Top 10 Things to Do...When in Rome!
1. Buy gelato by the tub, as opposed to single-serve cone, and store it in the hostel's freezer for easy and frequent access.
2. Count how many traffic cops are armed with semi-automatic guns.
3. Walk an hour to the Vatican only to realize that you forgot your guidebook and information back at the hostel.
4. Spend the afternoon eating your tub of gelato instead.
5. Wonder how you are ever going to fit into a bridesmaid dress after eating so much gelato.
6. Watch how angry Romans-with-a-car get if they need to slow down to the speed limit.
7. Walk confidently into oncoming traffic with your head up and body braced for impact.
8. When #7 seems impossible, always cross in the wake of a nun.
9. Never have enough small, or exact change for purchases. Watch the cashier huff and puff and proceed to throw (literally) your receipt, purchases or train reservations at you when you hand them a 20.
10. Try to use a magnet to collect the coins from the Trevi fountain. After realizing that euro coins are not magnetic, think again about the hundreds of thousands of Italian Lire the homeless guy was taking out of the fountain for 30 years before finally being caught in 2002 (true story).
Besides thinking of 10 'witty' things to do in Rome, we actually found ourselves in quite an adventure underneath the city. Christopher, a Passionist priest we had met while in Ireland with Gramma (who happens to be the cutest gramma in the whole world!), showed us Rome from a local's perspective. He toured us around churches and gave us entertaining explanations of the sites.
Christopher also invited us to lunch. He fed us a delicious (and huge) hot lunch at the monastery he lives at.
We even had the priviledge of exploring the remains of a second century neighbourhood beneath the church. Some of the rooms even still had frescoes painted into the walls, remaining from all those centuries ago.
We even went splunking! Under the monastery, it turns out, there is an extensive network of caves that is thought to have lead to the Colosseum, which the monastery overlooks. Literally, we went where no tourists had gone before. The caves are not a tourist attraction. Picture going down into a deep, dark, cold cave with a dripping ceiling and crystal blue sub-terranean pool, lit only by a weak flashlight. What an experience! It was such an incredible morning and we really appreciate Christopher taking a day out of his busy schedule to show us around, make us feel so welcome and give us the best meal we've had in months. Grazie, Christopher!
Did you know...the Colosseum's real name is the Flavian Amplitheatre. The Flavian was nicknamed the 'Colosseum' only after a 'colossal' bronze statue of the mean-old-emperor, Nero, was erected out front. Today, the statue is long gone, but the name still remains.
The Colosseum was a 50,000 seater stadium in its hey-day (80 AD). Today, it is just a deteriorated tourist sight (it probably seats about 200). If you decide to see a show tonight, you likely have the choice of a cartoon, comedy, action, romantic-comedy (blah), thriller, drama or horror. There is some variety. The Colosseum also had choice: man vs man, man vs beast or beast vs beast. Its entertainment was...violent. These weren't like a poorly-overdubbed King Kong vs Godzilla movie; these were REAL blood sports. The stadium was inaugurated with a 100-day festival. In that 100 days, 2,000 men and 9,000 animals were killed in front of capacity cheering crowds. Colosseum employees sprayed perfumes around the stadium to mask the stench of blood. Next time I go to the show, maybe I shouldn't complain about the raunchy popcorn butter smell.
The Ninja Turtles in Rome
Before they turned into turtles and learned karate, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo were artists (and human).
Leonardo's St. Jermome was on display at the Vatican museum, but it was patched. The reason? A shoemaker thought it would be smart to apolster a foot stool with part of the painting. He probably also thought it smart to wear a fannypack.
Raphael painted a pope's bedroom with the 'School of Athens'. It paid respect to thinkers and scientists of antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and Euclid.
Donatello left us a wood carving of St. John the Baptist.
It was Michelangelo, though, who took center stage with the Sistine Chapel. The 5,900 square foot fresco was done between 1508 and 1512. Imagine craning your neck, while paint dripped in your eyes, on scaffolding six stories up for four years! You would think that might compromise the quality of the final product. It didn't. In true Italian style, the ceiling was dressed to impress. Or, in the words of Michelangelo, it was radical, dude!