Monday, May 21, 2012

Viva Italia: Part II

Ooops! I forgot to add Firenze (Florence) and Roma (Rome) to my Italian blog! In my defense, I did Florence in a day and Rome in 5 you can see how it might have slipped my hobo mind. I should have planned more time, but I do what I can with my precious time! I don't have a lot to say about these photos because I was speechless at this point, exhausted and ready to get to Turkey. Read on for my guide to Rome in 5 hours :)

Markets markets everywhere! It seems that all of Florence wanted to sell me something. It was fun to ignore the shopkeepers as they yell at you "Amery-can, amery-can lady! You need a new scarf?"
Small devotion to Caesar.
I do love me some Italian architecture.
Each street looks exactly how you would picture them. I really need a moped in this photo to complete the essence of Florence.
Because it was afternoon, (who am I kidding, it was barely 11:00am) I stopped by a small patio setting in the street and saw that the cafe offered wine tastings. As much as I boast my hobo-ness, I do not want to neglect my wino-ness either. I sauntered in the restaurant as if I was not dying to try some signature Chianti classicos! They served me the freshest bruschetta I had ever tasted, literally. A tall, gaunt Italian man (the tall part is key because Italians are typically teeeeny) would come out to my single-sized table and present each new wine of the Chianti flight I had chosen. He sat down and talked to me about the grapes, the process, and the chemistry that went into this delectable little sampling of Tuscany. The good news was that the flight began with the lightest Chianti and finished with the strongest, this good news is also the "bad news." Once I finished my final sip, I thanked the lovely staff that welcomed a poor tipsy American "molto bene, grazie mille!" and zig zagged my way into a United Colors of Benetton to walk off my Tuscan buzz. Mind you, my entire flight of wine was only 4 small samples. Again, Italians may be shiny and loud...but they ain't kidding around with their wine. The following pictures are the stunning sights I saw walking around this medieval city.

Ah, there is the moped picture. No worries, there are more.
If I had taken pictures of ALLLL of the beautiful clothes I saw on my entire trip to Europe...I would have to create a second blog. However, this stopped me in my tracks. It's nothing fancy. I saw this at a Zara clothing store, which is a giant clothing chain (think slightly upscale H&M) all over Europe. But this is what I love about fashion. Something as simple as a black micro sheath with long flowing thin pieces of black fringe. GORGE! I took this picture especially for Mrs. Syd Nagy...she would rock this look with her tall svelte frame.
There are those that beg on the street, and then there are those that create. Bring your live studio to the streets and make a boring gray side street an urban gallery.
Markets, and markets, and markets OH MY! I was exhausted by them at this point. I was all haggled-out.
Another mothership calling me home!

Sweet memory: I was not in the best mood in Florence. There are those days in traveling when you are just too tired, too burned out, and too alone to recharge yourself. Everyone thinks you are a rich American, and wants to sell you something. But I have been so blessed to encounter so many wonderful strangers along this trip. These are the people that lifted me up when I was dragging, and refreshed my belief in humanity and my mission for this journey with just a simple gesture or phrase. I try not to forget them all, but there were many. The female ticketing agent I encountered in the Florence train station is one that could be easily forgotten, but I remembered her today and I am so glad I did. The conversation was nothing special, we just exchanged some simple smiles and Italian phrases as she helped me struggle through asking for a ticket to Rome. We rolled our eyes at the annoying American blonds at the window next to me openly mocking the Italian language as they scoffed at the cost of their last minute ticket purchase. She acknowledged my sincere effort to speak the language and my appreciation for her help. She gave me a loving "safe travels", handed me a few pieces of chocolate in lady bug wrappers, and sent me on my way. Sometimes the energy of a person is even more impactful than the words they say.
I arrived in Rome just before dark to my eco-friendly hostel, The Beehive. I met my amazing roommates, shared some quick stories, and then out on the town I went for a delicious dinner for one.I had some serious pasta on the brain. One of the greatest lessons I learned on this trip was to sit quietly, take my time and enjoy a meal, and absorb the scene around me. Those that have tried this may know how about this challenge, but those that have not have no idea how difficult this skill can be. No phone, no book, no company to converse...just you, your thoughts, the food, the wine, and learning to be present in the moment and memorize every inch of the new environment you are inhabiting. Try it, it's my form of urban meditation.
This is how I saw Rome in 5 hours: I awoke super early on Wednesday morning to beat the work rush on the subway and arrive in St. Peter's square at 7:00am sharp. I knew that if I was going to see as much as I could before I went to the airport, my motto had to be Tempus Fugit! On that note, may I recommend to everyone the peace, quiet and beauty of St. Peter's square in the morning. As I walked from the subway to the square I saw businesses opening, vendors laying out their items, city employees cleaning the streets...this may be my favorite part of any city. 
What follows are a smattering of pictures from the square, the basilica, around the Vatican, etc. There were so many things I wanted to photograph, I wish I owned a better camera. I was spoiled with Brian's nice camera.

Giant fountains, notice the comparison with the person walking on the other side.
Swiss guard, oh how I love thee!
I love the juxtaposition of the jumbo tron in front of this magnanimous statue. Just saying.

The Cathols setting up for Holy Week.
Then my jaw remained on the floor for the next hour.
To understand the size of these chubby cherubs, they are about as tall as I am...just so you know. Of course this is where they keep the holy water, did you expect a small bird bath??

This was one of the coolest things I was able to experience. At about 8am, priests lead morning services all over St. Peter's Basilica (above is just one of about 15 different altars in this giant holy place) in many many different languages so that all that enter the house of God can worship in their native language. As some of you may know, I believe in the history and significance of all world religions rather than just one in particular...but I am a promoter of an all encompassing welcome to any and all of God's children.
Once again, to understand the size...this saint is about 15ft tall.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the DaVinci Code/Angels & Demons tour...strange? So instead, I just played pretend by myself and found all the little underground stairs and secret passageways. The security didn't quite know what to think about me. Above is a small grate that covers a decadent underground hallway. This is underneath the towering altar where the Pope conducts his services. I am sure this is his secret entrance to ascend to the altar. I wished that there was more of a hydraulic lift that shoots the Pope up to the altar with tons of smoke and pyrotechnics. I don't think these Cathols have the sense of occasion that I do. (Reference: the term "Cathol" comes from Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill)
Secret stairway to go behind a statue. Tom Hanks, are you there?? The Illuminati are after us!!
Big, big , BIG statues. A lot of them.
The canopy under which the Pope blesses the bread and the wine.
Standing behind the Pope's altar. This is what he sees when he looks out to the back of the basilica.
Another grate in the floor. What you can't see from this picture is that there is another secret hallway under ground. WHY do they tease me??
All of those large wooden beasts lining the hallway are all confessionals. They each have a specific flag on the front so that you can confess to someone who speaks your language. The jokes and skits that came to mind during this time were deafening and blinding to me. It was joke overload. I physically had to keep myself from going into a confessional. P.S. There are no confessionals for those that use sign language. Rude!

The square was designed to resemble a mother's arms welcoming believers to the doors of the basilica.

Top, second window from the end...Pope's pad.

As an experienced hobo traveler at this point, I can maximize my time in a city by my keen sense of public transportation and map reading. I was able to traverse Rome and see the sights in very little time. WIN! I stepped out of the subway, and saw the picture above. Silly me, I was worried where to find it once I left the terminal.
Just as awesome as I had imagined! More compact, but awesome. Again, the passageways underneath where the sand floor would have been were my favorite part. This was where gladiators, animals and their wranglers prepared for battle. By the way, I was happy to find out that it was rare that they would have a gladiator fight to the death because the sponsor of the gladiator would then owe a ton of money. I was not happy to find that animals were pretty expendable. Jerks.

Palatine hill
Roman Forum
Ruins. Blows my mind. Carefully carved and constructed for the people of ancient Roma to pass through everyday.
The remains of a powerful city. It's humbling. Unfortunately, this is my last photo of sightseeing in Rome. My battery died, and so I could not document the beautiful Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain, and my walk back to my hostel near the Termini train station.
I charged my camera while I packed my things so that I could take a picture of my beautiful hostel garden. I recommend spending way more time in Rome to truly experience all that Rome has to offer and I am dying to go back, but if you don't have a lot of time in this historically rich city, don't rest on your laurels...see as much as you can - speedy hobo-style!
I boarded the train to Aeroporti de Roma and sat across from the most lovey-dovey touristy German couple. The snuggled, canoodled, and giggled wearing their matching straw hats with Italian flags on the brim as they read to each other from their Lonely Planet book of Italy while their bags in the seat next to me kept falling on my shoulder. This is where I use one of my best hobo skills, pretend-napping.

The next blog is my last, where I will relive my favorite country of this trip...Turkey! Thanks for the love, hobo readers :)

Hobo, OUT!