My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (19) Rome, Catacombs, Vatican
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Sunday, July 18
This morning, we had a tour of Rome. Part of the walls are still up!
Driving in Rome is almost as crazy as in Athens. However, there is one major difference; every major intersection has a giant rotunda. Several streets meet there, and you drive around the circle until you find the next street you want and turn right onto it. (Left turns are not an option.) Yes, it’s true all roads lead to Rome; it’s equally true that all roads there roam as well. I knew it would be real easy to get lost here, so whenever we stepped off the bus to walk, I paid very close attention to where we were going.
The bus took us to various sites, and we got off to explore them. We saw the Coliseum, walking around the old seats and chambers. It was creepy, thinking of the morbid events that took place there. People often complain about violence on TV, but that’s fake; here, it was real, and live! I think society’s actually improving!
We also got to visit ancient temples and churches. The Bible really came alive, here!
As I’ve often said before, my Italian is nonexistent. I didn’t even know anyone who spoke it. So I was surprised to see Mary and Anna conversing fluently with a local woman. While I was buying postcards, I asked Mary where she learned Italian.
“Actually, Anna and I were speaking Spanish,” she told me. “Spanish and Italian are really close together, so we can understand each other.”
“Wow – I wish I’d known that when I got lost in Venice,” I said, though my Spanish probably wasn’t good enough to ask or understand anything.
“How are you enjoying Italy?” she asked me.
“Rome and Venice are quite nice,” I answered her. “I’m not particularly impressed with what else I’ve seen, though. All those boorish come-ons from the men drive me nuts.”
“It’s because you’re wearing shorts and t-shirts.”
“Yeah, except I haven’t had a problem here in Rome. I thought Italian men were supposed to be great lovers; how’s that supposed to be when they don’t respect women? I admit, I was especially unimpressed at that wine party in San Benedetto; the women were totally unfriendly, and I could see why!”
“The men here tend to have what’s called a Madonna / Whore complex. They fool around with loose women, marry a virgin, and continue to fool around.”
“That’s just awful! That Italian tour group I met in Holland didn’t seem anything like that!”
“They’re probably from the northern part of the country. People in Southern Italy tend to be less educated; that’s why they’re this way. But they’re not all like that. The woman Anna and I were speaking to is very enlightened. She’s traveled all through North Africa, and said she even tried to adopt an African girl once, but there were too many problems with taking the child out of her home country.”
I decided not to say what I thought; that maybe she wouldn’t be much better off in Southern Italy, so it was just as well.
Late afternoon, we visited the Christian Catacombs. The Roman law stated that when people died, they had to be cremated; the Christians preferred burial, so the bodies could be resurrected at Christ’s Second Coming. Persecuted as they were, there were times when they had to hide, even live, in their burial grounds.
The Catacombs we visited were four stories deep underground. I expected it to be a creepy experience, but it wasn’t that bad. It was actually a relief to leave the scorching hot day outside and descend into the cool dark chambers. I did find the experience claustrophobic, though. The Christians must have needed a lot of patience to live in such close tight quarters. As we exited, we even got to see some skulls and bones preserved from the 2nd Century AD!
When we were finally outside and above ground again, it was overcast and starting to rain. The air was still warm, and quite muggy. In California, when it rains, it’s almost always cold, so this was a new experience for me.
We went to a really nice restaurant for dinner. We waited in an arboretum to be seated; it was semi-outdoors, and had an upright piano. A married couple in our group announced today was their wedding anniversary, and Bruce sat on the piano and played and sang a blues song he’d composed on the fly. I was very impressed. I write songs myself, but could never have come up with something at the drop of a hat!
I wound up sitting next to him at dinner, and we talked. He told me he’s from Chicago, and had written lots of blues songs, so this one came easy. He also plays jazz piano. I had been trained in classical, so I found improvisation in any other medium difficult. It’s much easier for me to do so on guitar, since all I really have to do is strum chords.
I had one glass of wine after another, and found myself falling in love with Bruce.
By the time dinner was over, the overcast weather had developed into a storm. Though it was barely raining, lightning flashed thunder rolled. “I think we can still make it to Trevi Fountain,” Johannes told us. “We’ll have to hurry though, before it really starts raining.”
Trevi Fountain was only a few blocks away. We walked over there, and stood admiring it in the dark. I couldn’t take pictures, because of too little light. I tossed a 50 Lira coin in it, making some wishes.
When the rain began coming down hard, we hurried back to the bus. Once again, Bruce was next to me. I told him one of my wishes was to get a kiss from him, and he gave me a kiss!
“So you’re finally getting together with a member of this tour group?” Mary asked me later on, as we were all heading towards our rooms in the hotel. I cringed, thinking of how I’d made out with her son in Athens.
“Uh – I guess so,” I answered. “Who knows where it will lead?” (After all, nothing happened with her son!) “When I threw my coin in the fountain, I wished for a kiss from him; that’s all.”
“Actually, throwing a coin in Trevi Fountain means you will visit it again at least once in your lifetime,” she told me.
Maybe I’ll have at least two wishes granted. Not bad for a 50 Lira piece! Especially since that’s worth about 3 cents US!
That night, a full-on thunderstorm erupted. This must be what it’s like in the Midwest, I thought to myself as I dreamily lay in bed. The thunder was so powerful, I could feel it shaking the building. California rarely gets thunderstorms, and even then, they include a few bolts of lightning and peals of thunder.
It was so warm, I only needed to cover myself with a sheet.
Monday, July 19
This morning dawned so bright and clear, you never would have guessed there was a thunderstorm the night before.
We visited the Vatican. It was a very rushed tour. I managed to get one picture of it outside, then we followed a river of people into the building. It was so packed with tourists, all I could see of Michelangelo’s paintings were the ceilings; I barely caught sight of the upper parts of the walls. However, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was very impressive.
Then we had to hurry off to Florence. I didn’t even have time to purchase post cards for the photographs. Everyone was grumbling as we boarded the bus. In spite of the abbreviated visit, I was glad for the chance to visit the Vatican. Maybe my 50 Lira piece will guide me back to Rome, and I’ll be able to pay a nice long visit to the Vatican then. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to meet the Pope!
These pictures of the Sistine Chapel are from Wikimedia Coommons, since I couldn't take them with my Canon AE1.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas