When in Rome…(and Nasty Naples)

When in Rome…

Sorry for the delay in updates! When we got into Civitavecchia and I made sure I was the first off the ship in order to find Lacey as soon as possible. I took the train by myself into Termini Station, basically the Grand Central of Rome, and waited anxiously for her to arrive. I have to admit I was super nervous that we wouldn’t be able to find each other since she didn’t have a phone or a computer on her to communicate to me with. When I saw her get off the train we nearly fell over by the hug impact. Every person in the station turned to look at our screaming embrace. From there we walked in a huge circle because we had no idea where we were and what to do. Thank God for Blackberries and free BBM, we contacted some friends and met up with them to find a place to stay. We took the metro to Cavour, where after walking in and out of a hand full of hostels and hotels, found one that would accommodate such a large group of rowdy young Americans. We settled in Hotel Valle, an easy 5 minute walk from the Coliseum. Rome was nothing like Barcelona. The ship was over an hour away by train so most of the students didn’t return to the ship at all whereas in Barcelona we had a 24 hour shuttle and everything was within walking distance. In Rome it was rare to bump into a friend from the ship on the streets because it is SO big…in Barcelona I felt like we raided the streets, sights, bars, and clubs.

I saw some magnificent buildings, architecture, and art work in Rome. It certainly was impressive but I have to say I missed Barcelona the whole time. The Colosseum was enormous, I kept trying to picture the events that went down there and all the people that were killed there. They have people dressed up like gladiators outside the Colosseum which seemed pretty ridiculous because I guarantee the real gladiators didn’t look a bit like them. We roamed around Rome (clever, right!?) for a long time then sat for dinner.

Being a vegetarian in Rome, or Italy in general, is terrible. I was not impressed with the food like I thought I would be. By the last day I just settled on gelato because the pizza was just as good…maybe not even as good as some of the places in my home town. The pasta was mediocre. The wine….was cheaper then water. Two euros for a bottle of wine. That was probably the best deal around though I don’t really like the taste of wine so much.

The first night in Rome our friends had a whole roof top terrace apartment across the street from our hotel. Nearly twenty of our friends all hanging out on a roof top drinking quality wine in plastic cups (there was no glasses and we can’t bring them on the ship so we didn’t bother to buy any), cutting brie with a credit card (couldn’t find a knife), demolishing crackers and pistachios until the sun set. Lacey fit right into our group of friends right away. In fact, that first night was filled with some of the deepest conversations I have ever had with a group of friends. I feel like each one of my friends here holds a story and a perspective that they are dying to share. We all our so open to listening to each other too so it’s not only been a learning experience through my classes and sight seeing but my friends. I have learned so much through them. People were so passionate about what we were walking about that first night that tears were in peoples eyes. It was amazing. After deep conversations and wine we took the metro to Spagne and sat on the Spanish Steps. I asked to play this guys guitar and after that all night on the steps I just played different guitars. I even learned some Flamenco technique that I had been trying to learn when I was in Spain! We met a huge group of New Jersey college kids studying in Rome and hung out with them for awhile before heading back to the hotel.

The next day was a big day of sight seeing. We woke up and hopped on the on-off bus that takes you to all the big places for 20euro all day long. We got off at Vatican City and decided to do the tour. We got hooked up with an awesome American tour guide, Mike from Ohio, who got us to the front of the LONG line around the Vatican. Going through the museum then into the Sistine Chapel was incredible. I can’t believe all the background of it… there is so much history. Michelangelo didn’t even want to paint the chapel! He wasn’t even a painter! Some other sculptor who hated him signed him up to do it and he couldn’t say no or he would be banned from the city. The idea was that Michelangelo would look like an idiot and this other guy would be able to get ahead of him. Well, it worked out quite the opposite. Michaelangelo figured out the whole technique of painting in only a few months and created the most amazing, well preserved, piece of artwork in the world. He even went blind from painting this. Four years of his life he was a slave to the ceiling. Then we went into the Vatican and saw another really impressive church…it was so beautiful. Every little inch of these places I’ve been to are covered in detail. Nothing is flat. It’s overwhelming at times. The thought that comes up most, especially in Rome, has been how did they build this back then? How could they sculpt this without any technology? How did they create a dome that still is standing today? Hundreds of years later and all the buildings are still standing and being visited and we can’t even plug the oil spill? Something just isn’t right. They even stitched tapestries in the Vatican where Jesus’ eyes follow you as you walk by it…optical illusions in fabric!?

That night we went to a club recommended to us by tour guide Mike on the river called La Masion. He told us to mention the name Kikko to the bouncer and we all were let in free of charge, whoever Kikko is – thank you! We danced like we were in Barcelona again! I finally got to really show Lacey what I was talking about when I told her we won’t go out till 2am and we’ll dance harder then you have ever danced before. All of us had such an awesome time. We met some really nice guys from Australia and took some awesome pictures of this floating club on the river. It’s strange that many people here do not speak English, yet all they listen to is mostly English music…?

The next day we woke up a little later and caught a train outside of Rome to a beautiful little town. We visited the Catacomba Di San Sebastiano. It was so cool going down into these catacombs where 80,000 people were estimated to be buried. The bones were taken in the 1970’s and part of the catacombs are now open to the public. Some of the graves were actually lavishly built underneath the ground…they looked like miniature houses with window sills, marble interior, paintings, carvings, mosaic patterns on the floor. It was like we weren’t even under the earth. The rich families would have these kinds of tombs built while poorer people were buried all around in holes in the walls. Majority of the holes that once were graves were actually very small. Turns out that infant deaths were the most common and piles of babies were buried down there. Pretty creepy. There is graffiti all over the walls from ceremonies held down in the catacombs after a death. You see drawings of people and the names Peter and Paul written (in Latin) everywhere. The guide told us they always wrote Peter and Paul because they wanted the saints to bless their loved one after death. It was so cool seeing this, such history right in front of me…close enough to touch. It’s the ultimate learning experience, being able to go to the places from my history textbooks and touch the artifacts with my own hands. This has been unbelievable so far.

Our last day we visited the Pantheon which was so cool. On Raphael’s grave it read:

“Lle hic est Raphael timuit quo sospitecinci rerum magna parens et moriente mori.”

“Here lies Raphael, by whom nautre feared to be outdone while he lives, and when he died, feared that she herself would die.”

I thought that was such an awesome thing to have on our grave. Plus being buried in the Pantheon is freaking sweet. It seems like everything really awesome the Catholic Church has ended up stealing from everyone else. Someone told us how there used to be gold statues inside the Pantheon but the Vatican took them all and melted them down to make their stuff look better. We actually heard this often. Our tour guide told us how most of the popes hated how the status inside showed men’s penises so they insisted that they be taken off… so many of them are chipped away or covered. But, it’s illegal to throw away ancient artwork so somewhere in the Vatican lies a museum of penises which is funny to think about. Anyways, back to the Pantheon, the large dome ceiling was so awesome, I really can’t believe that they made that so long ago without any of the technology we have today. The center of it is a completely open circle. The sunlight shines through and moves throughout it as the day goes on. Rain falls through and drains right into the middle. It is perfectly engineered for preservation. The romans knew how to build. The streets are layered 15ft below the ground so it’s very rare they ever need to be replaced. Why don’t we do things like this and save some money!? It’s so crazy! After the Pantheon we went to one of the coolest spots in Rome, the Crypt of the Capuchin friars. So get this, after the monks in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini die they take their bones and decorate the interior of the crypt with them. Five small sections all have different themes of bone decor – Crypt of the Skulls, Crypt of the Pelvises, Crypt of the Leg Bones and Theigh Bones, Crypt of the Three Skeletons, and Crypt of the Resurrection. Something this cool would be completely illegal in the states for sure. It was extremely eerie. Being that close to so many skulls and other bones was really wild. There is even full monks in the brown capuce (hooded outfit) laying and standing in these crypts. At the end of the crypts a plaque read this:

“WHAT YOU ARE NOW WE USED TO BE; WHAT WE ARE NOW YOU WILL BE.”

Really intense place, I recommend going there to anyone who visits Rome. If you want to know more they have a website www.cappucciniviaveneto.it

so check that out. Oh and a little interesting side note, we get the word cappuccino from these Cappucini friars!

The last night we spent at the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain at night is ten times more beautiful then during the day. It actually kind of smells during the day and is extremely crowded. You’re supposed to throw a coin in, throwing one means you’ll come back to Rome, throwing two means you will fall in love in Rome. Of course everyone throws in two. They collect over 3,000 euro a day (from what I’ve heard) in that fountain. They go and collect it all often and donate it to the Red Cross which I thought was really cool. When something really awesome happens in Italy (like when they won the world cup in 2006) you are allowed to jump into the fountain, any other day you will be arrested and fined. At night, the proud statues stand strong, shooting water from all directions. The lighting is perfect. People gather and share wine while sitting on the steps. We ended up being there until nearly 5am. We met two Americans, James and Chase, who were just finishing a Eurotrip. We all had such a blast. Even the vendors on the street were coming up to us wanting to dance and have a good time. It was the best way to end a great experience in Rome with my two best roommates ever – Lacey and Sam. When we got back to the hotel we sat on the bed and ate more brie until we fell asleep. It was a perfect ending.

Saying goodbye to Lacey was so hard. Everyone felt like she was on the ship with us and was actually really upset to leave her too. I hope she get’s another urge to jump on a plane and comes to Egypt (do it, Lace!!). We also realized that we had each others shoes on after we said goodbye. So now she has my old beat up Minnetonka sandals on and I have her brand new ones. If you are reading this Lace, I did not intend for this to happen, I’m actually really upset because I love mine and they are my most comfortable sandals. I’ll take care of yours, promise. Maybe you should come get yours sometimes before Morocco!!

Now we are in Naples, Italy…and it is by far the filthiest city I have ever seen. It’s like living on top of the Staten Island dump. It smells, the water has trash floating in it everywhere, the fish in the water are dead and also floating on the top, and the streets are gross. I have no idea why we stopped here yet. I did get to go to Pompei though and I’ve always wanted to see what that was like. It wasn’t what I expected though. There are not bodies everywhere frozen in time and bread still baking in the oven. There are a few bodies behind bars in a glass box but most of it is just ruins of a town. Sam and I ran all over the town climbing old walls and pillars and taking pictures. It was like being lost in a labyrinth. We made friends with a few of the dogs that live in Pompei (there are prolly hundreds of dogs there just hanging out and you are encourages to take one home as a “living, breathing, story from Pompei”).

Tomorrow we are taking a ferry out of here because it is so terrible and going to a little island of Capri which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful islands. There are caves, cliffs, beautiful beaches, and rich Americans there. It’s a romantic get away island for Americans so we probably will hop to another island close by and try to find a hostel to stay at if possible. The last day in Nasty Naples I’m hoping to hike Mt. Vesuvius (the volcano that messed with Pompei) in the morning. No one wanted to go with me today so I have some convincing to do so I don’t have to go alone up to the top of this giant volcano – which is one of the only active volcanos in Europe right now and due for a massive explosion soon. Pretty interesting.

I think I got all that out….that’s Italy so far! Sorry it’s been awhile and this is terribly long. I sent out postcards today to some of the people I know are reading so be looking in your mailboxes! For those who don’t get one, you will! Send me your address if you don’t think I have it! Cmsolana

Ciao!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. michelle moreno
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 02:17:43

    hey casey. i just wanted to tell u how lucky u r goin around the world like u r. hopefully wen im ur age i can do tht but 4 now its just a dream. rite now im in virginia with 100 degree weather. not the best kind of weather but the place is really nice. well have fun n hopefully im one of the people gettin ur postcards. cant wait to c ur pictures when u finally get home. well i’ll b seein u wenever u ge`t home. bi now.
    michael

    Reply

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