Roman Holiday (Part One)

So I’ve been back in London for a few days now, and it’s taken me at least that long just to wrap my head around the past week-and-a-bit (and to get over the cold I picked up on Thursday; “thanks,” woman sitting behind me on the plane back from Venice). But now, spring break is winding down – classes start up again tomorrow, and as long as I can be productive in studio today, I’m actually pretty ready to get back to work. It’s been a good break.

Speaking of which: Italy. Oh man, you guys. It was so awesome. If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a huge classics nerd (taking Latin for four years will do that to a person) – Roman history is probably my favorite, and certainly the era about which I know the most, so you can imagine how much fun I had, especially in Rome. We were champions, packing our days tighter than I would have thought possible, but that means that the resultant retelling is going to take a while. And involve reeeally long entries. I think we’ll do this in installments, again, because it’s not November yet and I’m sure you have better things to do than read my novel-length ramblings. Heeere we go.

[Also: pictures are coming soon. “But you said that last ti…” I KNOW JEEZ BE PATIENT. They’ll be here. Someday. Promise.]

Thursday, 6 Mar: Rome, Rome on the Range

Up at 2:30; out the door by 3:30; train from Victoria station at 4:30; checked in and through security at Gatwick by about 5:30. Our flight’s at 7:05, and we wait around blearily in the departure lounge. I buy a cheese sandwich for breakfast. Flatmate Megan falls halfway asleep. Finally, boarding is called and we troop onto the plane.

The flight to Rome itself is totally fine, especially since I’m used to flights much longer than two hours. EasyJet is really an interesting business model – open seating (no seat assignments whatsoever), no first-class, minimal in-flight amenities. It’s cheap, which is the whole point, especially compared to the ridiculous prices we’ve gotten used to in the states. Since the point of flying is to, you know, go somewhere, not to sit in luxury for two hours, I’m pretty okay with the way EasyJet runs things. American airlines, take a hint.

So we get into Rome. We make jokes about not speaking Italian. We make up songs replacing the word “home” with “Rome,” because we are just that clever. We yawn a lot. It’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy today, but by the time we’re through the baggage claim and outside waiting for the bus (to take us to the airport train station to take us to the main train terminal in Rome, which is about three blocks from our hostel, which is awesome), it’s sunny and – could it be? – warm. “I love spring break!” we all declare at various points. It doesn’t quite hit me where we are, though, until we’re on the train into Rome proper and I look out the window and see…oh, hello, Roman aqueduct. What’s up? You’re very…old. And…Roman.

Rome is so cool, you guys.

We get into the city, navigate our way nervously through Termini, get out to the street, complain that it’s rainy again, get slightly lost on our way to the hostel, find the hostel, hang around nervously until someone actually shows up to open the office and check us in, blah blah traveling blah. Despite the temptation of the charmingly rickety beds in the room (also: private rooms with en suite bathrooms are the way to fly when it comes to hostelling, which I totally didn’t even know was a word until MS Word autocorrected it to have two ls – awesome!), we make a heroic effort to head out and explore. Also, we’re starving. We find some anonymous restaurant and, after negotiating our way through the first of many language-barrier interactions, have some pasta (Flatmate Eric has a pizza). Food always helps, of course, as does the gelato we purchase on our way to the Colosseum.

Which. Um. Actually exists. For some reason I find this slightly incredible. It’s one thing to study Roman history and culture and architecture (as I have for the vast majority of my academic life, in one form or another) and to know that yeah, okay, the Flavian Amphitheater was built in year such-and-such, so-and-so happened here, et cetera, in a purely academic sense; it’s another thing entirely to actually SEE IT. Being the classics nerd I am, seeing the Colosseum is my first of many hyperventilating fits, because I’m just that excited. (Also good to know: buy the twenty-Euro ticket that includes the tour of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, even though the people selling it seem sketchy and take your money before you even see the tour guide. It’s worth it if your schedule will allow it. Thanks for that tip, Rose!) So, we tour the Colosseum, which is every bit as impressive as you’d think it’d be. Even with little raincoat-clad groups of tourists shuffling around, speaking German and Chinese and English and taking lots of pictures, the building is still such a powerful monument to the wealth and authority of the Roman Empire. And it’s just big. You respond to the sheer scale of the place on a very visceral level, and with the added intellectual layers of meaning, it’s…quite a trip.

Did I mention that Rome is SO COOL?

After the Colosseum (the weather is still kind of wet, and I still kind of don’t care), we head back towards the hostel with the intent of finding some dinner and calling it a day, because we’ve been up since two thirty in the morning. We make a quick “why not?” detour into a nearby church, San Pietro in Vincoli, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses (incredible, of course), and spurs a debate concerning the date of the interior (which is oddly fragmented into sections that seem to be chronologically quite disparate). As we leave the basilica, it’s getting dark, it’s still kind of wet, we’re tired and really hungry and have a lot of trouble finding a place to eat; Rome is odd like that, in the sense that it’s much harder to stumble upon the things you’re actually looking for than things that are no doubt fascinating but most certainly do not serve food.

Eventually, though, we find a pizza place (“self-serve” is this interesting subcategory of restaurant in Italy where, despite the name, you don’t actually serve yourself; you point out which sort of pizza, pasta, whatever, you want and indicate the total amount you’d like and it’s priced by weight, which means it’s actually incredibly reasonable), stuff ourselves thoroughly, and head back to our room. After a brief strategy meeting for the following day, and my hilarious attempt to shower in the shower that has an extremely shallow floor pan and a ludicrously inadequate curtain, we at last can indulge in unconsciousness. At, like, nine o’clock. We’re tired, yo.

2 Responses to “Roman Holiday (Part One)”

  1. 1 Hannah March 16, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Mmm… gelato.

    I find your reaction to the Forum Romanum interesting, because it’s sort of the opposite of my experience. For a long time it’s been like, “Oh, yeah, the Temple of Venus and Rome is across from the Colosseum, and the Senate is at the foot of the Capitoline, and the Temple of Vespasian is the one with the trio of columns, and the Palatine is the one all covered in foliage.” I knew it existed, and I had sensory details connected with it, but it didn’t entirely… resonate with me, I guess. Only recently – Friday, in fact, when we read the Martial epigram I told you about – did it hit me that the Forum used to be something other than an archaelogically interesting tourist spot. People used to actually work there, and travel through there on their way home, and shop and worship and flirt and broker deals there. Rome was a living, functioning city; Martial was a living, breathing person who got up in the morning with bad breath and bed head, who got dressed in tunic and toga not because it made him look like an Ancient Roman, but because that’s what he wore every other day; and he didn’t think the details of his life were interesting because he was living in Flavian Rome, but because it was HIS life, and it was important for that reason alone.

    And now I’m rambling and probably making very little sense.

    Also, I love that you wrote out “et cetera”.

  2. 2 Colin March 24, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    You’re making a lot of sense, actually, because those are the sort of thoughts that kept surfacing in some corner of my mind during my entire time in Rome (although, of course, you’ve articulated them far more elegantly than I would’ve). For me, it makes the intellectual, historical nature of the place, fascinating in its own right, so much more poignant, and so much more significant to me on a personal level. Which I think is entirely wonderful.

    Hee. I always hesitate to write out “et cetera,” because I think it makes me look a bit pompous, but we’re talking Roman history here. I think it’s appropriate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: