Rome is a city that I’ve found to be very dirty. It leaves its visitors covered in filth and drenched a sweat that just doesn’t seem to dry. Rome’s visitors have taken over the city, swarmed it in crowds, and left virtually nothing untouched or unseen and just for native Roman Italians. I think I prefer Torino to here: I can hear a difference in the accents as the Romans speak Italian. It’s harsher than it was up north, faster and blunter and a little rougher. But more often than not they speak English to me, just as they do with the other thousands of tourists here. I miss being assumed to be different, but being given a chance to prove that I was trying to be one of the same. I don’t stand out here, which is something that I both hated and loved about Torino. I didn’t realize that I’d become so attached to a place after being there for only five weeks; now try as I might, I can’t help but compare the rest of Italy to it in almost every aspect.
Touring the city continues for us. Yesterday we started our Hop-On/Hop-Off bus pass and went around the city on an open-top bus, seeing all the major points to be visited at a later date. We snapped some photos of the Colosseum and of Vatican City, along with typical Italian streets and statues they seem to have virtually everywhere.
After stopping at “La Mela Stegada” (or “The Witch’s Apple”) for lunch, we took a ride down the Tiber River and learned about more of Rome’s history. This city is surrounded by myths and legends, often involving angels and other supernatural beings. I find them interesting, and did not know that people actually seem to believe them here. The river ride was certainly educational, and afterwards, we went back to our hotel for what’s become our ritual naptime.
Upon waking up, we went to a restaurant near the corner of Via Nazionale and Via XXIV Maggio that was recommended to us by the man that works behind the desk at our hotel. It was a little pizzeria, with – gasp! – air-conditioning inside, and it had some of the best food I’ve had in Italy. I got the Milanese veal… oh goodness, it was so delicious! I had it with their house white wine, and they served it with fried potatoes, which was tasty as well. We walked to our hotel afterwards and stopped to see a fountain in Piazza Repubblica on the way.
This morning we woke up bright and early to catch the first bus and get a guided tour of the Colosseum and Forum. However, our tour guide didn’t show up… so we walked around it ourselves! The building itself feels both big and small – smaller than I thought it would be, but massive, given how tall it is and how people had to build it during ancient times. We didn’t make it inside – it was a three-hour wait to do that – but we did get to peer in from the outside and see everything around it. We saw Constantine’s Arch as well, which stands right next to the Colosseum and was built after he was victorious over one thing or another…
We took a peek inside a nearby church and looked at more ruins from far away too. Then we hopped back on the bus and went to Vatican City to find where our tour meets tomorrow morning. (We’re really glad we did so now – the entrance to the museum is really out of the way in relation to the Basilica and the rest of the city… all three of us are looking forward to the tour tomorrow!) After eating lunch, we got on the bus once again and took it to the Spanish Stairs, a series of steps that lead to a church and have a great view of the city:
This church was also pretty inside. It was a lot lighter than the first, older church, and there were so many people in this one! I really liked the candle-holders they had – they looked like votive Christmas trees! We walked back to the hotel afterwards and took our nap, which leads me to now.
I’ve really enjoyed my stay here so far. Rome as a whole is very overwhelming, both because there are so many people and because there is so much to do. The sad thing is that the sheer amount of people makes me really unmotivated to do a lot of these things though, simply because I don’t want to stand in long lines in a hot and humid city. It’s like a live-size, real-life Disneyland that, while still interesting, lost its magic factor somewhere along the way. I’m very excited to go to the Vatican tomorrow, though; while I know it will be crowded, our tour lets us cut the line (yes! *fistpump*) and we’ll be able to see some more truly famous and beautiful places.
One more thing I’d like to ponder for a second before I get ready for dinner: my mom and sister seem insistent on eating American food, so we have been doing so about half of the time. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this – I have been here for five weeks after all, and I miss a hamburger as much as the next person. What does bother me, however, is how American food here tastes exactly the same as American food back home. Hard Rock Café’s hamburger the other night was something I could have ordered in the United States, and the only difference between the Subway sandwich I had here and the one back home is that I had to order it in centimeters, not inches. This disturbs me on so many levels, especially after being in a country with such a heavy emphasis on fresh food. Americans’ diets consist primarily of food that, at one point of its “lifecycle” or another, has been frozen, and it is nowhere near as good for you as its fresh equivalents. The ingredients for the meal we had last night were bought that morning at an open market and other stores around town (according to our hotel front desk worker, who is friends with the restaurant’s owner). I’d be willing to bet that the ingredients for the sandwich I had this afternoon was shipped over from America after being processed to taste exactly like its counterparts being sold in the rest of the world. And that really grosses me out.
As a warning to my family and friends back home: I’ve definitely turned into a food snob after being here. Sorry about that… but I might be more hesitant to eat things now that I used to be. (I’ll still cook you good, fresh food, though!)
Now I must be off – I need to shower before we go in pursuit of (Italian!!!) dinner. Arrivederci!