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Tutte le Strade portano a Roma

March 14, 2007
tags: ,
Disclaimer : This is no way a travel guide, read at your own risk.

“English ?”
“No … ” < shake head >

“Deutsch ?” (God, please …)

“No … Solo Italiano!”

Welcome to Italy !

That’s how we started our Rome-Pisa trip years ago. Took the Ryan Air from our city and landed in Rome.

On the flight, I asked the Italian attendant “Where do we leave the pram ?”  She was like “Huh ?”

I said “We have this Stroller, where do we leave it ?”

“Huh ?!”

A hopeful me said “Kinderwagen ?!?!” and then she said “Do you speak English ?!”

I did a little dance showing child and pushing the pram and stuff like that, it worked, ye, little triumphs!

Rome

Rome is a wild place, at least for me. Don’t know if it’s because of the impression I got from my readings and imagination. But, I had this urge to jump into the crowd and vanish when our airport bus entered the city !

A pretty crowded and loud city, especially if one happens to go there from a country like Germany. People everywhere, vehicles everywhere … They drive like Indians. You have to wait at the Zebra and make sure nobody is speeding to run over you. To be on the safer side, we just rushed whenever other Italian looking folks crossed, that’s much easier. Lanes are not marked on the roads and vespas generally zoom wherever there is place, even behind pedestrians on the footpath.

Men stare at women many times and might pass comments, but then it’s Italian. We kind of got the hang of going around in local buses after the very first evening. It’s exactly like getting into a BTS bus (anyone been in pre-Volvo Bangalore ?), only people don’t really push each other.

One lady standing behind my husband told him not to hang the camera behind  ( theft is rampant there ).

We had fun conversations with drivers during almost all the trips,

“Piazza Navona ?!” ( = where is it ? Which bus ? Would you tell us when we get there ? ).

Driver – “Si. quattro nove uno. scendere … blah blah blah blah”

They just go on in Royal Italian eventhough we shake our heads till they fall off. I would not waste my energy so much! But then, they just want to help I know.

We visited the Pantheon the first evening. It’s a huge 1900 years old cylindrical Pagan Temple. Kind of eerie in there. It was later declared a Christian Church and is still a place of active worship. We thought it would be good to have some Italian coffee and went into the Bar Pantheon (all Cafes are called Bars, which made my father-in-law a little jittery when we proposed to casually walk into one).  My inlaws drink the mildest possible version of coffee and teas. So we asked for Caffe. When they arrived, I thought the cups were too small. We had a bad time. So before we left, we asked, and the waiter enlightened us that all “Caffe” were Espressos <blink>. I still haven’t figured out how to make good for having made my poor mother-in-law drink coffee “decoction” .  Then on, we made it a point to scream into the bar fellow’s ears “LATTE!!!” (milk). I shall not go into the details of Latte Machiato and Cafe Latte.

Beginning of summer or end of summer should be the best time to be there.  Being there in Feb, it was a bit too cold to walk around, though we did walk. The guy on the bus said we wouldn’t have enough time to appreciate the enormous Vatican city. Tourists are allowed only into the museum (bi…g and full of paintings and art of all kinds) and the Sistine Chapels. I realised one thing, if you have someone with you whose mouth you have to keep stuffing with biscuits in order to catch a Michael Angelo or what’s-his-name-excuse-me, then you might as well skip the Pope’s place and head to some children’s hill with carousels.

Pizza at the Vatican museum cafeteria is bad. After what looked like a brief journey through time, we were suddenly outside the vatican city! We were like “hyan ! that’s all ? What’s so great about this … ?!”. I didn’t get that “Wow! the seat of Christianity. This man rules the christian world (Mmm… pardon my politically incorrect expressions) and I am standing in his country !” feeling at all. Once we were ‘out’, we walked around the corner to the famed St.Peter’s Basilica. Till then, I kept chanting “this place looks much better on TV during Christmas “.  It’s a huge ground with huge huge pillars all over the place and one word strikes you when you stand there “Rome!”.  At the basilica, they said “no strollers”, so my husband stayed with a sleeping son while I took my in-laws up the elevator. We decided to go to the top as suggested by our bus friend. We climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed …. up the stairs. At some point of time, I thought it was rather foolish of me to take my MIL with very bad legs there, but she wouldn’t give up. It was such a narrow place and so claustrophobic. We reached the top and whole of Rome was below us. It was a pretty picture, to put it mildly.  And then, I heard a lady saying “there are 320 steps here !!”  <jaw dropped>

We came down much more easily and went into the basilica (yes, some are churches and others, basilicas. They have their reasons.) and there it was, my picture out of TV 🙂 So huge a church! It’s the biggest in the world. Very nice.

Pisa

Pisa was a day trip. Not many are interested in that place.

“Pisa ? Pisa ?! (= why ?!) ”

Train connections are poor, so it takes more than 3 hours to reach though the distance is only about 200 and odd km. But then, how could we miss the leaning tower of Pisa, one of the world’s wonders ? So, off we went. We landed in front of the central station and looked around the little town. Hubby went to a group of people and started saying “Pisa ? Pisa ” ( It was a nice piece of entertainment watching him from behind, hand raised and continuously tilting to the sides). Then Ms.Ever-resourceful (now, you know who it is, ahem…) went for rescue and added  “Dove Torre di Pisa ?!”. There was a sigh and someone said “La Torre !!”; spread fingers in air and declared “Tre! A Navetta”. Those were the bus numbers. Tower of  Pisa is cool. The guy at the counter said 300 steps and we said “Namaskara” in Italiano and walked around the lawns and visited the cathedral next to it. We got back to Rome in the evening.

Back in Rome

Last day, we saw the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, a site of  ruins, vast. Colosseum didn’t create the kind of sentiments I expected, probably partly because of the jokers there dressed as Ancient Roman Senators and Gladiators to pose with Tourists for photos. It was darned cold inside the building and I was ill. So much for waiting to see one of the grandest of Roman creations. True, it looks beautiful in the evening when it’s all lit up. I refused to hang around as all I wanted to do was get back and crash. Such a killjoy.

We want to go there again and stay away from the cities. It  would be nice and may be we could then say something more than Si and No.

(Note: the author has visited Rome once more since she wrote this, but then did almost the same things, only with a different set of people)

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