I have returned. Actually, I returned a week ago but I was super busy. Since it’s been awhile, an update on my post-graduate life.
- I have a job. I start Monday. I will be a PR assistant for a major TV network. For anyone going “Wait, I thought she was a journalist,” check out Sophia’s post.
Anyhoodle, I returned from Italy. And was already wanting to sneak into the nearest plane heading back. I went to Rome and Naples, but now I have a mission to go to Venice in the fall or winter (two of our beautiful drivers described Venice in winter as “darkly beautiful, and just a little bit sad.” Totally up my alley). I also want to hit up Florence and Tuscany. Basically, I’m in love with Italy. For a perfect vacation, I’d want to go to Germany and Austria for the musical theatre and culture, then tool down to the Mediterranean. Now I just need to find a sugar daddy who will pay for it.
For the next few post I will be recounting my adventures. It won’t be in perfect order. And before anyone asks, yep, I prefer taking pictures of things to being in photographs. The most amazing part of Italy for me is the history. I’m a history nerd, so the following posts will have a lot of historical notes. Despised AP Euro? Don’t read. Or give my saucier take a chance.
My stepmom is the most awesome travel agent ever. That’s not her job, but she always arranged our trips. So we tool up to our hotel…which is located right by the Pantheon. And 20 thousand gelato shops. We stayed at the Hotel Albergo del Senato. It was really fantastic. The concierge service was flawless, the location was bar none, and it had free breakfast. What more can you ask for?
The Pantheon is a remarkable building. Normally I grouse when Christians take over Pagan monuments and rebrand them. In this case, however, the Catholic Church saved it. See, the Renaissance peeps were great lovers of art, but they had no respect for ancient monuments. Tons of Roman stuff was torn down and recycled. As you can see from those holes, people didn’t hesitate to cut out bricks. Because the Church owned it, it didn’t get looted, and remains one of the most intact monuments in Rome. It used to be a temple that hailed all gods. Now it holds Mass. Pretty weird evolution.
Another interesting part of the square is the obelisk. It’s authentic Egyptian–Rome has a handful of obelisks throughout the city, with some being Egyptian and others being Roman copies.
The Romans were smart: when they came across foreign gods, they usually respected them and built temples. After all, you don’t want to piss off the guardians of the people you subjugate. It’s also funny because, as a Mediterranean society, some Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods were already shared. Isis was worshiped in the Roman-Greco world, but the goddess Ceres/Demeter is very similar to her anyway. To stretch her roots even further, Isis and the Virgin Mary share a ton of parallels. Though I don’t think Mary ever sliced Jesus’ hand off.
When my dad and I recovered enough to do more than shamble like zombies, we went for some dinner. I laid down the law: it was pizza time. The hotel recommended La Focaccia. Tucked in by an alley, it was raining and an adorable, dark-haired waiter ushered us into a cozy below-ground seating area. The waiter recommended a pear, Gorgonzola, and walnut pizza. That sounded good, but I was determined to get my tomato on. My first meal in Rome:
The next day we toddled over to the Col0sseum. It was a rainy week for Italy but as it wasn’t cold, I didn’t mind. This masterpiece is pretty synonymous with Rome.
Thing is, the Colosseum wasn’t called that during Roman times. It was called the Amphitheatrum Flavium, after the Roman dynasty. However, a bigass colossus statue stood just outside the building. Originally the statue looked like Emperor Nero, but since Nero was a crazy mofo, subsequent emperors redid it. Eventually the statue got recycled because it was made of bronze. Again, those Renaissance peeps, no respect for historical preservation.
That labyrinthine structure was the “backstage.” Gladiators hung out, chatted up babes, and polished their swords. Oh, and they kept lions and tigers and crocodiles in the darkness, so they’d be pissed and manic for the arena. Starving too. The arena covered it. Because of all the bloodshed, it was always filled with sand. After all, can’t have gladiators slipping on gore puddles halfway through a match.
Female gladiators did exist—the gladiatrices. They were rare, and a lot were from wealthy families. They’d ride around on chariots and fight each other, usually shirtless. Some emperors tried to ban them but it never really took, until the Christian Roman emperors decided to be killjoys and banned gladiatorial combat for everyone.
Anyway, a time spent roving around the Colloseum made me hangry, so we popped over for some lunch. I’m not normally a big pasta fan but I saw this delivered to another table and just had to have it.
Another huge ruin is the Forum. In Roman times this was like The Grove, only with a lot of pillars and fewer dumb tourists.
See those purple pillars? They are outrageously valuable. The stone is Egyptian porphyry. It’s all been dug up and it’s worth way more than gold. The reason the pillars still stand is because the temple they flank was buried. A rather nice Roman emperor loved his wifey so much that when she died he had her proclaimed a goddess so he could build a temple for her. That’s devotion!
This is the Arch of Titus, the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe. It’s sort of a “look guilty and shuffle” momument though—it features a scene called “Spoils of War,” where the Romans curb-stomped Jerusalem and demolished the Temple. They marched back with all the fancy stuff, like the Menorah and Silver Trumpets. In modern times it probably would have been returned, except when the Visigoths sacked Rome they threw it in the Tiber or melted it or something. But hey, no animal sacrifices since the temple was destroyed!
The day after, we snagged a guide. My dad’s been to Rome before, but the thing about Rome is that you can walk around it for months and still stumble upon new stuff. This is a friggin’ old city and it hides its secrets.
One neat place is the Piazza Navona, built over the old Stadium of Domitian. It has shops, restaurants, artists, and a really neat fountain.
This Fountain of the Four Rivers is awesome. Crafted by Bernini, its meaning wasn’t clear to me until our charming guide Fabio explained it. The four corners represent the four major rivers of the world — the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile, and the Plate. The people and animals represent their respective rivers. The dude closest to us is the Plate; the snake’s scaring the guy, who’s sitting on a pile of coins, representing the wealth of the New World.
I was walking down the Piazza when I noticed a dude spraypainting. I did a double take because holy crap I’d seen this on Youtube. A handful of spraypaint artists sit around crafting masterpieces. My dad was not impressed but I was entranced.
Rome has gorgeous streets. It also has great spas. I wanted a massage and the hotel recommended a marvelous place, Acanto Day Spa. Unlike the common “airy relaxation” theme, this spa was like a temple of relaxation. The dark, soothing interior was beautiful.
It was funny to note the differences between American and Italian full-body massages. Slightly different techniques and whatnot. Also funny are the different standards of prudery. In most American massage clinics, the therapist leaves the room while you hop on the table and crawl under the sheets. This has always struck me as silly because the therapist sees your nekky (or near nekky) body anyway. “OMG moving naked flesh, we must avert my eyes!” Here, the therapist told me to disrobe and get on the table, and went to warm some massage oil. It is pretty funny how a lot of America gets so touchy about body parts.
Anyhow, it was a lovely massage. The therapist didn’t speak English but it didn’t matter. She understood my French and I could string together enough context and cognates to understand her Italian. It was a fantastic hour+. Massages, people—they rock.
For our last night in Rome, I dragged us back to La Focaccia. The same cute waiter ushered us downstairs. This time, I took his pizza suggestion. For an appetizer, I had this yummy black rice and salmon dish.
When the waiter came back, he goes, “I had them do something special.” Awww, heart melt!
It was an amazing pizza: a great blend of salt, sweet, sharp, and nutty. Holy crap, a metaphor for me!
The next day, we took the train south to Naples, but more on that later.