Friday, December 8, 2017

Thanksgiving in Rome | Part II

November 25, 2017

Saturday begins with a trip to the Colosseum, the infamous place of cruelty in ancient Roman days, now (ironically) the site of Good Friday services led by the Pope. I shouldn't be surprised given my past experience viewing famous monuments, but the Colosseum is (1) not as large as I expected and (2) not as secluded as I thought it'd be; the ring sits next to the road, separated from the frantic traffic by only a sidewalk and a handrail. Having attended a classical school until 5th grade, I have ancient Roman history pretty well ingrained in my brain so Dino, our guide again, doesn't teach me anything new about the Colosseum's past, but similarly - the history has been so sitting in my brain for so long that it's incredible to visit the real life sites, regardless of how overrated it's said to be.

Our walk through the Colosseum transitions into walking through the ruins of the Forum, a sprawl of crumbling buildings and columns that were once the center of everyday Roman life; the military processions, public speeches, criminal trials, and pagan worship all happened within the square, and the famed ancient Roman roads still stand and can still be walked on even today, thousands of years later. Some of the structures were built as far back as the 8th century B.C., and it's almost overwhelming to walk between all the ruins and imagine what it looked like all those years ago. Also incredible to me is the sheer amount of ruins found beneath the city. The Forum was, until quite recently, buried under 30 feet of silt from the Tiber River's continual flooding over the centuries, and in many other areas of Rome, modern development is impossible because there are underground ruins virtually everywhere. 

As an American, it's particularly difficult to comprehend the enormity of the history of Rome. Even having spent six months in Europe previously, I have never visited anywhere so old or so influential. It's mind-blowing walking among it all: so much of modern Western culture was created here. I can, as an American, claim something like the American Revolution as "personal" history, but to be an Italian citizen in Rome is to be able to claim all those thousands of years as their own.

In the afternoon, we transition to a more modern state of being. We eat lunch in a narrow cafe on the side of a busy intersection, then our group splits up, half to a cooking class and the other half (my half) for more exploring. We first climb the steps of the Altare della Patria, a victory monument completed in the twentieth century that is quite frankly enormous (photos don't do justice to the immense scale of it), then meander our way back to our hotel. We stop in at Flor, a corner shop, for gelato then make our way through several almost unnervingly quiet residential streets. We pause at Carre Monti, a little cafe and wine bar that sells cappuccinos for 1€.

As we head onward, the quietness of the streets is suddenly broken when we stumble upon an anti-violence against women demonstration. The street is filled curb to curb, predominantly with women - though many men and children are also in attendance - brandishing signs and pink balloons and cheering loudly. We walk along their same route for a bit, having to push our way through the crowds gathered on the sidewalk. When we eventually make it back to our neighborhood, we stop at our local grocery store to stock up on chocolate, granola bars, and prosecco, then walk back to our rooms to drop off our newly purchased treasures and head back out for dinner.

If our first full day was a shock of familiarity, day two is the shock of time passing. It's ridiculous to think of how much the world has been influenced by what happened in that city, and how, now with all the ruins, there are ever present reminders of what once was.
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