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The Italian Saga Continues in Rome July 26, 2012

Posted by vcollier in Travel Log.

I’ll pick up the Italy narrative as we arrived in Rome. There were no train hiccups, but the situation at the hotel was a mess. After walking by the hotel a few times (there was no sign), a woman called out, “Simpson?” We stopped and she proceeded to explain that she was  the owner of our hotel and had been trying to contact us for about two days (when we were in Venice without Internet access, of course) to tell us that she didn’t have a room for us since the previous guests had broken the toilet. To make the day a bit stranger, a very tall Italian man came up beside her, made the Vulcan handsign that Spock does on Star Trek and said, “Live long and prosperity!” Apparently the Italian translation is a bit different. This was her husband, Luca, who was to put the four of us into his very small car, drive us across the city to a new hotel where a friend had agreed to host us. The couple had provided enough information about our reservation for us to trust them, so we sandwiched ourselves and our bags into the car and drove off.

The new hotel was very nice, but the owner didn’t speak any English and Luca spoke only broken English, but we got the gist of the introduction. It was only twenty minutes or so of charades to find out when check-out was, what key opened which of the four doors to get into the room, and most importantly, how to turn on the AC. We then booked it to the nearest bus stop.

As nice as the new hotel and its location was, the switch had put us behind schedule for our night visit to the Vatican City museums. We hoped that a quick bus ride would set our schedule straight, but lo and behold, Rome was having a bus strike that began at 8pm. I’ll let you guess when we arrived at the bus stop. After asking some less than happy bus drivers where the metro was and finding a newspaper stand to buy tickets, we took the metro to the Vatican City and arrived just a few minutes late. Luckily, the ticket collectors didn’t have a problem with us being late and waved us in.

The museums were amazing. We walked through room after room of ornate paintings, tapestries, and other items that must have cost billions of dollars to accumulate. My favorite sight, however, was the Sistine Chapel. The room was quite full with tourists, but not to the sardine-packed level it must have been during the day. I could have spent hours looking at all the paintings because everywhere you looked, there was some new detail to catch your eye. Saint Peter’s Basilica was also very pretty by night, but seeing as we left the Vatican around 11pm and we had a long ways back to the hotel, we left a proper visit to the Basilica for another day. The ‘long ways’ back to the hotel meant over an hour of walking through the streets of Rome, taking pictures in a square we stumbled upon, getting lost, doubling back, and finally arriving at the hotel after 1am. I was exhausted and collapsed into bed.

That late night was followed by an early morning. Owen, Katherine’s boyfriend, joined us the next day at 8am. Fortunately or not, depending on your perspective, Owen had train troubles on his way to Rome and he hadn’t gotten much sleep either. Thus, he called for a nap, to which I heartily agreed. After a quite refreshing nap, we visited the Colosseum, with a gelato stop on the way. The Colosseum was large, hot, and breathtaking. It was amazing to think that I was walking where thousands of Ancient Romans watched spectacles and games. It was also sobering to think of how many people died to the cheering of the crowds.

With the sun beating down and our throats parched, we went in search of water and some food. We ended up at a restaurant where we scarfed down some of the best pasta of our lives. My apologies to my mom, but the lasagna was even better than hers. It was about halfway through the meal that a huge gay pride parade showed up. For a solid 20+ minutes, trucks filled with people, music, and banners paraded down the street while people in all sorts of clothing walked along. It was very bizarre, but also pretty cool.

Afterwards, we continued our way to the Trevi Fountain after a stop at the ruins of a forum (not the Roman forum, that was for tomorrow) and some interesting and official looking building.

Finally, we reached the Trevi Fountain. It was packed, but we still got some good pictures and made our wishes. We followed it up by some of the best gelato of the trip at Valentino’s. Seriously, if you ever go to Rome, stop by this place. It’s down the street that’s at the bottom right if you’re facing the Trevi Fountain. We marked it on the map so we could make another stop if we were in the area. We all were pretty tired from a full day of touring, so we called it an early night and went to sleep.

We woke up early the next day to see Owen off at the train station then we visited the Roman Forum. It was very grand and dusty, but I enjoyed walking around the ruins. However, the heat had taken a toll on all of us, so we headed back for a three hour nap to avoid the hottest part of the day. When we woke up, we headed to the Castle San Angelo after a quick dinner stop, then returned to see the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon by night.

Along the way to the Trevi Fountain, we found an amazing street artist. This man created landscapes, usually with the Colosseum, with the Moon and other planets in the sky. He did the entire piece with spray paint and a few stencils but he was able to create ripples and starbursts as cleanly as if he had painted it with a brush. Josh and Ryan picked up a piece of his work and looking back, I wish I had bought one as well. Continuing on our way, we stumbled upon a stone plaza with two large fountains and another obelisk. We also discovered that our favorite spray paint artist wasn’t as unique as we thought, but we all agreed his style was still the best.

We arrived at the Trevi Fountain just as the sky was getting nice and dark so we could see the fountain beautifully illuminated. We got some more good pictures and returned to Valentino’s gelato store. With gelato in hand, we headed to the Spanish Steps but got distracted by a huge ruckus coming from a nearby square. We walked towards it and ended up watching the England-Italy Eurocup match on a huge TV in the square.

It was crazy. The Italians were so enthusiastic about every point, good or bad, but for the sake of our English-speaking selves, everyone but Ryan hoped the Italians would win. He completely supported England, and I think he was one of maybe 5 people out of the hundreds present.

In the end, Italy won on penalty kicks and the whole city went crazy. Taxis and cars were honking like mad through the streets. We beat a speedy retreat in order to avoid getting caught up in the celebrations, and stopped by the Spanish Steps to get some pictures. Finally, we felt that we had seen a fair chunk of Rome and were content to return to the hotel to sleep and catch an 8am train the next morning.

We expected to arrive in Metz around 6pm, but of course the trains screwed us over again. There was a rockslide in Switzerland so we missed the train from Zürich to Metz. This would have been fine but the train from Strasbourg to Metz stopped two stops away from Metz around 8pm when we were told that we had to take a bus from Sarrebourg to Metz. Almost four hours later, we finally arrived in Metz near midnight. It was a long journey, but Italy was definitely an adventure!



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