Sunday, May 10, 2015

ADD Adventures to: {{ Rome, Italy }}

Kind of like Vienna, Rome is proving difficult for me to write about. I've been neglecting this post, or better, unable to even start it, because inside me I feel resistance and reluctance upon thinking about the eternal city. To be quite honest with you, I think I feel kinda mad at Rome. (O_o)

Rome is just about everything you'd imagine it to be. It's overflowing with monuments, pulsing with history, brimming with good food and life, and an idyllic place to let your imagination run wild and express your creativity. I'll never forget the feeling of possibility and wonder I had whilst standing there, looking at the ruins of The Ancient Rome at Il Foro. It was incredible to release myself to my creativity. I let it take over all my senses, while I came up with feelings to match the pictures and scenes I was making up in my mind of what she must have been like back then. It's the perfect place to play make believe, the perfect place to Imagine.

Il Foro

As my friend so aptly put it, "Just imagine all of this without the [new] buildings around it. It would be even more impressive." 

{{ Tip: all museums are free in Rome the first Sunday of the month, and lines for things like The Colosseum can be anywhere from no time to three or more hours. We somehow accidentally (truly it was an accident) cut the entire line, and ended up not only going in for free, but going in in under 10 minutes. Things my local friend said I should be quite proud of. haha. Also, with your ticket to The Colosseum, you can also enter the place pictured above. It says on your ticket until what time you can enter Il Foro. }}

The Colosseum still stands tall, a place whose history and technology remain exceptionally impressive, and though I didn't enter Vatican City, knowing it's there in its somewhat-impenetrable and untouchable ways made me feel a bit stronger, too. Which was good, because due to my first, only, and last experience eating Roman carbonara pasta and a couple cones of some mind-bogglingly-good gelato, all of which have fairly high doses of raw egg (or depend on it entirely), I destroyed the healthy bacteria lining my stomach and intestines, and left myself in an intestinal state I'm still recovering from more than a week later. But Giolitti gelato, you were so worth it! (I highly recommend the dark chocolate and blackberry, with cream. Always get the whipped cream.)

Giolitti, said to be the oldest gelateria in all of Rome, is definitely the place to go to try some! And my friend said it's the best in Rome, so why would you not? ;)
{{ Tip: you can only sit at the tables if you sit to order/pay, but it's cheaper to just pay at the register, then order at the ice cream bar. Plus, with all the amazing places to walk/sit/see in Rome, why not take the cone to go!? }} 

However, in spite of all the good food and good sights, time with friends and seeing new things, I was somehow very disappointed in Rome. And while I feel like it's a sin simply to say so, I must write with honesty.

I am upset with her for being so crowded with tourists, and allowing them to take over the city as they have. (Because naturally she has a choice in the matter.) I'm upset with them/her for letting them infiltrate her "I'm crazy, but only because I'm Rome, and in the end, we're just here to enjoy ourselves and relish in our cultural magnificence" types-of-ways with their, "I must go-see-do everything and all I can as quickly as possible, while gaining minimal enjoyment from any of it. AKA snap endless photos of monuments. Oh and by the way, I'll probably need a holiday after this one, because we're trying to do way too much" types-of-ways. I could feel it, and while I was in the city center, I got totally swept up in it. I had to consciously tell myself to stop anticipating what was next, and just be amazed and grateful for whatever and wherever I was at that moment. Because, it's Rome, and there are amazing things everywhere. Often all you have to do is look up.

People are flying around all over the place, the sidewalks are a traffic jam of their own, and anytime there's something from a guidebook nearby, you'll know, because of the swarm of fellow human beings gathered around and/or lined up.

In my mind, Rome was going to be a place teeming with Romans. A crazy-but-calm place. A place full of people eating gelato at all hours, sitting outside to enjoy tiny little Italian coffees, and spending even longer than the Spanish to enjoy a delicious lunch or break. A place chalk-full of women wearing tight clothes and lots of make-up, preferably with a little dog in tow, and heels that make your head spin, wondering how they still have surviving, thriving ankles in spite of all the cobblestone obstacles that surround them. A place with men whose clothes are tighter than the women's, their manicured ways almost too much to handle, and people making out everywhere you look. I expected to see more yelling and more hand gestures, more tanned skin and hair gel. I mean, honestly, I expected to hear more Italian on the streets. After all, that's how Elizabeth Gilbert described it in Eat, Pray, Love. (Hehehe. Sorry, but I can't go to Italy without thinking of the book and somehow trying to recreate scenes from it. It's had a major impact on my life and adventures, because I read it for the first time as I was beginning my big one.) But I suppose ten years time makes a huge difference in a place, and while I did see some of what I'd hoped for, I felt I was just another little ant lost in a sea of tourists trying to snap pictures with their newly purchased selfie sticks so we can all go home and say, "I've been to THE Rome!"

Piazza di Spagna, The Spanish Steps -- They were gorgeous, but truly, too hectic for me.
Although, looking at this picture again I do see we've captivated a couple lovers in an intense lip lock! Woo! That's the Rome I was hoping for! ;)

But now I'm starting to feel a little bad, and like I might be highlighting all the wrong sides of Rome. I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like it, and I certainly don't want to offend any Romans whose eyes might read this. Rome really is a great city, and the city I loved very much. I just didn't love being amid so many dang tourists and people shoving selfie sticks in my face every five minutes. (Even if I really do want one, I just couldn't bring myself to buy one under those circumstances. It's the hipster-anarchist-rebel side of me that does these things.) Which I realize is ironic, because I was one of these folks contributing to all this. But I am a traveler, so even whilst doing touristy-type things, we are still somehow unable to be called tourists. I'm not placing myself in a hierarchical travel system of any sort, I'm just stating a fact: travelers are not the same as tourists. And this is probably largely why I didn't enjoy being in Rome as much as I expected I would.

I spent a lot of time outside of Rome, since I was staying at my friend's parents' place in the countryside 30 minutes from the city (blessedly), and two of my four days there were spent in other places. So the time I did spend in Rome, was of course mostly spent in the touristic/historic center so I could see the main sights. City centers in touristic places are notorious for this: being filled with tourists. It makes sense. The center is walk-able, full of things to see, and usually the historic part of town. I mean, these places and parts don't become the fullest because they're anything less than interesting. But for me, someone who prefers to live in a place while visiting (pretend to be a local), getting caught up in the tourist buzz of it all doesn't make me leave a place with the best possible impression. And as far as Rome is concerned, my resulting sentiments are entirely my fault. I can't expect to get the greatest sense of a major city like Rome when I only spend two days in it and zero nights. I did go into the trip not expecting to see and do too much, because it's such a loaded place, and I wasn't going with much time. So I told Camilla from the start I wasn't concerned with doing/seeing so much, because I know it's really just the first of many trips to Rome. And to have the experiences I was blessed with outside the city, it was totally worth it to walk away a little mad at her (taking full blame)!

I flew into Fiumicino Airport and Camilla, whom I met through Couch Surfing when I hosted her in Sevilla last year, picked me up and we went straight to the beach! May 1st is a bank holiday in many places, including Italy, which meant everyone was headed to the beach for a day of partying, relaxing, and enjoying a long weekend. We spent the whole day there, I learned how to slackline, we ate good food, I met a bunch of her amazing friends, and we finished the evening off with some of her friends and a couple massive pitchers of cocktails with the longest straws I've ever seen, at a literally on-the-beach bar, complete with a massive gong they usually ring just as the sun is setting over the sea. And though we didn't get to witness that part because of the clouds, we took it upon ourselves to beat the gong with a wooden bowl nearby. It was the perfect re-initiation to the Italian culture I love so much, and the ideal way to start a mini vacation -- good times, good food, good friends, and lots of laughter and sand! 

The next two days were fairly full of hot sun and time spent around the center. On our first day in Rome, Camilla asked her father for a restaurant recommendation, and he sent us to an unassuming-looking place in the Jewish quarter of Rome. Often you find the best food comes from places that don't look the greatest from the outside. As is the case with Ristorante Al Pompiere, where he sent us. And my goodness gracious, after these photos you too will understand why I'm so glad he did...

 A Roman tradition: zucchini flower filled with mozzarella and a tiny piece of anchovie, breaded, then fried. You must, must, must try this. And I recommend you try it there. ;)

 My lovely date for the long weekend, featured with La Pasta Carbonara, the dish that destroyed me. 
But my goodness was it good!

The Roman dish of Guanciale -- pepper, guanciale (pig's cheek bacon), and pecorino cheese. This was good, but the time a Roman guy made it for me in Copenhagen, Denmark, with all Italian ingredients his mother had just brought him from Rome was actually quite superior to this. But it was still good. I'm not one to dislike a dish that's loaded with grated cheese and guanciale.  

Some people go to Italy for pizza, I go for pasta. Punto. 

On our second day in the city, a good friend I made in Sevilla came from his hometown to meet us and spend the day in Rome. We had our "Accidentally Cut Two Hours of Line" experience at The Colosseum, and then wandered around a bit. Ate breakfast in this darling piazza, whilst watching a man use tweezers to pick up every cigarette butt and bit of trash that was stuck between the cobblestones. Honestly, it was incredible to watch. None of us could believe the task he had, but could all easily appreciate the maintenance and care of the square. Then we walked through this amazing neighborhood that's full of vintage shops and alternative vibes, and went to an indoor artisan market to swoon over beautiful things. A bit of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the shade at a massive park that offers a fantastic view of the city, and then we relaxed a bit more amid some of the ruins.

All-in-all, the time I spent in the city was good, and I do love and appreciate Rome very much. But after a couple of long days spent walking around in the heat (I'd recommend going to Rome before you're facing 30 degrees every day), we were pretty beat, and I gratefully accepted Camilla's suggestion to spend the next day going to a couple different towns. And that is how Frascati and [Lake] Nemi were given the chance to steal my heart.

I know I'll be going back to Rome many times in my life, because well, it's Rome, and I have got to go to Vatican City at some point. In which case, I'd love some recommendations from any of you who've been!

Have a blessed and beautiful Sunday! Look up, give thanks, smile with every organ, and relax into the wonder of Being alive on Earth! I love you fam_{{ily}}!

With all I've got,
Allie-Sun <3 

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