Roma, Italia (Rome, Italy)
When I went to sleep last night here at the Roma – Foro Italico – AF Pesina Youth Hostel, there was only one other person in the room, when I woke up this morning, every bed was full. I never heard a thing so I must have slept OK. I walked down stairs and had breakfast and got myself ready for the day. I talked to the hostel front desk lady who gave me the low down on how to see the city, which buses to take, etc.
She said that on the last Sunday of the month, admission to Vatican City Museum and the Basilica di San Pietro are free. Today is the last Sunday of the month, so the lines will be long. So, I set out to do the Vatican first. I took the number 32 bus which dropped me off just a short distance from the line, the three city block line. Could be more, that’s all I could see at the moment. So I got in line for a while to see how fast it moved.
While in line, I saw about 10 African nuns pass by headed for the end of the line, followed by about 20 Chinese sisters; all on a pilgrimage I suppose. There was an American man behind me in an argument, apparently he had gotten pulled out of line by someone claiming to be the police and wanting to inspect his money for counterfeits. I went up behind the guy and told him it’s most likely a con artist, ignore him and he’ll go away. He did and the Italian guy shrugged his shoulders and went away. Thanks for the heads up Rick and hey American guy, you’re welcome.
All around me I hear Chinese, Japanese, Italian, German, English, Spanish, some African language, and others. Haven’t seen any Muslims here, not too surprising. The city is really dirty; litter on the streets and lots of graffiti on the buildings, even in the business districts.
In the line, there was an old woman laying on the ground with her shaking hand held out for change; I almost tripped over her. She appeared to have only one leg, not sure if she was hiding it. Next to her was a box with some coins and a picture of the pope. She was dressed in black and appeared to be wearing several layers; I just couldn’t see how she handled the heat. There was a puddle next to her, presumably urine. Everyone stepped over her or walked around her, including me. I’ve passed many a beggar in my life but this one is haunting me, I don’t feel right about it.
Three city blocks so far, the line is moving at a good clip. What’s around this next corner? …. OH no! it’s another city block of line. The end of the fourth was the entrance to the Vatican museum, finally. It wasn’t too bad, it only took about an hour. So, I started the museum tour and followed the signs to the Capella Sistine to see what all the fuss was about. I went through a long corridor with paintings on the walls and the ceilings and there were statues and artifacts on display as well. That was followed by the hall of tapestries, which was followed by another long corridor like the one before. Still following the signs to the Sistine Chapel.
Then some more corridors, a few rooms with whatever, more corridors, up the stairs, down the stairs, oh man this is way too much for anyone to tour. If someone actually stopped at each place, it would take three days. After more than 90 minutes of working my way through what seemed like the entire Vatican city, I finally entered the Sistine Chapel. Yeah, it was pretty impressive. I don’t know how Mike did it, but he did a pretty good job. The works have been recently cleaned and restored so it looks pretty close to the way it did way back when.
The chapel was full with people, and guards yelling at those people not to take photos and everyone kept taking them anyway. Yeah, I snuck a few shots too. After I got my fill, I moved on and headed for the exit. But, I had to go through about 10 more corridors and 18 rooms full of stuff which took another half hour of straight walking at a good pace. I just wanted out. Finally, I came to the museum main lobby and saw a sign pointing to a place I figured I should go. I had pizza and a cold beer at the Vatican Pizzeria. How about that? It was air conditioned too so I sat for a while.
After getting some strength back, I headed for the line to see the Basilica di San Pietro. That line was about an hour as well. I talked to an American couple from Texas. He is in the US military and is just back from Iraq. I shook his hand and thanked him for serving. Once in the main entrance, I wound up in a line going to the Cupelo. I had no idea what that was but whatever. I got in a lift and then came the climb to the Cupelo. The climb? Huh? Just a few steps and I was on the roof of the Basilica. We came into the rotunda of the cathedral, way up high. The view of the cathedral below was great, but we were in a wire mesh cage that made pictures difficult.
Then came the real climb. The staircase in most places was only wide enough for one and in some places, a person that’s not much larger than me just wouldn’t squeeze through. The stairs were uneven and in some places the walls were slanted so our feet were flat but our bodies had to lean to the right so that we were practically sitting on the wall.
I still didn’t know what the Cupelo was but after this investment, I wasn’t quitting. The stench from sweat and BO from all those that went before me was discouraging to say the least, but it was impossible to turn around. After a couple of breaks where others could just barely squeeze by me, I made it to the top. I was drenched, my legs were all rubbery and wobbly. I was rewarded however with the best 360º view of Rome I think. I got my fill and started the climb down, most of which was a tight spiral staircase which was dizzying. I got back down to the first roof level where there was a fountain, oh yea. I filled my water bottle and downed it four times and filled it again and sat for 30 minutes or so to rest and watch people. Mostly to rest.
I went down the lift and was deposited in the Basilica, at last. It too was amazing, more impressive than any I’ve seen on this trip. By the time I left the Basilica, it was after 4:00 and I didn’t have the energy to do the Coliseum and Forum so I went back to the hostel thinking I’d see the old town later tonight or tomorrow.
After I got to the hostel, it was decision time. Last night I got three black fly bites, today, I’ve counted over twenty; I’m getting eaten alive, and I’m using repellent. The heat is just unbearable. It was higher than 40º C today, I’m not sure what it reached as my little pocket thermometer on a card tops out at 40º. My body is holding up OK, but it’s pure misery. Rick put it best I think when he said Rome is an amazing city, but brutal. I’m also really having to keep on my guard, I don’t trust anyone. There’s lots of pickpockets and grifters here.
This is going to blow you away, but I’ve come all the way to Rome and I’m not going to see the Roman ruins. I gotsta get outa this place. If I ever come back it’ll have to be in one of the other seasons. I’m not going further south either, I’m going north to the Cinque Terre, the second of the two primary places I wanted to visit that I mentioned in the Hallstatt entry.