18 February 2007

Roaming around Rome

Italy can keep Venice, give me Rome. This city amazes me like few others have. Its pulse of life never fades, rather it speeds along at a continuous beat. Perhaps this is what is really meant by the nickname for Rome, The Eternal City.

Before I get too deep into Rome, let me begin with my time after Venice. I left that watery city early in the morning. I walked a long confusing walk along its maze of streets to the train station in the morning darkness. Transfering at stations in Bologna and Florence, I eventually made my way to Pisa and walked off to its famous bell tower. I took an indirect route, away from the tourists and street hawkers. When I turned the corner and saw the tower with its distinictive lean I couldn't believe I was seeing it in person. I unbalancedly hiked up the tower's steps to the very top and took in the view. Walking on the top surface was a bit unsettling due to the tilt. After the tower I continued on to Rome.

Along the way I passed through some beautiful scenary. Along the right side of the train for part of the ride was the Tyrrhenian Sea. I saw many Italian villages and towns full of homes and buildings all the same characteristic shads of yellow, orange, and red. They reminded me of the many Mediterranean style vacation homes and condo developments I usually see every year in Florida. The only difference being that these buildings are real and authentic. When one taps on the exterior wall, he does not hear the hollow sound of fake stucco.

Wednesday night I arrived in Rome, and it immediately introduced me to its pazzo (crazy) lifestyle. The car traffic blows my mind; drivers whiz around the cars and buses on their scooters with seemingly no regard to others. In most of the crosswalks there are no walk/don't walk signs, the pedestrian must trust that the scooter barreling down on him will slow down or go around him.

Roma is a stunning city, full of one bella vista (beautiful view) after another. True, many of the buildings look past their prime, as in Venice, but the sheer number of monuments, ancient ruins, and civic art pieces nullifies all that.

Thursday I walked around the city center and took in the sights. I saw the Pantheon, one of the most important architectural wonders left behind by the ancient Romans. The dimensions of its dome are so peferct that it would be difficult, if not close to impossible, to replicate it even today. The center of the dome has a large hole in it to allow light in and remove some weight. It had rained earlier in the day and a puddle of water sat on the floor. As with many of the sights and attraction I have seen here, I previously learned and studied about the Pantheon; therefore, it was rewarding to finally see it with my own eyes.

In fact, that's becoming exhausting in a way. How many more times will or can buildings and pieces of art take me back and cause me to question if I am actually standing in front of them? While it Rome, that seems to never end.

Continuing with Thursday, at one point I saw a beautiful building guarded by decorated soldiers and decided to go inside it. I passed through security and didn't see much more to attract me, so I walked back outside. In this moment a fleet of police motorcycles and black diplomat escort cars pulled up in the front courtyard. In a flurry the motorcade drove through the building's car entrance as the soldiers saluted the passing cars. I asked a police officer who it was and he told me the Italian president, apparently I was in his house seconds before. Although, if my understanding of the Italian political system is correct, the President is more of a figurehead, while the Prime Minister is the main executive figure. I later saw the latter's house as well, and the Italian Parliament building. I also saw the famous Trevi Fountain later.

That evening I saw my first view of Vatican City, the world's smallest country and center of the Catholic Church, and St. Peter's Bascilica. Those minutes were some of the most emotionally charged in my life yet. Stunning. Beautiful. Magnificient. These words do not do the Bascilic justice. It truly inspires awe. The archiecture of the structure paired with the fact that it is the most important sight in all of Christiandom should make it a powerful sight for all. I did not plan to visit the Vatican until Friday, but after seeing it I simply couldn't resist.

I returned on Friday and spent the whole time touring the Bascilica and the Vatican Museums. I spent nearly two hours alone in the Sistine Chapel, in wonder of Michangelo's The Creation and The Last Judgement. The Chapel's floor space is probably a little larger than an NBA court, and yet this one room contains some of the most important artwork ever produced by mankind. The Chapel is also the sight where a new Pope is elected. In the Bascilica I gained a new understanding of what man is capable of building. A ten story building could fit inside the nave and not come close to scratching the ceiling. Inside the Bascilica are the remains of St. Peter, other holy relics, and art work like Michelangelo's sculpture The Pieta. I plan to return later tonight to walk up to the top of the dome for the view of Rome, and to attend Mass.

Yesterday I explored the Colosseum and the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum. These relics forced me to wonder what our current civilization will leave behind as our ruins. The Colosseum was impressive, but almost baren in the interior. I had no idea that so many ruins remained and one can walk so closely to them. I saw the site where the Roman senate met, Ceasar's tomb, the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, among many other important sites of ancient Rome. I often thanked Ms. Proffer of my senior year high school humainites class for teaching me about many of these attractions.

Tomorrow I will tour the Roman catacombs, something I've wanted to to do since reading a story set in this creepy location in the ninth grade. Then I will venture on to Naples, where I will attempt to find the house in which my father lived for sometime as a child.

I also must say that I love the food here. I thought I knew what gnoochi tasted like. I though I had eatten eggplant parmaegan. I was wrong. Dinner at Olive Graden will never be the same again. Buffala pizza is superb. I made the mistake of visiting the best gelati (Italian icecream) cafe in Rome on the first full day here. Now every other cup I buy tastes like McDonald's soft serve yogurt. At dinner i order a Fanta to drink and the waiter gave me a crazy look, apparently every dinner is usually accompanied by wine. I should have know better after spending time with Italian friends in Eichstaett. At least I remember to eat pizza with a fork and knife. Afterall, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

I really enjoy Italy and will probably have to return someday. After this trip I will have seen all the sights that I must seen in Italy for my life, but there is so much more here to visit and do. The food is great. The history and culture is rich. The people are friendly (expect for those who try to rip you off by giving wrong change). In summation, I think I'm falling for Italy.


mc said...

Nick, tears actually welled in my eyes when you said you would be attending Mass at the Vatican. What an awesome experience that has to be! And to see where St. Peter is buried makes the years that have passed from the onset of Christianity to now so fleeting. This is a place I must see before I die.

What was the name of the place where you bought your gelati? Last night dad and I watched a show on the travel channel that mentioned a great gelati place. I can't recall the name now though. They showed the behind the scenes of how it was made..they highlighted the pastacio flavor.

On another note, I have for the most part asked them to hold a Volvo for me and it looks like we will be going to Sweden to pick it up. We are looking at some time around the 20th of March so that will be great that we can meet there. I will keep you posted on exact dates when we know - we will be going to Barcelona first so it will depend on when we arrive and depart from Spain. I have sent you several emails too. If you ever get a chance on your rapid internet moments to read, please do. Black Snake Moan is all over the media. Christina Ricci was on the cover of this Sunday's Parade magazine and talked about it and Justin and Samual were on HBO adverstising it a the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks back. Can't wait to see blury you and the Jeepster! Take care.

nata said...

go to florence!!!!