n the night train
, me and Andreea were accompanied by two lovely college dames from North Carolina
. Both us and them had heard terrible things about the Italian night trains
, so I used my big, heavy bycicle chain to lock up the cabin. Nothing happened that night except for about 2 A.M. when someone from the outside tried to open the door. I yelled at whoever, halfway still asleep
and they stopped. Andreea hated the two girls with a passion, mainly because they supposedly
were hitting on me, calling upon me to protect them and such.
The Roma Termini
is surprisingly small, and after asking enough people we found our hotel - Mario's, which was actually this guy's apartment with seperate rooms which he rented out. Over our week's stay, we got to know the guy pretty well, and he told us lots that American and Norwegian kids are the ones that "alwaysa throw up allover the place."
If New York is a melting pot of cultures, then Rome is a pressure cooker left unattended. Cell phones in the "Colosseo," a mixture of English, German, French and some Italian on the steets - Everything is distinct, hot, seperate but crammed onto the same streets. The classical sights stand out like islands in the sea of intercultural meddling. Regardless of the number of tourists and shit-peddlers, the ruins remain bookmarks in time, marking the three thousand years which passed under our feet. The hills surrounding the city, adorned with Olive trees and rocky mounds, create a backdrop best suited for the Forum but appropriate for all of this city. Statues of leaders long passed adorn the streets, baring concrete eyes that have witnessed the rise and fall of Empires. The same polished cobblestones have carried Senators, Tyrants, Armies, Murdrers and Lovers - and have that feel to them.
Vatican city is a trip. Not only does it lie on the relative outside of Rome, but it seems to consist solely of Nuns and Tourists. We arrived by bus at the outside of the Vatican and walked by several grovery-type stores. The two-price system became evident when a young lady charged me five-hundred lira for a pastry, while Andreea was charged one-thousand-five-hundred by a different employee. Armed and satisfied, we set out to venture into the fabled city. We entered a large circular area filled with chairs, literally thousands of tiny black chairs focused on a now-empty podium. Through them we walked to St. Peter's Basilica, which was beyond enormous. Life-like statues and dead Popes were all around, impressing and intimidating at once; the ceiling seemed almost out of sight. The relic collection was not up for display, but Michelangelo's "Pieta" was - even though it was seperated from the observer by a transparent wall. When we exited, we headed up to the tower. After half an hour of unhampered stairs, we were rewarded. The chairs were a solid half-circle now, and Rome disappeared into the horizon. On our walk through the Vatican we had missed the gigantic private estates, since they are modestly divided from the commoner's grounds by means of fourteen-foot walls. The Vatican museum holds both the School of Athens and the Sistine Chapel; both are somewhat over-rated but still awe-inspiring for any art student used to 8"x10" prints.
That night, on the Spanish steps, we met up with Jan, Jason and the rest of the other group of friends traveling at the same time. While waiting, we overheard several groups of American kids and German student groups. How many true residents are left in Rome? Upon meeting the guys, we returned to the only authentic Irish pub in Rome (it's on Republique, can't miss it) and placed our orders.
The city was especially quiet that night, except for one car alarm. Jan had decided that it was impossible to pick up a "SMART," a tiny european car, and turn it around. While the rest of the group and I were proving him wrong, the car alarm went off and we barely kept from dropping it in half-motion. After we all stopped at our place, certain that no police had followed us, we saw them off in their post-curfew cab voyage to their youth hostel.
Upon spending the last of our days hanging out in the Russian district and figuring out the cheap life (buying food at the supermarket and making Mario dinner in exchange for being able to use the kitchen and telling stories about the south,) we took the day train to Florence.