November 18, 2001 – Roma by Derek White

Our journey started back in New Jersey. Saturday we took the subway down to Grand Central and then the bus to Newark airport. Dozens of National Guard troops lined the entrance to the terminal to make their presence know, but when it comes down to it the security people are just 19-year old punks making $8 an hour. We flew all night and didn’t sleep at all. Watched the Leonid meteor shower over the wing of the airplane. Just from the quarter of sky visible to me I was seeing about a meteor every ten seconds. Supposedly this was the most intense meteor shower since the Leonids on November 22, 1966. 35 years since I was born. So this was a special pre-birthday treat.

When we got to Rome we took a train from the airport to the termini. Then we took a taxi from the train station to Albergo del Sole, which was near Campo D’Fioro The taxi ride was a bit of a disappointment after all you hear about Rome taxis. Tame compared to New York. The hotel was “clean” as they say, but it did have a nice balcony and courtyard. Checked in and immediately set out exploring … walked up to nearby Piazza Navonna where the three Bernini fountains are, including the four rivers or wherever it was called. Unbelievable to see this stuff that I’ve seen in pictures so much, I still remember it from Humanities and AP Art history in high school. We had a pizza and cappuccino in one of the over-priced restaurants on the piazza just because you have to do it at least once. We people-watched and then it started sprinkling so we ducked under an umbrella. It was colder than we expected and I was unprepared (we only brought one day-pack between the two of us). Then we headed to Trevi Fountain where the main attraction was the annoying Pakistani or Indian guys who were trying to sell really stupid touristy shit. Kept shoving shit in your face while you were trying to look at the fountains. These guys became a main feature of all the tourist attractions in Rome. If you could see through these guys, Trevi Fountain was beautiful, but a little faded and blackened from the brilliant white marble and aqua blue pictures you see. When we were there, there was all this commotion and suddenly this horse goes galloping buy full speed with a buggy in tow, but no one at the helm. The sounds of the hoofs on the cobblestone echoed through the streets as everyone stood dumbfounded. An old Italian woman turned to us when the Pakistani men bothered her, saying “mama mia!” … like what is this world coming to.

  Somewhere in there we saw the Spanish steps, which not to be negative, were a bit of a disappointment. Just some steps leading up to some church which a bunch of wanna-be-seens sitting lounging all over the steps. Maybe it’s more beautiful in the summer when they plant flowers and all, but now they were under construction with unsightly barriers set up. Nevertheless, a good view at the church above on the outskirts of Villa Borghese. The Spanish steps are in an area that is Rome’s equivalent to Madison Ave. All the top designers there. And the Italian people actually wear that stuff that when you see it paraded on the runway you think “who in their right mind actually wears this shit?” The Italians do. Fur-lined mod coats and the ridiculous J-Lo tinted glasses seemed to be the rage. Lots of fur products actually. Looked just like an Armani ad.

After the Spanish steps we wandered down around the Quirinale, and then our first taste of the Forum, which was truly mind-blowing. All these ruins smack in the middle of the city. So much to see, huge skeletons of structures that gave you a hint of what their ancient Rome must have been like. Pieces of marble columns just strewn about haphazardly. Wild cats everywhere. We walked along Via del Fori Imperiali taking in all the magnificent structures and remains, eventually reaching the Coliseum. Then it started to rain. Suddenly the annoying Pakistani vendors turned into umbrella vendors. Enterprising, had to admit. We bought one and huddled in line to get in. The Coliseum is pretty intense to think that it is bigger then any coliseum we have today and it was built way back when. We wandered around imagining what it was like when they had the gladiator battles. You can even see down in the infrastructure below the field where they orchestrated all the behind the scenes stuff.

It was still raining when we finished with the coliseum, and by this time it was starting to get dark. We huddled in the metro station with the masses, wondering what to do. Finally we said fuck it. Wasn’t raining too hard. So we wandered through the Forum in the rain, taking pictures from under the umbrella. At least there wasn’t that many other tourists around. The rain didn’t let up. Matter of fact, it steadily came down harder and harder. We took shelter in the Curia, which was a massive structure that was relatively intact. It was dark and ominous in there. But we just got colder waiting there. So we continued to venture on. After a while it became comical … we were dodging around trying to see the sights, “there’s the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II” with the chariots looming on the roof. “Quick, take a picture” I would hold the umbrella while Jess took the picture.

We tried to go to the museum there that had a Klint and Egon Schiele exhibit, but the line was way too long. So we through in the towel and decided to head home. Couldn’t get a taxi as everyone else was in the same boat without a paddle. Got lost as we could barely see with the rain. By this time it was a full on downpour. Everyone had umbrellas and it was impossible to get along the sidewalks. Jess was a trooper. She would go into hysterical laughing fits. And then a bus would drench us even more when they drove by. Finally made it back to the hotel but we were soaked to the bone. Didn’t even bother to change to go to dinner (why bother to get another set of clothes wet, not that I had another set to change into). Ate at some dungeoness tourist place in Campo D’Fioro that was okay.

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