Friday, March 29, 2013 (Good Friday)
Since we only had three days in Rome we needed to immediately hit the road and see the sights.
Our first stop was the city center of Ancient Rome.
TRAVELERS NOTE: It’s best to visit the city center before the Colosseum, because you can buy a combo Colosseum ticket on the way in and later skip the massive line outside the Colosseum.
The city center is pretty cool, but it’s kind of hard to imagine exactly how it looked 2,000 years ago because it’s now just a bunch of crumbling bricks and the occasional marble pillar.
As we toured the various areas of the city, I found it difficult to comprehend the age of everything we were seeing.
We’re talking more than 2,000 years. That’s 80 times longer than I’ve lived and more than eight times older than the United States of America.
And I thought a 12-year Mariners playoff drought was a long time.
What’s crazy is these 2,000-year-old cats were basically doing the same thing we do now — chasing women, throwing parties, eating at restaurants and going to the Colosseum for “sporting events.”
It turns out mankind hasn’t exactly advanced much in the last 2,000 years. In fact I’d argue we’ve actually regressed in a number of areas, but we won’t get into that.
The sheer size of the place is what’s most astonishing. The remaining arches and domes are enormous and towered multiple stories above our heads.
Along with the size, the attention to detail is also astounding. Each arch and column is intricately decorated and the remains of the statues are surprisingly lifelike.
It took us a little bit longer than planned to cruise around the site, because we were still in absolute agony from our climb up Kilimanjaro two days prior.
In fact there was no cruising around whatsoever, it was more like pathetic hobbling.
From the ancient city we headed east toward the Colosseum and skipped the massive line since we strategically bought our Colosseum ticket on the way into the city.
The Colosseum is easily the most popular tourist attraction in Rome and it’s for good reason too.
The arena is enormous and back in the day had a capacity of more than 50,000 people. That’s not much smaller than the raucous crowd packed into CenturyLink Field on a sold out Sunday afternoon.
(T: And apparently it took only 15 minutes for all 50,000 of them to exit the stadium, that’s how long it takes one woman to use a frickin’ bathroom stall in a public restroom in this first-world country).
As we walked through the tunnel and out into the stands I could imagine the stadium completely packed with Romans, roaring louder than The Clink after a Tony Romo fumbled field goal attempt.
Looking down the grandstand it’s easy to visualize gladiators fighting hippos and other exotic and dangerous creatures on the sand floor below.
Despite the massive Good Friday crowd, being in the Colosseum is an experience I’ll never forget and even though it was Tarynne’s second visit I think she equally enjoyed it.
After the Colosseum we walked to the capitol building where we found a nearby roof top restaurant and ate a small snack.
From the capitol building, which is located in the heart of Rome, we began to slowly walk back toward the hostel. Of course Tarynne window shopped along the way.
We somehow made it back to the hostel without getting lost and without Tarynne buying anything.
After an early dinner we headed straight to bed, exhausted from flying all through the night and spending the entire day marching around Rome.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
On Saturday we woke up, ate breakfast in the restaurant below the hostel and then caught the underground train to the Vatican City.
Since it was Easter Weekend the area was packed as soon as we got off the train.
St. Peter’s Square was already set up for Easter Mass the following morning.
A temporary alter surrounded by flowers had been erected (T: ha, James is apparently borrowing words from Rick Steves) on the steps to the church beneath the Pope’s famous balcony.
The square itself wasn’t all that packed so we were able to walk around, snap some photos and take it all in before heading into the Vatican City.
While we were in line to get into the city it started to rain, so in a state of panic I bought the flimsiest umbrella ever constructed for €5 from a street vendor. I guess it did the job, at least for the day.
The inside of the Vatican is already tricked out with blown up pictures of the new pope and new memorabilia commemorating his election.
Once inside the Vatican we made our way into a large square with a huge golden globe in the middle. The edge of the square was lined with columns and statues.
From the square we followed the crowd through a network of narrow hallways on the way toward the Sistine Chapel.
The hallways were decorated with tapestries, statues and intricately painted walls and ceilings.
It took about an hour to battle the crowd through the endless hallways to the doorway to the Sistine Chapel.
Photos are strictly forbidden inside the chapel and little Italian men in uniforms run around shouting at anyone who dares to snap a photo.
Fortunately I’m traveling with one of the biggest creepers I know who just happens to be a master a sneaky photography.
The fact that Michelangelo painted the entire thing by hand with a paintbrush is pretty nuts. It looks pretty damn cool, but I think he seriously needed to get a life. There’s no way that dude had a girlfriend.
From the Sistine Chapel we headed quickly for the exit, the crowd was becoming overwhelming and we were both getting annoyed with everyone around us.
On the way we walked down a quaint alleyway lined with small cafes and Italian restaurants.
After walking for about 45 minutes we came across Piazza Navona, which was very lively and seemed to me like a good place to stop for a bite to eat.
Not so fast.
As soon as we sat down I was immediately in trouble with Tarynne for picking a restaurant that was too expensive. Of course I asked her if the place was okay before we ordered and she told me it was fine even though it clearly wasn’t.
Since we’re both stubborn things just went down hill from there and I ate sheepishly in silence while Tarynne glared at me over the rim of her $13 glass of wine.
Okay fine. The place was a little over priced. And by a little I mean a lot.
It also didn’t help that I immediately overreacted and plunged into the worst mood on the planet the second Tarynne told me the place was “fine.”
NOTE TO TARYNNE: I know when you are lying. You are the worst liar on planet earth and you wear your emotions on your sleeve even more than I do, which is saying something. Next time just tell me the place is an over priced dump hole and we’ll quickly leave.
Anyway, my overreaction led to an extremely quiet, terrible dinner in front some famous fountain that was all lit up romantically in the Italian night.
Talk about awkward.
After dinner we still tried to go to see the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, but it was a very quiet walk. To make things worse in her silent rage Tarynne led us astray and had to ask me, the asshole, for directions.
What a disaster.
At least we got some cool photos.
We went to bed mad at each other, which was probably the dumbest thing to do because we both just wanted to hang out.
Although we get along like two peas in a pod 99.9 percent of the time, we aren’t super human.
Sunday, March 31, 2013 (Easter)
The next morning things were still a little tense, so we decided to take a day to ourselves.
Of course we went to exactly the same places and saw the exact same things so we might as well have been together. Not to mention it was Easter Sunday and we were without each other and the usual Easter baskets our moms prepare for us.
We both went to Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square to see the pope do his thing.
The place was complete bedlam and for a bunch of supposedly neighbor loving Catholics the crowd was ruthless. They pushed, shoved and elbowed their way through the mob of people completely annihilating anyone between them and the pope.
It was a very loving and caring crowd. My boy Jesus Christ had to be rolling over in his grave at the irony of the situation.
Although still not together we both made our way from Easter Mass back to see the Pantheon in the light of day.
From the Pantheon it was back to Trevi Fountain to snap some daylight photos.
Then it was onward to the Spanish Steps, by which I was very unimpressed. It’s just a long staircase with a fountain at the bottom that looks just like the boat play toy that used to be in Bellevue Square.
Somewhere in between all these photographs I went to McDonald’s and Tarynne went shopping.
We both made it back to the hostel around five in the evening and talked out the ridiculousness of the overpriced dinner the night before.