Monday, June 11, 2007

When in Rome ...

Oh, where to begin. I've been a bit remiss in my blogging and thus I have a lot to relate. Perhaps it will have to be done in bullet points. Or, even better ... roman numerals.

I. Our last day in Naples was a lot of fun. We saw a huge flavian amphitheater in Puzzoli, as well as a mostly dormant volcano called Solfatara. There were some other ruins in Puzzuoli that we also couldn't find. All in all, what we did see = very cool. What we didn't see = sad.

II. The next day we went to Rome! The place we stayed in Rome was really nice, especially for a hostel. The first night in Rome, we just visited the Colusseum where I took the requisite tourist photographs (forthcoming, as I am really behind on my photo sorting). The next day, we took the worst of the guided city bus tours - yes, worse than the bus tour where the commentary broke. This tour had almost no commentary at all, which is really frustrating when you're obviously passing tons of beautiful, historic places. After that, it was on to the Galleria Borghese in Villa Borghese park. It's a small art collection, and it houses a lot of very nice renaissance art, but the BEST part of it was the large collection of large Bernini sculptures. They were AMAZING. Photographs do not do them justice. Nor do the ones in fountains that have been exposed to the weather. The definition and the movement and the expression that he captures in stone is stunning. IMHO, more stunning that even Michaelangelo. We finished up the day with a walking tour of the oldest part of the city that hit the major highlights - Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon. Gorgeous all.

III. THe next morning, my mom left and I continued the journey through Italy solo-style. Don't weep for me; I've begun to get used to this travelling alone thing. I stayed one more day in Rome, which was probably a mistake. You see, George W. Bush was in town and there were loads of street closings and subway closings to protest him, his policies, his wars, and America in general. I actually think that GWB might be the worst president we've ever had. No other president in recent history (save maybe Nixon) has inspired so much hate for Americans - and all of this after the outpouring of well wishes after 9-11. GWB has squandered all of those good wishes and destroyed our relationship with the global community in such a short time.

THe protests really disrupted my day (and apparently the day of many others. I talked to two girls that had been stuck on a train for hours because of protests on the train tracks). I did see the Church of St. clemente, interesting because there are remains of two different churches below the present day church - on a 2nd century mithric temple, and one the 898 basilica. I then took a tour of the Palatine Hill and had the best of the tour guides. I wrapped up my day with a trip to the shrine of the Capuchin Monk where all of the burials are decorated with the bones of other disciples. One girl who was there with a group told the woman collecting donations that the display made her, 'sick to her stomach'. So much for respecting the beliefs of other. Wait, maybe that's why everyone hates Americans.

It took my ages to get home because of street closings. I had to go far out of my way. Then I had to switch hostel rooms, and my new room was in a different building. So out came all of my bags, but because of street closings I couldn't take the short way around. No, I had to take the long way. It took forever and I was hot and sweaty by the time I reached my new rooms.

IV. I left Rome the following day, after having a delicious breakfast of ricotta pancakes with fresh peaches, and having given Ingmar, the fat grey hostel cat, a fond belly stratch goodbye. I took the slow train to Florence, a trip that took 3.5 hours instead of 1.5. But, the train was comfortable and empty and cheap, so I can't really complain. Florence is beautiful, but smaller than I thought it would be, especially directly after the hustle of Rome and the gritty, spread out Naples. I can walk to the farthest thing on my map in about 30 minutes. There are lots of tourists here too, which is a blessing and a curse. It makes it easier to get around certainly, but it also makes it feel more like a very different part of America. Thus far, I have taken the tour of Palazzo Vecchio, which was not as cool as I expected it to be. It was the 'secrets' tour, supposed to show me all of the de' Medici hidden passages and such. And true, we saw one hidden passage and got to go up into the ceiling to see some of the original woodwork, but it wasn't all I hoped for. I also went to Santa Croce and saw the graves of Michealangelo, Dante, Machiavelli and others. I've also eaten a lot of good food - no Pizza since I've been in Florence. And a lot of the restaurants have menus of the day - a sort of prix fixe of house dishes. They're pretty cheap on the whole, especially for lunch, and I've been taking advantage of them.

So there you have it! All caught up.

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