Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Senatus Populus Que Romanus...

Rome. Wow, that’s a name with some history. Most of the places I’ve been going seem to have a history that begins around 1939. Maybe 1914. Rome began around 750. B.C.! There’s another one of those paradigm shifts I keep talking about. They tend to happen just when I think I’ve got my head around the world, you know?

I ventured on down to Rome about 2 weeks before my group, for a great reason.

Mama flew into town.

Over our 4-day break, we were able to travel basically where we wanted, and I was lucky enough to have my mom meet me out here in Italy. I hopped a flight from Praha to Roma. Took Czech Airlines. You’ve gotta love state-supported airlines, they treat you right. Traveling on my own was pretty nice. I do it enough in the States to have a good routine and some travel sense. The only drawback was having to actually think for myself instead of being a travel-sheep.

My first real encounter with Italy was the most stereotypical encounter I’ve had in Europe. I needed to grab a taxi from the train station to the hotel. I waited in line a bit, and then WHAM! Two Roman cabbies start yelling, gesticulating, turning red, and altogether being Italian. Here’s an excellent example of what I saw:

It was only after I got to the hotel that I could laugh.

It was so incredibly nice to see my mom. Not only was it a new yet familiar face (the first in 2 months), but it was my mama! I got to spend four relaxing days just seeing sites, walking at our own natural pace, and eating great food. Oh! And sleeping… I actually got to sleep a decent amount. That was a nice change of pace.

Rome was a pretty fascinating place, because really, it’s three cities.

First, it’s the modern-day capitol of Italy. I’ve spent a year hearing how far behind the Italian government is, and how muddled the bureaucracy is. Not to mention hearing about Berlusconi. American politics ain’t seen a guy like him. Couple that with the European stereotypes of Italians as lazy, loud, and rude, and I didn’t exactly have the best expectations for the Romans. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every single person we encountered was extremely nice. Waiters were perfectly willing to bend-over-backwards for their diners; tour guides were patient with stupid questions. I was flabbergasted. In a good way.

The second city is the medieval/renaissance city. This place is absolutely riddled with art. GOOD art. The Trevi Fountain is astounding. Strike that, all of the Bernini’s are astounding, especially Pluto and Persephone Wow… There are remnants of artistic masters on nearly every road.

Finally, Rome is the capitol of the Western world. You know that B.C. date that I threw out there? There’s a whole section of town dedicated to the remains of the Roman Empire. Now that’s history. I stood where Augustus ruled the world. Where Peter and Paul looked death in the eye. Where Nero burned Christians for light, and Constantine gave Christianity the last laugh. It’s kind of overwhelming to stand in those spots. It certainly makes one feel miniscule.


And throw another country into that whole 3-city thing. The Vatican is impressive. I mean, really impressive. The whole city just exudes power. I was dumbstruck. A lot. The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Museums (including the School of Athens) are all they’re cracked up to be. The carry the power they deserve. However, it’s very easy to see how that church got caught up in its own glory and forgot its role as a conduit for glory. It is trying, though. Vatican II has definitely made its mark.

Rome is quite the city. I’m real excited to go back with the group soon. It’s going to be like reading a good book for a second time, you notice totally different things.

Leaving Rome was no fun. Saying by to Mama was a rather large bummer, I tried to get her to come to Florence with me, but she had to get back to the States to see Britty. What a lame reason… J I then hopped a 1½ hour train ride to Florence. I now know why people take the train.

However, first impressions of Florence were rough. It was raining pretty hard. I bought a dysfunctional map. Got lost. Walked a half hour in said rain. Got to the residence about 5 hours before I could check-in to a room. Accidentally got a café to open their kitchen for me. Went out back into the rain. Sat in the outside courtyard of the residence for about an hour. Got mistaken for a homeless person due to using my bag as a pillow and my fingerless gloves. Yikes.

Well… it can only get better from here, eh? I mean lunch was real good.

How does that song go again? “Always look on the bright side of life… do do, do do, do do, do do, do do”

That was the Roman Empire after all, right?

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