Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Ten years ago today - Rome

This is the part of my trip when I really started having fun. Disclaimer: this blog is really, really long!

9:00 am, 10 August 1995
Northern Italy

On the rails again, this time from Venice to Rome. Just a few days ago, the prospect of this leg of the trip terrified me, but not anymore! I imagine that the intensity (for lack of a better word) is probably going to increase from Venice to Rome, but I think I did a good job of getting my feet wet and getting used to the Italian pace in general in Venice.


My favourite passtime in Venice came to be canal cruising. Since there are no cars, there are canal buses that transport you around. When I first got to Venice, I bought a three day pass, and I sure got my money's worth! It's a great way to see the city, albeit a LOT crowded on certain routes at certain times.

Wandering through these cities, I can't help but wonder how anybody could live here. With the possible exception of Salzburg, all these cities seem to be a nightmare for the locals, with tourists everywhere. In Amsterdam, you have to haul your furniture up via pulley and shove it in through a window; in Venice, your moving van is a boat (I watched somebody move today.) And the parts of town that are not tourist hell seem quite run-down. Of course, that's just what I saw looking around.

It's been a great place to visit, but there's no place like home.

5:45 pm, same day
The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum! The Pantheon! The Roman Forum! The Trevi Fountain! Oh god, what a wonderous, ancient, fascinating place this is! It is huge and majestic and solid and imperial! It is the embodiment of what I wanted to see on my trip. It is magical!

I'm sitting on the hot stone steps inside the Colosseum. I didn't even mean to come here today - I was just wandering around, and had been to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. I was kinda lost when I saw the majestic ruins of the Colosseum from at least half a kilometre away. So I followed the Via dei Fori Imperiali past the Roman Forum and into the Colosseum. It is breath-taking! Even outside the Colosseum, everywhere I look are these spectatcular ruins, only some of which are addressed in my guide books. These ancient ruins are everywhere, and I have no idea what half of them are.

I can't believe I was afraid of this! I love it! It's all I wanted from this trip and more.

P.S. I'm officially in Rome/Italy now: I had my butt pinched as I hiked down the main street, hauling my backpack from the station to the hotel.

The hotel is absolutely fabulous, too - the best I've had yet. The foyer is off this dusty, crowded square, but it is all done in marble inside. My room is on the top floor (3 or 4, I don't really remember. I just remember it was 40C and I had just hiked across town with my pack and the stairs nearly killed me!) But I digress - the room itself is tiny, but quaint, with a desk, phone, soft bed, sink and closet. The wonderful part is that it opens up onto a concourse two stories above an open courtyard garden! It's completely enclosed by buildings on all four sides, but open to the top. I love it. I love Rome! This is great!

8:24 pm, same day
Albergo della Lunetta

I've just had the most wonderful, tasty, enjoyable dinner I've had since I got to Europe!

I was wandering homeward from the Colosseum, half-heartedly thinking about the McDonald's I noticed a block from the hotel, when I saw a sidewalk café on the street leading to the hotel. I read the 'tourist menu' (a choice of appetizers, main course and a dessert for a fixed price - very common here) and saw it wasn't four or five courses and trés $$$ like most I had seen. I really went to town and ordered wine instead of a soft drink. Hoo-ah! I had a 'farmer's salad' with black olives and feta cheese (mmm) and linguini with fresh pesto sauce and a banana and a cappuchino. Bellissima! I lingered; I ate s-l-o-w-l-y; I took in the scenery. Emboldened, perhaps by the wine, I wandered around the square afterward, enjoying the twilight and searching for stamps.

So here I sit in my tiny home, beside the open window facing the terrace and the garden, relishing the occasional breeze that dries the sweat on my brow.

I do love Rome. Venice was nothing by comparison. A fading starlet, past her prime by many years, trying to recapture the fame of her youth with heavy but unflattering make-up. Desperate for attention, longing for the glory days, she is but a shadow of her former self, and all the more pathetic for the attempt.

But Rome! Ah Roma! Your majesty is enhanced with the passing of the centuries. The tourists, who own Venice and so many of the other cities I've seen, are swallowed; mere insects against your imperial form.

The legends of Rome in the modern day: everything you've heard about the maniacal drivers in Rome is true, and understated! The busier an intersection, the bigger (wider) the streets become. Traffic is a free-for-all with cars and mopeds going every-which-way. Most intersections have pedestrian crosswalks, but there are no lights. Pedestrians have the right of way, regardless of what the traffic is doing. Crossing is an act of faith if there ever was one. You step off the curb and proceed (with mock-confidence) with head up and eyes straight ahead, showing no fear. Hoping you live to see the opposite curb (but doubting it) you march across the road, and cars, buses and mopeds swerve in front of, behind and around you. A rare few actually slow down or (heaven forbid) stop to let you pass, but I suspect these are foreigners and tourists, unfamiliar with the local insanity.

And the Roman men? Well, all that seems to be true enough, too. Although I was asked out to dinner and a sightseeing tour in Venice, nothing compares to the appreciative charm of these Roman men. They are, however, at least in my experience, very sweet and quite harmless. They smile engagingly and compliment you (I've heard 'bella Canadienna' a half dozen times today) and I'll return their smiles and keep walking. I imagine I'd have a 'friend' or two of I stopped or showed any interest, but I don't and they're quite nice about the whole thing. I haven't yet resorted to Grandma's wedding ring (worn for luck and protection where a wedding ring belongs) since that scary guy on the train from Munich.

And so, in case I haven't been explicit enough on this point, I love Rome. If in fact one day (Beloved) and I do make it to Greece, I think a stop-over in Rome is a must. Now that I think of it, I forgot to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain; I'll have to go back.

The curtain of darkness has fallen, and I can hear a saxophone playing lovely jazz solos somewhere below me. This is too picturesque for me to describe, me in this tiny but wonderfually cozy and homey room, writing by the open window, with the lonely saxophone melodies carrying through the sweltering summer night. I feel as if I've fallen into an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel! What a wonderful trip this is...