Saturday, March 15, 2014


Today was the ship’s visit to Rome… or rather to Civitavecchia, which is Rome’s port in much the same way that San Francisco is Los Angeles’ IT Department. It’s a drive of at least an hour and a half from Civitavecchia to downtown Rome, but since Civitavecchia is about as interesting as a colonoscopy the Admiral and I elected to take the bus into Rome and see what we could see in a few hours.

As it turned out, the Admiral and I could see quite a lot.

The bus dropped us at the Colosseum, which, despite the fact that it’s basically a giant stone doughnut, is rather impressive. Its most impressive attribute is the fact that it keeps otherwise unemployed actors off the streets, or if not actually off the streets, then at least corralled into one or two streets, where they dress in hopeless plastic centurion uniforms and annoy tourists. And if Rome taught me nothing else, it at least taught me that 99% of tourists deserve to have the living shit annoyed out of them.

From the Colosseum, we walked to a great white edifice with statues of bronze and marble, with flaming urns and gold leaf mosaics. We had no idea what, if any purpose it served, but it was fun to look at. We later discovered it was a memorial for the first king of modern Italy. Possibly.

There followed our first encounter with Roman gelati. To be specific, eight euro Roman gelati. But it was scoops of Crema and Tiramisu in a waffle cone, which drove the price up slightly. And to be fair, it was the sort of gelati they’ll serve in Heaven. Assuming any Italians get in there.

From the extortionate gelati store we walked west, to the Pantheon and the Basillica of Mary and the Martyrs, then it was just a short stroll over to the Piazza Navona with its three famous fountains and three thousand slightly less famous hawkers and assorted lowlifes selling plastic sunglasses and iPhone cases.

Whatever. For a far more reasonable three euros I bought chocolate and caramel gelati; the chocolate was so dark it was almost black, and it tasted like a frozen version of Malaga’s custardy hot chocolate.

From there, we wandered up to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are basically the Paris Hilton of Rome: they’re famous for being famous. They’re a couple of flights of steps with a smart hotel at the top and a street with all of the top fashion houses at the bottom. I’d been warned about pick pockets lurking on its broad marble steps, but as far as I could tell the greatest danger on the Spanish Steps was if you tripped at the bottom and stumbled into Prada, eventually emerging with a cutting edge suit and a new mortgage.

“Si tratta di un trappola!”

Next up was more gelati – this time amarena and pistachio – and an audience with the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is another Roman landmark that feels like it’s famous for being famous. At least it’s a beautiful fountain, dynamic and exciting in its design, rather than just a bunch of stairs. It sits in half of a small piazza, with the other half being a set of deep steps on which people congregate to witness the glory that is the fountain. Japanese girls snap selfies with their Samsung Galaxy Tabs, American college students show their families panning shots via Facetime on their iPhones, and elderly tourists of all nationalities block everyone else’s view with their iPads as they laboriously take a photo. It’s really a rite, not a site.

After that, however, the Admiral and I just wandered through the back street to rendezvous with our bus back at the Colosseum, and it was in many ways the best part of the day. Step a block or two away from the iconic tourist attractions, and Rome settles right down in a mixture of august ancient history and classic Italian charm. Even though we saw the same cars and scooters that we saw in Milan and Bologna, in Rome they somehow feel more archetypal.

Although I haven’t bought many souvenirs on this trip, I did lash out buy a little something for Admiral Ackbar.

As you might imagine, he’s ecstatic.


Anonymous Troy G said...

Try finding a helmet for the Admiral. Also, the white edifice with statues of bronze and marble seems to be the ancient equivalent of a mini-TV series of the life of the Borgias.

6:11 PM  

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