February 11, 2014

Benvenuto a Roma

Rome is both everything you expect it to be, and nothing like you imagined. In both good and bad ways. As an eternal optimist though, I'll try to give you the best of it. 

The initial excitement comes from going: Andiamo a Roma! The eternal city, with more history than possibly any other place on the planet. With the addition of a fancy-smancy high speed train, you're on your way to a great time. 

The architecture of Rome is beautiful (and slightly reminiscent of San Francisco...or maybe to say San Francisco is reminiscent of Rome is more accurate). 

It is also vast. Prepare to walk your little bootay all the way around the city at least three times, up an uncountable amount of steps, and be so grateful to rest your piggies by the time you venture back to your hotel. 

Now I try to not consider myself a tourist. I prefer to embrace the culture, mingle with the locals, and not carry a fanny pack. This weekend the non-tourist goal was only semi-succesful. While I ditched the fanny pack, it's Rome. You can't go to Rome for the first time without being a dictionary definition tourist.

That in mind, stop #1: The Colosseum, or as it is more formally know, the Flavian Amphitheater. 

I think the only sentiment that can sum up walking into the Colosseum is holy potatoes! You walk in with a giddy, I'm-actually-in-the-Colosseum feeling and you look around you and there it all is: the rocks, the arches, the no longer existent floor. 

I mentioned that Rome is vast, and I meant that in distance, but it is also HUGE. Not only in the distance between things, but just the sheer scale. How in the world the ancient Romans built these unspeakably massive structures is beyond me. I might have to start believing in aliens. 

We made the Colosseum stop #1 mainly for excitement, but also because it was so much less busy at 9 am than noon. We got to wander without being trampled by tourists (our peers) and walk around the whole dang thing.

If you're looking for a great view of the Forum (before actually getting to walk through it!) take a peak from the second floor of the Colosseum, it's pretty spectacular.

Imagine sitting in these seats, watching the gladiators 2000 years ago. Exotic creatures and downtrodden men being released from the depths into the arena to combat well trained fighting machines. The past of the Colosseum is both inexplicably horrible and incredible. 

Handily enough, when you purchase your Colosseum ticket you also get an all inclusive pass to Palentine Hill and the Roman Forum. Just walk up the road and there it is. 

Now here I could start to overwhelm you with the history of the Forum, but I will try and resist. Just keep in mind that all nearly of these structures are over 2000 years old. This is the place where the ancient emperors and commanders of Rome would triumph through the Forum, past the people of Rome, all the way to Capitoline Hill, in a grand and sacred parade. 

And if the history doesn't tantalize you, there's also cats that creep around the Forum, so there's an added bonus. 

I did mention how ridiculously large the Romans made everything right? 

I stood where Julius Caesar walked, can we just appreciate how cool that is? (Or is that just me just geeking out to hard?)

All right so here's a fun fact I learned from a friend that I hope will entice ya'll into some history:

J.K. Rowling, yes the Queen of literature in our generation, was a classics major. While she admits all of that knowledge on ancient Greece and Rome may not have stuck, some very important things did. Names especially, which she then used in Harry Potter. My favorite example is Hermione, who in ancient greek mythology, is the only daughter of King Menelaus and Helen of Troy (aka the face that launched a thousand ships). 

Another example, relevant in this context, is the large arch at the end of the Forum. It is known as the Arch of Septimius Severus. Ring any bells? See kids, I told you history is cool. 

How many fun facts am I allowed to put into one blog post? Because I have another one...

Rome has various water fountains across the city, all safe to drink. Locals (and tourists in the know) fill up their water bottles at these many taps. One particular flow is in the Roman Forum. If you have a bucket list, get ready to add this: drink the water from the Forum. 

It tasted amazing, either it was actually sweet or it was residual lotion on my hands, who knows, but it was great. Plus in Italy you have to buy water everywhere, so any excuse to combat dehydration is welcome. Plus, just think about how cool it is to have drank free flowing water in the Forum?! 

Climbing to the top of Palentine Hill you get this spectacular view of the city. It spreads before you, tempting you with all there is to see. 

Don't worry, in three days, you'll see it all. Two or three times if you're lucky. One way to seem less like a tourist is to get your bearings of a city, by visiting things more than once. Plus you really can't grasp how amazing something is only seeing it once. The Colosseum is so massive it takes at least three trips to even comprehend the size. 

Also, if you don't want to look like a tourist, put away the camera. This isn't really a reccomendation as much as a tale of woe. This is the moment on Day One when my camera died, so though this post is full of dozens of photos, there could have been so many more. The rest of the day was full of more touristy sight-seeing (totally acceptable) and some great food. And gelato, but everyday was full of gelato so I don't even know if that counts. 

With days to come, 

Yours, Kenna 

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