Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 3, Rome

Today was one of the more interesting ones. For some reason, this
morning we were both snappy and inclined to sulk, but after an hour or
two, I called both of us out on it and we made an effort to improve,
and mostly did. We finally found an adaptor for the laptops- yay for
real Internet again!- and bought food for the orphaned kittens at the
hostel. From there, we decided to find a tea room, which proved a bit
of a challenge.
We had tea at the foot of the Spanish steps, the Piazza di Spagna at a
shop called Babingtons. It's an Anglo-Saxon style shop, which isn't
technically right in Rome but we decided to do it anyway.
The shop is lovely, furnished in the simple dark woods common in the
UK and beautiful jars full of teas. Our tablemates were Scottish and
we compared notes on restaurants, gelaterias, and our impressions of
monuments we'd seen so far.
The tea was amazing- Babington Royal Blend, a gift to Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth on her visit to Rome. We drank a tea that Her Majesty
owns. This whole trip boggles my mind. Chris is developing quite the
tea palate, and pronounced this tea similar to Golden Monkey- not
quite so earthy, very robust, with flowery notes. He particularly
noted a hint of rose and jasmine, and maybe a little vanilla. Yes, my
boyfriend is more of a tea conniousser than I am!
I wanted to buy a teacup, but at €30, I decided that I will get one
for each country, not city!

Navigating Rome is by turns fun and frustrating. We tried to go to the
Capuchin Monastery, and after a half dozen wrong turns and the
directions of a very kind nun, we finally found out that it's closed
in the midday, like much of Rome.
However, while looking for it, we found the Piazza Barberini, with the
Palazzo Barberini and the Fontana di Triton by Bernini.
So another series of fun and frustrating directions later, we took 2
buses to the Catacombs.
Outside of the main city, Roman roads are narrow, meandering, and
surrounded by high walls. There were several times when I wasn't sure
our bus would make it past another car or around a turn.
On arriving, we were both hungry so we stopped at a food stand and
bought gelato. Please note- 'Due gelato, per favore, cream e
chioccalate,' means 'two custard and chocolate ice creams, please'.
NOT 'two gelatos, please, chocolate and custard.' Oops LOL
But we picnicked in a gorgeous sunny field, making messes of our
gelato like children and enjoying the shade.
The catacombs, apparently, are guided tours only, and your ticket
allows you to wait for a guide in your language. The order for this is
apparently random, and motivated by whim- like much of Roman behavior,
it seems to me.
The catacombs themselves were amazing. No pictures were allowed for
fear of light damage to the 1000 year old frescoes, but the images
will be burned into my mind forever. There are 3 kinds of crypts-
single niches, larger niches for couples, and 'cubicles' for families.
Yes, cubicle is a word for a family crypt- tell that to your boss.
They weren't hiding places like people think- the Roman gov't knew
about them- but they were cemeteries. After 300AD when Christianity
was decriminalized, they were decorated and the martyrs celebrated.
The Catacombs at San Callisto cover 13 hectares and held nearly a half
a million bodies, wrapped in linen shrouds and preserved in quicklime.
There was a statue in the Crypt of St Cecelia, dedicated to Emily
Cecilia McBride of New York, whom I intend to look up.
It was a beautiful, humbling experience-even my favorite Goth was
quiet and respectful- mostly, anyway. The gravity of the place was
astonishing- half a million lives, half a million people, with hopes
and dreams and lives and wishes and fears and needs. So beautiful...
We ended up deciding to just walk for a while, passing stands of shoes
and shops of electronics and clothes. We learned that a pastacceri
isn't a pasta shop, but a bakery. My favorite Italian phrase is
becoming, 'Costa mi consiglia?' which means, ''What do you recommend?'
Today it got us an amazing little sweet glazed biscuit with custard.
Another few blocks foun me the teacup Ive been looking for- grey Roman
monuments behind bright scarlet roses. And, it was €5, not €30!
Finally, though, our feet were hurting so we headed back to the Metro
and Chris's idea of dinner overlooking the Fontana de Trevi. When we
reached it, we both just stopped in awe. Neither of us expected it to
be so grand- so large and beautiful! We climbed all over one side of
it, taking pictures and laughing like children when we climbed up and
over the rail. Dinner turned out to be more of a snack at a nearby
cafe, but it was the only place with tables that overlooked the Fontana.
I've discovered that while Chris loves real Italian mozzerella, Im
still not fond of olives, or sun-dried tomatoes that have been packed
in olive oil.
Finally, as the evening got cooler, we walked back to the hostel
together, holding hands.
Tomorrow morning, we leave for Florence.

The only real blasphemy is the refusal of joy. -"Jeffrey"

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