Installments of Italia: Day Six
Here we finally are at day six, easily the longest day of this Bello’s Italia adventure. On day six, we conquered Roma.
We woke up for the two hour drive with preparations to leave at 8:30am and ended up leaving at 10am. Out of a 24 hour clock this only constitutes a variance of around 6.3%, which isn’t that bad if you look at it that way.
Many of my family had been to Rome before, so some people stayed back. The war party to Rome consisted of myself, my sibs Peter and Lauren, my aunt Nikki and uncle Roy, and my cousins Jesse, Erica and Abby. Our cousin Kyra had
stolen, taken borrowed the GPS the day before, so the eight of us piled into two rental cars with Roy leading and myself following. Foolishly, naively, retardedly armed with two sets of printed Mapquest directions and zero phones, we ventured forward into the clogged ventricles of the heart of Italy.
Don’t ever drive into Rome.
The first 1.5 hours of the drive were uneventful and scenic, but then when we were maybe a half hour away the lead car made what we all believed to be a wrong turn. I mean I can’t be sure, but one sign said “Roma” and the other sign said “Some Other Name”. Hamstrung (no phone to call them and tell them) and with no method of communication between the cars (I said, no fucking phone), my options were reduced to A) following or B) getting lost in some ghetto 30 minutes away from Rome with no directions on how to get to Rome or to home. I went with option A).
Don’t ever drive into Rome.
Eventually, they figured out we were going the wrong way and we all turned back around. After about 45 minutes we made it into the outskirts of Rome. I don’t actually know where we were, but there started to be ancient ruins mixed in among the regular buildings so I knew we were getting closer. Then the streets quickly got condensed and packed and Vespas were everywhere like flies on trash. Think you’re up to the driving challenge because you can navigate through the streets of Boston, or NYC? Buddy, you ain’t seen shit. With cobblestone rotaries, streets that aren’t streets but are actually train tracks (almost drove down one of those), Vespas buzzing everywhere all up in your grill, five and six way intersections and my brother yelling out “Babba da Babba!” in your ear, it was basically a motorist’s nightmare but in Italian. I wanted to wake up but couldn’t.
Don’t ever drive into Rome.
I’m not sure where in Rome we were for the first hour, because Mapquest blows and many of the streets in Rome aren’t marked with corner street signs like ours are. Often, you only know what street you’re on if you look out the window and see a little stone plaque embedded into to the side of a building that will say “VIA [street name]”. If you’re walking they’re easy to spot and it’s no big deal because you can just turn around. If you’re driving in the midst of a swarm of Vespas, you’re fucked. It’s like Boston but worse. No seemed to acknowledge any traffic laws except red lights. Intersections that didn’t have lights were basically free-for-alls, and those motherfuckers can smell fear.
Don’t ever drive into Rome.
Ok, that’s enough of a tangent about driving in Rome. Just everyone understand that there are little Vespas everywhere swarming in and out and in between everything, all the time, and they tailgate, drive fast and that they’re fresh out of fucks to give. Also, don’t drive in lanes/streets that are specifically designated for taxis. Apparently if Rome police see you do that, they’ll stop you right there and want money. They must have all been on gelato breaks or something that morning though, because we did that like six times.
We got into the car at 10am. At 2pm, we arrived at the parking garage and exited the car; already two hours of the day down the drain. It was that helpless kind of frustration where there’s no point in fighting, like when your mom took you to Bed, Bath and Beyond when you were 10 and you knew that no matter what, you’d be in trouble by the end of the day so you just accepted it going in.
We got a quick bite at a restaurant near the Vatican, then walked around the massive stone gate to the Vatican’s entrance. Unfortunately, we were outta time. We stepped into the entrance just before the metal detectors, where we were informed that the Vatican stops admitting people at 3pm, and furthermore ejects everyone at 3:30pm. It was 2:58pm, so in a best case scenario we could pay the full admission fee in order to spend 32 minutes in the Vatican, an attraction that could arguably take an entire day to appreciate fully. We politely said screw that noise and left, but hey, at least I can say I was technically inside the Vatican [threshold]!
My cousin Jesse needs to be elevated to Hero status for his role in our Rome visit. He’d been there at least once before and knew all the of the major attractions. He grabbed a tourist map and devised a route for us that was the closest thing to a giant loop, from the Vatican (our starting point) all the way back to the parking garage, in a giant loop. The plan was to walk through Rome and hit all of the major attractions, time permitting. The Vatican was a bust, so we essentially went around the corner and started at St. Peter’s Square. Get ready for pictures!
I’ll try and give a brief history of each site; in doing so I expose my lack of knowledge to anyone who actually knows any history. St. Peter’s Square is that giant plaza where the pope gives his masses and makes speeches and things like that. It was really grand and surrounded by these giant circular columns. We’re standing aside one of the two fountains; in the middle there’s this giant obelisk. It’s a good vocabulary word, obelisk. It means like, a tower that looks like a spike. If you’re facing the square, the building to the right of it is supposedly where they keep the pope. I tried to get a picture of him changing but I missed the chance. He was standing by one of the windows topless, but he ducked out of sight quickly when he saw me pull my camera out. He was pretty spry for an old man.
We were baking in the sun in the middle of the square, so we kept moving. There’s a giant road that leads up to (or away from) the square, so we walked down that until we got to a huge intersection. Photo opp, yo.
Next was a castle, Castel Sant’Angelo actually. It was a giant circular castle that I only thought to take one picture of. We had no time to go inside and explore, and I found the statues on the bridge right in front of it to be more interesting anyway.
The bridge had these statues all over it. They were each very different and all of them were interesting. Here’s a picture of the actual castle as we walked across the bridge, away from it.
Our next stop was Pantheon, but along the way we passed a random fountain and I snagged a picture of a pretty sweet tanktop hanging in some shop.
Somehow resisting the urge to purchase the orgy shirt, we proceeded to Pantheon.
Pantheon is this giant domed building with a hole in the top. I believe it was already there when the early Romans were like, conquering the area that would become Rome and taking existing buildings for themselves. They saw this building and were like, ‘It’s for our God now.’ That seemed to be a theme throughout Rome; there were tons of obelisks with weird hieroglyphics on them, but also with crosses on top. It’s like the early Romans would see something they want and just put a cross on top of it and then it belonged to them now. I guess that’s faster than building your own and learning how to speak in hieroglyphics. So Anyway, I think technically Pantheon is a church, but one that probably has some other god’s ghosts hanging around in it.
It was pretty impressive from the inside too. Also, I found out that you’re not supposed to yell in Pantheon when I yelled at some stupid Lakers fans. Who lets Lakers fans inside of Pantheon? Those marines weren’t doing their job.
The tomb of St. Raphael is in there too.
We set out for the next stop, but along the way I couldn’t help myself and had to take a picture of this. Who thought it was a good idea to carve this into stone? Does anyone know if this is like, some historical event? What is this about?
We continued on, passed some sweet ruins, and ended up at the giant steps of this huge museum. I believe it was dedicated to a famous Italian general, but he’s apparently not famous enough for me to remember who he was. At the top of the steps were two marines stationed on either side of a giant sculpture dedicated to Ignoto Militi (the Unknown Soldier), with a third marine pacing back and forth between them. I like stuff like this, it was almost regal.
This is essentially how we honor the tomb of the Unknown Soldier here in the U.S.; I wonder if we stole this from Italy or if this just how the whole world does it? You google it, I’m too busy.
We were only a few blocks away from the Colosseum at this point, so we headed in that direction and got there about 15 minutes later. It was massive.
I wanted a good shot of my brother and I fighting alongside the Colosseum, and I only partially succeeded. Thanks for phoning it in with the half-hearted facial expression on this probably once in a lifetime photo opportunity, Pete.
Well at least I got a picture. By this point everyone was really sweaty and thirsty, but in Rome there are these public fountains that are just constantly flowing with drinking water. Way to go, aqueducts! We grabbed a drink and doubled back the way we came. It was a long walk, but I passed the time by impersonating the Caesars. Peter regains some of his lost credit by giving me a decent photobomb in one of them.
I feel like now I have a few good poses stored up for when I take over. Heading back to the car, we stopped by the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is a giant…fountain, with all these ornate statues carved in the middle of it. I believe the legend goes that if you throw a coin in there, you will visit Rome again someday. Roy got us all coins real quick, and we tossed them all in. In a typical Bello mistake, I threw too hard and heard my coin *ping!* off one of the statues in the middle. Hopefully my coin went in, but I’ll never know for sure.
It was then time for our daily gelato, which we consumed with great relish. Sticky fingers and all, we proceeded to our last stop, which was the Spanish Steps.
I was underwhelmed by the Spanish Steps. I guess at the top of them is the Spanish Embassy? I don’t know for sure. I started climbing them and yup, they were steps. Like any other steps, except they were slightly slanted down. I got to the platform that’s halfway up (which wasn’t really that far at all) and looked up. Hmm, more steps. I went back down and we all sat around on the steps for a little bit.
I got a sweet tie at a neighboring shop near the base of the Steps, then we started the trek back to the car. It was maybe 7pm by this point. We noticed the streets getting crowded, which was because this was the night that Italy was playing Germany in the Euro Cup Finals or something. Think of walking through Boston when the C’s are playing the Heat, then amplify that by a million crazy Italians. The entire city was preparing to party. People were driving by on Vespas and in cars with Italian flags sticking out of windows, flags painted onto skin and helmets, flags everywhere. We passed this huge square that was already filling up with hundreds of people waving flags; the entire wall was turned into a projector. People were already setting in on the vuvuzelas, which was about as annoying as you imagine. I saw a few brave souls wearing Germany flags like capes; I wonder if they made it out alive. We kept walking towards the parking garage, and away from the growing madness.
We finally arrived at the parking garage, but at this point it was around 8pm and we figured we should eat before we drive the two hours back to the villa. There was a little restaurant right near the garage with indoor/outdoor seating and we plopped down, pooped. Dinner was awesome but took a little while; I’m pretty sure the chefs were watching the game haha. A few of us mentioned how awesome it would be to stay and watch the soccer game too, after all, what better a setting than Rome. I countered by saying that sounds great, except we will never, ever make it out of here tonight. Like, if we want to do this we can do this, but we should get hotel rooms right now because we ain’t going anywhere when the game ends. Think about it; when the game gets out, the whole damn city of Rome will be out in the streets and most likely drunk. We got lost for two freaking hours this morning, and that was with relatively sober drivers and in broad daylight. Now we’re all tired, the streets will be chaos and it’s very dark. Let’s GTFO of here now while the streets are deserted…while we have a chance.
Satisfied, fueled and watered up, we piled into the cars and retreated back to the villa uneventfully.
Don’t ever drive into Rome.
Just kidding! We got lost immediately. It took us about three backtracks to finally make it out of the city, then we got lost on the poorly marked highways that surround it. At this point I started freaking out internally. I didn’t know it at the time, but the passengers in my car told me later that there was actual tenseness just radiating off of me. And I thought I was being subtle, haha.
We had less than a quarter of a tank of gas. We would’ve been fine, had we not gotten lost and wasted two extra hours’ worth of gas this morning. But since that happened, my car was just about out of gas. Driving back and forth on highways and random roads (again I was following the lead car and was essentially at their mercy) I helplessly watched the gas meter drop lower and lower. Again, no phones, no nothing. We stopped at a gas station on the outskirts of Rome but it was closed, because apparently soccer > everything else. I imagined sleeping in the car, or rather laying in the car all night listening to my brother snore loudly. I knew we’d most likely end up parked on the side of some back street or highway, waiting for hours until some policia came by who hopefully spoke English, and I was very much not looking forward to it.
Salvation was a gas station that was miraculously open on the side of the highway, about 20 minutes out from Rome. My gas tank was in the red. It’s worth mentioning that it was also the only other gas station that we even saw for the rest of the trip, so if it had been closed I might still be sitting in that car listening to Peter snore.
We made it home by around midnight. Some people were wired enough that they grabbed drinks and jumped in the pool, but all I wanted at this point was a shower and some sleep, so that’s what I did. The last thing I heard was glass breaking out by the pool, but by that point I was so exhausted I didn’t even bother going to the window to check it out.
Bed spiders, strike now, for I am too weak to defend.