All roads lead to Rome, they say, and that’s where the road (or train tracks at least) was leading me at the bright and glorious hour of 6.45 a.m. as I trudged across Florence to hop my Eurostar to Roma Termini. I entered Rome in a sleepy haze to the observation that Roman graffiti was of a higher standard than that in Florence, and we transferred ourselves on to a bus that whisked us over to Vatican City.
The Vatican Museums were simply put, overwhelming. Walking into the School of Athens was overwhelming. Seeing Laocoon and his sons was overwhelming. The Sistine Chapel was more overwhelming than overwhelming. St. Peter’s was massive, and I was happy to see Michelangelo’s Pieta although it was stowed away behind much bulletproof glass after an unhappy incident (what kind of psycho decides to attack a masterpiece anyway?). The food around the basilica/St. Pete’s square, not as impressive. Mildly rancid salami = ew.
The birds of Rome are crazy! They flock and wheel in insane formations, like a school of fish whirling like black dots in the sky at dusk. We later conclude that we’d probably spent as much time staring at the birds as we had spent staring at Raphael…. Wandering Rome by night is great. We hit up the Trevy Fountain, the Spanish Steps (only to be thwarted by scaffolding) and gaze up at the massive columns of the Pantheon lit by orange lights, and have a lovely dinner in a little restaurant with a very friendly owner who starts babbling in Italian about how we should all vote for Obama.
In the morning, I fuel up on my cappuccino and head out to experience ancient Rome. We mosey over to the Colosseum and imagine ourselves to be gladiators amid the decadence of Rome. Apparently an entire species of elephant was wiped out in the Colosseum for the masses’ entertainment, and they found a mass elephant grave not too long ago (while building the subway?) that still had rotting corpses from thousands of years ago because the sheer number of piled-up bodies created a preservative vacuum.
Wandering through the Forum and Capitoline Hill on a bright sunny day is absolutely gorgeous, and we sit and bask on the rock where Julius Caesar was cremated before we rock on over to the Pantheon, where apparently there are squares cut out of the dome when Brunelleschi came to study how it was built. It was said that the hole in the Pantheon was once plugged by the giant pine cone that now sits in the Vatican, which was popped out by the swirling energies of the ancient gods when Christ was crucified, but the pine cone must have shrunk or the hole enlarged itself massively for that to be anywhere near true.
We visit the Villa Borghese in the afternoon after getting mildly lost in the gardens, and get to see the amazing works by Bernini, and they are amazing indeed. Apollo and Daphne, Pluto and Persephone, and all that good stuff. Our field trip ends at that point, and the four of us who are staying on together take off on an (almost) wild goose chase for the Villa Guilia, the museum of Etruscan art which we do find in the end, thankfully.
My friends and I hop over to the Yellow Hostel that evening where Joe and I toss back a Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick to the Head and take it like champs. Absinthe + Jaeger + Vodka? + Tabasco on an empty stomach does make for a pretty strong concoction, and I am happily buzzed for the next while. We bus over to Trastevere and attempt to scrounge up some good pizza.
We make it back and crawl into our bunk beds, and two minutes later a drunken couple stumbles in. They start making kissy make-out noises in the middle of the room, and then the guy pulls off the girl’s shirt. They snog for a little bit more, and then the dude says something like, “give me a minute” - and leaves the room…but he never comes back! Poor lass stands bare-boobed, head buried in arms on her upper bunk and stays like that for ten painful minutes before climbing angrily into bed and seeking refuge under the covers.
Seriously, what kind of guy takes a girl’s shirt off and then peaces out like that? Crazy fella.