January 16, 2012 – Time: 2:37 AM local
It’s been a long day. It started off fine, with a good ten hours of sleep and a long shower, but at 2:25 PM I was rushing downstairs to not miss the tour of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome, like the Colosseum and the Foru- oh, you mean the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza Navona? That’s not what I consider Ancient Rome.
We were led around by a spritely tour guide, first to the Piazza del Popolo; what’s there that is so ancient, you may ask. Well, the main attractions are: one of the gates of the walls that marked the boundaries of ancient Rome (just the gate, a big stone archway); an ancient Egyptian obelisk (one of eleven in the city – I think we saw 8 or so today); and the twin churches (both built in the 1600s). Nothing really “ancient” about the area, and the Michael Jackson impersonator didn’t help matters.
Next, we walked up the hill to the Villa Borghese – you know, that ancient Roman family that… moved to Rome only in the 1500s? So, not so ancient Rome. We didn’t even see the Borghese gardens or the actual villa, just walked up the hill and mentioned it in passing on our way to the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps, surely that’s a Roman landmark. Just not an ancient one. They were built in the 1700s. The piazza below is a hundred years younger, and the only “ancient” thing about it is the second Egyptian obelisk we saw. Moving on.
We snaked our way through small side streets in the fashion district around the Steps, on our way to the Trevi Fountain. Now, the stones may have been ancient, but the fountain (built in the mid-1700s) is not; the only reason I make it a Roman landmark at all is because of the Lizzie McGuire movie.
Finally we went somewhere that was truly ancient – the Pantheon. The original Pantheon was built in 27 BC, and the replacement in 126 AD. No one can debate that the building is a part of ancient Rome, and there was even an Egyptian obelisk outside! Sweet! There was another obelisk we passed on the way, but didn’t look Egyptian at all and wasn’t of any significance. Oh well.
By the time we got to the Piazza Navona, it had been 3 hours of walking in progressively colder weather. Despite the fact that it was built in the 1st century AD, it’s just a wide open square with yet another obelisk in the center. Tired of the obelisks and lack of real ancient Roman sites, I just wanted to go home. We all did. I didn’t even care that you could see the original entrance to an ancient Roman stadium around the corner. It wasn’t even accessible to walk through.
On the way home we passed the Palazzo di Giustizia (which doesn’t even have an English Wiki page), which was built at the end of the 19th century. Not only was it the least “ancient” of our stops on the tour, but it was the longest stop we took. By the time we got back, at nearly 7 PM, we were all equally cold, tired, and disheartened. Yes, we got to see some nice tourist attractions, but for a “Tour of Ancient Rome,” all I got was a “look-at-the-Egyptian-obelisk-in-this-tourist-trap” tour.
Afterward wasn’t any better. The group unanimously decided to take a nap, and we would figure on doing something at a later time (like 8, 8:30). And so we slept, and we woke up, and I remembered that the NFL Playoffs were going on and that I, the only one with access and know-how to use the NFL.com’s stream of the game, had promised people yesterday that I would set up my laptop and play the games over the TV in the common lounge tonight. And so I let my friends know, and asked what they planned to do for dinner.
Since almost everything is closed on Sunday in Rome, the group (sans me) decided to go to a sushi place. I asked Elena if they had take-away, and if they did to get me some (because we all know I love sushi), and was disappointed to get a text message back saying it didn’t look like they did. Fine, I said, I’ll just get some pizza from across the street. Not a big deal. I made a commitment to showing the football games tonight, and I’m going to honor that. Everyone was counting on me, and I wasn’t going to shirk that for a dinner with the group, one of probably 100 that we’ll have this trip.
So imagine my surprise when I got a text message basically saying, “This place is amazing, and if you get a headache because you didn’t come, you deserve it.” I deserve it? What did I do wrong?
Obviously I would have loved to go out to dinner with my friends, and especially to a sushi restaurant. Why would I turn that down for any reason that wasn’t important? I was understandably upset by the text, but responded just that I hoped we could go again another night. Maybe, you know, next Sunday. When everything’s closed again. Whatever I should have felt, I couldn’t put off that text for hours, and I was barely able to enjoy the first half of the Giants game because of it.
Anyway, class starts tomorrow. Today, actually, since it’s already 3:15 AM. Don’t worry, I don’t have class until 1:20 PM, so I’ll still get my 8 hours of sleep. I just can’t accept that we’re really at school here, since these first 3 days have been the exact definition of what a vacation should be – sightseeing, fun times with friends, all of it. Oh well, hopefully tomorrow will be better than today was.
Piazza del Popolo: 41.910613,12.476238
Villa Borghese: (right up the hill from the Piazza del Popolo)
Spanish Steps: 41.906138,12.482812
Trevi Fountain: 41.901154,12.483322
Piazza Navona: 41.899103,12.473111
Palazzo di Giustizia: 41.903594,12.470912
Mondo Arancina (dinner): 41.909606,12.467087
Want to see my whole trip, from start to finish?