So Much Past Inside My Present

Being back in Italy again is a strange feeling; one I’m sure Indi knows all to well from being in Japan after so many years.  For those unaware, I spent 10 days on a quick guided tour of Italy back in 1995 with some other kids, visiting Rome, Asisi, Florence, and Venice.  We only get ten days this time, too, though I’m happy to be sharing it with someone rather than wandering around completely alone in a group of strangers.

The flight from Osaka to Rome had a stop over in Beijing, and though I’m sad not to see China, the experience at the airport and the flight is enough to make me not want to go back to China at all.  People were rude, prices were REALLY expensive (and we had just come from Japan!), and nobody knows how to queue.  The flight was full of noisy children.  But we made it and took the train from Leonardo da Vinci airport to central Rome under a canopy of cold moonlight.  After some confusion on the bus, we even made it to our CouchSurf hosts in good order.

A great night of sleep later, we set out for Vatican City.  I was surprised at how much I remembered…and what I had totally forgotten.  Names of places were gone or confused, but little side-streets were just like my memory held.  The grand beauty of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica really cannot be expressed adequately except that it’s one of the most grand holy places I’ve ever been.  When we were walking through the papal tombs below, I paused for the new space now occupied by John Paul II.  It was really rather quaint compared to some of the ancient, grand tombs.  At one point I walked past a large glassed-in room that was made entirely out of colored marble.  I reflected on the beauty and didn’t see the sign.  Indi walked up and gasped.  When I looked at her quizzically, she pointed to the sign stating that this was the final supposed resting place of St. Peter himself.  You know, the Apostle.  Wow.  How did I miss THAT last time?

After we ventured through the basilica and the surrounding area (including the fortress Castle of St Angelo) we crossed the river Tiber and explored some of the old district.  This includes several familiar piazzas and the Pantheon.  The first place we stopped was the Piazza Navarro, home to the Fountain of the Four Rivers and an impressive baroque (don’t fix it) church.  I was saddened to see the square that was filled with simple artists and fruit vendors fourteen years ago has turned into a carnival midway with a carousel and permanent salesmen.  I had purchased a fake Hard Rock Cafe: Roma shirt all that time ago and now there were none to be had.  Ah, well.  Times change.  We wandered a bit, saw a living statue (but no crusty jugglers), and headed to the Pantheon.

The Pantheon is still my favorite building in Rome.  It is as grand as it is simple, and since it is surrounded by normal buildings it jumps at you out of nowhere.  We walked around inside a bit, saw the large hole in the ceiling, and scoffed at the McDonald’s outside.  Indi was especially excited when I pointed out the obelisks throughout town, including the one in front of the Pantheon, had Egyptian hierglyphics on them.  She has mentioned that Rome is everything she expected Europe to be, and more.  It feels like a Disney attraction or movie set in it’s perfect capture of the European stereotypical style.

We also walked to the Spanish Steps, which we expected to be super crowded but the cold rain kept most of the tourists away.  It’s at this point I must mention food.  Last time I was here, I seem to remember sustaining myself on a diet primarily of Teddy Grahams and potato chips, which I’d brought with me.  This time I’m experiencing the culinary delights of Italy.  My mother would be proud.  I’ll save that for my December New Foods post though. ^-^

After such a long first day in Europe, we decided to save the Colosseum and Roman Forum area for the next day.  And so I’ll leave that for the next post, too.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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