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Written on: Wednesday May 19th, 2010

A journal entry from: Europe 2010

 May 19th

Drove to the train station and had a 50 minute trip into Rome.  Took us a while to get orientated but got directions from an American guide and we found the Colloseum.  The whole area is fascinating with many of the ruins exposed.  Of course it's very commercial and we can't get over how much graffiti there is in Italy (I know that the name is Italian), especially in these lovely historic areas.  Apart from Pisa most areas are really dirty too and railways stations are atrocious.  Today we saw the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, which is beautiful, the Pantheon and the Trastevere area.  Got a bit lost trying to get back to the railway station, lots of walking, glad we're doing this before our old legs give in.  There's so much to see that we'd have to make Rome a two day trip.  We think we upset some people on the train when we saw that it was pulling into our station and we panicked and tried to climb over everyone until one girl who spoke English told us that most people were getting off at our station.  Once off the train we couldn't find the car, another panic, but we'd walked past it and it was still waiting for us complete with our wine.


The Italians are a people of smoking, eating, graffiti, suites and ties.  We've also notice some of the women having loud arguments over the phone in public.


It's hard to believe that a coastal town near Rome could be so quiet in May but Ladispoli seems to have lots of restaurants but a lot of them closed, we ended up at the same restaurant as the previous night and had a bit better meal but we're finding the menus a bit limited.  It seems that everywhere we go they offer an Antipasto, which is the starter, then the Primi which is a pasta course followed by the Secondi which seems to comprise of just meat or fish with maybe a garnish but no veggies.  As we're not pasta lovers we've just about had enough of it.  Roger got into the true spirit of finding new experiences in Europe when he commented "You'd think they'd give you the menu in English, wouldn't you?"


Good news from John C, Anne's test came back showing the cancer hadn't spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes.


May 20th

We parked the car near the station and caught the train without incident, it was only a 30 minute journey to St. Peter's Square and we followed the crowd when we got off the train and a short walk brought us to the Square where the crowds for tickets to the Sistine Chapel stretched all around the square (which to me is actually a circle).  We were approached by a young girl offering a guided tour for 25 euros each plus the cost of the tickets, she said this would avoid the wait in the line-up.  We thought a tour would give us better information anyway so we said yes and she took us to meet our tour guide who was from Seattle, there were about 20 of us in the group.  The tour guide asked us where in Canada we were from and we said the Okanagan Valley, she said "anywhere near Penticton".  Turns out she has a friend from Penticton who is doing quite well as a classical singer, her stage name is Leyla Clare but she thought her real surname is Ingram or Ingraham.  Anyway the tour guide was excellent, we had earphones and she had a microphone so you could always hear what she was talking about and if we got lost in the crowd she could tell us where to look for her. She took us through the museums just concentrating on the stuff that you're "supposed to see".  You're apparently not allowed to talk in the Sistine Chapel (when we got there it was very noisy)  and you're not supposed to take photos (everyone was snapping away, so I did too) so she took us to a spot in a courtyard where there was a picture of the ceiling and walls of the chapel and she explained how Michelangelo had come to be commissioned to paint the chapel and gave an insight into his character which was not very savory, a very unsociable and dirty man it seems.  He was totally obsessed with the male figure which made me think he may be gay but our tour guide said that during the course of his life there were no records of relationships with either men or women so he was believed to be asexual.  The walls of tapestry and the maps made so long ago were fantastic and of course the piece de resistance was the Sistine Chapel, much smaller than we had imagined but absolutely incredible.


We then went through St Peter's Cathedral and the detail to the statues and wall coverings is just amazing and to think it was done so many years ago before mechanical equipment when you think the dome is as high as a 40 storey building. 


We then walked to the Spanish Steps which were a bit of a disappointment, just milling with people, after our experiences with dinner previous nights we decided to eat a late lunch in Rome and then just go for an appetizer near the hotel, so we had a lovely salad but no salad dressing other than oil and vinegar – we are so stuck in our ways!!!  Back to the hotel and the weather was nice enough to have a beer in the grounds before we walked into town for something to eat.  We found a restaurant that didn't seem too bad and Roger ordered pizza and I ordered salmon pasta both delicious.  As we walked into the restaurant there was an older lady sitting at a table drinking a glass of wine, she was later joined by a guy from the kitchen who was presumably her hubby and a younger couple.  When it was time for patrons to pay their bill, the waitress would go to the older lady, read out what the customer had ordered and she would write out the bill, once the money had been collected the waitress would give it to her and she would keep it and they would get change from somewhere in the back and show here what change they were giving and after her approval bring it to the customer.  Roger tried to pay by credit card but was told that it was cash only – wonder what was going on there.