dates:25 April to 8 may 2007
mode of travel: cathay pacific sydney to fiumicino rome via hong kong (fiumicino airport not especially a great introduction to italy!)
stayed at: hotel seiler, via firenze (near the piazza della republica)
conference: Fondazione Istituto Gramsci workshop
this trip to rome was a detour on the way to the international gramsci society conference in sardina, but the society was holding some smaller workshops first in rome. i travelled with a work colleague and his wife, she left us in florence for a walking tour while we travelled on to sardinia, but thats another page!
we arrived in rome early in the morning after a horror flight (note to self, never travel cathay pacific again). fiumicino airport has a direct train line into roma termini station, and the first thing i noticed when i got off the plane was the smell of coffee. everywhere. i had my first experience of italian espresso bar ordering at the train station at 7am after a 24 hour flight. put money on counter, get ticket, drink coffee, leave. im pretty sure it was the best coffee ever:
then train into rome, shuffle through peak hour crowds at the termini, drag suitcase over cobblestone roads to hotel where we cant check in till 2pm, change tshirt, head down the hill:
order second coffee by asking for a latte, and have nice lady ask if i want coffee with my milk. ah si, grazie (blush):
inside colloseum by 10am:
spend the next three days completely overwhelmed by the sense of history and grandeur and feel close to tears the whole time.
its not possible to do rome in only three days, and we had workshops to go to too, but we managed long walks from our hotel down via barberini
and via del tritone to a modest little palazzo housing the workshop:
with lunch every day in piazza navone where lattes in cafe bernini were considerably large and expensive:
but totally worth it, to just sit there and soak it all in:
then long walks along the river tiber past castel sant’angelo and into the vatican city:
where i sat in a pew in the basilica san pietro and did cry. i cried when i walked through the popes’ tombs for god’s sake, and i even stopped for a moment at the very popular tomb of pope john paul II. i might be of polish descent, but jewish, not catholic, so i dont know why but i really felt like my heart stopped down in those tombs. there is a little glassed off room there that is supposed to be st peters original burial spot. i got goose bumps. but the basilica itself is breathtaking beyond words. i didnt want to be disrespectful and take full flash photos but i couldnt come away without a memento or two.
unfortunately the sistine chapel was closed when we were there, but im not sure if i could have coped with that anyway. we spent a fantastic day walking down via del corso from the piazzo del popolo, oh the crowds, oh the shopping!!
i spent HOURS in a little homewares shop trying to pick the perfect coffee pot for trent as a gift, finally settling on a glass topped bialetti with wooden handles. we walked down the spanish steps
and i got goose bumps again standing outside the house where keats died.
i tell you, if it had been me, living there, i would have died happy. the coffee alone was enough:
i loved everything about rome. i would live there in a heart beat. i felt oddly at home here. it was hot and crazy and hard to walk around with all those hills, but the life and vitality are something else. the people are fantastic, friendly and open and not bothered by you being a tourist, they love it when you speak italian and they love working on their english. they are noisy and pushy and there is no such thing as a queue. it is amazing and mind boggling to see the historical city tucked inside the new one,
and to have the new one be completely chaotic and disorganised and contradictory. did you know, the mcdonalds in rome have espresso bars, and fast food is mr. panino:
the trains might be old but they still run on time:
and this one got me to florence in less than 4 hours.