Rome (Day One)

When we last left Kate and Yen, they were getting on a train from Florence to Rome.

Now we’re on the train, and the point of this photo is for you to see how fast the train was going. You can’t really read the screen, though, so I’ll tell you: 249 kph! That’s 155 mph for you Americans out there (I had to Google…). The train zipped through the countryside, and we were arriving in central Rome in no time at all (actually about 90 minutes).

We started by settling into our hotel, which was just a ten minute walk from the train station. It also turned out to be right off a very major street, and a block from a subway station. Absolutely terrific location. The room was louder at night than our sweet little hotel in Florence, but we got used to it after the second night. And see how nice our room is?

No time for naps, people! Get moving!

What’s this? Oh, it’s just a random beautiful building right around the corner from our hotel. Only this and nothing more. Sigh. Just try not to find Rome absolutely stunning. I dare you.

You possibly noticed in some of the Florence pictures (well, and some of the stateside pictures too, come to think of it) that Yen’s been playing with HDR. Here’s the Trajan Column, HDRed.

So this column is just… standing there. And then you look past it and hello! Ruins, columns, an excavation. What? This is only the Imperial Forum and not that impressive? Huh?

The trap I think you fall into when you first arrive in Rome is, Oh my god, look at that! And you start taking photos of everything immediately. What you don’t realize is that a few steps beyond where you’re standing, there’s something more incredible. And after that? More incredible? And just wait, because then your socks will really be knocked off. You have to pace yourself.

Which we did not.

Now we’re in the actual Forum. The building in on the right side of the picture is the Senate. Up above it in the corner is Altare della Patria. We’ll see more of that later. Above and left? Oh, just some modern apartments. Imagine if this was your view.

When I finish the rest of the entries, you’ll see that we spent our final day at Ostia. Going there gives these ruins a completely new context in hindsight. These now seem to me to have too many marks of preservation on them. See the columns below stacked up, as if someone were about to catalog them? In the moment, so incredible. Seeing it now after Ostia, I’m thinking, Let it lie!

When you get to the end of the Forum, you’ll go through this big arch. We’re not quite there yet.

Sign just inside the Senate. The photos below were also taken inside there.

Notice I’ve lost the jacket? It was so warm and lovely. And this was the day before Thanksgiving. Terrific time to visit Italy. Guidebooks will warn you that November is the rainy season. I think we probably just got very lucky. But boy, were we lucky! Look at that sky!

This reminds me of follies you see in English gardens. Of course, it’s the real thing on which they’re all modeled. May I have a folly in my garden, please?

I’m not sure what this big building is. It must have been important because you can see the entire underside of the ceiling was carved. It was huge.

I was positive these guys were ravens, but of course now I’ve looked it up and learned that they’re hooded crows. Huge birds, though. And everywhere.

Look! The Colosseum!

We saw quite a lot of cats prowling around all of the ruins we visited. I wondered whether they lived on some of the little green lizards we saw a lot. I’ll have you know that I took this photo!

You know before you arrive that the Colosseum will be huge. But you don’t realize it until you’re standing in its shadow or – as we had to because we didn’t know it was closed – walk around the outside of the entire thing. It’s simply massive.


Spanish Steps, anyone? Look at this crowd! I think the most common thing I heard from people who’d previously visited Rome was: watch out for pickpockets. I don’t doubt that this is a genuine problem, particularly in the summer. But I have to tell you that on our first day, this advice had made me so paranoid that I was a complete ball of nerves. I couldn’t relax and enjoy what I was seeing, because I was watching Yen the whole time (“Is that guy too close to him?”) and worrying about my own backpack. In addition, I worry all the about things like, “Am I in this guy’s way?” and “Should I offer to take their photo?” Between being a little tired and all of the above, I was getting a little worn out.

Yen, though, as more energy than any person should, so he was ready to keep going, keep exploring. Sometimes I have to wrestle the camera away from him and capture the moment of his glee.

Here’s the view from the top of the steps.

Behind me here is the Pantheon.

The Pantheon was built by good old Marcus Agrippa when he was Consul. If you’ve watched I, Claudius as many times as I have, you’ve got lots of affection for Marcus. I was excited to see his name up there. But not nearly as excited as I was to finally see the dome. I’ve been reading about it forever, and now I got to see it! It is constructed of poured concrete, and the beautiful hole in the center would have been the only light source inside the building when it was first in use. It was later adapted as a church, and today there are even electric lights inside. But you can imagine how stunning and mysterious it would have been when it was first built, and the piazza it stands in today would have been the Plains of Mars on the outskirts of Rome.

And… then we decided, “Hey, Piazza Navona is right around the corner. Let’s check it out!”

Finally we came to the Trevi Fountain, which means now we’ve done in six hours what most people spend two days in Rome doing. I don’t mind admitting that I was exhausted and positively moody. Here we were at a famous, romantic spot, and all I could think was, “Where’s my pizza, dammit?”

Patience is always rewarded. Here I am about to tuck into a pizza of smoked cheese and ham. I believe Yen is having prosciutto and mushroom, but I can’t remember. A little wine, a lot of water, and I started to get my energy back. Just in time to sleep and prepare for Day Two.