18. Rome, Italy
(Actual trip date: September 23, 2010)
To me, Rome was all about running around trying to see all the major sights before the sun went down. My second day of Rome was better than the confusing first day of the Vatican, but a tad bit exhausting on the foot. It helps greatly to leave heavy backpacks in the hostel room and just linger around town with a mere purse.
Slipping into pretty dresses that morning, we set out with a full schedule in our heads.
Getting off the metro, the first sight we hit was the Colosseum. Staring from the bottom, I felt suddenly small encased in a piece of ancient history. People used to cheer from the stands, drinking in the glory and the blood of gladiators fighting their lives out. The grounds were different. Roman citizens walked around in open-toed sandals and now, tourists invaded the area, little to giant cameras welded in each hand instead of shields, baskets, or swords. Moving into the actual arena, my cousin walked up to me and sniggered. He then made a remark that had been lingering around in my head for quite a while.
It was smaller than I expected. Granted, it wasn’t the same size shock as I had looking at the Leaning Tower of Pisa which was incredibly smaller than I thought, but the Colosseum was a tad bit tinier than I expected. Nonetheless, it was still grand. The details, the small aisles where visitors would lean over and shout and cry out, and the actual arena where men would run over, leaving splattered blood across floors.
It’s always weird seeing all these tourist attractions knowing what people have done before in this place. It’s odd to me how these structures are still standing. It makes me wonder hundreds of years in the future, what will those people be seeing? All we build nowadays are buildings in rectangular or square format with the intended goal of beating the height record. Rather bland and technical to me.
But all in all, the Colosseum and all its views the openings in the stadium opened to give a grand view of the Forum. Quite worth it.
The ticket we bought for the Colosseum included the grounds of the Forum but after a lunch of pesto gnocchi and accidentally wandering in the wrong direction before realizing the entrance was all the way back near the Colosseum, three-fourths of us gave up on walking through the Forum. Feet aching, I was perfectly content staring out at the view of the ancient ruins from the many high slopes of Rome.
On a side note, one of the fun parts of traveling when broken apart from the rest of the fifty kids on the study abroad is randomly running into them in a different country. We were all traveling in Italy at the time of our mid-term break split up into several groups. We were all seeing the same sights and going to be in the same cities around the same time. Besides Cinque Terre later, Rome was also the city where we all seemed to run into each other. Seeing familiar faces below an unfamiliar sight is always surprising and pleasant.
My favorite part of Rome?
Most definitely the Trevi Fountain. It’s, however, definitely not in a place where I thought it would be. I thought it would be in a location most obvious to any visitor in Rome, but instead I had to follow many obscure and distant road signs down across major streets and then random alleyways before the pathways gave clearing to the gorgeous fountain. It was worth the confusing walk.
And no, seeing the Trevi Fountain itself is better than seeing it in any Hollywood movie like When in Rome. Carved in alabaster, white figures twirl all around the fountain, imposing on the clear dark cerulean water while reigning and presiding over the lucky coins and the wistful visitors wishing for lost dreams. Bathed in warm Italian sunlight, the vast fountain waters permeate an appreciable coolness into the air, making it alright to sit on its smooth edges. Crowded with street vendors and shops proudly displaying signs yelling gelato, pizza, and cannolis, it is a wonderful place to people watch.
The theme of the Trevi Fountain is ‘taming of the waters’ for the fountain mixes water and rocks. And while we all made wishes while throwing the coins over our shoulders into the water, the tradition really is if you were to throw a coin into the fountain, it would ensure that you would come back to visit Rome again. Other traditions include that two coins will lead to a new romance while throwing in three coins could result in a marriage or divorce. Hm. That’s quite a risky toss. At least 3000 euros are thrown into the fountain each year and the money goes into helping the poor. So despite your superstitions, toss in the coins. It’s for a great cause.
It’s so sad to me to see people try and steal the coins. But what else do I expect?
After tossing in our hopeful wishes in the symbols of one or two euro coins (useless really for spending), my friends, my cousin, and I sat on the fountain’s edges for hours, watching different people weave their way through. There was a man with a white beard braided into a long thick braid and a couple making out for forty minutes sitting in front of us. The amusing part was when an Iranian lady came up to us and asked for a picture with the ‘nice American girls’.
It was also a plus when we discovered a most delicious pizza shop nearby on our way out.
By now, we were reaching the end of the day, but for some reason all of us were suddenly regaining energy as we wandered the streets of Italy. Coming upon another clearing, we had finally reached the Pantheon. As one of the best preserved Roman buildings, the Pantheon was started by Marcus Agrippa. The purpose of the building was for it to be a temple to all Roman gods. Standing and walking through briefly, I was once again encased in a piece of history before being whirled back to the present by our incessant group photos and genuine laughter.
The last place we stopped by was the Spanish Steps, the longest and widest steps in Europe that includes 138 steps. We amusingly observed two spectacles there as we watched the steps sparkle underneath the darkening Italian sky. First we saw a newly wedded couple walking across with the bride in a wheelchair. We smiled and giggled. Definitely true love. She rocked the dress even in the contraption. The next amusing sight was watching a lady fill up several water bottles with the rather unsanitary fountain water and then using something to cover up the short poles when sitting down. Definitely an idiosyncratic and ironic action.
Makes me now wonder about all the water bottles street vendors sell. Do they come from random fountains too?
Well. Good thing I only buy water bottles in the grocery stores.