The short story on Rome is…. If you ever get a chance to visit Roma, do so! To understand Roma, it helps to realize it has been a vibrant city for over 2,500 years. Walking around this ancient city one can turn the corner and suddenly see the Roman Colosseum, Pantheon, Saint Peter’s Basilica, another statue of Romulus and Remus, or some other site we were required to study in school. Everything Rome has done seems to be over the top in excess and grandeur. For example, Trevi Fountain is so large it basically occupies the entire plaza where it was built.
We have all heard the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So my Dad asked me to find out what it is the Romans do.
First, I would say they smoke a lot. They also shop for fresh produce daily at the many daily farmers markets. Labels tell the buyer how close to home the produce was harvested. The strawberries and tomatoes we had were the best ever. Salads lettuce never had brown spots as we experience in the US. Lots of unknown varieties of fish were available 1/2 block from our door. Romans also drive very fast, most often on scooters. The traffic flows, like it did in crowded Beijing, China. Situations that would make Americans mad and honk the horn all just flow like a liquid down narrow, twisting streets. Many stores shut down between 1pm and 4pm. Restaurants close between 3pm and 7pm. Also, in these restaurants you will only see olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette for your salads. No ranch dressing or any of the other 100 brands offered by Kraft. Everyone we encountered was as helpful as possible and we never felt unsafe or found ourselves in a bad situation. I did however experience the s-l-o-w count of change where the vendor hopes the tourist in a hurry will walk off not having received their last 10 Euro note, which quickly appears when pointed out. Romans also make their coffee very strong, one cup at a time, in small pots.
Another example of over-the-top excess is what the Romans refer to as the “typewriter” building. It is the start and termination point for numerous city bus lines and is the largest building made of white marble ever created. It houses a museum about Rome’s unification and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame. While it lacks a dome, it seems full of flying horses, and other statues many times bigger than life.
The typewriter building was where we would often get on or off of a very well run bus system that seems to largely depend upon honesty. Tickets are bought at the local tabacchi shops then validated on the bus. Rome has therefore done away with the huge ticket selling bureaucracy and theft which exists in Chicago, but likely has a lot of people who do not validate their tickets. The buses also have three doors for fast loading versus the one bottleneck door for loading on a Chicago city bus.
How to use a drinking fountain in Italy…. Water flows in abundance in Rome, no shortage here. The drinking fountains flow all of the time through a small hole in an often ornate sculpture. This fountain is likely a wolf in tribute to Romulus and Remus. When this hole is plugged up, as demonstrated here by the lovely hand model Heather, the water shoots out a hole on the top for drinking. It is also just as likely to squirt way too high or onto a nearby parked car or passing pedestrian.
How does one take a simple, well composed photo in such a busy, overbuilt hectic landscape? For this first trip to Rome which was overwhelming, I photographed small scenes, often abstract, bright with color or rich in design. The stairs below were climbed multiple times daily, to and from our rented condo. Ohhhh, so THAT is why it was cheaper than other rentals… No elevator to the 6th floor. In hindsight, a sunrise trip to St. Peter’s and other well known monuments would have been very worthwhile…. Maybe next time.