent buildings were so decimated by the Catholic Church. Nub, it is not fair to judge ancient peoples by modern standards.
I will say that going into the churches and seeing the paintings and statues there shows you how intensely important the story of Christ and the place of the Saints and all was/is to the lives of those that go there. Even though, as I said, I am not religious, I was deeply moved to see the depiction of Christ in the arms of Mary, in Michelangelo’s “Pieta” sculpture. And there were others that really expressed the feeling of Godliness, and how we come as sheep to the Shepard. Anyway . . . I am a very sentimental person.
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post #23 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 02:33 AM Thread Starter
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continuing on:

One thing that happened early in our trip was that on the day we did the obligatory trip to the Trevi fountain (you have to throw a coin in over your shoulder to ensure your return to Rome someday. They get several THOUSAND dollars (euros) a DAY from the fountain.), we met a street artist. Ok, there are tons of them out there, either offering prints of images of Rome; mundane at best, crappy at worst. But this guy was obviously talented. He had just a couple of portraits up on his little easel and was just sitting there, not “hawking”. I admired his work and commented on the superiority of it. Then, decided to inquire as to getting my portrait done. “Quanto costa?”, I asked. “Venti”, he said. Only 20 euros! Some might think that is a lot, but for a hand drawn portrait of some remarkable skill, it’s nothing. So, I agreed. And in just 20 minutes, maybe less, he drew a remarkable likeness! The whole time, we chatted in English/Italian, and about art and he was so pleased to meet another soul who loves art. At the end, he adamantly refused payment, saying he wanted to give it to me, “because you understand about art”. I was simply floored! I ended up accepting, understanding the gesture and all, and gave him a big Italian “double” hug. I promised to give him something on Monday, when he said he’d be back working in that location. I went back to our flat just on cloud nine about that experience, and having made that very human connection, amongst the impersonal throngs of tourists and the many who wish to profit off them.

So, on Monday, even though both Robin and I were coming down with colds, we had to go back and look for “Adriano” so I could give him some raspberry/chocolate jam made in Seattle area, and some Japanese crackers (Adriano had said that he would like to go to Japan someday) to repay his kindness. At first, we could not find him, and did a lot of shopping and wearing ourselves out walking all over the place. We reached our daily “maximum capacity = burnout, let’s go home” level, but I insisted on one more look for him, and there he was! So, we gave him the small gift, to which he blushed, and talked a bit more. He was so sweet, but maybe a bit embarrassed by the whole thing. I wish we had invited him to lunch or dinner, but we were getting sick by then. Oh well , . . .

The other really amazing encounter we had with Italians came from our planned trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. I had reserved this ahead of time, and wanted to be added to an existing small group so that we did not have to pay for a “private” tour. So, we knew we’d be with a couple of other “tourists” but did not know who they’d be. When the van drove up at 7:30 am, there were only two women in it. I was a bit dismayed to learn that they were Italians, only because I had kind of hoped to chat in English with other tourists. But, after a short time of them being a bit standoffish, they started to engage with me in the English/Italian (about 90% Italian this time) conversation. We really got going and talked about everything under the sun, in a stumbling fashion. They were so sweet and at each stop insisted on buying me a coffee. We had some great laughs, and had such a delightful day with them that we were genuinely saddened to part at the end of a very long day. When the driver dropped us off, they got out of the car to give us each a sweet Italian hug. We have emails, so hope to communicate with them in future.
Pompeii is, of course, amazing. It was much bigger than I realized. Must have been an impressive city in its day. Today, it is buzzing with tourists. We had to try to see what we could in only two hours, so that was frustrating. One needs a day and a good guidebook to really get the most of it. For me, just pausing and looking through some of the closed off courtyards to see the drifts of wildflowers growing around the broken bits of marble columns, hear the mockingbirds sing and feel the Mediterranean breeze was food for my soul.
After Pompeii, we drove to the Amalfi coast. This is a famous place, where towns are built on sheer cliff sides and the road is often literally cantilevered our over space. Sometimes there are things like guardrails, and sometimes just a spindling metal rail between you and certain death. Cars must pass each other with only inches to spare on either side, and sometimes pedestrians to be careful of, too. Sometimes the hairpin turns were so tight that they could not be negotiated in one swing. You had to turn part way, brake with the nose of the van pointing straight outward, (with an 18 inch barrier there to stop you if your brakes failed. Yeah, right!), back the van up, and continue the turn. Our driver did it all with aplomb, and since the Italian ladies never seemed genuinely worried, I took my cue from them. But, Robin rode in the front seat, so he could see the real cliff, whereas, in the back seat, I was shielded from the worst downward views.
Joking aside, it’s a stupendous view, and naturally, clogged with tourists and businesses catering to them. I am sure it is a real strain on the ecology of the area, which is not really meant to support a lot of people (the water needed, the sewage, the roads, the oil runoff from so many cars, etc.) and a part of me felt a bit bad to be adding to that. But, it’s a place I wanted to see. I doubt I’ll go back, though. It’s gorgeous, but I really prefer to be someplace a bit more “genuine”.

The apartment we had was in the Monte area of Rome. It is an older neighborhood, and was once a kind of slum, right next to the Imperial Forum area. The streets are all narrow, which limits the traffic and makes it quieter. They are all cobbled, and the buildings usually no more than 3 or 4 stories. Max. you walk down these streets, and residents (and some tourists ) are out walking their dogs (all well fed and well behaved and almost never see any dog poop on the street), and couples strolling in the evening, chatting and laughing softly in the lyrical tones of Italian. Sometimes folks call down from a window. And jasmine and bougainvillea vines grow up the sides of building, scenting the evening air. Seagulls fly overhead all the time, and sometimes you hear what I think is a mocking bird? (If you’ve heard the Beatle’s song, “Blackbird” you will hear a bird song. THAT bird was singing, just like that, all over Roman residential areas!). Every third doorway is some kind of restaurant, bar or in some cases, a workshop where they make jewelry or purses or such. And there was a small “piazza” near our place where the local young folks come and hang out until past midnight, every night! I went out walking by myself several times around 10 and 11pm and never felt unsafe. I am sure there are places where this would not be wise, but in that neighborhood, it seemed ok. Just a bit sad, since people are almost always in couples or groups. The Italians are very, very social. If they aren’t chatting , or arguing, with friends around a table with wine, or as a bunch, walking down the street, they are being social via texting. The text constantly!!!!! While driving, too!

With regard to the food; some of it is quite good, some not so good. We both noticed that, just as my Italian instructor had said, the vegetables there are much more flavorful than here. And some of the cheap Panini (sandwiches) that we got was delicious! More so than some of the meals in restaurant we paid too much for. I had been expecting the portions to be smaller than US portions, but they were not small. We often ordered much more than we could consume. Were just getting smart to this by the time we left. Food was about the same cost as it would be in any large American city with tourism. I think that we would have had better experiences with this if we had had a friend to steer us to the better restaurants.

There is so much more to say, but I have written enough here that it takes a patient and/or dedicated reader to get this far. Thank you for letting me share my week in Rome. I can say that I simply loved it, and will forever be part Italian, in my soul.
Ci Vediamo pronto, Roma!
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post #24 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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post #28 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 03:41 AM
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Yup, that's Italy! You described it wonderfully. Mi manca la bella Italia. Tanto.
I've lived there for 8 years. Near Pisa.
For texting while driving...Italy is cell phone heaven. Very open market, few contracts, mostly prepaid, no difference in service, and cheap. I paid 20$(15 Euro)/ month, unlimited call, text AND data. Any carrier's chip works in any phone, used high end phones for sale everywhere.
My first walk, when I got there, I saw a senior gentleman, 70, maybe 75, on a bicycle, talking on a cellphone....oh, and only the one who calls/texts, pays, not both, like here.
Just HAD to say that...sorry

I love the portrait, btw.
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post #29 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 05:47 AM
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Wow, what a journey, sorry you had a cold.

Nice pics and a great account of your travels, thanks

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post #30 of 32 Old 06-03-2013, 11:19 AM Thread Starter
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Yes. I actually talked with the ladies about cell phones and found out how cheap they are. I think we in the US, and maybe Canada , are getting screwed by the phone co.'s.
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