When in Rome Alone – Day 1
I just finished my midterm assignments for my art classes. After midterms we have a ten-day break, I was excited to not have three hour drawing and painting classes, draw things I wanted to draw, and go see places around Italy. I just finished my essay formatted art history exam my hand ached from writing quickly and heavily as I tried to get all the facts and thoughts out on the paper before they slipped my head. As I walked home rubbing my aching right palm with a sense of relief accompanied by a sigh, I stopped by the train station and booked a ticket to Rome for the first few days of my break, three days two nights. I went home and over packed like I usually do.
My train left at 6:30AM. When I booked my ticket my sense of adventure and productivity were high, but when I woke up at 5:00AM to make sure I would make my train I was regretting those short lived motivational feelings. I slept walked to the train station around 6:00AM and let the mechanized natural soothing rocking of the train put me to sleep on my four hour ride to Rome.
As the train pulled into Rome Termini, the second the recorded voice on our train welcomed us to Rome, thanking us politely for using TrenItalia, everybody reached into their purses, bags, man purses, and pockets for a cigarette. They clenched the unlit cigarette between their moistened lips anxiously twiddling their thumbs to light it up the second they got off the train. I was slow to get off because I had to corral my oversized and over packed bag I brought with me. When I stepped off the train a gust of smoke hit me right in the face, I began to cough ferociously, welcome to Rome.
I lugged my burdensome bag six blocks from the train station to the hotel, dropped my stuff off, put my running shoes on and I was off. I didn’t want to waste a second in Rome. There was so much to see and I was only there for a limited amount of time. I had a list of things I wanted to see, a list from my parents, my uncle Scott, and my grandmothers. I walked from my hotel down to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. As I walked I was looking at the native people of Rome. They looked a little more calloused, with a bigger chip on their shoulder than the Italians of Florence, but that can be expected from the people of any big city. The streets were wider, buildings were taller, but still the sidewalks were narrow forcing me to pass slow moving tour groups using the edge of the street and get out of the way for determined seasoned Roman pedestrians. As I walked down Via Cavour, I saw the Colosseum and Forum slowly poke up on the horizon, the massive ancient building looking more and more real, gaining more and more texture the closer I got. No longer the glossy version I’ve grown accustomed to on post cards, history books, and computer screens. I walked right up to it and touched it. Dominating my mind was the thought of who else has touched that same spot and what it was in past, I tried to visualize, but flashes from tourist cameras (including mine) made it hard to imagine and visualize, it was until I saw men dressed up in Roman soldier outfits ready to take pictures with you for a Euro or two. I walked around surveying the area, getting a feel for a where I was and where things were situated. I examined the lines to go inside the Colosseum and Forum, I don’t know why I was surprised, but, the lines were endless snaking around the block to go in the Forum and a mob of people were crowding the entrance of the Colosseum for the next opening. I walked around, called my mom to check in telling her I made it safely and advice for a plan of attack on these must see prehistoric monuments. We talked for a few short minutes, I told her about the train ride, what the hotel was like, and where I was, mid sentence I saw the Colosseum doors open, eager tourists and I rushed in like lightening, forcing the automatic fence open from its first crack. Being in opportunistic tourist mode, I said, “Got to go mom, the doors just opened, love you bye”, and ran in to get in line to buy a ticket.
Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK (English teenage girl)
Sam Cooke – Cupid (Woman at the ticket counter)
Standing in line was a hoot; some interesting characters surrounded me. A mother and son behind me. The mother was tall, pale; she resembled Cruella de Vil with bleach blonde hair, she chain-smoked Virginia Slim cigarettes the whole time, in succession, I think she had seven. Her son looked nothing like her, probably the more like the father. He was short, and chubby, his dark brown hair was buzzed like mine. They don’t sound like a site someone hasn’t seen before, but what put me off about them was that they were kissing each other, a lot. Usually catching sweet moments like these make me smile, seeing others happy, loving each other, especially kids, always gets me, but these two were making me and all the others around us uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one giving them a weird looks in reaction to the plethora of mother son public displays of affection. The two men in front of me made me laugh. One was tall, Asian, handsome; the other was very over weight and sweaty, the sweat on the back of his neck wetted his thin hair giving me visibility through to his dry flaky scalp. He constantly bumped into me, leaving a salty wet streak of his sweat on my coat, I was too grossed out to wipe it off. The short fat man, clearly making up for his physical shortcomings, was commenting on everything around him, acting like a know-it-all reciting the important dates of the building with a snobby face nose in the air, correcting false facts he overheard around him, what other tourists were wearing, the list was endless, he felt the need to comment on everything. His partner in travel had enough, he discretely told him to shut up with a serious whisper as to not call attention to the altercation, and they were quiet for the remaining time in line. In front of them an English teenage girl traveling with her parents was deeply frustrated. She had dark black hair, with pink highlights, and chewed her gum with her mouth open, her lip flexed in disgust, smacking her lips. Her parents couldn’t make decisions, and we all know how teenagers are, I was this way too sometimes, when they are out with the family all they think about is how badly they don’t want to be there and what their friends are doing that very moment. She had a mean face on, her colored jet black pink streaked hair was dramatically covering her left eye giving her a cross between punk and teeny bopper look. She couldn’t stand still, tapping her right foot in a fierce rhythm to the punk music ponding in her headphones, tapping her pointer finger on her elbow while she had her arms crossed. As her annoyance increased her taps grew faster and more vigorous. She would shimmy out her Blackberry from her skin tight frayed black skinny jeans every few minutes, play a level or two of Brick Breaker, press the end button a million times, and then shove her phone away. With every passing second her patience decreased and her ADD increased. She finally had enough, she told her parents she would be up front sitting and waiting for them. I could see her from a distance, she walked viciously, stomp stomp stomp, to a rock and threw herself down in a huff, gave off a sigh of relief, free from the indeterminate bickering of her loving irritating parents for a few blissful minutes until they reached the front of the line tickets in hand. Watching all the people around me made the thirty-minute wait go by very quickly and contentedly. When I reached the ticket counter, the microphone imbedded glass was lined with multi-lingual, dark haired, Italian beauties. Seeing these gorgeous women selling tickets drew me to get over my non-aggressive attitude toward life, pulling me to the front of the psyched mob with doting ease. I got to the ticket counter, fumbled my words, I don’t think I actually formulated a full sentence while attempting to speak to her. Remarkably by my spacious yearning look into her big brown eyes, she knew exactly where I was from, what language from her repertoire to speak, and what I wanted. At that moment, in my mind, I said, “screw the Colosseum, I’m staying right here”, but eager tourists with furrowed brows nudged me aside, breaking my fond filled stare. As I walked through the crowd I looked back at her, tripping over people’s feet, bumping into beer bellies, and snagging on bags until she was out of site.
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (Leaving the woman at the ticket counter)
Thankfully through my love at first site stare, and my dumb grunts the woman gave me a ticket to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, she must be used to that it, she could have sold me anything and I would have been happy, I don’t even remember how much the tickets cost. I rejoined the herd and walked up the stairs to walk through the Collosseum. Atop the stairs and through a packed passageway, I saw an opening into the Colosseum, and I slowly progressed forward with my eyes up. I was amazed and fixated at the old structure and architecture. Since being in Italy, I’ve grown accustomed to the design and architecture of Florence and Tuscany, but this was from a whole different style and time. I walked around aimlessly people watching and taking pictures. Little kids, too young to appreciate their surroundings, were running round between the ancient columns chasing each other and playing hide and go seek, covering their mouths trying to hold in their laughter so as to not be found, when one was found little shrieks and screams filled the building causing initial alarm to adults nearby, by the worrisome faces swiftly smoothed over by a sweet smile. Others, jaw dropped, sitting at the edge of the fencing, wide eyed at the newly dubbed wonder of the world. Asian tourists were taking pictures of themselves jumping and smiling and making peace signs, Indian families took pictures without smiling, Americans loudly bombarded security guards and other tourists to take pictures of them without saying please or thank you. I walked around the structure about five times, seeing new things on each round about, picturing the happenings of this monument when it was thriving, the gladiator fights, the blood, the cheering, the merciful, thumbs up, or the bloodthirsty thumbs down. I then wondered to myself what it would be like to have this place all to myself, to explore alone uninhibited, I wonder what I would find, what I could sketch. After spending a few hours in the building, my neck began to ache from looking up, and the amassing tourists made it hard to see and appreciate where I was, after one more lap and a few more pictures I made my way over to the Roman Forum to see the ruins and gardens.
The Forum was a relief for my neck, ruins are all on the ground, obviously because they have collapsed over time. While in the Forum, areas that interested me the most were the piles of old stones and remaining foundations of of old buildings. The shape of the decayed foundations and the pieces of the outside helped give me a sliver of aid as I tried to imagine the area re-assembled. The aesthetics and details of this dilapidation were much different, much older than that of Florence, making these even older ruins seem fresh to my renaissance familiar Florentine eyes. The gardens didn’t do much to me, after having been and spent many hours in the Boboli Gardens multiple times, made these seem overgrown, unkempt, and disheveled, but still appreciated none the less. I sat down on a bench in the Forum to try and draw some of the people and my primordial surroundings, but the second I sat down I became exhausted. I did a few messy sketches with my lazy heavy hand then decided to head back to the hotel before it started to rain. When I made it back, I stripped took a fast steaming hot shower, and went right to bed around 9:30PM. I don’t know when the last time I went to bed that early, but it felt incredible. I was cocooned up in my scratchy sketchy hotel sheets, the wonder of what happened in these sheets the night before left my mind because of my exhaustion. With the sounds of the rain accompanied by the voices of an elderly German couple entering my room, the sound of their voices echoed, stuck trying to escape in the alley behind the hotel. I set my alarm for 7:00AM so I could get an early start to make the most of the rest of my stay in Rome.