Monday, August 06, 2007

July 24, 2007- Day 2

I have found Rome to be an expensive city. One of the few places where I can cut corners is food, so finding cheap/free places to eat is a priority. Luckily breakfast is free at the hotel and unlike the frozen muffins and instant coffee you would find in many US hotel breakfasts, the Gambrinus’ breakfast is real bacon and eggs and some very decent breads and fruits.

I started wandering down the 20th of September St towards the Imperial Forums (that’s Fora for you Latinists out there). On the way I visited the church of St. Susanna (she’s still there). I afterward learned that that church is the place where the Pope stuck Boston’s Cardinal Law when he absolutely fouled up the Boston Archdiocese after the clergy sex abuse scandal. The church is absolutely stunning, however. I struck up a conversation with a priest from NY who was serving as an attendant in the church; a nice enough fellow for a Yankees fan. I also stopped in the Church of St. Andrea. There are just so many beautiful churches in Rome; choices will have to be made if I am going to ever get to the Roman ruins.

The Roman heat is very intense, so I had to stop for a Coke. It is a bit cheaper on this end of the city, but not much. There is an intersection with four fountains (the Four Fountains, imaginatively enough) which is quite impressive on an artistic level—on the practical level as well. You just cannot overestimate the importance of these fountains in keeping people hydrated. The sidewalks, however, are very narrow and dilapidated. They are little more than a curb of badly worn marble.

The first stop along the Imperial Fora was Trajan’s Column and Forum. I paid €11 to get in and except for the sake of saying I was there, there was not much to merit the fee. You can get a good look at the column from the street, although it is currently covered with scaffolding for renovations. There were some interesting architectural fragments and walking through the market was neat, but it is pretty much a hole in the earth with part of a building in the back.

Walking down the Imperial Fora St, you can get a decent look (for free) at the Julian and Augustan Fora. Again, except for some architectural fragments, there is not much left, but you can get a good idea of how impressive they must have been in their prime.

I wandered up the Palatine Hill and looked over the ruins there. I paid €25 to get the “Archeological Ticket” which will get me into various sites in the city. I took a rest at the top of the hill in a little park to reflect a bit. The top of the Palatine is quiet and peaceful. The traffic noise just vanishes as you get up the hill and it is a little oasis of calm in the bustling city. There are even fountains up here, thank god, where I can fill my water bottles and soak my hat. The ruins up here are absolutely magnificent. I decided against the long lines at the Coliseum, which I can visit at my leisure thanks to the Archeological Ticket, but wandered past the Arches of Titus and Vespasian, which are in very good shape.

I walked back to the hotel because of some stomach issues and managed to buy some Imodium at the last open pharmacy in the city. I decided at that point to stick close to my home base to make sure it worked. It did, luckily, but to test it, I did have a few beers at an outdoor café nearby. I basically sat for a few hours and watched humanity pass me by.

Reflections on the day: The Roman churches are absolutely beautiful. The counter-reformation was very effective. There is nothing like them anywhere in the US that I have ever seen. The Fora are in poor shape, but you can get a glimpse at what they must have been like and from what I can imagine, must have been incredible. The serenity of the Palatine was almost spiritual; you could almost imagine you were in the countryside. The excavations are still doing on and the drawing work is still done by hand. The archeologists are not very talkative; they probably look upon the tourists as a distraction. The ruins are everywhere. Even the café I am sitting at is built into the old city walls, near the Porta Pia.

I am feeling a little tired out after all the walking, so I decided to call it a night after the beers and get some sleep.

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