Saturday, September 16, 2006

Travels with Cyndi: Rome, Day Two

"So it was that I determined to look again, to try to rediscover this monster land." -John Steinbeck

"Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city." -Anatole Broyard

The photo of us taken in front of the Pantheon. Obviously the photographer didn't notice the pantheon in the background, as he failed to include it in the photo.

Read about Day One here.

Our second day in Rome went by fast. We only had until around 4 in the afternoon to bum around Rome, since we needed to catch evening trains back home. Since the day before had been spent wandering, today we had a minor list of sights we wanted to see. As I've found, when visiting Rome, cramming a day too full is useless, as it will become uncomfortable and frantic, and in the history books, that day will be chalked down as forgettable. It's the slower days that work best, when a traveler can let Rome in and wander. If I were offered a full month in Rome, or a year even, I think I would try to discover one or two new things a day, and then let the rest of the day discover me.

So Cyndi and I were starting out right: just a couple of things to do, and then, if we had time left, we'd do a little more. We started off heading toward the metro, and we thought we'd pass by way of one of the city's gates that we had gone by the day before. I didn't realize that Rome had these elegant city gates, and the one we visited that morning, Porta Pia, was one of those things that, in Rome, you come across without even thinking--just another example of the city's excess of beautiful things. How can a city really hold all of these treasures? I wonder, isn't there a limit on a city's treasure chest?

Now, I told you about the previous day's American accents. I hoped to blame that all on a lack of sleep, but this new day we had slept quite well--yet somehow the accents came out again. Perhaps we did just simply look like lost tourists as we talked loudly and obnoxiously in different accents, but, passing Porta Pia and seeing the British Embassy, we immediately broke out into our attempts at British accents. I apologize now to anyone who IS British: hopefully the Romans won't give you dirty looks based on having met US on this two day trip! We decided this was the perfect photo op, and, with our cameras almost ready, we started to pose. Immediately, nearby guards stopped us.

"No photos!" they yelled.

"What?" we asked, still in British accents. "No photos? In front of the Embassy?" We looked at each other with overly astonished faces, as if we were being kicked off our own territory. Of course we're not British, and it was in no way our territory, but still...

"No photos!" the guards continued. We knew we had no choice in this, although we were both tempted to take quick photos just to be difficult. We didn't, though. Instead. we looked at those guards with frowns on our faces and walked away, all the time muttering loudly things about the Queen and the Homeland in our horrible British accents. (Again, my sincere apologies to all British people out there!)

Our next stop was the Colosseum, just to take a couple of pictures (for me, it's the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain that are every time musts in Rome. For Cyndi it's the Colosseum), and then we headed to the first place on our list: San Clemente. I had read about San Clemente first in H.V. Morton's little bible on Rome: A Traveller in Rome,. It is a church built on levels: one level so ancient that it represents a pagan temple, another level representing the very early church, and then the most recent level, a baroque conglomerate of styles. I've heard the church called "Rome in Miniature." Everything about Rome, all of those layers of different eras, are represented at San Clemente.

The church was amazing. We explored the upper level and then immediately headed downstairs to see the lower churches. We explored the 4th century church and its ancient frescoes, and then we went even lower, into what must've been one of Rome's earliest layers, exploring the temple dedicated to the god Mithras, where a shrine still remains. We walked through the maze of ancient rooms and eventually came across water running--a spring! Here, on the early floor of Rome, water rushed through--that famous Roman water. Clear and drinkable. We watched it as it continued, in awe of where we were.

As we left San Clemente, taking some last pictures, we remembered that we had something else on our list of things to see: the Pyramid. Yes, Rome has a pyramid. There's a metro stop that goes straight to it, and we jumped back on the metro at the Colosseum stop, looking forward to seeing a pyramid--a real pyramid! We got off at the metro stop, hurried upstairs and hoped the pyramid would just be there waiting for us--and maybe there would be sand and camels too.

There was no sand, and no camels that I was aware of. But there was a pyramid. I think we had expected something else, but here was this massive pyramid skirted in by a very busy road, no little "read me" guides, nothing to explain the presence of the thing. Still, it was indeed huge, made with blocks of marble and shining white, reflecting that day's hot sun. We walked around it, risking our lives passing the Roman streets, but there was no little museum, no place to enter, to understand better the strange presence of a pyramid on the traffic-tied streets of Rome. We shot some photos of ourselves, the pyramid, and the nearby city gate (no guards to yell at us this time), and we sat down on a bench, a little disappointed.

"Well, I guess that's the whole pyramid," I said. "What now? Lunch?"

And it was settled. We'd end our day of sight seeing at Hard Rock, just the way we had begun these two days in Rome. With onion rings and salads and drinks with refills, we drowned into the air conditioned state of being American again. We even ended the lunch with strawberry shakes ( I wouldn't reccommend this: somehow Hard Rock can do everything else alla Americana, but they didn't have the right recipe for milkshakes--they tasted more like heavy cream shakes. Get the brownie sundae instead).

And after that oasis of Americana and two days of wandering through Rome, seeing a few new places and happily returning to the old, we found ourselves at the train station again. How could the time have passed so fast? Hugs and goodbyes, we promised to do this again. And we knew we would, because Rome is always here, is always accepting--ready to take in even two loud and laughing Americans. Strange accents and all.

Cyndi, when shall we go again? :)


Check out more photos from the trip here, at my flickr account.


At 8:50 PM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Jackie, You made me laugh AGAIN! I wonder if ANYONE out there thinks the accent thing is funny (besides you and me)!

I would LOVE to hop on a train to Rome RIGHT NOW, but mini Rome will have due. Speaking of mini.... are you able to to Little Italy on Thurs or Friday?

Looking forward to more adventure!

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

ps. I am not looking forward to more adventure, but rather I am looking forward to more adventureS!

At 4:13 PM, Blogger rowena said...

You two are a RIOT! I like how you've made your own interpretation of "When in Rome, do as the romans do" or however that line goes.

So how did that frico go? When the temps drop a little lower I'm going to make some of that but first...there's still a fridgeful of french stuff to get through.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

cyndi: i'm looking forward to more adventures too! i think little mini italy on friday might work--i mentioned it to the husband, and he seemed to think it would be okay. yay! a mini day trip sounds like just the thing! do you think mini rome will have a mini hard rock cafe :)?

rowena: it's good to know that cyndi and i aren't the only ones who think we're funny :). the frico went quite well, but it looked a little funny (hence no pictures). we had tried it before at the end of august, and this time it went better (the 1st time we were silly and didn't use a non-stick pan). we felt slightly like we were in friuli again! :)


At 10:49 AM, Blogger Johnny from France said...

Zoot alow! You girls zeem likea verie nize end funny! It ess my wish zat one day I will meet you en etaly! Rome zounds wondervul! Maybee ze next time, I can go too.

ps. I tinks you are botha verie beautiful voman!

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

thanks johnny! you're pretty cute too (especially in the pirate suit!). have you got a twin brother or something? you look REALLY familiar... :)


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