Roma: The Eternal City (and the Eternal Blog Post to Go with It) [Part 1]

6 Apr

Since I am currently bedridden with Oscar the Grouchy Crocodile Stomach Bacteria as my stomach/bedmate (um, went to the desert, rode a camel, came back with Oscar), I have had time/patience to work on getting photos to upload to flickr so I may actually have, for the first time EVER (and hopefully not the last), a photo post! And what better to do it on that Roma, that beautiful, ancient city that I spent spring break in? I’ve only done the first half of the week and will do the rest hopefully later this week. (Btw, if you click the pictures you’ll be led to a larger version as well as be able to click through the rest of my flickr photostream!)

Here is my post about my spring break in Rome, which, sadly, was spent alone. Macarena, due to the Italian embassy being full of it, could not get her visa. She had a great spring break though, so don’t worry your head about it. But here was mine:

Saturday, March 12: Saida, my host mom, drops me off at the train station, since I am flying out of Casablanca, not Rabat. I catch my train to Ain Sebaa, change trains, get to the airport, check in, check my email one last time, go through passport control and get on the plane. For someone who doesn’t speak a lot of French/Arabic…I felt pretty proud of myself.

The flight to Rome was relatively short, about two hours and twenty minutes. Since it was largely over the Mediterranean we flew, there wasn’t much to see…but both Italy and Morocco from the air are beautiful and very, very green. I land in Rome, find the train station, get on the train, freak out that I’m on the wrong train until I get to Trastevere and see Kelly, my friend, waiting for me outside of it. But I did it, I’m in Rome!

We catch the bus to her apartment in Monteverde and she shows me her apartment. It’s cute, very different from DC apartments (and sorta different from my Morocco apartment). After I get settled in, we catch the bus to Piazza Venezia, which for the rest of the week becomes my jumping off point for my expeditions.

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Il Vittoriano, a GIANT monument to the first king of united Italy, Vittorio Emmanuelle II. No Roman actually likes it. It is pretty garish.

We walk to the Coliseum, past the Forum, which you can’t enter at night, but it is my first glimpse of the Rome I imagine in my head. We then walk to the Trevi Fountain and I have my first real Italian gelato…it was DELICIOUS. We grab dinner and I have my first taste of Italian pasta. Mmmm gnocchi, I love you so. After that we head home for the night.

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The Forum at night…stunning.

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The Coliseum! Whoa. Weird to have finally seen it.

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The Trevi Fountain…

Okay, I’m just going to be lazy and not center these photos anymore. TO HELL WITH FORMATTING! I’m also really tired so yeah.

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And me tossing a coin into it.

Sunday, March 13: Kelly has midterms all through the week, so she had to study for most of the day. Which meant I was on my own. I head to the bus stop, and since its March, it is raining. A little, old Italian mama has me stand under her umbrella with her and we have a conversation completely in hand gestures, nods, smiles and laughter. The 44 bus drops me off at Piazza Venezia, which is sort of the center of town.

My first stop is Palazzo Venezia, an old villa that has been turned into a museum in part. When they say it’s €4 to get in, I first think, “No big.” Later I realize, “Oh man, €4 is 40 dirhams…I would never pay 40 dirhams to get into a museum.” Such is the reality of going from a developing country to a developed country. The Palazzo Venezia was nice, but nothing too special. I wrote in my little notebook I carry around, “As my first museum in Rome, filled with old, famous works of art…I forgot how depressing religious artwork usually is. Lots of martyrdoms, crucifixions…very graphic, highly depressing. LOVE THE CEILINGS.” This kinda becomes a recurring theme in my feelings about artwork.

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In the Palazzo Venezia. No pictures allowed in the museum, though.

After I leave the Palazzo Venezia, I head to Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a famous church (like every single church in Rome). It lies between Il Vittoriano and Campodoglio (sp?). As my first church in Rome, it was gorgeous…but all of the churches were.

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The steps leading to the church.

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View of the Campodoglio from the church. The square was designed by Michelangelo.

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Inside the church.

After leaving the church, I take the back way to the Capitoline Museums. My thoughts on them, as written in my notebook: “MUCH less depressing –very few pieces of religious art (man, what am I going to do at the Vatican?). Lots of marble statues and sculptures, which I love. I can see why this is a must see for Rome.” And it’s true, the two buildings that make up the museum are fantastic.

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Big head of Constantine.

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Famous bronze sculpture of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the twins that began the history of Rome.

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Gotta love fountains.

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There was a surprising amount of Egyptian stuff in the various museums…works for me.

After I left the museums it started pouring rain and I just said, “Well screw this.” And headed home for the day. Every night Kelly and I had dinner together, which was great. Saved me money and I had some of Kelly’s delicious-but-simple Italian cooking (thanks Kelly!)

Monday, March 14: A big day for me. I get up and back on the 44. I walk to the Gesú, the first Jesuit church. Ever. That’s how Rome is – the beginning of so much is just here. The church is beautiful, with a really cool ceiling that pops out of the ceiling…hard to explain, but very interesting.

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Gesú church with awesome ceiling.

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St. Catherine of Siena’s tomb. Minus her head, which is in Siena.

I next head to Santa Maria sopra Minerva, another beautiful church…but also where St. Catherine of Siena is buried. St. Catherine of Siena is one of the patron saints of Rome, so of course I had to make the pilgrimage to her.

Randomly, St. Catherine of Alexandria (of Catherine wheel fame) was a RIDICULOUSLY popular subject for paintings. Everywhere I turned I’d see a painting of her! It was crazy! Apparently medieval/Renaissance artists thought she was a pretty awesome saint.

After saying hey to St. Catherine, I walk to the Pantheon. It was stunning. Originally a temple for all of the gods (hence pan: all), it is now a church. How amazing would it be to go to church in this thousands of years old building, a marvel to architectural engineering even now?

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The dome of the Pantheon.

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The building is HUGE.

I leave the Pantheon and take the long way round to get to the Palatino complex, passing the Circus Maximus on the way. This stadium at one point could have held 300,000 people at once. Now it is nothing but a grassy park. Rome is definitely a city that requires a lot of imagination to see what could have been, but if you have a vivid enough mind, you cannot help but be floored by the magnificence of it all.

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The Mouth of Truth – made famous by Roman Holiday

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Circus Maximus

The Palatino hill complex is essentially the origins of Rome. Rome was traditionally built on seven hills, and the Palatino was the first – excavations have shown remains of buildings dating from the 8th century, BCE…lending some legitimacy to the Romulus and Remus legend (Rome, according to legend, was founded in 741 BCE). The Palatino hill for hundreds of years was where the rich, famous and noteworthy people of Rome lived. And the ruins that remain there certainly show the splendor that it once was. This site, over the Forum, Coliseum, Vatican and everything else I saw, was definitely my favorite.

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The Palatino complex leads directly into the Roman Forum, which lies at the bottom of the hill between the Coliseum and Palatino. The Forum was a lot more crowded than the Palatino, and with so many ruins in it, it is hard to tell what is what and what it all means. But it was still beautiful.

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The Forum is right next to the Coliseum, so obviously that was my next stop. For having the Coliseum is such an engrained part of my interpretation of Rome, I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. That may have been all the people, may have been the weather…but while it was jaw-dropping stunning, it wasn’t soul-stirring stunning. Still, I am so glad I was able to see it.

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I leave the Coliseum to head off to find some more churches. I stop for lunch first at a small trattoria, where the waiter took a liking to me, ordered my entire meal for me (first Italian pizza – delicious!) and gave me an espresso on the house. Sweet.

I head to San Giovanni in Laterno, one of the largest churches in Rome. It is also the sea of the Bishop of Rome…who happens to be the Pope. Crazy how Rome just is like that.

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I head to San Clemente next. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but it was pretty interesting. It’s a 14th century church built on a 12th century church built on like 6th century ruins. Very interesting. After this I get pretty tired and head back to Piazza Venezia to head home.

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One Response to “Roma: The Eternal City (and the Eternal Blog Post to Go with It) [Part 1]”

  1. Linda Marshall April 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Catherine,

    I am so happy you enjoyed Rome. We were there 10 years ago and loved it. I so enjoyed seeing your photos. You are having an amazing experience and that is wonderful.
    Linda

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