Rome: The Beginning

Where to even begin this series of events? The night train! This one was a breeze compared to the last one. We were able to have a cabin to ourselves, our stop was the last stop (so we could set an alarm and get everything ready- no lost passports), and the compartment transformed into three beds. If you could only have seen us, all sprawled out in our sleeping bags. We had the window shade pulled down, the lights off, cold air on, and sleeping bags out! camping in style. I vaguely remember asking Morgan if “sleeping in my underwear would be considered indecent exposure,” and she said yes, so We each changed into a pair of Pj’s. People could still walk by and look into our compartment- so for a bit in the beginning that was distracting, but if you got past that then all was well.

The train attendants/ ticket ladies this round were super troopers. We clocked them checking our tickets 5 times. After a bit it just got annoying, and we debated just sticking them in the window so they could see. That never happened, but each time they woke us up we groggily complied. I have no clue why they needed to check so much. I Understand the one time when we crossed country borders and they crew changed, but still. Oh well, suffice it to say the ride went so much better than the first one, and I actually got a decent amount of sleep.

Arriving in Rome was a feat in itself. Note to anyone thinking of going to Rome: ” THEY ONLY ACCEPT CASH FOR THE SUBWAY/EVERYTHING IN ROME!!!” There have been some very few blessed instances where we have found places that will accept a credit card, but for the most part- if your going through Rome, pack cash. Just thought you should know. That being said, I should tell you about our subway
adventure.

After departing the train,our first course of action was to find the subway. As we followed the signs for the metro, we neared the terminal and found the machines that Issue tickets. After changing the language to English, we discovered that these machines do not accept a credit card. No biggie, we will go buy on at the information desk. We could not find an information desk for the subway, we found one for the trains, but not metro. The only logical thing to do is ask the train man where the metro desk was- he sent us to the tourism information desk. At the tourism information desk, they fault out told us that in order to ride the subway, you needed cash. Great. But while we were standing there, people round us were. Buying this thing called a “Roma Pass.” the pass gave you unlimited use of ALL public transportation, and it allowed you entrance into two museums/locations for free, a discount for the others, and with it you could skip lines. The pass is good for exactly three days. And they accepted a credit card. Hallelujah. A subway pass- we bought three.

The adventure continues as we begin the search for our hostel or in this case the Bed and Breakfast. The directions to the location were not extreme,y specific. They got us as far as which metro train and take and which stop to get off of, so we knew that much. After that you were on your own. Their has been a McDonlads at almost every subway something or another, so after we hopped off the train we decided to go find the wi-fi and just map it out. The sign was there leading the way, but it merely said, “McDonalds this way- it had an arrow- five minute walk.” Wow, this place is getting great responses to being vague. After scrambling around lost for a b it- remember the lack of street signs- we decided to start asking people for help. We pulled up the address on my iPhone. Made it big so people could easily see it, and began the task of asking away. We really should have done this in the beginning because within in a few minutes we had been pointed on the right direction and were on our way.

These B&B’s are nothing special. In fact, they exist in an apartment complex that has been gutted a bit and made into a series of multiple B&B’s. How nice. They have a door man, and each floor is a separate B&B. We figured that booking this room would be like booking any other hotel or hostel. When you pay for the room, you get to do with it as you please, right? You can squeeze in more people, you can add a cot, you can have a party- not in Italy. When we arrived to check-in, the lady was crazy! And she did not speak English, but rather than trying to make her-self understood she just kept ranting on in Italian. Really? And then she was getting mad and getting furious and protesting- but I had already paid for this room, so she had to let me in. Not the case. Eventually the manager showed up, thankfully she spoke English, and we were able to talk. Ok, here is where it gets weird. The manager proceeds to cancel my booking and then book all three of us! No really. She decides that for all three of us to stay in this tiny room, it would be €25 EACH, and we would be here three days. She then goes on to collect our passports and says that in Italy they have to report each tourists. I was floored. Well, first i was NOT surrendering my passport to her. I understood that the city keeps a log and charged an additional tourism tax, ok, but YOU WILL NOT get my passport. So we argued over that. We may have been stubborn Italian, but I am my mothers son and an American, so no way am I giving up my documents.it was getting heated now.

My reservation cost just went from €130 to €225. Wow, totally screwed. Not fun. I was so frustrated. But we are here, it’s the end, I want to be done. Ugh. So we just did t and moved on. Not ideal, but what can you do? We should have probably been like, its ok, cancel the booking we can find another place, and then gone out looking. But we are in a foreign country, don’t speak their language, we are tired, the little lady who checked us in was crying, and I really didn’t want to deal with it. So there! We had a roof over our heads- extremely important.

We left our packs with them, it’s the least they could have done, and went out to explore Rome. My experience with the people was hitting a level of “less than I deal” because I felt swindled and forced into something, but regardless, we pushed on. Because even if they are not pleasant people, Rome is gorgeous! The entire housing situation took roughly 2 1/2 hours- you just received the readers digest version- we decided to go and see the colosseum. When we walked out of that subway, I was breathless. It was HUGE and just there. Standing as a symbol of whatRme used to be. It would be free with our Roma Pass, and it was also include the ruins of the ancient city square next to it, but we had not eaten at all and it was around 1:30pm. So our desire to eat and look for street art, won over the awe of going right into classical architecture.

As we roamed for a bit, we found an extremely talented artists, and decided to give him patronage and add his pieces to our now blossoming watercolor collection. That would be fun, to go around Europe hitting the major cities collecting original works for an exhibit- may not- but it was a cool idea. After wandering for a bit we found a sit down restaurant that offered us an appetizer, full entree, and drink for €11. Sweet! We were so hungry that we each ordered a full pizza and just devoured it. What’s interesting is that I thought pizza in Italy would be something unique to savor and love, but in all reality if you have Italians in your neighborhood (Three Guys and Joes Pizza Palace for my parents) then you are set. It all taste the same. However, food that would accept payment with a card was welcomed by this time. It was so good. After we ate we just sat there and soaked in being on a street cafe. So nice. It was sunny, warm, and had a beautiful breeze. THIS is the Italy I craved, not crazy people forcing things upon me.

When we were full it was time to begin our stroll of the Colosseum. I was so excited, I think at one point I was skipping towards it. I mean cut me some slack, this is something I have been leading about forever- and I love the classical period. With the Roma pass, we easily skippered the line getting right in, and then began exploring. We easily spent three hours here just going through all of the levels, taking pictures, reading through the exhibits they had set up, buying a book guide and then going through it all again, I mean it’s just magnificent. I loved all of the marble work, and the structure of it all, and reading about the construction and destruction. Did you know that after the fall of the Roman empire, they would use the marble from the Colosseum in other buildings- and when they took it, they replaced it with brick. Yup, learned that from our adventures. Honestly, it was just brilliant! We wan Ted to go see the ruins of the old city adjacent to the Colosseum, but it was late when we finished playing there and they were closing up. S we are going to go back on Saturday. Between our sightseeing, art hunting, and long lunch, it was Ayer 6 when we left the Colosseum and we still had not “properly” checked in at the B&B.

We returned to check in and met with our disgruntled Italian lady. She garnished us with a key ring boasting four keys, and in her rushed Italian told us what they did, showed us to our room, and was off. Great. We started exploring and found that our bathroom, had a bidet. Can’t say I have ever used one of those before, but I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Everything is extremely clean, and we used the bidet to wash our feet because they hurt from walking in those Chaco sandals- but not to worry because we cleaned it out afterwards. You know, just in case someone needed it for its original purposes. If you don’t know what they are, feel free to google it…

Because everything closes so early, we decided not to use another of our museum passes because our time there would be limited. Rather, Morgan went through a book we purchased on the architecture of Rome and combined with the map, we set out on an evening walking tour of Rome with a focus on looking for all of the famous water fountains. But first, we would need more food- and when your in Italy, you just have to keep going for the pizza.

No Italian vacation would be complete with stopping in a bakery for a real Italian Cannoli. And oh my goodness they are delicious here!!! We walked into the bakery near our house, and they had just opened recently because while they did accept cards they’re machine was not up and running. But luckily I had €2, I was €.50 short, but the man still let me have the big Cannoli for what I had. It was Devine. Chase and Morgan had never had one before so this was their introduction to them, and they liked them too. I forsee more of them in our future…

Our tour began with the Fontana del Tritone. The Triton Fountain in the Piazza Barberini (1642), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, representing Triton, half-man and half-fish, blowing his horn to calm the waters, following a text by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. Following that we hit a fountain that was truly magnificent –the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most spectacular of Rome’s fountains, designed to glorify the three different Popes who created it. It was built beginning in 1730 at the terminus of the reconstructed Acqua Vergine aqueduct, on the site of Renaissance fountain by Leon Battista Alberti. It was the work of architect Nicola Salvi and the successive project of Pope Clement XII, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope Clement XIII, whose emblems and inscriptions are carried on the attic story, entablature and central niche. The central figure is Oceanus, the personification of all the seas and oceans, in an oyster-shell chariot, surrounded by Tritons and Sea Nymphs.

Our last fountains were all in the same square, but the trek to get there was a it confusing. The roads are small and wind back and forth, the streets are cobble stones instead of paved, and cars and motorcycles, seem to think they can go anywhere. Wow. So, after dodging many vehicles, and taking lots of turns, and finding more things that we plan on seeing on Saturday in the day light and while they are open, we arrived at the Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona is a grand theater of water – it has three fountains, built in a line on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. The fountains at either end are by Giacomo della Porta; the Neptune fountain to the north, (1572) shows the God of the Sea sparing an octopus, is surrounded by tritons, sea horses and mermaids. At the southern end is La Fontana del Moro, a figure either of an African (a Moor) or of Neptune wrestling with a dolphin. In the center is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) (1648–51), a highly theatrical fountain by Bernini, with statues representing rivers from the four continents; the Nile, Danube, Plate River and Ganges. Over the whole structure is a 54-foot (16 m) Egyptian obelisque, crowned by a cross with the emblem of the Pamphili family, representing Pope Innocent X, whose family palace was on the piazza.

The square was also the Mecca of street art, because it was filled with people selling paintings (both reproductions and originals), making paintings, as also showcasing photography. When we arrived at the piazza we were in heaven. Beautiful fountains combined with an active city night life was just spectacular. We stayed in the square admiring the fountains (which Morgan knew all about and continued to give us her lecture that we have labeled “art stories”) enjoying the art, and soaking in the ambience. We didn’t leave until midnight. Which proved to be its own set of problems- the metro stopped running at 11:30pm. What Is with Europe and everything ending so early?

Let’s talk about this metro system for a moment. The underground is designed as an “X.” There are only two lines and they cross at one place, the Termini or the train station. This was not good planning at all! Luckily for us, we are on a subway stop, so I’m grateful, but with the way its made the trams are packed because everyone is typically going to the one transfer point to switch trains. Great. There were multiple moments when we would have to wait for another train because the one that showed up was already packed to capacity. Not good planning at all. However, there is also a nubs and tram system that service the city- but up to this point we had no idea how they worked.

Running to a bus stop so that we don’t miss them before they stop running, we were finally able to grab one. We had no idea that the subway stopped running at 11:30- an Irish man informed us of that- but our original plan was to head back to the Termini station because we could get the subway there. So, that plan wasn’t going to work. However, the Irish man that was speaking to us, became our friend and informed us of a system of night busses that serviced the city after midnight. Thank goodness for the Roma Pass which gave us access to EVERYTHING. The lovely Irish man and his friends helped us through the bus station and told us which bus o take to get home. Yay. But when our bus ended and dropped us off, we had no clue where we were. Luckily, it was the end of the route and the driver was on a bit of a break, so we asked him, and he pointed the direction we needed to go.

After walking a bit, we realized that we were back in the area we had spent most our morning being lost in trying to find our B&B, so it was a blessing we spent do much time wandering around lost because we now knew the area. Oh the wonderful blessing of travel. When we arrived home, we all passed out, and slept like rocks.

Which brings me to today (May 25) I’m sitting at the table eating the breakfast portion of the B&B- but it’s nothing fancy just a continental breakfast hardly worth the price- writing to you about yesterday. We were extremely productive and we plan on continuing that today. We are heading soon to the Vatican….

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About supportingactr2b

Brock's Bites: Juicy Tidbits from The Big Apple! Join me as I chronicle my summer internship with Tara Rubin Casting. Stories from 40th and Broadway.
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