Lines, crowds and testing one's patience
04.26.2015 - 05.01.2015 65 °F
Ciao da Roma!
There is an unspoken obligation when you come to Rome that you have to see certain sites. There are things here that you can't see, experience or do anywhere else in the world. But that obligation comes with a price:
And not just lines of forty or fifty. I am talking about queues that are thousands of people long.
"You mean I am not the only one who wanted to see the Sistine Chapel today??"
* sigh *
Despite the unyielding masses in a sea of selfie sticks, I managed to check off the ol' bucket list a good number of things while here.
The Roman Colosseum was unbelievable experience.
Imagining the crowds that used to gather here to watch gladiators fight to the death was crazy. It's hard to believe people used to cheer on men killing each other for entertainment. There is no judgement in that sentence. It is simply hard to believe given our modern society's stance on violence. I mean, people complain about UFC cage fighting to be too violent. Obviously times have changed and it's just very interesting to see how each society defines it's own boundaries.
Just outside the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. A rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. At the top of the hill, among the gardens, you can get a great view of much of the old city and the ruins that remain.
You can see the Colosseum in the background of this shot.
Ok...ok...I have to stop. I feel like I am already starting to paint too rosy a picture. Let's get back to the lines and crowds. I don't think you fully understand what I am trying to say here.
When you arrive, this is what getting on a Metro with your luggage looks like:
Oh look, the Vatican and St. Peter's Cathedral! Let's do that!
Wait, are those people in the foreground in the same queue as the very tiny people in the background nearest the entrance of the building?
Yep! And that's only half the line. I estimated close to 10,000 people in line here.
Well, how about we check out the Trevi Fountain?
Oh, it's under reconstruction? #face This might have been worth the price of admission in this city if it were functioning and lit up at night.
No matter! Thanks to my very helpful Facebook friends, I bought a Fast Pass that allows me to skip many of the lines around the city. Off to the Vatican Museum!
Oh...I guess it's not much better inside...
After about an hour of gelatinously floating my way down the halls with the masses, I finally made it to the Sistine Chapel and it was worth the wait.
There are no photos allowed but I figured the Pope would forgive me. I managed to capture what is likely the most important piece in all of Michelangelo's work in that amazing room.
And speaking of the Pope and Catholicism, many people come to the Vatican as a pilgrimage. For many, it is holy ground. If you know me, you know that I am not religious. I do, however, have a great respect for individuals to believe what they want and as a non-Catholic, I have to say that I have been very impressed with Pope Fancis. Pope Francis time and again has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs and faiths.
Here are just a few reasons I believe Pope Fancis is pretty awesome:
1. Pope Francis has stated several times that the Church has no right to interfere spiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians.
2. He spoke out against frivolous spending by the Church. The average set of cardinal’s clothes costs as much as $20,000. In October, Pope Francis urged officials to dress more modestly and to not squander such money. In the same month, he ordered a German bishop to explain how he had spent $3 million on a marble courtyard.
4. More recently, it has been discovered that Pope Francis regularly leaves the Vatican at night to feed the homeless dressed as an ordinary priest.
5. He has became the first Pope to take effective action against child abuse. He ammended Vatican law to make sexual abuse of children a crime, and he also established a committee to fight abuse.
I could go on.
If you are interested, check out this link for more.
The point I am trying to make is that, no matter if you are Catholic or not, Pope Fancis is setting an unbelievable example of how to be a human being. He is humble, cares for the poor among us and champions those who are discriminated against. Religious or not, we can all learn to be a better person by following his example.
Ok, ok. Enough of the serious stuff. Let's lighten the mood.
Street performers are everywhere here. Here I am totally appreciating what they are doing:
One day I was able to take a day trip a few hours south to visit Naples and the ruins of Pompeii.
The bay of Naples with Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.
A shot of the city of Naples itself.
Walking through the ruins was really interesting. I am not a fan of guided tours but there is such specific history here that I caved.
Because of the direction of the wind that day, Pompeii was covered in up to 12 meters of ash and volcanic rock. Of the more than 20,000 inhabitants, all but 2,000 or so managed to flee to safety. Those that couldn't mostly suffocated as they were covered.
A few miscellaneous extras:
Fun fact: Italians spell tobacco like North Carolinians pronounce it.
Roman architecture is very impressive.
A shot of the Pantheon.
And thanks, Caroline, for the suggestion of gelato from San Crispino.
I have to say, the only way I look forward to returning to this city is if I don't have to do anything touristy. I am sure there charm and culture here but you certainly won't find it waiting in line at any of the city's main attractions.
After four days of crowds, I need some space. I think the hills of Scotland for a week are just what the doctor ordered. I have organized a self-driven whiskey tour through some of the county's most renowned distilleries.
The conversation in my head went something like this:
"Have you ever driven a car on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car?"
"Can you drive a manual?"
"Sweet, let's do this!"
Thanks for reading! To Scotland!