Day 12 and 13 – Drive to Rome and Rome
Bus to Rome
Mom’s Photo Count – 1363 (Mom insists that I add that she has not been able to go through her pictures in order to delete those that she will not keep, and says that she has already erased a few)
Today consisted of drive from Venice to Rome, which, in a bus, takes eight hours. So basically, nothing too exciting happened today. Last night, however, there was a scare of whether Mamet would be able to have the air conditioning fixed by the time we left this morning. He spent his day off trying to find someone to fix the bus, but no one would! The shops were closed and would not help him. So, he had to call people from Austria to bring a new compressor for the bus. Not only this, but they had to do the repairs in a field, but also needed electricity, so had to find a generator. Poor Mamet only had four hours of sleep altogether, two before the people arrived, and then two after until breakfast. So, we had air conditioning, but a very tired driver who had spent his day off stressed and rushing around. Of course, none of us could ever be mad at Mamet because he is so nice and funny, and were happy to take a 1.5 hour break in the middle of the trip so he could have a nap. I hope he gets good sleep tonight!
In other drama, Pauline was sitting by herself in the third seat of the bus, and one of the Puerto Rican ladies (I shall call her Coach because that is all she wears. I sure wish the class of her clothes matched her personality) said that one of the students had to sit with her because she needed a seat to herself because, again, her feet were hurting soooo bad. Well, she put her feet up for about 20 minutes (again, in all our faces), and then sat up the rest of the time and reserved the seat for her bag.
There has also been complaints about what should be included in the tour for free and what we should pay for. I don’t need to go into it, but many people are not happy. Mom and I just want to do as much as we can while we are in Rome, since we only get one day there.
The hotel we are staying in tonight isn’t that great either. For three people, there are two small beds and a tiny cot they set in the middle of the room for me. I sat on it and it immediately “fell apart.” The man at the front desk told me it wasn’t broken, but just came apart and can be fixed. Rodolfo had to come show me, but Mom decided to just give me her mattress for the floor while she took mine for her actual bed. Next, I flushed the toilet and it broke, so that was also good. I think at every hotel we have been at so far, something has broken. This will most likely be added into the complaint letter, along with some of the attitude we are getting from the “help” around here.
Dinner in the hotel was decent. I’m sad we aren’t given oil and vinegar for the bread–I guess that is just American-Italian restaurants. We were also given the carbonated water and none from tap, so Mom was having some issues. We also were given this flavorless pudding while the other tour group got ice cream! Conversation was interesting though, as I found out that Bill is the pastor of a Baptist Church, and he and Mom started having some religious conversation. I’m not one to get into a theological discussion, especially with a pastor, so I kept my mouth shut and listened. There were some interesting interpretations flying across the table.
I am now sitting on my mattress on the floor, suffering from mosquito bites (they keep appearing, and seem to really favor my left leg–I guess it’s my tasty side). And, we have to get up again extremely early in the morning so I’m getting ready for bed.
We woke up especially early today in order to begin our long adventure in Rome. The tour managed to cram a guided tour in the Coliseum and the Forum, Vatican City, a walking tour with Rodolfo to the Trevi Foutain and Pantheon, and then dinner in the city. There was an optional tour with Rodolfo after dinner for 7 euro per person, and though we really wanted to do it earlier in the day, we weren’t so disappointed when the decision wasn’t unanimous later.
Driving into the Coliseum was interesting, because we got to see the Rome that is outside of the ruins and tourist area. The city was covered in graffiti, more than anything I have seen so far. It is everywhere, on every foot of open wall space where people can reach, even on the windows. There was also garbage everywhere, and there were homeless camps and what looked like shanty towns around where we stopped for a bus permit. I remembered Jamey telling me that Rome would be my favorite place, because everywhere I turned there was beautiful art and statues. At this point, I was wondering if that would be how I felt by the end of the day.
However, once we got to the tourist area, I could see what Jamey meant. Next to the Coliseum was the arch where all the war heroes began their procession through the city, parading all the war prisoners and treasure they had claimed. It reminded me of Antony and Cleopatra, and how Cleopatra chose suicide over such a humiliating display.
Roman Arch of Triumph (because I can't remember the official name at the moment)
I think we barely spent more than 30 minutes in the Coliseum, which was so disappointing, because it was probably the place I was most excited to see during the whole trip. I did so many project on the Coliseum in school, so everything the tour guide told us (the basics), was information I already knew. We rushed by all the artifacts so quickly I could barely take a second for a picture, let alone read any information. Also, by the end of that portion of the tour, it was starting to get so hot that I became very lethargic and tired, and barely cared to hear any more information, especially when I had to concentrate in order to realize when she had switched back to English from Spanish. Some kids decided to take their headphones out because it was too exhausting to keep up. I don’t blame them.
Our tour guide walked us to the Forum, and it was so much bigger than Mom and I had imagined. It is amazing how much has been excavated, because when a building went out of use, they would just build another on top of it for centuries and centuries. So, the original level of the city was much lower then, and you can see on the buildings where one begins and the other ends. Doors sit ten feet above the ground.
Example of a Building on a Building
Some of these buildings are standing from the third century B.C., and it was crazy to think something is still standing from so long ago! It is also hard to imagine how luxurious this place used to be, as all the stone used to be covered in marble and painted. I imagined Julius Caesar’s death as we walked through, and ran through Antony’s speech to the people from on top of the platform.
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen..."
Though it was amazing to see all these ancient buildings, pillars and statues, we were all glad to head back to an air conditioned bus. It is hard to focus on a history lesson in 90 degree heat. I’m sure, like me, that everyone is consistently tired (the nature of this type of vacation), and the heat doesn’t help.
The next stop was Vatican City, which surprisingly was my favorite part of the day. I knew I wanted to see the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, but didn’t realize how much it would affect me once I got there. We went to the Vatican Museum, and again, rushed through everything so quickly that it was difficult to revel the fact that we were standing in such a historical place. There were hallways of statues and artwork that we had to speed walk through to keep up with our tour guide. Some hallways we couldn’t even go down to look at the sculptures. However, on our speed walk to the Sistine Chapel, we walked on floors that are 1700 years old, and saw sculptures that are just as ancient. It was so amazing that they are so well preserved! And not only that, but we are still allowed to touch them and feel every groove of the sculpted figures because they will last forever. We saw beautiful tapestries, much like those that hang in Hampton Court Palace. And finally, we got to the Sistine Chapel, where it only took Michelangelo three years to complete his portraits of the creation and final judgment. I could have lay on the floor and gazed up at his work for a whole day (and I wish I were, because standing and looking up for 20 minutes really puts a crick in your neck). Our tour guide told us all about each painting, all the way to the bottom of the final judgment where Michelangelo painted the head of one of the cardinals that criticized his work (because he painted all the figures naked) as being pulled down to hell by devils. Also, Michelangelo painted his face on Bartholomew’s earthly body, a man who was still alive during the time of painting and is holding his skin in his hand as he is taken to heaven.
Besides the painting, it was fun to see a bunch of people being escorted out for trying to take pictures, even though there are at least 20 signs along the way that say not to have them out. One guy even had his flash on… smart.
Saint Paul’s Basilica is next to the exit of the chapel, and I was able to see one of the most awesome (using the original meaning of the word) churches of all time. It is the biggest church ever built, and is full of marble pillars, tombs (150 popes are buried there), and mosaics that are made with such small pieces of ceramic that they looked instead like enormous paintings. But paintings do not last forever, as so they spent 200 years building a church and its art that stand against the time. A 23 story building can stand between the floor and the dome above the main altar. We were also lucky because they were preparing for a special day when the pope comes to mass. I would have loved to hear a choir sing in that church. I’m sure it would have sounded close to heaven.
Saint Paul's Basilica
After this we had a tiny break to relieve our feet, which felt like they could fall of at any second. We were able to refill water bottles at the fountain (yes, the fountain water is drinkable, and comes out of little spigets nearby), which is actually very good water, and better than the water at the hotel.
After the break, we took off for our walking tour toward the Trevi Fountain, which is so much more magnificent than we thought it would be! It is the size of a wall of a building, and figures of godlike men on horses emerge from the water, looking as if they will rise completely out at any moment. We got to the fountain a few minutes before it started pouring rain, which was great because everyone fled when we wanted to take pictures. Of course, mom and I tossed our coins into the fountain in hopes that someday we can come back to spend more time in such a remarkable place.
Of course, it started raining and thundering the one time in the day that Mom and I didn’t bring our umbrellas. I enjoyed it, though, because it was so hot all day, and though the rain was cool, I didn’t get cold. I love rain after a hot day. We made our way in the rain to the Pantheon, the place dedicated to all the Roman gods, and what is now a church dedicated to Mary. The entrance was packed with people because of those trying to stay undercover from the downpour. We eventually made our way through into the round, one roomed building. It had statues and paintings of Mary and Jesus all the way around the walls, but the most significant view was that of the rain coming through the ceiling. The building has a large, round hole in the ceiling to let the sun shine through on the beautiful marble floor below, but now it was raining, and water fell in a circular pattern, splashing on the red and green tiles. The sky was thundering above, and it was such an unusual spectical to see rainfall in a church. It was worth the storm just for that.
Rain on the Marble
Finally it was time for dinner, and we ate at a place that cooks their pasta with bacon, a tradition in this region. It was delicious, but I was so hungry at this point that I would have eaten anything. Rodolfo sat with us and told us about his past work on cruise ships and giving sailing lessons. He is getting a new job with a different country this fall, and will be doing tours in Africa and South America. He leads such an adventurous lifestyle, and so far we know that he speaks Italian, Spanish, French and Dutch. He knows some German as well.
Many people decided they were too tired for the night tour, especially because it had started raining again. I was a little disappointed, but didn’t have the energy to be too upset. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 9:30 p.m., and I am immediately heading to bed.