Three times have I been to Sicily in my lifetime, and not once have I set foot on mainland Italy (other than flying through) — until today. Well, except in this case today was totally a couple weeks ago, but who cares about these details, anyway?
Tiffany and our cousin Heather spent a couple days here before I arrived, and saw a lot of the things that I would have had on my short list – The Vatican, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and so on. I only had one overnight before the three of us headed back to Sicily. In a town full of history and sights, that’s not a lot of time.
Once I got into town, we took off for a walk, through neighborhoods between our hotel and the “heart” of Rome, near which there are quite a few landmarks. It was a very enlightening walk for me, because the city itself felt Italian, but definitely not what I was used to. It felt like an industrious Italy; most buildings were in good repair, as were most cars, and there was scaffolding on many monuments, covered in workmen conducting repairs. It couldn’t have contrasted more with the just-so ruin of most buldings in my Italy. It helped me to appreciate just how poor and impoverished Sicily is, despite the grandeur of Palermo and the vibrant life of Catania.
We reached what remained of the Roman Forum. Tourist central. There were lots of street vendors, some pretty lousy street performers (only an Italian would dress up like the all-silver robot guy and stand around like a normal person until someone gave him a euro), and lots of scooters and cars and tour buses.
We continued on around the forum to a large white building standing in front of a nondescript traffic circle. I had to study the map a bit to figure out what it was.
Italy’s version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It was completely closed by the time we got there. Peering through the fence I could see a couple ornamentally-dressed guards shuffling around, talking on cellphones, smoking, and generally being completely unlike guards at any similar venue I’ve been to.
It was all very Italian.
We continued on, stopping for drinks and a quick audio tour in the Jewish Ghetto (which I’ll write about separately), before stopping for dinner at a restaurant beside the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was of course closed. But dinner was fantastic, and not overpriced (which was nice).
After dinner we wandered around some more, finding Piazza Navona…
…and most importantly the Trevi fountain, where we stopped to throw some coins in, ensuring our return to Rome. We also bought our first gelato of the evening.
After a half hour or so we continued on, stumbling upon our second gelato, and found the Spanish Steps.
Up until this moment, I had thought my whole life that these were a geographical feature (e.g., The Spanish Steppes) so I was very confused when I was told I had just climbed them.
By now it was 2am and we were getting pretty tired, so we started the long trek back to the hotel. The best part about this is that there were so few people out, and it was much cooler. It made for a beautiful, pleasant walk past many of the landmarks of Rome.
I don’t have much else to share about what I saw on this walk, because it really was that much of a whirlwind visit. I’ll write more about the two specific landmarks we visited, the Roman Ghetto, and The Colosseum.