Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bellisima ROMA!

Seriously, why couldn't I capture that golden light?
Beautiful Rome--even more beautiful in person. As I've mentioned before, my trip to Italia was a gift from my mother, a mother-daughter getaway. It was sweet and wonderful and I'm beyond grateful to her for the experience.

I don't want to bore you with details, but I thought I'd share some observations and/or fascinating facts that I picked up along the way.

The colors of Italy--a room in Pompeii.
-  The light in Rome in late September/early October is beautiful--warm and golden. I kept trying to capture it on camera without success, which left me looking like a crazy tourist banging on the side of the camera to "make it work" better. (Yeah, I know--the problem was the photographer, not the camera.)

-  Modern Romans have absolutely no fear of death or decapitation by speeding vehicle. Seriously, they're more aggressive than Boston drivers. I saw one motorcyclist dressed in a three-piece suit go the wrong way on a major street for a long time because, I assume, he had decided his lane was moving too slowly. He played chicken with the driver of the taxi we were in--and the taxi driver never even slowed down as the cyclist came within millimeters of a head-on collision. Close calls like that took place about every five feet.

Professor Mario--best guide, EVAH!
- The highlight of the trip for me was a personal tour of Pompeii by an Italian archaeologist, professor Mario Grimaldi of Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples. He took me to the House of M. Fabius Rufus, a set of buildings that make up the largest house discovered so far in Pompeii. It was closed to the public as his team worked on the lower levels of the property. What a treat! I couldn't capture the beauty of these ruins, but here's a great site with wonderful pictures of the Rufus house. After that we walked through the entire city of Pompeii. A dream come true.

Wait, they BBQ-ed the beasts?
- On a tour of the underground/basement of the Colosseum--where they held the animals about to be cast into the arena--the guide said that Romans distributed the meat of slaughtered beasts to the audience. Romans brought their own little BBQ-pits and cooked the meat and feasted while they watched the all-day killing games. I kind of "squeed" because I never heard that before. The guide turned to me and asked if I was okay. I said, "So if a lion killed a giraffe on the sand, it meant giraffe BBQ for everyone at the games?" He assured me this was true, citing classicist Mary Beard's book on the Colosseum as a source (which I ordered as soon as I returned, of course).

How do you say, "Squee!" in Italian?
-  On a lark, I walked into a bookstore in Rome and asked if they had my book (it was published in Italian by Salani Editore) and OMG, there it was! Unbelievable!
Sorry Bernini, catch ya next time...
- I discovered that it is possible to experience beautiful-art-overload. I didn't think it could happen, but it did. After hours at the Vatican museum, for example, I actually found myself walking right past works by Raphael or Bernini because OMG, there were more ancient galleries to explore! (I am not necessarily proud of this reaction.) Meanwhile, I need to give Tracy Barrett a big thank you for letting me know about the Etruscan Museum and other small treasures that are not as well known as the big museums but contained breathtakingly beautiful ancient art.

- Caroline Lawrence was right, Ostia was glorious and virtually empty compared to Pompeii. It is really stunning how well preserved it is. I now feel compelled to read all of her Roman Mysteries again so I can picture Flavia and Jonathan and the gang romping through their home city.

"Victory is finally mine!" DQC crowed.
-  I had Drag-queen Cleo with me but I kept forgetting to take her out and photograph her. Which was fine by her since Rome is one of her least favorite places (as you can imagine).  However, at the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), she insisted on being photographed in front of the model of the altar. She whooped and held her arms up in victory because, as she put it, she finally "won" over Augustus. 

"How's that?" I asked. 

She rolled her eyes, then said (slowly for my sake), "Does he have an action figure made in his image?" 


"So I'm more famous. Which means I win." I did not argue with her, though I did get very strange looks from the security guard during her photo shoot. 

Rome was simply amazing. I can't wait to go back.


sally said...

Very cool trip. Thanks for sharing it with us. I was there when I was six and I remember being dragged through the museums. I'd love to go back now when I could appreciate it more. I do remember the coliseum well, though. It had an impact on me even as young as I was.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! It sounds like you and drag queen Cleo had a great time! All the ruins look so gorgeous! Not to mention DQC finally "won" over that pipsqueak Octavian!

Patricia Cruzan said...

Museums contain lots of artifacts, but really seeing them can take days. I found that out when we went to Paris and London.
It had to be exciting to see your book in the bookstore there.

Anonymous said...

I love this post and I want to see ALL your pictures! Also? Your GUIDE?!? HELLOOoooo? Y'all look like a ROMANCE NOVEL COVER! I'm just saying. Someone had to say. ;)

love you!
-AshParso (flying w/out her blogger login)

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@Sally, I got the chills every time I looked at the Colosseum!

@Anon--"pipsqueak Octavian." Love!!!

@Patricia--thanks for commenting; it was very cool to see the book there!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

@AshParso--Yeah he was/is ridiculously adorable. And super-nice and helpful. When do we start planning our Italian escape?

Tracy Barrett said...

Wonderful post! Makes me Romesick!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks for your wonderful tips, Tracy!

Karen Strong said...

Ah, Rome. I want to go back so bad. I knew you would love it. So cool that you got to go to Pompeii.

When I was in the Coliseum, I just touch the walls and just thought about all the history that happened there. Very moving.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

OMG chickie - what an amazing trip!!! SO cool that they had your book... in ITALIAN! And your guide - dang, girl, he's a hottie! You sure you heard anything he said? And I understand on the art overload. There's so much of it there, you so quickly take it for granted. I'm sure they take for granted how much amazing history surrounds them there. SUCH a cool thing for your mom to treat you to this. I still wish I could have been a mouse in your pocket. :)