Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Incredible Journey

Day Two - Nov 19

Today was a very long and exhausting day.  We woke up a little later than planned and headed out (still no groceries yet) to get our OMNIA passes, to get more money, and find something for breakfast.  We couldn't find the cafe where they had the OMNIA passes for like maybe an hour (OMNIA passes allow free entrance to 2 sites and musems in Rome-- reduced price to the rest, free public transportation, and free everything at the Vatican, for three days).  We got some cash and bought a few small loaves of wheat bread and a few little juice boxes.  We ate the bread and juice and headed out to the Campo de Fiori.  It was a very long walk, but we wanted to walk to see more of the city.

We passed a Roman ruin with a lot of cute stray cats.  There was a public basketball court next to it.  We were the only ones interested in the ruin, I'm more than sure.  It was an ancient water distribution center that used to have two beautiful statues (known as the "jewels" of somebody or other) on top.

Column cats
We kept walking for a while and went past more random ruins/walls, and eventually came to the Colosseum.  We were really tempted to do that first because it was right there and awesome and such, but we wanted to get to the market at the Campo before it ended.  So we clenched our teeth and kept walking.  We passed all the other ruins we wanted to see and I seriously considered doing them first, but we stayed steadfast.

Eventually we got the historic center and walked through quaint little streets and finally got to the Campo de (di?) Fiori market.  It had mostly fruits and vegetables and some silly tourist stuff, but also large parmesan cheese wheels and lumps/blocks of other delicious-looking cheeses.  There were also large hanks of ham thighs/legs (complete with hoof!) that I seriously considered buying (the prosciutto here is amazing), but didn't know if I could justify taking it on the plane.  There was also a guy selling spices and oils.

Ham and cheese shop to the nth power
Browsing the goods
Anyway, the market was cute and fun, but a lot smaller than I imagined, so we were done with it pretty quickly.  I took some stalkery pictures of cute Italian people.  I don't think they minded.  I didn't ask.

Roman lunchtime
After the market, we went back towards the Colosseum and such, but stopped at the Temple of Apollo and some other partial theatre and some quadriporch or other.  I was incredibly weary and hungry, so I had the last little loaf of bread and the last little box of juice.  Sam wasn't hungry for some reason.  Anyway, then we kept on a-trekking.  We passed the Circus Maximus and went down to walk in it.  We picked up a little stone for my friend and a piece of (illegal) pottery and went on down the road to the Colosseum.  Our OMNIA passes were awesome here, we didn't have to wait in line at all.  I'd say the Col. is exactly how you imagine it.  It's the same size and everything.  The only difference is the color.  I thought it was more whitish grey, but it was actually more reddish brown and grey.  Anyway.  It was cool just to be there, but not really surprising because I've seen ten million pictures of it in my lifetime.  There was a neat little display inside one of the side tunnel jigs (like where you might buy hotdogs at a baseball game) that had some museum-y displays.  My favorite was a collection of animal bones they found, which included bear, boar, horse, and several big cats, as well as wolves and deer and other things.  And there were lots of very steep stairs.

After the Col. we took on the Fora.  Holy cow.  We definitely underestimated its size.  It took a good long while and was pretty hilly (it is the Capitoline Hill after all).  I started to feel exhausted and sick and grumpy and that made Sam maddish, which made me feel bad, but we sat down for a while and then pushed through.  There were a couple spots being excavated.  One was an area by a thing and while we were watching the professor started yelling at one of his students (in Italian) for standing on the profile wall.  It made us laugh.  Archaeology professors are the same everywhere.
Dig 'em up, oh oh...
We saw a cool Byzantine church with awesome mosaics, the House of Vestal Virgins, Temple of Saturn, Arches of all kinds of dudes, and a million other things.  We were hunting particularly for the Trajan Markets, but we kept not finding them.  After a while we realized that they were in a completely different set of Fora, so we left to go find them, and find them we did.  Next to them was the Trajan Column, which was awesome and a lot bigger than I imagined.  The markets were cool too.  Right then it started to rain, but not too hard.  We avoided about 30,000 umbrella vendors with success.

We then walked back to the historic center to find the Pantheon.  It was about 4:30 and starting to get dark (especially with the clouds), so we tried to be fast.  We got there and it was really neat.  I liked the outside better than the inside though.  It's been converted to a church/basilica/shrine to some martyred saints, so people kept (uselessly) shushing everyone, and some doofus took a picture with flash and a few people thought it was me and gave me the Italian "glare" (as in they look at your like you're a fool and hopeless at that).  Boo.

This picture makes me smile: I was there!!
After that it was a quickish walk to the Piazza Navona, where we planned to eat dinner (our first real/full meal since I think Friday).  We walked around the Piazza and compared prices at the restaurants and finally decided on one with the novel name "Navona" because the lasagne was cheapest.

The seating guy gave us a little table facing the Piazza (which actually wasn't all that attractive since they were packing up from a carnival and there were trucks and boxes and tarps everywhere) and called it "romantico."  Our waiter came out, he spoke a little English but obviously wasn't all that comfortable with it.  I felt kind of bad so I made sure to say "grazie" a lot.  We got a sort of bruschetta on steroids for antipasto.  It was toasted bread with piles (upon piles) of tomatoes I think marinated in a vaguely spicy oil (maybe pepperocini olive oil, I saw that at the market), with rocket leaves all over and bits of mozarella and a few olives.  Sam convinced me to try an olive.  I was reminded why I don't like olives.

Dinner was amazingly delicious, I really like the real Italian lasagne.  After dinner we walked around the Piazza again and thought about gelato, but it was actually very cold, so we skipped it and headed to the Trevi Fountain.  It was super crowded but we got lots of (dim) pictures and Sam convinced me to throw a coin in.  La.

THEN we walked (more!) to the Spanish steps.  They were boring and lame and this guy selling flowers wouldn't leave us alone.  It was annoying except that he kept trying to convince Sam of how beautiful I was.  Ha!

Then we got on the metro and headed to the stop near our apartment.  Man oh man am I impressed with the Roman metro.  It's super clean and not really smelly at all.  I'd venture to say it's cleaner than the Tube.

Anyway, so we walked from the metro (can you tell am I never going to be able to walk again?) to the grocery store, which is kiddy corner from Santa Maria Maggiore that I posted a picture of on Instagram yesterday.  We got stuff for the next two nights of dinner and some bread and jam and juice for breakfast.  We decided we will get those yummy baguette sandwiches we had for dinner yesterday for lunches this week.


Megan said...

Yay! I'm glad you're doing this, it's very enlightening and entertaining. It's funny to me that the color you described as the actual color of the colosseum is the color I imagined it to be. Congrats on avoiding all the umbrella sellers. So I hope you keep this up, and do all the days even though you're starting late. I say that merely because if it were me I probably would give up. Although I probably would have given up after day one, ha.

LP said...

Bruschetta on steroids -- I want to try some of that.

LP said...

And yet the Colosseum looks whitish grey in your photo. How odd.