Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Aroma of Roma

Pre-Trip Planning

My first trip to London taught me several things.
1) Pack light and tight
2) Book an afternoon flight, so you don’t miss your early wake up call.
3) Use the Barcelona Bus to get to Gerona Airport.
4) Leave plenty of time for metro delays
5) Bring food because Airport food tastes really awful and is completely unhealthy

All of these little lessons made getting to and from Italy much easier, less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

The plan was to connect with a friend of a friend that lives in Rome (Michael). Michael was kind enough to offer his extra futon in his huge apartment within the center of Rome (score!). Even better, he’s a tour guide, so he knows EVERYTHING about Rome.

Destination Italy – Getting There

The bus dropped me off right in front of the arrival terminal. As I walked into the terminal, I noticed a huge mumblefuck of clothes and people. Clothes were everywhere. People did not look happy. I quickly learned that this was due to a strike by the company that handles luggage for all Ryanair flights out of Girona airport. Apparently the strike started with little warning. While the flight itself was not canceled, Ryanair was not able to accept ANY checked luggage. Surprise!

All passengers were given the option to reschedule or receive a refund. Problem was that they were unable to estimate when the strike would end. Some people simply had to make the flight, regardless of what they could or could not bring. This forced those that brought checked luggage to wear 2 or 3 layers of clothing, toss what they didn’t absolutely need, leave the physical luggage behind and carry all other clothing in garbage bags on the plane. I vividly recall a very large man attempting to put on two additional pairs of jeans only to rip a hole in both of them. I also recall a massive pile of orphaned luggage sitting in the corner of the terminal. As you can imagine, people were irate! Thankfully, I’ve become a light packer and only had one small roller suitcase that complies with in-flight regulations (see London lesson #1).

The Arrival

I got into Rome around 23:30. By the time I arrived at Termini station in the center of Rome it was a little after 24:00. Italy lesson #1: book an afternoon flight, but not so late that you arrive to your destination after midnight. Given that I really didn’t know Michael, I didn’t want to call him until the morning. I thought a hostel would suffice for the few hours I needed to burn. Problem was that all hotels and hostels were closed when I arrived. I had 8 hours to burn in the middle of the night/early morning with nothing to do. It was pitch dark, not a single thing was open and homeless, whores and drunks were everywhere. For the next 5 hours I walked around, trying to stay awake and look badass so no monkeys would bother me.

At 5:30 the Termini station and one café opened. This gave me a place to eat and rest for a few hours before calling Michael. I must have been very tired because woke up twice to a security guard banging on the café table. This is the closest that I’ve been to being a bum.

I got a hold of Michael and we made plans to meet one block from his house. I took a 10 minute bus from Termini to Michael’s apartment. The buses in Rome and no place for germaphobes or claustrophobes. I could barley fit into the bus, yet people continued to pack in. Forget the concept of personal space. Most people looked and smelled awful. On the bus, I recall riding past many historical monuments, finding it very difficult to grasp the history. It was so breathtaking that I felt like I was on a movie set, not in a real city.

The People

The people are a bit crazy. You see a lot of crazy people everywhere. Seriously, people that would get locked up in other counties are free the wonder the city. Like me, you might expect most people to be fashionable in Rome. The reality is that people are either dressed in high-end fashion from head to toe or no fashion. There is not much of a middle ground.

People say that when you leave Rome you enter Italy. It’s true…Romans have a very different vibe than the rest of Italy…it’s not a good thing. Michael and I took the train through Florence and Tuscany to Milan for a day trip. The difference in personality and appearance became immediately evident.

One thing that is the same all over Italy is how the men go completely overboard with the eyebrow waxing/trimming in Italy. I’ve never seen such hideous eyebrows.

I was entertained throughout the trip because of Michael and his cast of friends. I met Romans, Austrians, Americans, Irish, Dutch and a real Lady from England. She’s 22 and a friend of Michaels. Her father was knighted in England, making her a Lady. She does some “secret” work for the Italian government and has her own driver that takes her all around.

The City

The cities number of things to see make it impossible to see everything in one visit. The city has over 900 churches alone. Thankfully, I was able to experience Rome more like a local because of Michael. I owe him – big.

The list includes: Tiber River, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant Angelo, Pantheon, St. Peters, Roman Forum, Pizza Novona (Neptune Fountain), Museum Capitolini, Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter Basilica square area) and the Sistine Chapel where some of Michelanglos finest works are held (Last Judgment, Original Sin and Creating of Sun & Moon). I was in complete awe.

Rome has very few trash cans on the street which encourages people to toss garbage on the street (which is exactly what they do). Dirty birds!

Taxi oddness – Rome has a massive shortage of Taxis. In order to get a taxi, you have to call the cab company directly or go to designed cab stations that are nearly impossible to find. You can’t flag them down as they’re driving. They simply won’t stop for you. This is especially fun at 06:00 when you get out of a disco after dancing for 5 hours and need to go directly to your train heading back to Rome ;).

The Nightlife

We went out in both Rome and Milan. Shockingly, the nightlife in Rome is amazing. Muccassassina, one of the venues in Rome was one of the best that I’ve been to. It is located on the site of an closed 3 story industrial complex. Each massive floor had a different type of music which invites a very fun, diverse crowd.

Disco Billy’s, the venue we went to in Milan was equally huge, but was spread out one massive floor. To give you an idea of the size, the club capacity is over 2,000 people.

Both discos were absolutely packed with people because of special events that were going on at both clubs. Talk about good luck. Email me if you want the details, photos and some video clips.

Food

One word – amazing.
Olive Ascolane – Marinated olives friend into a crispy shell.
Suppli Tomato sauce,rice and fresh mozzarella friend into a crispy shell.
Tiramisu – The best I had in my life.
Fresh OJ – Fresh orange juice made from blood oranges. Orgasmic.
Crepes – perfectly browned crepes filled with nutella. Need I say more?
Pizza – Fresh, natural ingredients on super thin crust. I could not get enough of this stuff.
Gelato – Again, the best I’ve had in my life. It’s so creamy, yet only uses Milk making it a healthier alternative to custard.
Sun dried tomatoes – I ate so many that I got a stomach ach.

One of my favorite food experiences had to have been when I was sitting in the bistro of an internationally known 5 star hotel sipping an espresso and eating assorted deserts with Michael, his friend from NYC and another friend of his who happen to be the hotel manager. All free! She was a really interesting person and we had a great conversation. A commercial was being filmed in the extravagant restaurant. It’s these types of connections that make a good trip a great trip.

Heading Home

I passed the same historical monuments I saw heading into Rome on the bus heading back to Termini. This time, I had a better appreciation of the history and beauty of Rome. I left the movie set and found myself feeling like I was entering Rome for the first time.

Rome has spoken; the case is closed. - Augustine

2 comments:

Ivan said...

Sounds like you had some hectic fun in Rome. I'd love to see some photos.

Did you let the fashion rub off on you a little bit? Don't think about it too much, express yourself - and let the eyebrow plucking begin!

Anonymous said...

Christopher..I got quite the chuckle from reading your blog from Rome..you missed your calling..think about writing?? Anyway..sounds wonderful..I like your quote too..I know how you like those quotes so I always keep my eyes open or them...Well wishes to you over the miles for a Happy Halloween!!! :) xo MamaR