Our last day in Roma

Our last day in  Rome–time to see everything we possibly could. Which meant another early wake-up call so that we could beat the crowds to the ticket booths.

First order of business though–pack up and ckeck out. The nice people behind the desk held our luggage in the back like before, and so we set off, unfettered and free, ready to join an incredible number of like-minded tourists. Also some non-like-minded citizens. I have to admire how they go about their business, seemingly oblivious to the scores of foreigners that block their way. I know I couldn’t do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being there at the Colosseum so early was a real boon–we could take some very nice pictures without a lot of people around.

  

 

Soon enough, though, there was more excitement than we had anticipated. Remember how we had heard voices over a loudspeaker from our room earlier in the week? Well, there it was again, from way over at the other side of the Colosseum. It got louder, and not much later a group of people with a banner proclaiming something about education came around the corner, accompanied by a smoke bomb going off. It didn’t seem to faze anyone, except maybe a few tourists…

Speaking of which–they were pouring into the area more and more by the minute!

We were lucky to be where we were in line–if only we could figure out which line we were supposed to be in. We had a lot of company with the same quandary. It didn’t help that the sign pointing one way for the individual tickets and the other for group tickets was turned around the other way!

Anyway–finally, tickets in hand, we were on our way into the Colosseum.

Once again confusion reigned, as those with tickets mingled with those who were in a line to get tickets from a booth inside the building.

We sorted ourselves out quickly enough, and got into the correct line–through the ever-present security gates. Man, that sort of thing got tiresome. But I can understand their purpose.

There was an exhibition in the upper floors along the outer perimeter. I found the information and relics fascinating, but we weren’t able to spend a lot of time there.

                                     

 

 

Seeing the city and environs from the inside of the Colosseum gave my imagination a lot to dream about.

   

 

Occasionally reality threw itself in…

All of this was fascinating, but we couldn’t spend a lot of time there. We had come to see this:

Wow…just…wow…

 

…ummm…I think I’m being watched…lol!

We saw about all that we could see, and took a couple of humdred pictures as well, then left that wonder to go and wander the next ones–the Forum and Palatine Hill.

So much history! So much architectural wonder. Everywhere, marble and stone allowed to lie exactly where it had fallen–or stand as a testimony to the ancients. I’m so grateful to whoever it was who set these grounds aside in order to keep them safe for all the generations that followed.

I think I’ll let the pictures tell the tale:

 

After a long stroll through these grounds, we headed up Capitoline Hill to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Museum (which we didn’t go into).

Oh look–stairs…

This time I stayed at the foot of the building while Paul went up and took pictures. He did a great job.

Our last tour thing–we caught a streetcar and then a bus to get to the top of the hills that overlooked the city. Still more wonders!

This lighthouse was given to the city in 1911 by Italians living in Argentina, to commemmorate the 50-year anniversary of the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Then another bone-rattling bus ride back down into the city. We got out near St. Peter’s Basilica, and took one more walk through that awe-inspiring space.

 

We got back to the hotel, retrieved our stuff, and caught the train to the airport.

Addio, Roma–we’ll be back!!

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Pompeii and Vesuvius–the brutality of a volcano and the kindness of strangers

It’s difficult to recall the splendors of Italy while in front of my computer a month later. Especially since I’m in my robe and PJs after a dinner of toast and peanut butter. But I will give it my best shot.

This day was still night when we got to the assembly point for our tour of Pompeii. We found ourselves practically the only people in the Piazza del Popolo, and the photo opps were once-in-a-lifetime. I’m pretty sure that this was the only time in the day when it would be this empty.

It started filling up fast though. There were other tours waiting for their buses, and interspersed with them was an increasing number of the citizenry trying to get to work or wherever. I could see why the tours would start so early. How else would they be able to keep track of all us foreigners?

Our guide was Louise, an Irish gal who’d been in Italy for some time. I found out from her that, not only did she live here, she had a master’s degree in Italian. And boy did she use that mastery throughout the day! Especially at lunch time, when she had to get all of our orders straight…

Our route had us passing under the watchful gaze of Montecassino, a place I had hoped we would visit on this tour. Alas, I was sorely disappointed. So much history! Another “next time” thing.

Louise told us a number of fascinating historical details about this place, but sadly they didn’t stay in my mind. I did find an informative website though:

http://www.abbaziamontecassino.org/abbey/index.php/en/

It took quite a bit of time, but we finally made it to our destination: Pompeii.

We had a pretty good view of Vesuvius as we approached. There it sat…silent…waiting…

But I digress.

Our group got connected to another tour guide, whose personality was stellar but whose name is long forgotten. Great guy–very informative. Louise stuck with us too–had to keep track of everybody. She’d stand by every door, counting us as we went by. Wonder if she had been a sheepdog in a previous life–ha!

Our guide took us up and down streets…

(That last picture–you can see where wagon wheels had made ruts in the stone.)

Through an amphitheatre and environs…

…through a bath house…

…into a brothel…

through a high-end home…

and finally out into a plaza/public area.

Everywhere we looked there was a new thing to wonder at. A few things he told us I remembered from our trip to Herculaneum, but there were other things that were new as well.

We finally got to the place where some of the castings of people and animals were kept. They were behind glass, along with rows and rows of jars and equipment, so it was not easy to get pictures. These were not the only casted bodies in Pompeii, but they were the only ones we were able to get to today:

(That last one is a dog’s head.)

This was the first time I’d gotten so close to the castings of the human remains that made this site, and Herculaneum, so famous in the first place. I wish we could have seen more, but the day was waning and we had one more stop.

We got back on the bus and headed up the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. I’m pretty sure I heard it chuckle under its volcanic breath as we approached our stop.

 

 

Louise told us we had exactly “X” amount of time (I can’t remember if it was an hour or not) to get up to the top and back down because the bus wouldn’t be able to wait for stragglers–there was not enough parking space to accommodate all the buses that came and went. No pressure, right?

I had a look at the switchbacks leading to the summit, and all the people of all ages going up and coming down, and decided, “What the heck? I won’t get this chance again. How hard could it be?”

Yeah, that “famous last words” thing…

So up I started. Paul was already ahead, as usual (I’m not a fast walker), but he stopped on occasion to take pictures. And to catch his breath, I imagine. Gave me an excuse to do the same.

(That’s the coastline down there.)

The incline was extremely hard on my legs, but I’m too stubborn to let that stop me. Despite the hate mail I was getting from them, I strove onward and upward.

Near the top are some concrete constructions, which I found curious. There seemed to be no info about them anywhere around. Odd things to find on the top of a mountain…

Later, back on the bus, Louise told us that they had been part of a funicular railway that had been built there for the tourist trade. However, the people who used to get paid to accompany hikers to the summit saw a threat to their livelihood and sabotaged it. Plus, Vesuvius tried to shake the thing off a couple of times as well, so it was finally given up as a bad idea.

http://www.vesuvioinrete.it/funicolare/e_funicolare_storia.htm

(The info on that link is in English, by the way.)

Looking into the maw of the beast at its very summit was awe-inspiring, to say the least. In my own area of the world, the closest we have to that is Mt. St. Helens–but that one blew the side of itself off, so there is no pronounced crater like this one. It’s still inecredible to see, but not quite as breathtaking as looking down into Vesuvius’ immense and dangerous space.

This was not fog–it was a plume of smoke. Proves that ol’ Vesuvius is merely taking a nap. I would not want to be anywhere near it when it finally woke up…

 

 

 

 

 

Time was getting short, so we started back down at a fairly brisk rate. It wasn’t fast enough for Paul, though, who envisioned us left behind and having to call a cab. I told him to go on ahead, which he did. As for me, I did my best to keep up with him, but my legs just are not as long as his. By the time I got to the bottom of the trail, they were ready to give in entirely.

I’m sure you’ve seen video (or the real thing) of newborn calves/foals/deer getting up on their feet for the first time. They wobble around, unstable and ready to fall at any given moment. Well, that was me, as I finally made it to a stop on flat land. I didn’t quite make it to where Paul was standing, and he was oblivious to the fact that I had finally arrived. He was keeping an eye out for our bus, not sure if it had arrived yet or if it had left. I, for my part, didn’t have enough energy left to let him know that I had landed, so to speak.

As I stumbled around, trying not to fall, I suddenly felt a presence behind me–a presence with a chair. A couple who had been seated near the gift shop (there is always a gift shop) saw me and came to my rescue. The woman helped me into it and asked if I needed water.

Um…very much so.

The manager of the gift shop came out and said I’d have to move, because we were where the buses turned around. The kind lady who had brought me with the chair took it back to the patio, while the manager helped me toward it. Then he went inside and got me a bottle of water. The couple sat beside me and kept an eye on me.

This all happened within a minute or so, and without a lot of fuss. So it was no wonder that Paul didn’t realize that what was going on was happening to me. But he finally did, and after checking on me he went into the shop to get me a bottle of water–at the same time that the manager was bringing one out to me.

Of course I shared…

The tour group was now re-assembling and the bus returned a few minutes later. Fortunately all of the riders were accounted for.

I thanked the nice folks who had helped me, and headed back to Rome.

Phew! It’s beer time!

(I laid the fork there so we would remember how big these steins were.)

Word to the wise: don’t try to climb Vesuvius, or any mountain, if your legs aren’t up to it. A month has passed, and I’m still having trouble walking any great distance. My fault for being obstinate.

But for me it was worth it!

***

Next–When in Rome, see all the sights–with half a million of your closest friends.

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Day 5 – sheep in a park and green brains on the road

Source: Day 5 – sheep in a park and green brains on the road

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Day 5 – sheep in a park and green brains on the road

Off we go again – back to Rome via the high-speed train.

In the station, I caught sight of this sign,

and took a bet with myself that it would translate into something important.

It did.

According to Google Translate, the sign reads:

“From this station…hundreds of people arrested in the town and province (by) from the Nazi Fascists were deported to the death camps”

A bit of very important history.

 

We got seats that were across from seats that faced us. I was figuring on a trip spent trying to avoid eye contact with people whose language I couldn’t understand.

Instead our seatmates were two really nice people from Washington DC. We spent the entire trip chatting away, and before we knew it we were pulling into the train station in Rome.

Back into the mobs and down the street to Hotel California again. I was beginning to feel at home, even though I had only learned a smattering of Italian.

Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our luggage with the desk crew and took off to the Metro terminal again.

We had entertained the thought of taking a bus to our destination, which was the Catacombs of St. Callisto, but we couldn’t find a straight route. Last thing we wanted to do was to ride an express bus out of town by mistake.

So–Metro it was.

We rode until we got to the stop for the Pyramid of Caius Cestius–which I had never heard of. We didn’t go see it, so here’s a picture pulled from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Cestius

Naturally, this site has been tucked into that “see next time” file.

We still weren’t sure where we were going, but we started forward anyway. Paul used the GPS on his phone – a LOT – and although we had a somewhat roundabout route, we did finally get to where we were going.

I loved the fact that, once again, we were traveling through areas that weren’t seen by the usual tourist crowd.

A couple of miles of walking down Viale Marco Parco/Via Cilicia convinced me of one thing: motorcyclists here are on a different consciousness level than the other motorists. I don’t know–either they are immune to the speed limit laws or they’re simply complete asshats. They roared past us at twice the speed of everyone else. Funny enough, I saw this same phenomenon in Brazil too.

In retrospect, if we hadn’t passed straight over the road we needed to go down (which was impossible to get to from where we were anyway), we would have missed out on the most peaceful and beautiful part of our sojourn that day. You see, I just now used MapMyWalk to see how far we walked that day (4 miles), and noticed we probably went a mile or so out of our way.

But, as I said, we would have missed something lovely – going through the “Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica”.

We must have entered it through the back door or something–there was no sign telling us what this natural area was until we got to the other end. I recall simply turning off the street and down a path to a fence, where we entered through an opening.

I did pass a sign further on that said a Roman villa once existed near there, and at my feet were signs of that reality; scattered in the soil, as far as the eye could see, were innumerable shards of tile and pottery of all colors and sizes…very small pieces. I picked up a couple, and I had to work hard to keep from getting more. It was like picking up shells at the beach, and could have easily gotten out of control.

As we rounded a bend, I was surprised again – someone was herding sheep in the park! I had no idea…a flock of sheep in the middle of a large city!

Once we got to the entrance of the park,

(There it is!!)

Paul checked once again that we were going the right way, and we set off again–down a road that was walled on both sides with very little room to walk. Cobbled road, straight as a rod–

–we soon learned that we were on the Appian Way, which had been the main road connecting ancient Rome to points south.

There were brains – green brains – scattered everywhere. Or so it seemed.

I didn’t take a picture of them, unfortunately, but after a lot of research tonight I did find out what they were–Osage oranges.

Here’s a video about them. It’s kinda long, but you can get the gist in less than six minutes:

Something else I saw a lot of were hubcaps–counting them kept my mind occupied for a short while. I needed to take my mind off of how very tired I was getting.

Almost a mile down the Appian Way, we finally came to the catacombs. With a sigh of relief (we hadn’t gotten lost!!), we read the sign outside.

What caught our eye was this: “Closed on Wednesdays”.

Today was Wednesday.

Lovely. All that walking…

Fortunately, there was another catacombs site further down the road. So we went to that one–the Catacombs of San Sebastian.

As we waited patiently for the tour in English, we meandered around inside looking at stuff for a few minutes. Then a guide took us down into the depths. We were not allowed to take pictures inside, so I’ll just have to try to describe it.

Stairs and inclines and declines, oh my! Also low ceilings (Oof! – that must have hurt!).

We passed through narrow corridors in a maze that I am sure I would have never been able to navigate on my own. There were niches and shelves dug out along the way, and side alleys that led off to other resting places. No bodies, no skeletons, no remains.

Probably best.

I wrote a book that involved a colony of vampires in New Orleans (not published yet) that lived in an underground space like this. (Also under a church.) The tour really helped bring that to life in my head.

We came up out of the underground into a beautiful church. We could take pictures here, and we took advantage of that.

Once we were through with the gawking and the gazing, we caught a bus to the Circus Maximus, and from there we caught a Metro train back to our place. We retrieved our luggage, took it to our room (with another disco shower), and then went to dinner.

That was pretty much enough for us for one day. We would be having another long adventure tomorrow.

Next: Mount Vesuvious claims another victim…me.

 

 

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Day and night over Florence

Our first plan of action today, after a bite to eat and some coffee at the hotel (I’ve learned to like cappuchino, because black coffee is atrocious here), was to catch a bus and ride up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which affords a very dramatic, sweeping view of the city.

There was a replica of the statue of David, but he’s decently covered in a fig leaf.

Oops–wait. No…it’s just the weathering…

We were up there early enough that there was only a smattering of tourists so far. That afforded us some nice un-cluttered pictures–including this very different-looking coffee bar.

Back down into the city we went, on a bus that was more like a people blender. Those cobbled streets, plus a not-great bus engine, meant a lot of shuddering and juddering. I swear I was still vibrating an hour after we got off the thing.

Our next objective was the Galleria dell’Accademia, the art museum that houses Michelangelo’s David–the real deal, that is. On our way we saw a lot more great sculptures and such.

Then we found the end of a line that was waiting to get into the Galleria.

Oops–wrong line. Fortunately we found this out before too much time had passed. This was the line for tour groups and those with reservations.

Our line–the one for the uninformed heathen (ha!)–was at the other side of the entrance. This one stretched around at least three corners of the building.

We stood there a bit, wondering how long it would take to get in. As we were thinking about giving it a pass, a man with an Irish accent happened by, culling English-speaking tourists from the crowd. He had a tour going, which would take place in about a half-hour.

My legs needed a rest, and it sounded legit, so we took him up on it. I’m so glad we did–we found out late that, from where we were standing, it would have taken three hours to get in.

Our tour was actually going to be in about an hour, so we detached ourselves from the crowds and went to have coffee.

After that we wandered the local streets, eager to take in what we could.

We passed a building that was absolutely creepy in its architectural embellishments.

And…we’re walking…

Hey, look–a church! Let’s check it out!

The chapel of St. Antonino…

…with its namesake still in residence.

Kinda creepy, but not unusual in Europe.

Soon it was time to re-convene for our tour. I was so glad that we hadn’t been hoodwinked. Hey, we’ve been burned before…

We still had to spend some time waiting, since only some 500 people are allowed in at a time. There was plenty to snap pictures of while we waited.

Our tour guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “windows” on the right are merely painted on the wall–it looks like they were blocked off at some point in time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Galleria was a lot smaller than I originally thought. However, it held some fantastic artwork.

And all of it led to…David! The original!

Its base will soon be redone and replaced–it’s showing cracks and needs to be strengthened.

I didn’t know this, but at one time this statue was slated to perch atop the Duomo. I’m glad that didn’t happen–it probably would have fallen and smashed to bits by now.

There were plenty more art masterpieces…

which kept us busy for a good length of time.

When we were through here, we trekked across a good number of streets

to the Uffizi Gallery, which holds the Botticelli’s painting “The Birth of Venus”–or “Venus on the Half-Shell”, which is what my sister-in-law calls it.

We did not take this picture–I pulled it from the Internet.

 

 

 

The line to get in here was just as insane as the last, and after not moving for about 20 minutes we decided to give it a pass. Still, we got some good shots around the area.

On to the Ponte Vecchio–also a great place to visit. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it was enough to fascinate me. All these shops on this bridge–shops that had been there for eons. Makes anything “old” in the U.S. seem brand-new in comparison.

I would have loved to stay and look around some more, but we had other things to do.

Such as have drinks and a snack at the Hard Rock Cafe Florence.

This was only a relatively short walk from the Ponte Vecchio.

A couple of drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe and a purchase of a shirt, then it was back to the hotel to drop it off and unwind for a bit.

As it approached dinner time, we wended our way back toward the cafes that lined the Arno River. We found a nice seat with a view of the river and the sunset, and ordered dinner.

I got my Tuscan sunset and my glass of wine. Bucket List Item summarily kicked.

We took the bus back up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and took some night pictures of the city. Breathtaking!

What a wonderful way to end the day!

Tomorrow–back to Rome, and the longest walk so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 3 – our foray into Florence

This morning found us at the train station, luggage in hand, waiting for the high-speed train that would take us to Florence–or “Firenze”, which is what it’s called by the Italians.

It was a nice, quiet ride–truly fast, but not so rapid that we couldn’t watch the beautiful countryside go by.

The food cart came by a little ways into our trip, and I asked for coffee since I hadn’t had any yet that day (or very little, anyway). I knew I had to stave off the caffeine-deprived headache that would be inevitable without it.

The nice lady obliged–and served me a cup about 2 inches tall. Looked like the type of cup once finds in a dispenser.

…Really?…

So I had to ask for another. The nice lady had to work hard to keep from rolling her eyes. Hey–I drink a LOT of coffee. This Dixie cup was a drop in the bucket in comparison to my usual amount.

The city of Florence showed up a lot faster than I thought it would. For some reason I had gotten it into my head that it would take a couple of hours to get there. This was not the case. I was really enjoying that train ride.

Florence has the reputation of being a very compact city (at least as far as the tourist areas). We learned early on that what could not be reached by walking could be gotten to by a very efficient bus system–even though the buses we rode all seemed ready to vibrate apart at any given moment.

Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away from the train station. Paul found the address on his GPS app (which we used a lot in the coming days), and we had no trouble finding it.

Wow–if we thought the elevator was tiny at our first hotel…this one made it look huge.

And it was the old type–open the outside door, then push the double doors in to get inside. Hardly enough room for two people and their luggage–and we were traveling light!

Our reservations were for a room in the Hotel Angelica, but it turned out we got the “better room” (according to the British man behind the desk) in the Hotel Beatrice, one floor down. Yes–sometimes two or three hotels will share a building. I don’t know how that all works out.

No complaints here–the man behind the counter at the Hotel Beatrice was one of the warmest, nicest, most helpful people we’d met so far. He gave us a map and ran a pen around the areas he thought we’d be most interested in. Chatty fellow–actually, I wouldn’t have minded spending the afternoon in his cozy little den, just talking to him.

Since our room wasn’t ready yet, he took our bags to storage and sent us on our way for the afternoon.

So much to see in Florence–we didn’t get to nearly as many sites as we would have liked.

So–that means a second trip to Florence in a couple of years. So sad–(ha!)

Florence is a tad easier to get around in than Rome. Not quite so much vehicular traffic, at least not where we were.

We decided to go to the Piazza San Giovanni, which was less than a mile from the hotel. Our route would take us past the church of San Lorenzo, so we thought we’d check that out too.

On our way, we walked through an area that was just loaded with shop stalls, which were set up in the street against the sidewalks. These were right in front of established shops in the buildings, but I don’t think that was a problem for the owners/employees. This was the only street where this arrangement was set up, so it might have been an agreement between the city and the more permanent establishments. The stalls were taken down every night and set up again in the morning.

And–well, if you couldn’t find what you were looking for there, you probably didn’t need it in the first place. Florence is renowned for its leather goods, so that was the main thing the merchants had. Lovely smell, leather. I ended up buying most of my souvenirs here.

When we got to the church, we didn’t go into the building itself. That meant an admission ticket. We’d seen the insides of many churches, so I’m pretty sure that, although it would have been magnificent, it still wouldn’t have been anything we hadn’t already seen elsewhere.

We did walk thorugh its inner cloister area though, which was very nice.

After meandering down a couple more streets, we came out onto the Piazza.

IT…WAS…INCREDIBLE…

The buildings that occupy this piazza are the church of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Bell Tower), the Duomo, and the Baptistery. They reign over the other buildings in a circle of land all their own, and the shops and restaurants keep a sacred distance.

Pictures do not do them justice. They are just jaw-dropping in their scope, size, and in their intricate decorations. I couldn’t help but wonder at the work that went into making these masterpieces.

We had a look around the outside of the Baptistery first, and were fascinated by the North Door, which is a restored replica of Lorenzo Ghilberti’s original (1403-1424).

Once we’d gotten admission tickets, we decided that the first thing we’d do would be to go into the church.

…And I thought it was magnificent on the OUTSIDE! This place was massive, gorgeous, awe-inspiring.

And then…we went down to into the area beneath the church. I had had no idea.

Once we came up for air, as it were, we headed over to the Baptistery, or Battistero. Also massive, soaring, magnificent.

(Actually, I was more impressed with the floor designs–I could imagine creating a quilt with their patterns, but it would take forever to piece it.)

Outside, the entire piazza was, of course, wall-to-wall humanity. Getting good pictures took a little bit of time, some measure of patience, and a good push if time and patience were in short supply. Most people were obliging and did the same thing we did–snapped a picture and got out of the way. But there were those who didn’t–so #3 up there had to be used from time to time.

This was true at the “Gates of Paradise”, the east doors of the Baptistry.

I found a very informative article on them:

https://www.florenceinferno.com/gates-of-paradise/

These doors were replicas. The real ones have been restored and are now housed in the Museo dell’Opera de Duomo, which was our next stop.

Yep, they’re there:

Along with some other very impressive work…

All that sight-seeing and gawking can make one very thirsty. We took care of that next.

We were pretty sure our room was ready by now, and we ourselves were ready for a short rest, so we headed back.

Yep–all set for us.

After a bit we headed back out for dinner and a stroll among the lit-up landmarks that make up Florence.

As far as I’m concerned, the lights of Las Vegas have nothing on Florence’s. They do so much more with less.

Tomorrow: the Florence skyline and a lot more walking

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Out and about in Rome–Day 2 of our adventure

Today being Sunday, it was primary in our minds to find a church. It being Rome, we figured you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Catholic church.

Well, true enough–but if you’re in the wrong place, that church may well have been turned into a museum, as we were to learn.

We walked past St.Maria Maggiore again–it’s even more incredibly massive in the daylight–

                                                                                      and headed toward where Paul thought he and Joe had attended Mass eleven years ago. Well, being as to how we have a penchant for walking into the lesser-known streets, we soon found ourselves near the Roman Forum and other Roman ruins.

I kept hearing church bells, but none of the cross-topped buildings we passed by had anything churchish going on.

Around 9am, we finally decided to get serious about finding one. It’s really easy to get distracted here.

Not too far from the Spanish Steps, we found our quarry. Well, a working church, at least. And we were just in time for their 9:30 Mass!

Of course it was all in Italian, but the layout’s the same worldwide. I could mutter the prayers in English under my breath at the appropriate times.

The interior of the church was a real distraction, with its ornate pictures, frescoes, and statues. But we carried on as best as we could. I guess when someone grows up around this fantastic grandeur it becomes second nature–I’d hate to be immune to the incredible beauty around me. (Rather like living in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains–how does someone become inured to that kind of beauty?)

Note: for whatever reason, the Italian militia had a presence outside this church. I saw something about the crucifix inside being miraculous–I’ll have to look that up.

Okay–maybe this is it. I really don’t know:

http://romananglican.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-miracle-of-crucifix-of-san-marcello.html

Once we left there, we found that we had been fishing in the wrong pond earlier, as it were–a city block later, we found a church with a Mass in English. Not far from there was one with a Spanish Mass. And on and on.

From that area we went to the Pantheon, which was closed until 12pm due to…Sunday Mass…

Gotta say, I was surprised. I was not aware that the building had been Christianized. Shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, but it was.

With that stricken from our plans for the time being, we decided to check out the Trevi Fountain. I think we got back on the Metro to travel to this one.

SIDE NOTES:

  1. Italian men are GORGEOUS! Ladies are very pretty too.

2. Afternoon naps are wonderful. I’m looking forward to today’s already.

Okay–back to the day’s activities. Where was I?

Oh, right–Trevi Fountain.

Again, much different from when it was being renovated two years ago. A lot more people around too. Getting close to the fountain itself took some chutzpah and not just a little luck.

The light was exactly wrong for a good picture where we ended up (at least for what we wanted), which resulted in us fighting (semi-politely) for another spot on the other end of the fountain. Getting good pictures of the fountain itself wasn’t the problem–we had one of those rare instances where we wanted to get shots of ourselves in front of it. That’s where the problem came in. While on vacation, we usually try to keep people out of our pictures, including ourselves. Now we were trying to change it up.

So here we are.

We fought our way out of the crowds (nicely–we are civilized, after all, and there were stairs involved), and took the Metro to the area where the Colosseum and such were located.

AND…the crowds were in abundance. Well, it was the weekend and a lovely day at that, so could they be blamed?

After waiting for a few minutes in the ticket line, we decided to give it a pass until another day. We still had plenty of time before we had to go home.

There’s been a…thing…some sculpture, or something, planted beside the Colosseum. I suppose it’s art–but it doesn’t enhance, it doesn’t support, and it doesn’t agree with anything around it. I am not too surprised that neither of us took a picture of it. Some sort of gigantic thing that kind of looks like a pomegranate–total waste of space, as far as we were concerned. Look it up if you’re interested–we were totally underwhelmed.

Well, enough of that.

We wandered around to take in what we could see for free, and took lots of pictures. Those will be posted later–when we could actually get in to take pictures of those edifices close up.

This was where we saw most of the Beggars’ Union–or so it seemed.

These people cannot be believed. They’re all old ladies – maybe. (Wh0 can tell?) They’re dressed the same, they’re all hunched over and carrying a cane, and their donation cups are all the same size. Their behavior is also carbon-copy–shake the cup, mumble something, shake the cup.

There was one, earlier in the day, who did her (?) best to shove her cup under my nose when I ignored her. Talk about chutzpah!!

As mentioned before, there are a LOT of churches near the Forum. It’s interesting to see just how many buildings around this area have incorporated some of the ancient Roman edifices into their own structure.

Several churches sat cheek-by-jowl with ancient columns and stoas. We went into one of them–a place that sat on the very edge of the Forum area.

This looks like a little telephone box to me. Hmmm–so they have God’s phone number? Cool!

 

 

 

 As with a lot of European churches, there were burial plots in the floor. This one was just at the entrance–have to wonder why anyone would want to be buried as a doormat.

 

 

 

 

 

Ceilings are always a big deal in churches. If the sermon’s boring, you still have something to keep you busy.

We then hiked over to the Circus Maximus, which is really no more than a large park anymore. There are a few ruins at one end, but for the most part it looks like one big greensward.

Oh look…stairs…

We had to go down a number of stone steps, then we walked the length of the Circus. There were a few people, and a number of very happy dogs sniffing everything and running around (the dogs, not the people). So–your average park.

We wandered a lot of streets, through areas populated and some not so much. Everywhere we went, there was something new and fascinating to see. Some had explanations as to their history–

–any many didn’t.

(Actually, it’s not that they didn’t have descriptions–it’s just that we didn’t take the time to take pictures of the signs.)

This is what we love about visiting foreign places–wandering the streets and seeing what the natives see on a regular basis.

I can’t even map all the streets we walked. There were shortcuts, workarounds, backtracking–just a follow-our-noses walking adventure. We went through an indoor farmers’ market, crowded with residents and tourists all vying for counter space at stalls of every kind–leather goods, meats, vegetables, tourist trinkets, baked goods, etc. We got through the phalanx back to the outside world, only to find that there was no exit off the property at that end. Back through the gauntlet–phew! Fascinating place, that market, but way too peopled for my comfort.

We went here next:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largo_di_Torre_Argentina

This is a cat sanctuary–Roman law forbids killing feral cats. They get nipped and clipped and sent here to live out their lives. I like that idea.

This was a place Paul and Joe visited eleven years ago–looks like there’s still a good number of kitties enjoying their lives here. It was fun trying to see how many we could find.

After that, we passed through the area known as the “Jewish Ghetto”–apparently no one seems to be bothered by that name. I didn’t know that this is what it was called, but I knew it was definitely Judaic in nature. Lots of kosher restaurants and men dressed in the traditional Orthodox Jewish tradition.

Then it was back to the Pantheon. We got in line (“I hope that the ride’s good at the end of this line” is something I thought of a lot during this trip), which moved pretty fast, and were finally able to get inside.

Wow. Just…wow…

Vast, majestic, soaring–and noisy! Every once in a while, a recording in several languages would admonish the crowds to quiet down (because it was, after all, a sacred place). Didn’t work so well.

After the picture-taking and the gawking was done, we made our way back to the hotel. It had been a really long day, which meant another afternoon nap and a late al fresco dinner.

Tomorrow–our foray into Florence.

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