Roma: The Eternal City (and the Eternal Blog Post to Go with It [Part 2])

10 Apr

FINALLY. IT IS HERE. The end of the Rome saga, about a month later! Sorry, it’s hit and miss getting photos to upload. Anyway, the exciting conclusion to: Catherine in Rome!

Fun edition: If you hover your cursor over the photos, captions will come up! Zween.

Tuesday, March 15: The first non-overcast, non-rainy day! This week for my fraternity APO was big-little week (essentially a mentor-mentee program, but a lot more awesome) and I had sent a message to the bigs before I left for Rome saying I’d be happy to make videos for their littles, giving them hints as to who their bigs could be. I decided today to go out and make those videos, because it was so gorgeous out. I head to Campo de Fiori first, a very famous outdoor market in a piazza in Rome. I loved it! I love food markets in general, and a food market in Italy? Pure foodie heaven. I hang out there for a while, buy some delicious fruit (Moroccan oranges are better though) and enjoy the environment.

Campo de Fiori, my Italian Eastern Market

I walk to Piazza Navona next, a very LARGE piazza that at one point was a racetrack! ROME, stop being so insanely cool! Now, however, Piazza Navona is a main hang out spot…think of something like Piccadilly Circus in London or Dupont Circle in DC. I chill there for a bit, make another video, get mistaken for being an Italian (by an Italian)…good stuff.

Pigeons. Rome loves its fountains.

I head off to Largo di Argentina next, which apart from being a complex of REALLY cool looking ruins, is a CAT SANCTUARY. I honestly had this on my list of things to visit. You can’t go into the ruins, since they are still being excavated, but you can go into the cat sanctuary and play with the cats…which I totally did. Loved it.

Four temples, still being uncovered I'm a cat, I'm a kitty cat.

And I didn’t realize this until later that day, but March 15 = Ides of March = Day Julius Caesar was assassinated. While already cool, here’s the thing: Caesar was assassinated AT Largo di Argentina. In other words, I was busy petting cats on the day, in the place, where Caesar was killed. I love Rome.

My next stop was the Jewish Ghetto, which while having a pretty grim history (forced segregation for hundreds of years), is now a pretty interesting part of town. I hang out here for a few hours, after picking up some traditional Jewish (ie I don’t know what they were called but they were delicious) sweets and chatting with an Orthodox Jewish artist for awhile. I walk through some ruins back to Piazza Venezia and head home.

Because ruins become shortcuts in Rome. Ancient theater, now with apartments on top.

Wednesday, March 16: To the Vatican! I had booked a ticket for an early entrance into the museums. I get there at 8:30, have a hilarious chat about how I couldn’t print out my receipt so I took a picture of it on my camera with the guards and head in. It was relatively empty, compared to the horror stories of mobs of people that I’ve heard of. But holy smokes (literally, holy) that place is HUGE! There is thousands upon thousands of pieces of artwork in there, ranging from ancient Roman and Greek to ancient Egyptian to medieval to Renaissance to …it’s insane! The one conclusion I really drew from the museums was: dang, the Catholic Church is LOADED.

MUMMIES! Hall of Heads.
Just a random gorgeous dome. That's how they roll in the Vatican. Raphael rooms! ‘sup Raphel (I saw him earlier though…he’s buried in the Pantheon).

You have to walk all the way to the end of the museums to get to the Sistine Chapel, a good 15-20 minute walk if you don’t even stop to look at anything. No pictures allowed in the chapel, so you won’t get to see what I saw, but then again, the Sistine Chapel is famous for a reason. It was unimaginably beautiful, and seeing some of the paintings that have truly shaped the Western view of what is the highest manifestation of art was fascinating, if not spiritually moving (more humanistic-moving than anything). I head back out, taking the awesome spiral staircase down. Next stop, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica!

Stunning.

The good weather never lasts long in Rome, so it was drizzly and a bit windy, but very humid, as I waited in line in St. Peter’s Square to get into the basilica.

That's the line to get into the Basilica. Intrepid solo traveler.

Inside though was beautiful. It’s HUGE! Admittedly, some of its magnificence is dampened by the incredibly large number of people in there…but hey, remember how I said it takes imagination to think of Roman in its former glory? Same with the Vatican. It takes significant concentration to imagine the Basilica without the crowds of tourists.

That's a big church. Imagine the Pope doing his thing from there.
DOME.

I head out, deciding against going to the top of the dome (listen, it was €19 to get in to the museums…I wasn’t spending another 10 to get to the top of the dome.) I thought of catching the bus back to the apartment (Kelly told me I was more Italian than her, because I caught random buses, walked the streets in different directions and in general got the hang out Rome faster that she has after being there for two months. Whoo!), but instead decided to walk home through Trastevere. I had lunch at a TINY little family run restaurant where no one spoke English, but they made sure I ate everything…I had rabbit! Delicious. And the house wine was pretty good too.

Thursday, March 17: Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And Happy 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy! I decided to stay in during the day today, because one, transportation was a bit wonky due to the national holiday, and two, I was very, very tired. However, that night Kelly, Aria her friend and I head out to an Irish pub! Where things happen. …And that’s the end of that story.

Il Vittoriano, all lit up to celebrate!
Taking cover from the rain.

Friday, March 18: Kelly doesn’t have school on Fridays, so we head out into the city for my last full day in Rome. We first head to Volpetti, a famous food store and get some lunch…I got a supli and pizza. SO GOOD.

Nom nom nom

We next walk to the Protestant Cemetery. Now, I love cemeteries. I love old stuff. Obviously, the two together makes me giddy with joy. Right next to the cemetery is this pyramid that some random senator a thousand years ago decided would be awesome for his tomb. First pyramid I get to visit and it isn’t even in Egypt. But the cemetery was fantastic. Keats and Shelley are buried here, so I made my little pilgrimage to their graves.

What? Did I mention I love cemeteries.
Keats is below this stone.

What’s really interesting is about a month ago I read on my Kindle the book The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman. It is about an ex-pat newspaper based in Rome, with each chapter being about a different member of the team. At the time, I had just evacuated Egypt and one of the chapters was about their Middle East correspondent based in Cairo, in Zamalek! It was great reading that chapter, because I knew exactly where the author was talking about and even said, “Oh my gosh! I ate there!” Anyway, after I came back from Rome I reread The Imperfectionists (speed read but still) and it was amazing because I could now place where everything in the book (when it was in Rome) took place. On top of that, it mentions the Protestant Cemetery and a specific tomb….which I just so happened to have randomly taken a picture of.

Perhaps my subconscious knew I had seen this tomb before in my mind’s eye.

After the cemetery we walked to Piazza Venezia, then along Via del Corso to the Spanish Steps. Which were completely underwhelming as far as I’m concerned. They were beautiful, yes, but I found other places much more fascinating. We walked to the top to the park Villa Borghese. We ate gelato, hung out, then walked to Piazzo de Popolo and caught the bus back to Venezia and home.

View from the top. Rome, you bewitch me.
With this joyful shot, we bid the photos arrivederci.

That night we went to the grocery store (because the following week was AUR’s spring break, so all of Kelly’s roommates had left town and we had the place to ourselves) and got supplies for a delicious dinner and breakfast. We drank a whole bottle of wine and chatted late into the night about life. The next morning, I got up, packed, and Kelly took me to the train station. I got to the airport, got on my plane, got back to Casa, got on the train, used my laptop (with tons of Moroccans looking over my shoulder…very awkward) and got back to Rabat and home around 11.

And that’s my spring break!
My final thoughts? Of the many cities in the world I’ve been to, I feel like I could live in Rome quite easily. It and I just made sense together, for whatever reason. So Roma, one day you and I will reunite.

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