November 25, 2014

Rome: Part One

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After nearly two weeks on the go, our energy levels were slowing down. But we had one more city to jet off to, and so we rolled our tired bodies out of bed and made our way to the airport for an early afternoon flight. We thought we had plenty of time, but anyone who has flown on a budget airline out of Orly knows what I'm talking about when I say nothing can prepare you for the chaos. 
Let's just say, we were lucky to catch our flight. 
I was flustered, annoyed, and anxious during the whole flight, but from the moment the plane landed in Rome, I knew that her and I would hit it off immediately. Over 2,000 years of uninterrupted living in one city? Yep. That's all you have to tell me and I'm in love. 
One can always plan on losing almost an entire day when traveling between cities. The travel time alone, plus waiting for bags, getting to your flat or hotel, and settling in takes most of the day. Before getting to Rome, all of these "travel days" went smoothly, and without a hitch.
This was NOT the case in Rome. 
Rome, while charming, and absolutely magical, lacks the organization and ease of travel that both London and Paris have in abundance. With poorly labeled bus routes, tram closures, misnamed stops, and several instances of miscommunication, we spent our first couple of hours in Rome hopelessly turned around and frustrated. Luckily, my husband's Spanish came in handy (who woulda thought? Spanish? In Italy?), and we were saved by a couple of helpful, and bilingual, Italians. We made it to our flat by early evening, and then went on the hunt for some pasta and pizza. Holy heck. Pasta carbonara in America is delicious. But in Rome? It's unreal. Then we strolled through the city, pinching ourselves the whole time, and eating delicious gelato. This became a nightly tradition in Rome. By 10:00, we were in bed, and ready for what the next day had to offer us. 

On the Agenda for today?
The Piazza Navona
The Pantheon (eeeeeeeeeeeeek)
Trevi Fountain
The Spanish Steps
The Colosseum 
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

The Piazza Navona:
Constructed in the first century AD, the Piazza Navona retains the shape of the original racetrack that once entertained scores of Romans. Today, it still entertains Romans and tourists alike with its lively night scene and delicious restaurants. We quickly passed through the Piazza Navona on our stroll to the Pantheon, but stopped to enjoy the drizzly scene for a few minutes.

The Pantheon:
Oh my gosh. The Pantheon. Ahhh! Where do I begin? Constructed in ancient Roman times in 27 BC, this structure has seen over 2,000 years of history, weathering it all, and it not only still stands today, it thrives. I could spend hours telling you about the history of the Pantheon and it's revolutionary construction, but since I know not everyone dorks out to history like I do, I'll spare you the details. BUT if you're interested, look her up. It won't disappoint. From the front, the Pantheon looks like a typical Grecian-inspired temple, but once you step inside, the similarities end, and Roman ingenuity shines. Behind the portico stands the dome, and at the top, the oculus dominates.  As the saying goes, "when it rains in Rome, it rains in the Pantheon."
In my first semester of college, I took an amazing art history class and we spent a full two weeks studying the Pantheon. I have been obsessed with it ever since, and have waited patiently to finally meet her. She was worth the wait. I won't lie. I balled like a baby when I walked inside the dome. And then I spun around in circles trying to take it all in. My husband laughed at me. Of course. But he was blown away too. You can't help it. It's just too amazing.

Trevi Fountain:
Unfortunately, this Baroque piece of loveliness was under construction during our trip to Rome. But that did NOT stop us from doing what the tourists do. We threw our coins into its empty recesses to ensure our return to the magical city. Hopefully throwing a coin into an empty fountain doesn't have the opposite effect...

The Spanish Steps:
We continued our stroll through the very walkable city, and found ourselves on the Spanish Steps, where we enjoyed our daily picnic. Named the "Spanish Steps" for the Spanish embassy that resides there, it has long been the hangout of romantics, especially poets. We weren't feeling too romantic OR poetic surrounded by hordes of people, but it was still nice to sit for a while and watch the city pass by.

The Colosseum:
This monolith structure overwhelms. The lines. The people. The history. The structure itself. Built at the peak of the Roman Empire in AD 80, the Colosseum (or the Flavian Amphitheater if you want to get technical) is one of Rome's grandest, and most morbid, examples of power. Killing was a spectator sport in Rome, and the Colosseum served as the backdrop for gruesome battles. Animals, women, and of course gladiators, all fought for the entertainment of the Romans.
Luckily Graham and I had purchased the Roma Pass, and so we sailed right to the front of the line. One thing that I found most fascinating were the pockmarks that decorated the walls of the Colosseum. They are the remnants of middle-aged thieves who stole the bronze clamps that, at one time, held the stones together. Only one third of the original structure remains, but it still impressed. From atop the Colosseum, it is easy to spot Palentine Hill in the distance, as well as Arch of Constantine.

The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill:
Once the political, commercial, and religious center of the Roman Empire, the Roman forum no longer resembles the giant that it once was. Today, it is merely the crumbled remains of a once thriving metropolis.
But even ruins have the ability to impress, as I walked the streets with my mouth hanging open. I was speechless, and in love. Words are inadequate to describe the effect that this place had on me. Seeing a fragment of the history that I have loved for so long left a mark on me that won't soon fade.

After our day of strolling, we stopped off at a pharmacy so I could get some ointment for my aching skin. Bugs love me, and Rome in the summer is full of them. I woke up with more bug bites than I could count, and by the end of the day, I was so miserable that we had to splurge on some EXPENSIVE anti-ich cream. The pharmacist was my savior. She soothed my skin and then my stomach with her amazing pizza recommendation. Word of advice. If you want to find the good eateries in Rome...ask a Roman!

We were exhausted after our day of wandering through the city, but so pumped for the day to come. Next on the list? Pompeii. 
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