Friday, May 31, 2013

We No Speak Italiano

This one time I went to Italy and everything was so beautiful and I never wanted to go back except trying to get wifi in Italy is REALLY HARD (at least in the area we stayed in) so moral of the story is I came back for the Internet.

We left the school on the 23rd of May, at 2 am, got to the airport at about 5 am and boarded the plane at about 6. Flight was four hours. I can't tell you much about what happened on the way because I was asleep, but here are some pictures of pretty clouds about half an hour into the flight. This was the first time I could properly take pictures on a flight because I've always traveled at night-time before and even though the lights below us were pretty as hell I didn't have the need to take a picture of them. Being airborne in daylight, though, is another thing.

When we were in the bus driving from the airport to the hotel that we were going to stay in, the thing that struck me most about that part of Rome was of how much it looked like Manila. I was born and raised in Manila and I lived there until I was about seven so it really hit home for me and I was filled with nostalgia and longing during that short bus ride. That is until we actually reached old Rome, and it's nothing like Manila at all, and I doubt I would ever find a city  in the world that is quite like it.

Nothing in Rome is simple. Everywhere you look you see beautiful sculptures and paintings and architecture, man. The architecture is amazing and I was not even that interested in architecture before going to Rome! It's a city where it's very easy to draw inspiration from, to be motivated to do or to create something beautiful and something good and something that matters to you.  

The first two days in Rome were incredibly overwhelming for me. The feeling of being surrounded with so much beauty and history and life was a feeling that I have never felt before, and it completely took me by surprise. I know this sounds a bit naff but when I was at the top of the Colosseum, overlooking the Arch of Constantine with the Foro Romano in the distance, I very nearly cried. I swear I have never seen such beauty in my life. It made me think of the people who were there before, the people who made these things, the people who lived in Rome at the time when Rome was at its mightiest and these places and these surroundings were just part of their everyday lives, it made me think that they had lives like me, and they had stories, and they had experiences and emotions and they cried and laugh every single one of them like me, and I felt what I felt when I was reading John Green's Paper Towns only amplified a million times. I took lots and lots of pictures of everything because I didn't want that feeling to go away, but I only got frustrated because my camera could never capture the elegance of what I was seeing in front of me. And that was when I realised that I was in love with Rome. 

The first day in Rome was spent in the Colosseum and in the Basilica of San Clemente. We had this amazing tour guide named Richard who told us all about both places, and he told us that the Colosseum was actually called the Flavian Ampitheatre, and he told us about this quote that Saint Bede wrote:
Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus. 
As long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world.
I just found this really interesting because Saint Bede was believed to be a well-to-do, educated man. He wrote books on theology and science and religion. All in all I would say that he was better informed than most of the people who lived in those times. And yet even he couldn't imagine a world where Rome is not the mightiest city, and it made me think of how I  am thinking that if certain things are gone the world can't possibly function but the truth is so many things are bound to happen yet, and so many things are going to change the society, things that neither I nor any other person can foresee, and these things would forever change the world that I know. This makes me sad and happy at the same time.

I don't have pictures of the Basilica of San Clemente because we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the place, but the fascinating thing about the Basilica of San Clemente is that it's a church over a church over a pagan temple and some more buildings. It's insane. As I've said I don't have any decent pictures of the church or any of the underground attractions, but if you visit the website here they have some amazing pictures!

After touring the Colosseum and the Basilica and getting our dinner, we then proceeded to walk for a bit to Piazza Venezia, and it ended up to be one of my favourite nights in the city. Everywhere I looked there was just something beautiful and extraordinary waiting for me. It was a bit chilly but not too much and there was little wind and I was surrounded by people I have been friends with for years and people that have been a huge part of my life and I was with them in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a city that I fell in love almost at first sight with, and I felt happy and content, and I guess that feeling was what Charlie meant when he said that he felt infinite.

Second day was Vatican Day and the day that we went to the Vatican was strike day, so we couldn't get to the underground trains and we had to take the bus. I tell you, it was an experience. There was barely enough room inside the thing to fit in a needle! It was so crowded and I was pushed to the back wall of the bus where I'm guessing the engine was at, and it was hot and I was small and I couldn't really breathe. It was unpleasant, but I was okay at the end of it. I'd much rather lean on that back wall than have people around me breathing on me. We were probably in that bus for about twenty minutes and let me tell you, I have never been happier to step out of a bus. It was a small price to pay for the things I was going to see and experience that day, though.

Vatican also took my breath away. Everything in Rome did, but Vatican definitely had the most amazing things in one place. Millions of money were spent in this place and that money came from the citizens and yes it is ridiculous, but it's also beautiful. I actually reached the point during the day where the art made a lesser impression on me because of all the other beautiful things that I have seen. 

Can we just talk about the Vatican ceilings for a moment, because they're absolutely ludicrous (running out of adjectives here). If there's one thing I learned in Rome, it's to look up. The romans it seems are a big fan of their ceilings, and the ones at the Vatican definitely exemplify that. My favourite one though, and I don't have a picture of it and I'm sorry, are the ceilings that were painted to look like they were sculpted, and my mouth dropped to the floor when the tour guide told us that they are, in fact, painted. I was just in shock for about five minutes looking up at the ceiling and trying to convince myself that there was a human being talented enough to that. 

This was the statue of Laocoön and His Sons and it shows the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being killed by sea serpents sent by Poseidon (maybe, could also be Athena or Apollo) after trying to expose the Trojan Horse ruse. I love it so much, mostly because of the pained expression on his face as you can see below. SO MUCH DETAIL. It is amazing. How.

This was our tour guide Richard. He's the best tour guide I've ever had. I really wouldn't mind having him as my history teacher. And speaking of history, that's another thing I realised in Rome, by the way. That I really, really, like history. I chose it for the leaving cert as a subject and I've been having second thoughts about it but this trip to Rome really sealed the deal for me. 

The Trevi Fountain. I mean what can I say? It looks like something made by the elves of Rivendell. The statue in the front is just so lifelike, the water so blue. I would have enjoyed it more, however, if I didn't accidentally delete all the footage I took of Rome with my uncle's videocam earlier in the night (I got the footage back though! Might make something out of it. Might.).

Third day was our "chill" day, we went to a shopping centre in the morning and then to Piazza Na Vona in the evening, which was also one of my favourite nights on the trip! I made so many memories and I laughed so much with my friends and I loved Rome the way a person would love another person. How the hell do you deal with falling in love with a place? Somebody tell me please.

I remember seeing this dog in my third year History book.

Fourth day was Pompeii day and I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it all was. We had to drive three hours to get to Pompeii from Rome but it was all worth it because in the end we saw not only Pompeii but also Herculaneum, a smaller city that was also a victim of the volcanic eruption in 79 AD. Unlike Pompeii there are almost fully intact furniture in Herculaneum, which was brilliant, because I could imagine what people were doing back then, how they must've walked from a food store to their home and ate with their family and maybe go to the garden overlooking the ocean. This was what people like me did and now they're gone and all that's left is this.

I found it very interesting that the cast of a slave and the cast of a politician were in the same room.

Okay, here's what they don't tell you about Pompeii. At least what they didn't tell me and my class. It's that they loved their human reproduction. We visited a brothel with male... stuff sculpted on the outside wall, and on the inside was frescoes depicting what you want to do, or as my teacher described it, a "menu." There was also a fresco of Priapus, the fertility god with two... male stuff, and wow I cannot stop laughing because I have the humour of a twelve year old boy.

It was so funny because when we arrived at the modern town of Pompei, erotic calendars with prints of the frescoes greeted us, with male stuff and keychains that move so that it showed a man and a woman doing. stuff, and we were SO CONFUSED because we didn't know why this was as there was nothing like it in Rome, at least in the places that we visited. We were enlightened at the brothel (-is a sentence I never thought I would write in my blog).

Fifth day was beach day, and there is no pictures of that because it was an unspoken rule in the group to not take pictures of us in our swimwear. One friend broke this unspoken rule and she got screamed at. So please just take me word for it when I say that beach day was one of the funnest days I had in Italy. I might talk about the things we did at the beach on a different post though!

We went to the Pantheon in the night time, and then to the Piazza near the Pantheon where we sang a couple of songs as a choir and meet a lovely brazilian woman who sang for us, and it was good. It was a good night.

Before leaving Rome on the sixth and last day, we visited the Spanish steps and the Piazza Na Vona again. It was a sad day for everyone. 

The streets near the Spanish Steps were unbelievable. The shops lining the buildings were all designer shops: Prada, Dior, Gucci, Swarovski, they're all there with their closed glass doors and their bodyguards in suits waiting for moneyed customers to go in and buy something that costs a ridiculous amount. I wanted so badly to go in and buy my mom something but I forgot to sell one of my kidneys for money before the trip.

Can somebody please explain this sign for me because all I'm seeing is a Doctor Who reference.

Oh yeah, and couples were EVERYWHERE in Rome. Please make sure you know this before entering the vicinity especially if you don't have somebody to cuddle with as it may cause severe heart problems when sight-seeing.

We went to more places in Rome, but either I didn't take pictures of it because my camera was dead, or I don't have any pictures of it. Rome is amazing though, and if you have the opportunity to go, take it. It's such a beautiful city that just makes you appreciate life and you existing as a person. It made me so happy to be alive.


P.S. A special thank-you to my friend Ciara for letting me use her picture of a ceiling in the Vatican for this blog, and to wikipedia for providing me with the information that I forgot when I was in Rome. Also thank you to all the people I spent this trip with. You are all the best and I love you almost as much as I love Rome. Almost.