The view of Rome
Ah, Roma, the Eternal City. I love it here, but it has been a crazy weekend. It started off cold and quiet, so cold that my breath was frosting over -- in Rome
, in June. It was quiet because it was the Italian National holiday. A crappy weekend to be here because our time is short here and it was a holiday and, oh yeah, the Pope was blessing 350,000 children on Saturday, so Rome was packed with literally millions of people making it a really hard weekend to get things done. We pressed on though, and made it work. Saturday morning was the visit to the Vatican Museums. I had to get the tickets and Leslie was supposed to bring the students to meet me. The ticket retrieval process a the Vatican is not simple.
The stairs at the Albani
It involves working your way past the gigantic line to get in, getting through the exit door, going through metal detectors, waiting in about three lines to have things stamped, approved, rechecked, copied and then finally paid for -- by check, which involved more copying and checking and approvals. Then you count the tickets, find your way back outside, and find your group and then have them work their way through the exit door and through the metal detectors. By some miracle, we managed to get it all done and get all the students in, on time. The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are one of the most visited sites on earth -- it is incredibly crowded, and even more so when they are going to close at one and the Pope is going to show up just outside.
At the Colosseum
The plan was to visit St Peters after the Museum, unfortunately, the million people waiting to see the Pope prevented that from happening, so we took a walking tour of churches in the area instead. It was beautiful, but crowded. It took 20 minutes to cram your way through the door of the Pantheon. The real miracle of the day, was that it was the only day of the trip that it hasn't rained, it was pleasantly warm, a little windy, but beautiful. After the church tour, we split up and I went to the Colosseum. I had not been inside before, and since I had bought a Roma Pass, which lets you skip lines and pays for your first two sites, i got right in. It was fantastic inside. Its enormous and literally oozes history. I took a lot of pictures there, probably too many, but on these trips, you never know if you are going to be in these places again. Thats sort of hard to think about, but most people never come to these places, and I have been lucky enough to have been here twice, I count my blessings, but I have to wonder when I will get to come back.
Dinner was a good story. Joyce had made reservations at her favorite restaurant in Rome, a Sardinian place. We walked over to it from the hotel and they said they didn't have a reservation and they were all full for the night. Joyce explained that the hotel had called while she was standing there this morning and to check again. They suggested that maybe they called a different restaurant with a similar name, she replied, that, no, she gave them the number because it is her favorite restaurant and she comes every year. A minute later, we had our table. We ordered what was called the "specialty of the house." It was an antipasto course that never seemed to end. It was all seafood -- literally every phase of an octopus life cycle was presented to me. Little baby whole octopi all the way to chunks of full size tentacles and suckers soaked in red wine, deep fried baby squid, raw langostine (I was told not to eat the gills), salmon, mussels, sardines, and white fish soaked in olive oil and wine. It was all actually very good, and not that expensive -- 15 Euros.
Speaking of Euros, I forget about the coins here. At the end of the day you can end up with the equivalent of 30 dollars in coins in your pocket. I try my hardest to pay with them, but I never have quite enough to pay for something when I remember I have them or just forget about them until the end of the day. I made a concerted effort to pay with them today, and I literally have no money now. Rome has broken me.
Today we visited the Forum and we had our first pickpocketings. Even after all my warnings, someone put their camera in their pocket on the bus, and it was gone within 3 stops. The Forum was crowded but, as always, amazing to see. After the Forum, I went shopping and then to Trevi Fountain (to throw in my 3 coins), the Spanish Steps, and then back to St Peters. It was still really croweded, and since I had seen it a few years ago, I decided to go to Castel Sant' Angelo. If you have read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, you have heard of it. It is the fortress that was used to protect the Pope in emergencies. The Roma Pass got me in again and the weather was still nice while I was there, so I had really nice views of the city from the roof. After that it was back to the hotel to use up some phone card minutes, type these blogs, eat some dinner, and pack up for Venice. I can't tell you how much I love the hotel in Rome we use. The Hotel Albani. It is pink and green and 60s fantastic, they even give you white slippers to wear, that you get to keep. I will absolutely miss this place.
I am dreading Venice, all reports from the group there now are not so good. I believe the quote about our hotel from the other group leader was -- "these people are bitches." I will hopefully write from there, unless I can't find an internet connection or I am imprisoned for the noisiness of my American students.