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Friday, August 8, 1997

A long, hot day of Rome touristing takes its toll…

[Cameron] I gave up at the start, before we left the hotel. I stayed in my room and slept and read all day.

[Patti] Kaelen, Brian and I ventured out to Barbarini Square and caught Ciao Roma! Trolley. It's just like the "Explorer" buses we've found in Sydney and other cities of the world that drive in a loop to all the major sites and allow you to jump on and off at will. It's nice because you can stop at the places of interest and stay as long as you like, then catch the next bus. The trolley was equipped with headsets that played commentary in a variety of languages.

We mapped out our strategy: 2 long stops, one at the Colosseum and one at the Vatican. We saw lots of stuff on our way to the Colosseum. The temperature in the trolley was at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so my brain was beginning to fry, but here is what I remember seeing:

A huge palatial looking building from some very early date that Mussolini took over in the 1930s.

Oh, it's no use. I can't remember the specifics of the rest of the stuff. 80 AD rings a bell and a bunch of Emperors, but the brain got really hot and started scrambling.

Hopped off the bus at Colosseum. That thing was quite a sight. Huge, really and damn old. We immediately got some ice water from a vendor to cool the brains down and then we went in to check out the whole gladiator scene. It's very cool inside the Colosseum because the floor is missing and they've excavated to show where the wild beasts were kept before the bloody battles. It's kind of a maze down there, but they had some pretty sophisticated systems for storing animals from far and wide (Africa, Eygpt, etc - elephants, lions, etc) so they could spring them on the poor criminals and others in poor favor who were nominated as gladiators. Turns out, only about 2% of these guys (and a few women) survived. If the poor sucker survived the beasts, it was all decided by a thumbs up or down by the Emperor.

After that, Brian practically ran up a side road to some other ruins. I tried my best to keep up, but I could feel my power starting to drain. I stumbled back down the hill to a patch of shade, read the guidebook about the fate of vestal virgins who changed their minds, and waited for a while. Then Brian decided to go check out yet another set of ruins (Rome has its share of ruins, let me tell you what!) which included Augustus' house. I walked as far as the bus stop with him and then sat waiting under a tree. He was kind enough to bring me a piece of old Augustus' foundation as a souvenir.

We tumbled back in the bus to head towards the Vatican. I had a Gestalt moment: I admitted to myself that I am only half the tourist of Brian or Kaelen. I gave up and returned to the hotel, where I took a nap.

[Kaelen] Brian and I headed to Vatican.

I was hot and sweaty and very glad I wore long pants, not to mention a butt load of deodorant. I would have been so unhappy outside the Vatican. Those Catholics are strict about not allowing shorts. We saw many a tourist not let in that big mother because of their great shorts. Did we make a huge church? I think so. This baby was a mother load of a church. It had it all, statues, many a pound in gold leaf, and big-ass tombs. I think that this was by far the most impressive church I've been in on this trip. I like Notre Dame a lot because of its beauty but when it comes to regality this is it. Brian and I saw the one and only Pieta. This beautiful piece was done by our good friend Michelangelo at the age of 25. My good sister Saint Peter had his tomb at the Vatican. I was sorry I missed it. I couldn't get enough energy to walk down all those stairs. As I stepped out into the eye gouging sunlight I almost DIED. Then there was Brian to catch me and put me in a cab back to the hotel. I gave up, what type of tourist was I?

[Brian] Abandoned by my fellow tourists, I pressed on to the Vatican Museum, which unfortunately had closed for the day, and then (after spotting a cute car):

the Spanish Steps.

The Spanish Steps are basically a city block's worth of steps built in the 18th century. Originally intended to link two churches, today they are used mostly to sit down on with your friends and talk, flirt, suntan, or people-watch. They are apparently The Meeting Spot of Rome.

At the foot of the steps is Rome's fashion center. I walked around and saw an unbelievable number of tres chic fashion shops (many specializing in Versace), tres belle clientele, and tres expensive clothes.

Maybe it was those price tags that did me in. Exhausted, I gave up and returned to the hotel, where we finished the day off with a healthy meal from Ristorante McDonalds.


[Brian] A Final Note: I have managed to lose my rental GSM phone, which means that we are now at the mercy of European hotel phone systems for connecting up with the wired world. It turns out our hotels in Venice, Florence, and Rome were no problem, but as we venture into the Italian backcountry and then to Greece we may not be so lucky. So if these pages go un-updated for a few days, don't worry, we're OK, just temporarily disconnected.