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The Flying Dutchman

When in Rome...

ITALY | Monday, 1 February 2010 | Views [1281] | Comments [4]

When in Rome…


Hi friends, long time no blog, and I know you all have been checking back every single day to see if it has been updated because you all are interested in my life (our lives?) that much, BUT I had a few days of no internet, and have been really busy travelling and stuff so I am now going to try to catch up.


When we left you last, we had arrived in Rome, and it was a beautiful, sunny day.  We thought we would take advantage of the weather by seeing as much as we could with what we had left of the day.  We headed down the street to the Trevi Fountain (just casually), not knowing what to expect. We followed our map down little side streets turning this way and that, just enjoying the sunshine and the city.  I soon noticed that all the trees lining the streets were orange trees and were filled with big orange oranges!  I really wanted to take one for a snack but Alice said they might be doused in pesticides or something and I was a little worried that I would be charged with stealing from the city.  So we carried on and turned around a corner and were confronted abruptly by the large and imposing Trevi Fountain.  It was just taking up part of a city block with buildings close up around it like any other building in the city, no plaza or gardens surrounding it so that you could see it from far away.  This beautiful Roman masterpiece was just chillin’ on a side street, not receiving any special treatment from the city.  We actually noticed this with most of the major landmarks in Rome, they aren’t set aside from the rest of the city and made a huge deal out of, they are just there, and are just as spectacular. It’s like Rome is spoiled with beautiful old buildings, whereas the Eiffel Tower sits on acres upon acres of open green-space because Paris doesn’t have as many marvels. 


The fountain itself was a beautiful ancient structure with statues and water and beauty and LOTS of tourists, which is how we knew we had found it.  There were also men walking around selling these little stretchy shapeable toys, or at least trying – nobody was buying.  All of the tourists (I cannot imagine how busy it would be in summer) were posing and taking pictures with the fountain but our favourite was these two guys having a photo-shoot on the brink of the fountain.   One would sit on the edge and pretend to read a book, while the other would go down on one knee to get a great, artsy, angle and take pictures of him with a very expensive camera.  I have no idea what this was for, maybe for the cover of his portfolio or something?  We decided every time we were at a fountain we were going to pretend to read a book and take intelligent looking photos. 


We next headed to the Spanish Steps.  We walked for a little while and, after the best gelato yet, we found it.  I don’t know much about them, not why they are there, or what makes them Spanish, but they were also very crowded.  We assume that these were all tourists as well because I don’t know many locals who climb a large set of stairs for fun.  The Spanish Steps were really just that, a really wide staircase leading up to a really old, unidentifiable building, but they did offer a great view of of the city.  We could see Ancient Roman ruins and the Vatican, so we took plenty of pictures. 


That night we decided to save ourselves some money, inject some much needed protein into our system (meat in restaurants is expensive so we don’t eat much of it, we eat gelati instead), and hone our skillz in the kitchen – all in one shot!  So we headed to the supermarket down the street to pick up some meat and potatoes.  We obviously don’t speak Italian, as we have proved several times on this trip, so we didn’t really know what any of the meats were.  We just went on what was cheap.  We were also really hungry so I don’t think we looked that closely at what we were actually buying, but we picked up some red meat and a enough potatoes to feed a small village.  Or enough to choke a horse, or shake a stick at,  it was a lot anyway.  So we cooked it all up, and Alice soon noted that much of the meat actually looked like brains.   This was not ideal, because being in a foreign country, there was a high risk that what we were about to consume actually was brains.  PLUS, we didn’t even know what kind of brains they were.  I’m not saying that I would enjoy cow brains, per say, but I might feel more comfortable than munching horse brains.  So, we tried it and, though Alice couldn’t eat much of it because she thought it was brains the whole time, I found it edible.  Like I said, I was really hungry, so I finished off a decent portion of it, and it was nothing special, I wouldn’t make it again, but I didn’t gag.  After supper we went to get the Italian guy working the hostel to translate it for us.  We had made sure not to ask him before we ate it, just in case it was something disgusting, and we would just pretend it was steak.  He translated it, and it was something about a shoulder and a cow, which was definitely reassuring, but definitely a first for both of us.  I guess the problem with it was that we hadn’t thought to put anything on it, it was just cooked meat with no flavour, so it was sub-par at best.  Better luck next time. 


That night when we were going to bed, it was kind of quiet, and then about 20 Portuguese-speaking people came out of the woodwork and decided to have a loud party.  There were literally more people than I think the hostel had room for.  I went to the washroom before bed, and while I was in there I could hear in the next stall (it was a unisex washroom) a girl reading her pregnancy test and finding that she was pregnant and getting really excited about it with her friend.  How romantic, in the bathroom stall of a hostel far away from home.  At least she was happy about it.  I guess she decided to celebrate (hopefully not too hard) because suddenly the Portuguese party had made there way INTO the bathroom and were carrying on the festivities even more loudly.  There was no escaping them.


The next day, we took off to see Vatican City.  We took the subway there, and as we came out of the station and were greeted by people asking us if we spoke English and then offering us amazing tours of the Vatican/Sistine Chapel/anywhere so long as we paid them.  Pretending not to speak English is much harder than I thought it would be.  They would ask if I spoke English, and I would stop my English conversation with Alice to reply “nope”.  Now they knew I spoke English so they would offer me all of these awesome tours, and all I could do was ignore them, and still pretend not to speak English.  These guys were every ten feet or so, and worked as a single unit, figuring out the best way to sell unsuspecting tourists expensive, possibly nonexistent, tours.  They would talk to each other behind our backs and I think they even developed a system of hand singles and sign language.  One woman was very aggressive and walked with us all the way up the street offering us a tour of the cathedral.  “Why don’t you want a tour?” she asked innocently, but I could see the evil in her eyes.  “We saw it yesterday” I replied.  “You can’t have, it was closed yesterday” she countered, “where the hell were we??” I wondered aloud, knowing I had been caught in a lie, but she apparently believed me and said I was probably at some other cathedral and that I really should get a guided tour today – there’s no better way to see it.  She followed us all the way to a street we had to cross, and continued to heckle us as we prayed for the light to change and allow us to escape.  With some of them I pretended that we didn’t want to see the Vatican, even though we were standing right outside of it, and I actually started to enjoy getting creative and messing with them.


Once inside the little country that is the Vatican, we saw the Sistine Chapel (which was amazing and went on forever), St. Peter’s Square, and went inside the cathedral, which we were a little embarrassed not to know the name of (it was either St. Peter’s Cathedral/Basilica or St. Paul’s, we now know it is St. Peter’s).  St. Peter had some pretty sweet digs.  The place was by far the largest cathedral I had ever been in and just the columns to hold it up were massive.  It was an amazing experience just walking around in it with such a massive open expanse above.


We then paid the 5euro to take the stairs up to the top of the dome of the cathedral (rather than the 7 to take the elevator, we are poor travellers).  Same old story, LOTS of stairs, amazing view.  We could see all of Rome from here.  We could pick out the Colosseum and some other monuments.  These views constantly are favourite parts of the cities we visit, and this was no exception.


We headed back down and made for home.  It had been drizzling lightly on and off all day, and we had been ignoring it for the most part, but now it had picked up a little bit, and we were getting a little wet.  Sometime while we were on top of the dome and the weather was turning for the wetter, all the tour offerers had tag teamed out and had now been replaced by umbrella salesmen.  Everywhere.  If you are looking for an umbrella, Rome in the rain is the place to be.  Unfortunately for them, we were much more stubborn than they were expecting, and refused to spend 4euro on a little umbrella that would probably break within days.  We walked home and denied every single one of them our business, but by the time we had made it back to the hostel, we had gained an appreciation for the fact that really, they want us to “help them help us”.  They want our money, we want to be dry.  It was too late, we were already soaked nicely. 


On our journey home though, we stopped at a little restaurant, in view of the Pantheon, that we had read about in a travel book.   It served us the best, most authentic Italian food yet, and it was on a red-checkered tablecloth, so we got spaghetti and red wine, and it was awesome.  After the massive servings of spaghetti we carried on and found the best gelati place in world – so far – and indulged.  Karma seemed to making it up to us for all the rain. 


I guess I haven’t yet mentioned that today was January 25th, which is, duh, Australia Day Eve.  Alice had been formulating plans in her head all day/week/probably since last Australia Day, about how she would celebrate tomorrow, because it is kind of a big deal.  One of the things that needed to happen in order to celebrate Aussie Day was that we needed to find another Aussie, so it could be a real party.  Apparently Canadians don’t cut the mustard.  We got back to the hostel, and we overheard someone talking with an Australian accent, so Alice pounced and started making conversation.  Soon enough, we had made a new Australian friend, Karl.  The stars had aligned for dingoriffic Australia Day the next day.


The next day, Alice and Karl eagerly awoke at dawn and raced down the stairs to open all the kangaroo pouches under the Old Gum Tree, which is what all the good little Aussies do on Australia Day. 


First thing in the morning, we went to see some Old Roman Stuff: The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum.  Again, Mother Nature was like, “No, I don’t really feel like showing the sun at all today, how about some nice rain?” and we were like, “We are tourists on a schedule and a budget, we are going to see everything in this city, whether we are soaked or not!” so we walked all the way to the Colosseum in the rain, NOT buying any umbrellas.  Karl had bought one earlier in his trip, and had been ripped off colossally.  Any little gust of wind and his umbrella was turned inside out.  Alice and I found this rather amusing and didn’t refrain from showing this.   We all agreed what a rip off these umbrellas were, until we got thoroughly soaked, and Alice cracked, and bought an umbrella for 3euro. 


We headed into the park on Palatine Hill and enjoyed all of the ancient ruins.  I tried to ignore the rain, and we carried onto the Forum.  This was also a very cool experience, and there were lots of pictures taken (on Alice’s camera as it is waterproof) and we got a little more drenched, especially me.  So on the way to the entrance of the Colosseum, I too cracked, and bartered with the salesman and got it for 3euro as well.  We toured the Colosseum and were a little drier and a little more in awe.  It was an awesome feat of engineering! And I’m sure it looks great in sunlight…  


We then headed home to dry out a little bit, but didn’t have much time to sit around, as we had to walk down the street to do the laundry.  Alice’s and my shoes were too soaked to be used, so we let them dry as we walked down the wet streets in our sandals.  It was a 15 minute walk, the whole time trying not to slip and break a hip.  We made it, had our laundry done for us by the staff, had a cappuccino while we waited, and picked up ingredients for supper on the way home.  We kind of looked like bums walking into the supermarket soaking wet, in sandals, carrying bags of clothes, but this was no time for dignity. 


That night, we let Karl cook for us (we are nice that way) and he cooked up some risotto that was absolutely delicious.  Marco, the Italian guy working the hostel, said that it was the best risotto he had ever had.  Karl is Australian.  That night we befriended a Brazilian named Fernanda and celebrated Australia Day in the hostel and had a grand ol’ time.


That night our shoes continued to dry, but come morning time they were still not ready, so we rocked sandals a little more as we took the trains to the amazing Cinque Terre. 


Until next time,


Neil and Alice




Tags: alice berents, chianti hostel, colosseum, italy, miscellanea, neil loewen, rome




Reading your blog makes me jealous. I love to hate you.
Keep on keepin on. Stay dry?

  Kendra Jae Feb 2, 2010 8:57 AM


Yay new updates! It all sounds so fabulous, rain or shine! Any goodies in the kangaroo pouches? :)

  Sacha Feb 2, 2010 9:31 AM


Ok, I am so totally celebrating next Australia Day by opening all the kangaroo pouches under the old gum tree!

sounds fabulous you guys! I continue to be entirely jealous!

  Helen Feb 2, 2010 10:35 AM


Haha tell me you guys reenacted the Italian scene from lady and the tramp :).. checkered table cloth and spaghetti? that just screams chewing on the same piece of spaghetti lol

  Lindsey Feb 3, 2010 4:35 PM



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