Friday, June 15, 2012

Catch Up: June 14, We Fought Through The Crowds Like Gladiators

Yesterday was the Colosseum and Roman Forum! Such cool stuff! We decided to join a tour group for a few euros more instead of standing in the three hour line outside, and within ten minutes were standing inside one of the most amazing pieces of real estate in the world. The Colosseum is so amazing. I'm always a little bit worried that I'll be underwhelmed by things I've heard so much about, but that certainly didn't happen here! We spent two hours just walking around and trying to take it all in. I'm still pinching myself, trying to realize where I'm standing!

The Roman Forum was next, which was a little bit less impressive just because it's really hard to picture what each set of ruins was. So even though we were standing in the center of the old Roman city, looking around you really wouldn't have known that. I really would like to see a recreation of the area, because I think that would bring to life all the pieces of stone.

Realizing that it was 4 PM and we hadn't eaten since breakfast at 9, we sat down to a very late lunch of caprese for Janece and gnocchi with tomato sauce for me (Italians make gnocchi on Thursdays, so that's the day they're the freshest!) The gnocchi were so much lighter than ones I've had in the US or Scotland. Even though I finished them, I still didn't feel full of weighted down by the meal. Awesome!

After lunch we went to see San Clemente church, which was really cool. You walk in off the street into a church which, like all other churches in Italy, is beautifully decorated with gorgeous mosaic floors, golden fixtures, and intricately painted walls and ceilings. But this is one of those places where there is definitely more than what meets the eye. If you follow the stairs down one level, you find yourself in a church from the 4th century. The "modern" (12th century, 1108) church at street level was built literally right on top of the older one! The Norman sack of Rome had left the old church badly damaged, and five meters below street level.

If you thought that was cool though, read on. There is another flight of stairs that take you down even further into the ground. There you will find the remnants of a FIRST CENTURY Roman house and first floor of an apartment building, separated by a narrow Roman street. Totally amazing! They were built after a big fire in 64 AD. Let that date sink in for a moment. 64 AD. And the structure is still standing. The church from the 12th century had been built on top of these buildings, and that's probably the only reason why they were able to be preserved. Beyond incredible. I have to say though, the lowest level really gave me the creeps. If ghosts exist, that would be a likely place. I was pretty jumpy until we were able to get back up in the sunlight!

Speaking of jumpy, on our way back to the hotel we had to cross the big busy street in front of the Colosseum. Getting across streets in Rome is quite the scary experience, let me tell you! Most of the intersections don't have crossing signals, so you kind of just have to launch yourself out there or no one will ever stop and you will be stuck forever. But, even though it's kind of terrifying, they stop. We were crossing the street behind this family of four, and the bus coming at us looked like it was just barely going to miss us. As I turned to watch it, a guy on a motorcycle came from behind the bus, passing it on the wrong side of the street. He obviously hadn't known that we were crossing the street since the bus hadn't bothered to slow down for us anyway, but that didn't seem to stop him since he sped up to pass the bus, coming so close to hitting us that Janece and I had to push the people in front of us to avoid getting hit. I can't really describe how close a call that was, but Janece and I both felt him pass. It was inches. Luckily that stupidity did not go unnoticed by the police who went zooming after him. I hope they got him good! I'm fairly certain that experience took at least a year off of my life! I'm still counting myself lucky though...we were so close to losing more than just a year! Drivers in Italy are crazy!!!

We opted to an early dinner since the next day was going to be an early morning in the Vatican, so we wandered through the streets of Rome until we came to the restaurant "Nana", recommended by our favorite hotel guy. Since it wasn't quite seven yet though, we poked our head into the nearby leather shop. And then magic happened. Janece has been picking up every blue purse since we got to Italy, but they just haven't been quite right, and in this little shop she found the perfect one! The old man who made all of the leather products had a little tool bench in the back of the store, and he and his wife ran this adorable place! He looked so proud that Janece loved his purse so much, and made her a leather charm to go on it with her initials stamped into it. We watched him work on the charm, and when she asked him to hold it up so she could take a picture, he said "I take my glasses off...I look younger". SO CUTE!!

I tried carbonara again for dinner, and was kind of disappointed again! I think carbonara must vary a lot depending on the region or something, because the recipe I have is completely different from the two I've tried in Italy, and Janece's recipe is completely different from the two I've had in Italy and mine. So I think I'll stick to making my own!

After dinner we walked back to our hotel and were in our room by 10 PM, a totally reasonable hour for an early morning the next day. The only problem was that we proceeded to talk for two hours, and weren't in bed until midnight. Oops!

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