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Late Doors

Rome

First time in the eternal city for me, I've made numerous other Italian trips over the years through one thing or another but surprisingly Rome has never figured until MrsD presented travel and accommodation as a birthday present.

We got a morning Jet2 flight from Leeds and we were in our city digs for mid afternoon, a very smart room in an apartment across from the opera near the Termini station run by Paulo the very chatty and accommodating host who had the apartment given to him by his vineyard owning family as a business venture. We had until Sunday morning to cram as much activity and sightseeing as possible so without much ado we set off into the Roman sunshine clad in sandals and shorts with pretty much a firm idea of what we wanted to see.

Rome is a very walkable city providing you are reasonably firm and able and we set of South West towards the Pantheon. It was Ancient Rome i was most eager to see and this was a great start. The stroll there gave me my first impressions of the city and i have to report they were not good. Flash arrogant and precious is how id describe the average citizen with a zero percentage chance of ever encountering any low self esteem issues. I guess i am only commenting on the Friday afternoon city brigade and it is probably an unfair generalisation but i can only report on what i saw and felt. The chuffing driving was even worse. Selfish, impatient and aggressive with only a casual regard for pedestrian crossings and a positive disdain for any pedestrians having the audacity to actually set foot on one. Quite outrageous actually and worthy of an EU investigation and action


The pantheon itself though was something else. An immaculately preserved temple of early Christianity oozing ancient grandeur inside and out. From there we walked towards the Piazza Navonna, an elliptical shaped baroque public place with fountains and tourist cafes. By now the searing sun had eased a little and the brutal light was becoming more angular bathing the surrounding buildings in an  atmospheric sun light. We have been all over North Italy and we both came to the conclusion that this square was average in terms of general European splendour standards and subject to overhype and exaggeration of its own importance. Very Roman i thought given my initial thoughts on the journey here. It was grand enough, just nothing so very special.

Next up was the Trevi Fountain and again i have to report a sense of underwhelment. I thought it was vulgar and over elaborate. A huge intricate and ornate sculpture completely at odds with its surroundings and suggesting nothing but indulgence. The huge throng of people crammed into the small square did nothing to enhance the viewing or improve the experience in the very cramped area in front of it. We quickly moved on to the Spanish Steps another Roman landmark and another disappointment. Some handsome enough steps leading from one level to another but that is all.

Time for a beer. I dismissed the first spot with a sneer upon reading the 7 Euro 50c per pint price and settled for a †4E pint in an Irish Bar called the Cork Inn. Not something we would normally do but it was there, reasonable and time was against us.

A quick shower at tea time and we were out again on the search for Pizza after †three 6 Euro pints in two pavement bars watching the people pass by. Soaking in the still warm evening sun and gazing at the sunlight clashing with perpendicular shadows across the ordinary but still splendid surrounding buildings. This for me is an integral part of city visiting. We had no firm dinning plans other than pizza so we headed for the recommended Est Est Est (not the British chain but a popular Roman pizza place). It was packed with Italians, a good sign and we had to wait ten minutes for a table in this very noisy archetypal Italian pizzeria. It was simply alright, not even a proper wood fired pizza but a pan type, over salted and no finesses whatsoever to end a frankly disappointing first day albeit our expectations were extraordinarily high given our previous brilliant rips around Italy.

After Brekky and a chat with the Aussie couple at the communal table it was time for the main event, the Ancient ruins of Rome and what a fabulous six hours it was. Truly spectacular and awe inspiring. I could have happily spent the entire weekend wandering around the immense and fascinating array of artefacts nearly 2000 years old still occupying pretty much the same space where they were originally erected and all combining to create pretty much a recognisable district to meander through and gaze at. Not even a Regfest can compete at providing so many ancient but well preserved ruins to be amongst. First was the incredible Coliseum, spectacular from the outside free to view for all but jaw dropping sensational inside. I mean this is where it all began isnít it? Civilisation as we know it, in Rome, and here we were in the epicentre. So many thoughts were buzzing around my head about society, work, cruelty barbarism, privilege, social order, power, oppression, suffering, civilisation and Christianity.

From there it was into the open to leisurely wander around the Forum and Pallatino hill with its masses of artefacts, foundations, columns, statues and other immaculately preserved †relics all together creating a wondrous and tantalising glimpse into that dim and distant past made so familiar to us through Drama and cinema. I've read books that suggest the experience is spoiled by so many tourist but i have to say that is nonsense, the admittedly masses of visitors were easily absorbed and to me actually enhance the experience. I love to see people from all over the globe together sharing and enjoying a common spectacle and i love to watch them and see how different we are. The ridiculously inappropriate footwear of Japanese women, the self conscious and respectful Americans, the confident assurance of the Germans, the relaxed and simple elegance of Mediterranean women, the sneering cynicism of Northern Englishman and the closed shop isolation of Oriental groups. Someone should really tell them itís ok to smile at people and look at a foreigner.

From the ruins we crossed the river to the more relaxed area of Trastevere, supposedly a working class area but to me it had all the genteelness and charm of Hampstead. It was here we took refuge from the incessant sun in the shade with a salad and an ice cold beer, sublime. This area was peppered with a more subtle array of cafes and restaurants and we would definitely have liked more time there especially in the evening but we were told on Saturday night it gets very very busy so we contented ourselves with a late afternoon stroll through it towards St Peters Square with its huge Dome beckoning us in the distance.

By now it was about half past four and we simply wanted to wander around the huge famous square to get a feel for the place. It was clear we were in a minority  for there were literally thousands of people lining to gain access into the papal properties and streaming out of the exists in a well ordered mass procession, In truth i felt a little isolated here in my general agnosticism amongst such a multitude of firm believers all unified in their absolute certainty yet at the same time i detected a little ungainly smugness in me and consolidated my own agnostic certainty. That may sound like a contradiction, agnostic certainty, but i am very assured and comfortable with that. Like the Ancient Rome this place also sparked a riot of internal ideology examination and contemplation and we had a little discussion about how we saw the huge impact of organised religion on the world.

We took our one and only public transport trip back to the flat on the metro to save us about an hour of walking. Had a quick pavement side beer in the piazza republicca and another quick fire shower - change and out routine this time back to the Piazza Navona again. †We had a couple of al fresco beers outside the Bar Teatro on the pavement and made our way to one of the many restaurants in the square without really scrutinising the menu. A look of astonishment came over me i am told and when i tell you why you will understand. 16 Euro for a starter and i quickly calculated a very ordinary meal for two would set us back about 130 quid. While i was contemplating this the waiter plonked two ďfreeĒ aperitifs in front of us and vanished. I did what any normal person would do, called him back, told him to take them back, stood up and walked out. I donít mind paying for quality, i donít mind paying a little over the odds especially on holiday but Iím not being taken the piss out of like that, no way, scandalous and the more us stupid tourists continue to pay it the more we will be fleeced, FFS wise up everyone. We found a nicer place just off the piazza, had a perfectly adequate and equivalent meal for half that price.

So a night cap back at the bar Teatro in the still warm moonlight ended the day that more than made up for the first day. It was nigh on perfect with its extended and concentrated feast for the eyes, soul and belly. And that was Rome, there ya go. Plenty to see and do but also a little immersed in itself with smug self aggrandising issues to deal with. A shame really because it is a handsome City with remarkable unique treasures i just donít see why it has to claim everything about the place is as equally special as those genuinely special treasures are. †Weíll be back no doubt prolly as part of a tour of Southern Italy.

Piccies to follow
lolwarlol

Fantastic stuff, i drank every word in. Cheers.
Butts

Fantastic! I love the way your travels seem to spark off debates and musings between yourself and Mrs LD about wider philosophical issues. Look forward to the pics.
Forest

Had a similar experience to you in a restaurant in Rome not far from The Spanish Steps. Four of us, Ä 250 for an average meal with an average bottle of Italian White wine. I had pizza FFS.

Great report LD but I can't tell if you were impressed by St Pauls or not?, and did you visit the Sistine Chapel?
Tank Girl

that was great
ashthepash

A wonderous place. I'd visit it again in a heart beat, love it!
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

nice write up Latedoors

went twice with Leeds United more than ten years ago so it was mainly a short escorted trip around the town centre and the Olympic Stadium - great city.

More recently in 2003 and 2006 and I spent a night there staying at the 'Jolly Hotel' while on an overnight stop in a car rally ... so I've never stayed as long or seen half as much as i'd have liked
Grind

The last time I went I booked a hotel supposedly near the Spanish Steps online, only to arrive at the address to, well, find no hotel.

Fortunately, my pidgin eyetahleyan was sufficient to converse with a local there and they worked out the address of the company involved, which was just a couple of streets away.

Long story short, they booted out a student from a tidy little flat near the Trevi fountain and we ended up having a grand old time.

We even saw some mindless violence at a Roma v Lecce game, where Totti missed a penalty in a 2-2 draw.

Ace place. Fine reportage.  
Late Doors

Thanks for the nice words and forgiving the spelling and grammar mistakes. I've just put a few right, jeez it doesnít matter how hard you try thereís always some that slip through, soz.

When we go away we like to chat about what we see, Itís not like we are Mr and Mrs Descartes or the Freuds but when you see so much inspirational and evocative history right in front of you its bound to spark things off sometimes. I got to think about the Romans and how we look back at them as some kind of heroic creators and harbingers of civilisation but for hundreds of years they were brutal conquerors reacting to anything other than passive subservience and compliance with absolute ruthlessness, Slavery, ethnic cleansing, Persecution, all the things subsequent would be dictators are despised for seem to have been eroded away with the winds of time leaving just the nuggets of good. What would the world be like now if the Nazis or Stalin succeeded and what would it be like in hundreds of years? Would people in 2000 years look back and think oh yeah a few million people died but the hover trains and time transporters are always on time, the Moon is a brilliant weekend fishing break and there isnít any starvation or crime now. Frivolous and futile contemplation i know but that is about our level.

We only just perused the Vatican area Foz and wandered around St Peters Square never making it into any of the indoors stuff includimg the Sistine shapel. Time was against us and it was enough to simply gaze around and be amongst the devotees. MrsD is a kind of Catholic although like me a little heathen and science orientated so it all had a slightly increased spiritual significance for her but not much. So we chatted about all that. About how for 2000 years this concept of a single God creator has forged through two millennia of civilisation shaping societies and civilising mankind and yet through different interpretations of Gods nature and will has provoked so much bloodshed. Truly mind-blowing and baffling for us anyway yet at the same time it is too ignorant to simply dismiss it as nonsense.
My overall impression of the square is the enormity of it and not necessarily the style and elegance of it. Functional rather than artistic as if the vastness of the space obscured the detail. That is perhaps a consequence of our fleeting visit. I was also too preoccupied gazing at the small balcony and imagining the man himself addressing the tens of thousands below him crammed into the square as fleets of Roman dressed alien invaders circled above blasting the square with lasers. That is perfectly true and exactly what i was thinking but it had been a long day and my mind by then had taken to wandering along its own path
Grind

We went to the vatican and by chance saw the pope (the last one) in his popemobile.

Shortly afterwards my camera disappeared.

The Catholic church will take anything.
Late Doors

Piccies

The Pantheon, ace, a treat inside and out


The over rated and very very expensive Piazza Navonna


The ordinary steps


the ace evening light


Trevvi Fountain, you decide


more light


Outside the Coliseum (Not in Halifax)


Inside, staggering (again not Halifax)


The ancient ruins of the Forum (picture of, not aimed at)


Walk across the river to Trastevere


St Peters Beckoning


St Peters Square (no aliens above, yet)


Another


view from the ace Bar Teatro Terrace as the sun lowers into evening
Grind

Perty.

These ancient cities are always interesting to visit (I'd like to go to Istanbul and Jerusalem sometime too) but I've often come away with the feeling that the current population had very little in common with the roots of the original city.

Not so much the case with Rome, but I definitely thought that way about Athens.

Perhaps even more so given their current situation.

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