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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rome/Roma (part 4 of 4)…

During the 2001 trip we stayed at Hotel Trastevere, so once again, if you need a place to, this is one I can recommend as being very cozy and cute and in a nice quiet part of the city.

Before I get into a discussion of the city itself, I need to get one thing out of the way. Rome has what is perhaps my favoritest food ever. It’s called suppli. It’s this little snack/appetizer that you can find at certain places throughout the city (my last time in Rome, we did have to expend a fair amount of time to actually find a place with it, but it was so worth every second we spent on the quest). It’s basically a fried ball of rice with a hunk of mozzarella in the middle. That’s it. But it is heavenly beyond belief. Find it, enjoy it, and consider mailing some back to me!

Ok, now as for the city, I hope you guys are giving yourself a healthy amount of time in Rome, because there is just an assload of stuff to see and do. Obviously, you are going to want to go to the Colosseum (random trivia – you can see the three classical types of Greek columns on the outside of the Colosseum – the bottom level of columns are Doric, the middle level are Ionic and the top level are Corinthian). While you are in the area, you are also going to want to check out the Forum. The remnants of old Rome are really cool. Afterwards, I would recommend going up to Palatine Hill. It is not as cool as the Forum, but there is still some nifty stuff to see (I don’t think I’ve gone into the museum, I’ve just walked the grounds). In this same area you will also be able to find the Arch of Constantine which I point out in part as an opportunity to provide more random trivia (random trivia – the reliefs inside the arch are not original, but were scavenged from other monuments).

Another well known Rome monument is the Pantheon, which is very neat (random trivia – the oculus, the big hole in the roof which is the building’s only light source, is almost 10 meters across). And I believe the Pantheon is also near Piazza Venezia, which houses an eyesore of a monument officially known as the Altar of the Fatherland, but which is referred to unlovingly by the Romans as the Wedding Cake because it looks like a big ugly wedding cake.

Next up, make sure you get over to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Legend says that if, with your back to the fountain, you toss a coin over your left shoulder, you will be assured to make a return trip to Rome. Also, while you are at the Trevi Fountain, if you look carefully at the building behind it you will note that one of the windows is actually a fake – while all the other windows are real, this one is simply painted on. I won’t tell you the story behind it, because you should take the following tour to find out for yourself.

Rome(ing) Tours provides a great nighttime walking tour that then turns into a pub/club crawl, their Dark Tour. The walking tour provides a ton of fascinating information (such as the window story I mentioned above) and insight into a bunch of different sights. You will learn a lot of neat things and meet some good peeps. Afterwards, you’ll get to go drink at several local bars and clubs, and just manage to have an all around good time. Even if you don’t want to the do the drinking bit, you should still show up for the tour itself, as it alone is worth it (I imagine their other tours are equally as good, although the Dark Tour is the only one I have taken). According to their web site, you meet up at Piazza Barberini (more on that in a bit) at 8 p.m.

Ok, I have three more personal favorites to tell you about. First is the church Santa Maria della Vittoria. This church has some very cool stuff in, but the real highlight is St. Teresa in Ecstasy (also referred to as the Ecstasy of St. Teresa). It was sculpted by Bernini, who you will see mentioned considerably throughout the rest of this post because I think he was an absolutely amazing sculptor and his work is all over Rome. Anyway, this one is one of his best. Really amazing.

Second, for a real Bernini love fest (along with some other good things as well), go to the Borghese Gallery. That’s where you’ll find Bernini’s David, which I mentioned before, along with some other amazing Bernini pieces. You can only get into the Borgheses with reservations, so if you want to go you should set up reservations when you first get into Rome, if not earlier.

Third, you have to head over to Piazza Barberini (the place where the Rome(ing) Tours Dark Tour meets). This is one of the smaller Roman piazzas. Just off of the main square there is a church, and below this church is the Cappucin Crypt. This is a little six room crypt where the bones from more than 4000 monks have been artistically arranged in an utterly amazing way. It’s really something to see. And apparently it has just recently reopened after some renovations, so I’ll be curious to hear what it looks like now. “You are what we were and we are what you will be.” Indeed.

Also at Piazza Barberini is a little fountain that looks like a big sea shell. This was done by my boy Bernini. While it’s nowhere near his most amazing piece, it does have a great story behind it (and I can’t recall if I learned this on the Rome(ing) Tour or somewhere else, which is why I am willing to share this story). So the Pope asked Bernini to do a little fountain and Bernini got huffy because he felt a “little fountain” was beneath him. Begrudgingly, he did the fountain for the Pope, but decided he wanted to get a poke in at the Pope. Learning that the Pope had a slutty niece, Bernini dedicated the fountain to her and named it La Fontana Putanna (the Whore Fountain). It takes very little imagination to see the fountain as the legs of chick spread wide open for all the world. That’s my boy Bernini!

So I think that about covers Rome. Oh, well, unless you want to go to Vatican City. Of course you do. Take a nice stroll around St. Peter’s Square, and then head into St. Peter’s Basilica. In St. Peter’s you will get to see Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is pretty cool. But more importantly, you’ll get to see more of my boy Bernini. Among other things in the Basilica, Bernini did the Apse (the dove window and bronze canop over the alter) and the Tomb of Pope Alexander (which has this amazing red marble carpet with the angel of death coming out from underneath). And you will also want to hit the Vatican Museum. Be warned – it’s a long walk to get through the museum to the Sistine Chapel, which is like the prize in the box of Cracker Jacks and is therefore, of course, at the very end. But it is utterly worth it – the Sistine Chapel absolutely lives up to the hype (particularly since its restoration) and is even more amazing than you would ever guess from all the pictures you have seen of it. Just incredible. But don’t plan on taking pictures or being loud while in the Sistine Chapel – both are big no-no’s.

My final recommendation for Rome is that you should go spend some time, particularly at night, at Piazza Navona. I believe it's Rome's largest piazza, it’s just a very cool square with lots of folks congregating and lots of things going on. And as a bonus, you get to see more Bernini, as he did the awesome fountain with the four river gods.

If you have the time, you should also make a day trip down to Pompeii, which is simply cool as hell (and of course, while walking around Pompeii, you’ll get plenty of good views of Mount Vesuvius looming largely in the background). Getting there from Rome is easy – you simply take a two hour express train to Naples, and then a forty minute commuter train to Pompeii. If you go, I highly recommend the audio tour, which will help guide you through the place and provide tons on interesting nuggets of information. As I recall, the little telephone thinger you get for the audio tour has three length options. I suggest the middle tour which is pretty long but not overwhelming – I suspect the longest tour would simply be too much. A bonus of making a day trip to Pompeii is that on the way back you can scoot into Naples, the birthplace of pizza, for some authentic pizza pizza. I have been to Naples twice, and the extent of both trips was to take a short walk from the train station to Pizzeria Trianon for some good eats. And then right back on a train to Rome which a much more interesting and safer city.

And so ends my blogging tour of Italy. Tips are welcome and can be sent via PayPal. Comments are also welcome, but criticisms are not. Have a nice trip.

4 Comments:

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Bug said...

I have to tell you, these were long and I didn't read any of them.

I trust that you're correct that Italy is still there and that there are some things to see and do while visiting.

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger EmoRiot said...

way to go cultural superstar! (bug)

I can say that I DID read them and found them to be interesting and... of all things... a time suck.

 
At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Pajiba said...

Hippin Ho Jack! It's like the: Time Out Timesucker Series. Very nice, and this particular soon-to-be-a-visitor of Italy is wildly appreciative, and will make my way back to these pages at the end of said trip to report on the helpfulness of the Timesucker Travelogue.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Bug said...

What can I say? I put the ass in class.

 

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