Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rome: 2004

When Ron and I were in college and grad school, we had a lot of good luck and found ourselves taking three trips to Europe in the space of three years. (Some things that we were not doing at that time? Paying a mortgage with a pre-2008 rate; paying for electric/water/gas/sewer/food/insurance bills ... I don't feel like listing anything else, but you know I could.  Is this the part where I say, "THANK YOU MOM AND DAD!!!  AND JOANNE AND RON!!" ?)

With all of this talk of conclave and whatnot, It made me realize how many years have gone by since Ron and I took these trips and visited the Eternal City.  Of course, it only feels like two weeks ago ... but in reality it's far longer ago than that.

The first time we visited Rome, I was a junior in college and in the midst of my eighth year of studying Italian.  I had just filled out the paperwork to become the first person to major in Italian at my school.  However, I was also the only Italian student at my school (major/minor/concentration or otherwise) not participating in their big summer abroad program.  I had a lot of issues about this program:
  1. The cost--well into the 4-figures. Enough said.  And my parents are not the kind of parents who are all like, "Oh yes! I will send you on a free vacation and not even go enjoy it with you!! That's perfectly fair and reasonable!"
  2. Everyone knows that the "classes" you take in abroad programs is a joke.  (At least, this is what other students have told me for years.)  Who would pay money for a joke?
  3. I would have to live with other students, and I didn't want to live with ANYBODY in some tiny, medieval, non-air conditioned dorm in July Italian heat.  Just shoot me.  This is the whole reason why I commuted to college: Dorms are gross. Think about it.  Think about what you used to do in your dorms.  Yeah: YOU.  We'll save this convo for another time.
  4. Six weeks away from my own home and my own bed is OUTRAGEOUS. I can't even fathom such a time table.  If I'm spending six weeks anywhere that's not home, it better damn well be my own vacation home (not shared with renters of any kind) in said locale. Am I a snob? Yes. Do I care? No.  Do I require that you feel this same way too? No. Just let me be.
I was really frustrated though because I so badly wanted to go to Italy, but I was under the impression that I could never afford such a thing and I didn't expect anybody to just hand it to me. In October of 2003, I was expressing this frustration to Ron during one of our marathon phone conversations (because he was two hours away at school), and he said, "So pay for it yourself."

Me: "Oh yeah, and go a million years from now when I'm 30?"
[* a million years goes really fast, apparently *]
Ron: "No. Go this year.  What else are you going to do over Christmas break? Fold more freakin sweaters at the mall? All you do is fold sweaters when you're not at school.  What are you even doing with that money?  I know you're not spending it.  It's just sitting in an account somewhere, isn't it? With all of the money from your high school jobs?"
Me: "Well ...."
Ron: "Stop being such a cheapskate and we'll book a trip for this Christmas. I'm serious.  We have two months to pull it together.  It'll be easy."
Me: "Do you have any idea how much this would cost???  I'm not going to stay in some gross student hostel with a bunch of strangers!!!  Dante's trip through hell would be more fun!!!"
Ron: "You think I do???!!  I don't know how much this will cost, but I do know that it's not whatever absurd number you're thinking."

As usual (are you listening, Ron?): RON WAS RIGHT.


We booked everything the next week.  Our flight was scheduled to take off from Philly on 12/31/03 and we would land in Rome the morning of 1/1/04.  Isn't that cool?

Recently, I had all of my photos from these trips digitized.  Not kidding: I used at least ten rolls of film on the first two trips.  At the time, I was using a Kodak APS point and shoot and a 35mm Pentax SLR for all of my pictures.  (Shortly before I asked for the APS camera for my birthday in ninth grade, Erin said: "Don't get that camera.  APS film will go out as quickly as it's come in.  Kodak's stock is nearly worthless."  Yes, a fourteen year old really said that.  For the record: ERIN WAS RIGHT.)

I haven't looked at these pictures in years, and I cannot believe how crappy 35mm looks in comparison to digital!!! It completely blows my mind.  At the time, I never believed anything could top 35mm (granted, it was the only format I really used, so what did I know?).  Again, EVERYONE ELSE WHO KNEW SOMETHING WAS RIGHT.

I would love to be RIGHT about something one of these days.

This week, I'll post some of the pictures from these trips.  I'll split the Rome pictures in half and show the touristy stuff today and the not-so-touristy stuff tomorrow.

"Don't worry--we're here!"  9am Italian time/3am Philly time, at the closest pay phone to our hotel. Back in the day, you bought a phone card at a local tabacchi and used it to make all of your calls. Our room wasn't ready yet, so out to the pay phones we went. I probably rubbed hand sanitizer all over my face when I hung up.  That's the Pantheon behind me.

We dedicated the first full day (ie., Day 2) to ancient Rome.  Very cool because it's so damn old.  I hate saying this, but once you've seen it, you get the point and you can cross it off your bucket list.

Sadly, engineers announced in 2012 that the Colosseum is sinking: One side is several inches lower than the other.  Odds are that tourists will no longer be permitted inside (if they still are).  Glad we did this when we could.

So primitive by today's standards, but really mind boggling when you think about civilization TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO. What do we have today that will still be around in 2,000 years?  Not sure.

If you don't know what The Mouth of Truth is, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go rent Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn.  It's the best scene in the whole movie--totally improvised.  Hepburn wasn't in on the joke, so her reaction is real--not acting.

One of my most favorite shots from this trip.
The Forum at night
To see the Forum at night, we had to defy the death trap traffic circle around the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, aka "The Typewriter," "The Wedding Cake," and/or "The Dentures."
We spent Day 3 at the Vatican and the gorgeous Trastevere ("across the Tiber") neighborhood.  We returned later in the week to go to the top of San Pietro's cupola.  We arrived first thing that morning, and no one was at the top except for a janitor doing some cleaning.  During the summer, a long line snakes to the top.  Can you imagine?  Couldn't do it.

The dome curves around you as you climb up.  It becomes really narrow and curved toward the end.  This is about half or two-thirds up.
Bernini wanted the Colonnade to reach around visitors like arms.  When conclave takes place later this month, anywhere from 100-500,000 people will be packed into the square.
Can you find these statues in the last picture?
It's surprisingly warm there in the winter--some days you don't even need your coat if you're wearing a sweater.

Final Rome installment tomorrow ...

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