The rain in Rome mainly stayed!

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Monday, February 8, 2010

Apart from the first and last day in Rome, it basically rained or looked like it was going to rain, the whole time...holding an umbrella and trying to read a soggy, disintegrating map in the pouring rain is really not easy and not a lot of fun either. Needless to say I got familiar with the metro system very quickly, spent less time lost than usual (which is a shame, I like wandering around) and therefore saw less of the city than I would've liked to. But I did get to all the main attractions...

The first afternoon I tried to find the Trevi fountain, which should have been fairly close to the hostel and failed, but enjoyed the walk up one of the main 'shopping' streets and found the / a contemporary art gallery, which was having a Calder exhibition, so I didn't bother going in. There are only so many mobiles I can be bothered paying to see. The hostel was a sardine can, good for meeting people though and I am pleased to report that others admitted that the Trevi was a well hidden landmark.

The next morning I set off for St Peters under seriously looming clouds, walked in the rain from the metro station to the cathedral, lined up at the side of the very large square surrounded by lots of columns and waited about 20 mins for my turn to get scanned. Followed the signs to the basilica and realised that I was where you paid to walk to the top or more to catch a lift. Not much point since it was raining and cloudy, I've learnt that about the top of tall buildings. Back we go and followed more signs to the crypt, very interesting, if you are into dead popes with very large coffins, which I'm not. Still don't know what I did wrong but ended up outside, in the square, with no choice but to queue up again ..mmm...where is this thing that is right in front of me??? Off I go again, no mistakes this time and I am pleased to report that it was well worth it! Florence cathedral still takes the award for the most impressive exterior, but St Peters wins hands down for the interior of any cathedral I have seen. There is room for 6,000 people in there and there are more statues of saints and popes, paintings of biblical scenes, gob smacking ceilings, beautiful mosaic floors and the biggest, most ornate grave (for St Peter) that you can imagine. My highlight was seeing Michelangelo's Pieta, a lovely sculpture, full of feeling and amazing details in the carving of the drapery. Went into the museum there and saw lots of religious relics, teeth and bones from saints in little gold containers, bejewelled papal crosses, presents from kings and presidents to popes (wonder if it got them into heaven?) and some VERY bad modern religious art. I actually paid the 6.50 euros to see a Bernini sculpture, but it was being restored....wonder why they don't tell you that, especially when it is the most advertised thing at the entrance??

Enough of religion, the rain had almost stopped so I determined to find to the Trevi fountain for some Baroque paganism, via some very good Italian coffee (they really do have the BEST coffee) and a deliciously cheap focaccia, best sandwiches anywhere, Italians do good food, cheap and expensive. They are also into eating and drinking standing up, you pay more to sit down. A nice walk, with the rain only threatening me and found the Trevi fountain. Walked around the corner of a very small street and there it was engulfed by tourists, in a very small piazza. Nice, I liked it, all those crazy horses of Neptune with strange hooves, tangling with the messengers of the sea, sloshing around in odd coloured aqua water. Well worth a glass of good Lambrusca and some people watching. According to the map the Spanish steps were pretty close....

But maps often lie when it comes to distances walked in the rain and I got to the top of the steps about an hour later with the map almost in shreds. Nice French church, then down the slippery marble steps, past the fountain and onto designer label street. I know it is all about the 'science' of retail, but every single one of these shops, Prada, Chanel, Dior etc all have exactly the same windows in every city, boring. Yves is doing things in bird cages this season...a single 1,000 euro clutch in a gilded cage, same clutch, same cage, Venice, Rome, Monaco, Cannes....borING! As is the window display and its goods, also something not quite right about conspicuous, overpriced consumerism in a gilded cage, doesn't gel with me, anyway.

The next day the weather proved to be consistent, if nothing else, so it was back on the metro to the Vatican museum, to see the Sistine chapel. You are herded along a path through some quite outstanding corridors, packed with people not looking at the amazing ceilings, all taking photos of themselves posing in front of something, up and down stairs, past a lot of very good photocopies of illustrated manuscripts, into the Raphael rooms, where everyone stops for a well deserved gawk, through the modern art, where no one stops at all (shame a good Bacon, an early Dali and a few very good works by modern Italian artists), through some shops, which thins out the crowd, more corridors of sculptures, papal knick knacks...I was beginning to think I had missed some turnoff somewhere, but pressed on, 2hrs later I was still following the signs and feeling not a little weary of the whole thing...when I walked up a last set of narrow stairs and through a small doorway, into a packed Sistine chapel. You were allowed to take pics everywhere else, so I assumed you could in about 3 before being told in no uncertain terms and stole a couple more, without being caught. There were a lot of other people doing the same, so they played an announcement (in 6 languages) telling everyone this was a place of worship, silence please and no photos. Oh give me a break! Isn't
St Peters a place of worship?? Do you actually think these people came here to worship??? There wasn't even an altar!! You got your 13.50 euros, what more do you want, respect? for what? The art maybe, but thats about all. And to top it all off I found the famous ceiling rather distant and I don't know ... flat or uninspiring, maybe I had expected too much, but compared to the Raphael rooms...I was not disappointed, just ....yes I was disappointed, the colours were flat, the tones overstated, it was almost black and white! I've heard that the restoration job is considered controversial, at best, I put it down to that and left. I needed a coffee and some rainy, fresh air.

The only things left to see (not really, you could spend a lot longer in Rome) were the colosseum and the Roman forum, but it was raining, so I went back to the hostel and spent the afternoon doing failed internet research on trains and buses out of Rome. Eventually gave up and walked to the train station, 5 mins away and booked a ticket to Nice for the next afternoon at 4pm, praying I would have a fine morning to see the colosseum. The woman who sold me the ticket said I would arrive at 7am the next morning. I thought that was rather a long train trip for Europe and asked her how long it took, 12 hrs she said, maybe it is a very slow train, I thought, wrong! Packed and booked a hostel in Nice, but didn't write down the address, because I could get it from the email they sent with the confirmation and directions to the hostel. WRONG!!

I got lucky, with the weather, not only did it not rain, it was a bright, blue, sunny day and when you walk out of the metro, not called Colosseum for nothing, it is right there, larger than life and yes it is impressive, very large, very old and very ruined, and packed with tourists, everything you would! Off to the forum, which I found much more interesting. It adjoined the Palatine gardens above, which led to the pile of square stones that were the houses of Livia and Augustus and boasted a very long queue. Lots of 'graves' of dead emporers scattered among the trees and some great views over the city and the forum below. A really nice day, back to the hostel to pick up the bags, check the internet for the hostel address and off to France. The internet servers were down in the hostel, oh me, oh my, no address or directions for the hostel in Nice, had to catch the train anyway!

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