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Last of the Roman Holidays

I went to bed reasonably early last night after finishing a book and recharging my phone (I’m a bit afraid to leave it plugged in while asleep on foreign currents). still, when I went to bed, my other two room-mates were not there. I could tell the one from the first night, Mel, was still there and another had popped in to Brandy’s former bed. The one IMMEDIATELY beside me was blessedly empty. I only got disturbed once by the snoring from that guy but according to Brandy he was a rip-roarer. It’s both a blessing and a curse to sleep as soundly as I do. In situations like a hostel, mostly a blessing. The room I have this stay is immediately over the bar, which seems to be a rather poor choice in planning the place, but again, I sleep like a rock. As soon as the sleep dust is in my eyes I’m gone, so no foul.Anyway, I slept fairly late. Woke up enough around 9am to realize that one roomie was in the shower – apparently Mel as she was the only one gone when I got up an hour later. I had my shower and tip-toed out around 10:30am. Had breakfast and scanned the guide for something to do. I’d pretty much missed a chance at Caracalla’s bath as it closes at 1pm and my history of negotiating the local metro on unknown routes isn’t so great. I also honestly just wasn’t that excited about it. I decided to verify that the literally across the street Diocletian bath was indeed closed. It was, but I walked around the fence and had my fill of ruins.

From there, I wandered up to one place that had been on my list since virtually day one. Not in the guide, but I had read about it before I left and I’m fairly convinced that I once saw the place on Ripley’s Believe it or not. The place being the crypt of the Capuchin monks in the church Santa Maria della Concezione near Barberini Square. In the 1600’s, the cemetery filled up and the decision was made to exhume the bones of the Capuchin Monks and move them to the crypt. Apparently they were inspired by similar places in Paris and used the bones to create works of art. The bones are stacked and used everywhere for decoration from rosettes, to lanterns to allegorical tales. The last crypt contains a skeleton that appears as the grim repear complete with wings and scythe, all from bones. There’s a sign that’s been translated into english as ‘As you are now, so once were we. As we are now, so you will be.’ – a reminder of our mortality. It was really worth the visit. No photography allowed, but I got a few postcards and made a donation to the church.

From there, it was time for some aimless wandering. I walked down to the Spanish steps. At the top, someone asked me, “American?” I ignored the first time as there was a crowd and pretended not to realize it was me. The second time he asked, no crowd…. So I said yes? Strange, the day before I was asked twice, “England?” Why today American? Anyway, he asked if I was from New York… I thought about my response and decided not to ask him how many Southern New Yorkers he’d met. I told him I was from Atlanta. “OH, Georgia, he replied. I nodded, then he asked if I spoke Italian. I told him not really. He said, “Oh, well, Happy New Year!” I nodded and said “gratzie” thinking the conversation over. Then he held out a little piece of string in a circle and asked me to put my finger in for good luck…. Okay, I have to say, I’ve had two people ask me to do this in the last few days. Is this some Italian custom that I’m unfamiliar with or as my more suspicious side demands, some sort of con or trick to grab my stuff and run while I’m trying to untie my fingers?! ? Whatever it was, I begged off as before. Both seemed a little too anxious for my taste.

From there on to Piazza Popolo. Probably quite something when the obelisk in the middle isn’t covered in tarps and scaffolding for repairs. Still, took the chance to just sit and take in the views for awhile. When I mentioned it was at the end of the street we were on (via Del Corso), Brandy said she thought this had once been an arena for races like the Circus Maximus.

From there, I wandered into the Borghese area. I thought for a moment that I had found a comic book shop as a store had the Silver Surfer painted above the door, but when I got there it turned out to be an arcade. False advertising!! Oh well, it would have been primarily if not all Italian anyway.

But I took the chance to wander into the nearby Villa Borghese park where several art galleries/museums are. Apparently all closed on Monday according to my guide. The only one I checked was the modern art gallery, but yes, it was closed. However, I found a street and section of the park named in honor of America’s founding father, George Washington. That was unexpected. And then I ambled upon this little lake with a temple in the middle of it. My guide book had only the name of it, Tempio di Esculapio. From what I can find on the web, it was built in the 19th century (in classical style) as a landscape feature. Still, quite beautiful. I got there and the light was hitting it just right so, I took copious pictures. The only other site there was a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe. It was pretty enough but even I could tell that it was not true to the original as the one in London is.

From there, more ambling, which eventually took me to the Pantheon one last time, the only day with strong sun that I’d gotten to go in. I wanted to see the oculus with bright daylight. I’d been impressed enough with it in the overcast day that I had seen, but I really wanted to see a strong light coming through it. I had my wish and a small matter of non-communication with one of the attendants. I was wearing a knit cap (as I saw plenty of people there, guys as well, doing – it’s not like the place is heated), and I thought she wanted me to remove it… It is a church. So, I took it off, but she shook her head. She then asked, “Italiano?” No… She sighed, and pointed to the alter and said, “Church?” I couldn’t figure out what she was asking… Do I know this is a church? A Service is starting. Do I attend the Catholic church? What? We tried for another minute before I finally just said, “Gratzie” and shrugged. She shrugged as well and the point of her conversation will remain a mystery.

Outside they were filming a commercial by the fountain in front of the Pantheon. I watched for a few minutes with a big crowd before getting bored since everything that was being said was in Italian and I had no clue what the ad was for. That’s not that different from the bulk of TV in which I remember clever ads but never seem to remember what they were advertising in specific.

From there, westward, through Piazza Navona. The festival from yesterday was being taken apart and the piazza had a much emptier feel. Holidays are over here and the kids went back to school today. Aftewards, one last round by St. Peter’s before I take my leave of Rome. Stood in the the piazza again and looked at the mass of people even on Monday after holidays in Rome are over. I was struck again by the number of beggars in all parts of the city, but I think I saw some of the worst off in this area. I can no longer claim to have never seen a leper at least… I’ve now seen two in as many days.

One last long walk from there down via Vittorio Emanuelle II until I hit via Del Corso. From there, meandered back up, did the last of my shopping for this trip and headed to the Spanish steps. No good reason except that I have one last metro ticket and I decided to use it to get back to Termini from somewhere. Seemed as good as any other. As I trudged up the Spanish steps to the Metro station I knew was at the top, I contemplated that what they really needed was a good Spanish Elevator or American Escalator. This was, after all, following a LOT of walking. At the top, popped into the Metro stop and started down an Elevator. At the bottom, I looked forward into the metro station and to my left at a little alley leading to the piazza at the bottom of the spanish steps… so nevermind that joke about the Spanish Elevator now…

I had one last meal – Pizza – in Termini and just sort of let the tired feeling leak out of my bones as I leisurely ate. Now a little web time before going back and figuring out how to best pack my bag for the flight tomorrow. The trip is over, but there’s still the little matter of an 11 hour flight in the morning, made longer by the need to get to the airport several hours before. According to Brandy the Rome airport has nice long lines in which to stand and use up all of the time you have. I hope to at least have time for a quick breakfast in the airport before leaving.

At any rate, farewell to Rome and farewell from Rome!

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