Day 16

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:28 PM


CT 5:10
IT 12:10

Divine but Unkind.

So today was the big day. Most of the day free. All of Rome to explore.
I got up this morning at 7:30 and went to breakfast before 8. I was tired, but excited. I was going to make up for the time Mr. Bush stole. I sat, made an itinerary for the day, and got other people to say they would go with me to certain places (it’s new and I didn’t want to be alone). Everything was going pretty smooth. My sick apartment-mate came last minute to Rome, so all of us were there. Fantastic.

Our first and only planned activity was the Forum and the Coliseum. Art History and Literature went together, so we got to hear Dr. Seymour talk about the ruins, architecture, reliefs, ancient culture, etc. On the way to it, we discussed the layout of the Musei Capitolini, which is similar to Alumni Circle. We discussed the statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback and how the statue became the blueprint for nearly all future horseback statues, including the huge Vittorio Emanuele monument (hand outstretched, showing them speaking; right horse leg on top of what was originally a captive, signifying victory, etc.). I was really excited to find the Musei Capitolini so close to our hotel because I wanted to go (it was the original religious center of Rome and has the proportional amount of stone and bronze statues). I have some great pictures from the Forum and stories to go with. I enjoyed it and became even more excited for the rest of the day. Then there was the Coliseum.

The Coliseum came into sight and we all gawked for a good while. It may not be the picture of grace, but it is a picture of power. It really was awesome at first. Then we actually got into the Coliseum. As huge as it is, I think, in your mind’s eye, it’s always bigger. Though we were in the outer hall (and through divine intervention, got mistaken for EU students and given a discount and a tour guide for below budgeted cost), it still had that odd feeling, “Wait. Where would all 80,000 people fit?” There were a lot of ruins, but they had reconstructed part of the floor and seats to give a sample of what the entire arena would have looked like (in fact, says the Spanish tour guide who speaks English as a third language, the Latin word for arena meant “sand”). It was a very interesting tour, but very hot and tiring – and I had no water.

After we got out of the Coliseum, we met up with Danielle and decided to go to the Spanish Steps. When I found out that that Piazza di Spagna was near two of my main tourist points on my map, I decided to go. This is when things got hairy.

Walking from the Coliseum, we went to the intersection next to the Vittorio Emanuele monument. Paulette said, “Good news is we’re halfway there!” Halfway was a complete and utter lie. We may have been 1/4, maybe even 1/5 away from where were supposed to be. Possibly more. We literally trekked over two miles, including the Spanish steps and two other big hills besides. Now, you may say this isn’t bad, and normally I would agree. But when a) you aren’t prepared for that kind of trip, b) over half of your huge group don’t have water with them, c) the whole reason you’re going is so people can get HARD ROCK CAFÉ – ROME t-shirts, and d) you’re going to eat American food in Italy when you’re only there for four weeks, you begin to see my point.

So I got upset about the whole thing, but finally got over it when I found out we got free refills. Danielle and Dr. Bane had asked me if I was still going to do my trip to the Capuchin Crypts (one of several things on my list). At first I said I was too wiped out, which was nearly true. But I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t go, so I went (without the people who originally said they would).
The Crypt was the definition of macabre. The bones of 4,000 monks were used to decorate walls, ceilings, and floors, while those left unmangled were put into full monk robes and stood up or laid down. Different shapes meant different reminders. There was a clock, reminding us to be charitable while we still have time; a skeleton with a scythe and scales (made from the top part of the skull), etc. It was oddly serene though. I didn’t really feel anything when I went in besides awe that someone would think to do that. I bought lots of postcards which I’ll scan when I get home.

After that, I tried to get a hold of Kim to see where she was (as I had semi-stormed off when the people I had planned to go with decided to go to a bookstore instead; I didn’t feel like it was worth it to argue with people who were willing to spend time in one of many bookstores instead of going to one of a few crypts that we won’t have the chance to see again – but that’s me), but when she finally called me back, she gave me a store I didn’t recognize. Instead, I went ahead and went to the top of the street near the Spanish Steps and found the Palazzo Vaccari, a house with screaming ogres for window and door facings, while the doors and windows look like tongues. It was under restoration, which was only typical of my luck for the day.

I went back down the Spanish Steps after taking a picture of the huge crowd that had begun to amass at one of Rome’s top meeting places and headed toward the Musei Capitolini. I wanted to get there, but at that point I didn’t think I could make it. Then I saw the Metro sign, and heard Paulette’s voice in my head, “You could ride the bus, or even the Metro.” So I saw the Metro as another opportunity. I went in amongst the Babel-esque mixing of languages and found myself in a difficult situation. Nothing was in English.

Well, that’s not true. The machines had an English button, but the directions to use it were not in English and Paulette hadn’t divined that information to me. I had never even been in a city large enough to have a Metro system, nevertheless used it. So I got my ticket (which I still have). I looked at the map and saw where I wanted to go (Piazza Emmanuele – more to come on this later), and knew to took Metro A. So I went toward a sign which had a destination close to where I wanted to be, I thought. I went up two or three sets of escalators and stairs, and found all I had done was bought my ticket and exit the station. So I had to go back in with my 1 Euro Metro ticket and go down to the “AI TRENI” deck.

I got on the Metro and found out it was going the opposite way from how I needed it to go (because of the order of stops). I just chilled, taking out my iPod and people watching the few that were on there. Then the Metro came to the end of the line and everyone got off. I expected it to start going backwards, when I heard a non-automated voice say something something “rigazze” (meaning young girl), so I jumped off, embarrassed. The train went on, and I saw another one coming from the other direction. I had to cross the platform by stairs and get on the other side to get back on the Metro A going the other way. It was surely an enlightening experience, as I had no idea that the Metros didn’t just turn around on the spot with people on them or just go the other way.

Anyway, I got on the return train and got off at Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele. I’ll go ahead and say it now: Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele is not the huge colossal monument. It’s not even near Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, which is the street that runs by the monument. The piazza is a park. In what could probably be considered a bad part of town (unlike what the officer said about Florence in the beginning, I’m absolutely certain that Rome has “bad parts”). So I thought, “Wait. I can find the piazza on the map, orient myself, and get to where I need to be.” Incorrect. I couldn’t orient myself and didn’t know it until I was too far to get back on the Metro. I saw another sign, but it was closed. I had to walk to Piazza San Giovanni – about a mile away on the street. C’est la vie.

So I got on the Metro (with a new 1 Euro ticket) and decided to go ahead and go back to the Piazza di Spagna. I had missed my precious museum and was left to wait for the Choir Concert, alone on the steps in a crowd of people, tired and hurting. I read the guide book to Rome, somewhat ironically, since it was really the last full day I had.

Mr. and Dr. Burly came along, saying they were looking for the church. She pointed at the Spanish Embassy at the top of the stairs and said, “Maybe that’s the church.” I laughed and told her it was the Spanish Steps. “No! It can’t be!” I nodded and told her we had spent a stint going up them to get to the Hard Rock Café. Usually the steps have azaleas or something to that effect framing them, which was what they looked like the last time they had seen them. They went to get gelato since they were accidentally more than an hour early, right before Halley and Rachel came around and sat with me on the steps. Danielle called while we were there and said to go ahead and go to the church because they were all taking cabs. I went to find the Burlys, but they had already gone to the church without me. I drug up the rear, not able to walk very fast.

The choir concert was absolutely gorgeous, as always. It was disappointingly short, as their last concert in Italy, but they conditions were not right for some of the songs, according to the choir director. We were mostly the only ones there. Italians came in from the streets, but then they would leave (we were in All Saints – an Anglican church, the first non-Catholic church in Rome).
After the concert, I asked if someone would want to share a cab (they all said their cab rides were between 6 and 13 dollars), but they wanted to go out. I limped back to the hotel, a long hike when I was feeling well, and laid on the bed waiting for my other two roommates to come up so I could take a shower. Instead, one of them took a shower before me (I don’t know how that happened) and I watched Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (see Rotten Tomatoes rating on that one) and Unfaithful in Italian. I then took a shower, started this journal entry, and decided to go to bed so I’d be able to get up in the morning.

Soon to come: Final thoughts on Rome.

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