We’ve checked into our flight tomorrow that leaves at 0945. Our bags are packed, and a ride to the airport has been arranged. We have seen what we’d planned for.
Rick Steves said in at least two of his travel videos that Rome could be brutal, but we found the city quite friendly, even gentle. Almost everyone we approached could speak a little English and tried to be helpful. We were warned about pickpockets, but there was no evidence of any thievery.
That’s not to say that there were no artful dodgers about. We were always carful with our belongings, and the public transportation was never crowded when we were aboard. As one of the entries in the flat’s visitor log indicated, people do get victimized. One fellow lost 500 euros and an expensive money clip to a pickpocket on the Metro.
Rome was nice to us as we had plenty of time to saunter around, and we planned only to visit a few important sites. We took guided tours and never stood in line. The following are some of the memories:
The tolling of the bells on the church across the street from our flat.
A beggar that cried, and kept crying as he tried to encourage me to give him more money. He was able to immediately stop the tears as soon as waiter made him moved on. Then he began crying again at a table further down the street.
The beauty of the Roman Spring as the leaves squirted out of the tree buds, the blossoms, lavender, yellow, pink suddenly appearing where there were only bare, brown branches the day before.
Incredible, detailed sculpture that has withstood the elements for hundreds of years.
Tall Egyptian obelisks that were hauled to Imperial Rome without modern equipment. How in the hell did they do that?
Pasta (all done a perfect el dente), wine, seafood, gelato. The colors of the Italian ice cream were enough to tempt even that strongest willed dieter. The flavors seemed endless: black cherry, banana, several kinds of chocolate, vanilla, orange, lemon, and an infinite number of combinations.
We had a gelato shop just half a block from our apartment, and every night we would go down and try a new flavor. In the end we both chose the ricotta and pistachio combination as our favorite.
The first place we visited was the Borghese Gallery. We arrived at the museum over an hour before the scheduled tour so we had plenty of time to have a snack and coffee in the cafeteria. It was fortunate for us as we had walked the entire distance from our flat. We had looked at a map, but we misjudged how far the hike would be. We were still feeling our jet lag and were beat upon our arrival. The coffee helped.
After two americanos I was alert, but I needed a bathroom before the tour began. The toilet was behind the cafeteria, but there was a sign in Italian and English that said that the facilities were only available to patrons who had a ticket to the museum. I had no ticket, but I had a reservation for the tour on my iPad.
I must have looked respectable (or old) because the woman who was guarding the toilet waved me in without asking for a ticket. The dumper was a water closet. That is, the stool was in a small, narrow room, not a stall like most American restrooms. It looked clean, but that was the end of the comfort.
I had to do a number two, and there was no seat on the stool. The toilet paper dispenser was ripped off the wall, but fortunately there was a roll hanging on a shard of plastic where the dispenser was supposed to be. But, no matter how many times I tried, the stool would not flush.
The tour of the Borghese Gallery was fantastic. Among the most impressive pieces of art, to me, were the 3-D effects of wall paintings of statues that appeared to be holding up the ceiling on the top floor. We couldn’t dawdle as we only had limited time in the gallery, and that was a shame as there is so much art to see: Bernini, Rafael, Caravaggio and so many others. Our docent was excellent, but we had to feel sorry for her. She spoke nonstop for over two hours, starting outside the museum. It was disappointing to hear the announcement at the end, telling visitors that they had to leave the building.
There is one painting by an artist in the same period as Bernini that will always be etched into my memory of a gathering of women to an archery exhibition facilitated by the goddess Diana. There are a couple of guys hiding in bushes while they spy on the women as the ladies are watching Dianna hit impossible targets with her arrows.
There are so many things to notice in the painting, but the one that was most stunning to me was a young woman, nude in a pond, ignoring the exhibition. Instead, she is looking at the observer with the most wonton appearance that I’d ever seen. Her eyes are almond shaped and her lips full. Under the surface of the small pond, her legs can be seen to be slightly apart.
Yes, I might be a lech, but the artists was a genius having that sort of ability to portray such an incredible look that is more inviting than any photo.
We also took a tour that included the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, the Forum and some other ruins. Again, we had a guide who was full of information and never stopped talking through the three hours she was with us.
There is nothing I can say about these ancient leftovers other than to mention that very few visitors remember that the glory of the Roman Empire that lasted over a thousand years was supported mainly by the work of slaves. The other thing that was much less important was that after the fall of the empire, it was forgotten that the Palatine Hill was part of the palaces of emperors. It was known for hundreds of years as “Cow Hill” and was used as a pasture.
It seems somehow fitting that Nero’s tomb, as well as other emperors, was covered with grass and used to feed cattle and sheep.
Of course, who could visit the Eternal City without checking out the Vatican museum, but the only way to do it is to book a tour. Otherwise one can stand in line for up to four hours just to get a ticket. And there are no bathrooms while one waits. [I would have to have a coffee can or other vessel if I had to wait that long.]
Once again, our docent kept up a stream of information for the entire time, even while we waited for our tickets to be validated. She didn’t waste much time with explanations as we headed toward the Sistine Chapel, and she promised we would return to spend more time looking at the walls and art later. As a result of her economy of time, we were some of the first visitors inside the Sistine Chapel that morning. We could even sit and observe the ceiling where Michelangelo did his incredible work.
This chapel is open without any benches or other furnishings. The only time it seems to be used is when the cardinals are gathered to select a new pope. During the election, the benches and desks are brought in as well as the stove where they burn the special paper that announces to the public if a pope has been chosen. Black smoke for “no” and white smoke for “yes.”
Probably the most familiar of Michelangelo’s Sistine paintings is the creation of Adam. The next panel shows the creation of the sun, moon, and God’s butt. Might be my favorite.
That’s not blasphemy, is it?