The Birthday Tour – Rome

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And we are off again! Rome was a whirlwind, not my first visit but also hopefully not my last. We probably logged close to 80 000 steps on our Fitbits and even with good walking shoes, my feet are protesting.

What did we see? Everything, the Vatican, the Coliseum, fountains, piazzas and all points in between. Breathtaking in their scope of what they represent, even as a repeat visitor there will always be new things to see and learn and review.

Coliseum, could hold 20 000 in its day.

Some of St Peter’s
Ceiling of the Vatican map room

My husband’s favourite was the Pantheon, 60 ton columns carved from Egyptian marble and shipped by barge and then land. Each column a single piece of marble. The artist Raphael is buried there, which you understand better when you see the Raphael rooms in the Vatican. The oculus in the middle of the dome is amazing considering it’s age and the fact that it’s free standing. And then there are the acoustics, we visited three times as it was close to our hotel, and one of the times a choir was present singing Christmas carols. Just wow.

Oculus of the Pantheon

What I had forgotten or what was worse than last time? The people. A) There were way too many of them, and it’s low season. The Vatican on a Saturday? Huge mistake, given that it’s one of the most religious sites in the world, you’d think it would inspire peace and love. But with 25000 visitors a day and none of them having a clue about respecting personal space, in particular MY personal space, I was ready to start shoving my way through the masses. In fact, I may have a time or two just pushed myself through the crowds to get to the doorways because I’m an introvert people which means I don’t want to stand so close to you that I can smell your deodorant. Just no.

B) Also annoying, the crowds of street sellers and miscellaneous vendors at every tourist site. Here is a list of things I wish I could say in Italian:

No, I don’t want to buy a scarf/umbrella/selfie stick.

Yes, I know it’s raining I still don’t want to buy an umbrella. Or a poncho. I’d rather get utterly soaking wet.

No, I’m not paying you for blowing fancy bubbles/playing guitar poorly/dressing up like the invisible man.

No, I don’t want to buy a tour from you.

No, I don’t want to pay you to take my picture.

No, I don’t want a handmade friendship bracelet because we aren’t friends and I’m not giving you money as a sign of my friendship to you.

To be fair, most of the musicians were excellent but there was the one who butchered Carlos Santana and Leonard Cohen back to back.

Also take a look at this Sunday shopping photo, just look at the people.

Of note, I can now say that London outshines Rome for Christmas decorating, I have completed the research for you. One of our tour guides explained that the economy is so bad that there was no money to put up Christmas lights last year. There was going to be nothing until the design house of Valentino pitched in and paid for lights around the Spanish steps. This year there were some lights but not what I would have expected. What was there was beautiful though.

The design house Fendi previously paid for restorations on the Trevi fountain and apparently a shoe designer had “anonymously” paid the same for the coliseum as well.

The food of course is out of this world. Fresh food made with fresh ingredients and servers who take great pride in their work. A simple pasta is always my favorite.

We did also get a chance to do a tiny bit of shopping but mainly we just walked and explored. It’s a beautiful city to do just that. So much history, the weathered pavement stones, old buildings and little shops and restaurants everywhere. It really is lovely.

So, as I write this, we are on the train to Florence. Another adventure ahead. The most importing you need to know is that our train let on time even after a full cleaning crew went through and cleaned everything. Do you know when I’ve seen a full cleaning crew on any North American transit system! Never. The Rome metro could stand a cleaning, but the trains between cities are immaculate. Makes me wish I was 21 and backpacking through Europe.

That’s it, Rome in all its glory is a wrap. Stay tuned for Florence.

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