Off to Italy and Greece! We met at a parking lot in Mystic, jumped on a bus and headed to JFK. We had 35 people in the group, from high schoolers to retirees. The trip and boarding was uneventful. I spent a good amount of time getting to know others in the group as we had a few hours before take off at JFK. After a 7 hour flight over the Atlantic, were almost there! Just after departing at the layover in Frankfurt. With Lufthansa, I was expecting one of the new EU Airbus’s, but this was a Boeing 747. On our way to Rome, we passed over the Alps and the Appenine Ridge. I love passing mountain ranges from jet flights, but pictures never do it justice. About to Land in Rome! I was a little confused, I must have been on the wrong side of the plane, because this didn’t look like a big city at all. Turns out we landed about an hour outside of Rome in some beautiful Italian country side. We checked into our hotel, on the outskirts of the city. I was roomed with the father of one of the younger women on the trip, and not the person I was worried about rooming with. My friend from Illianos revealed to me I was originally roomed with him, and she’s been on the trips before and insisted to the organizer to not condemn me to that, knowing what this guy was like. Stories of him walking around in his underwear and toothpaste covered bathroom walls were floated about. I thanked her profusely! confessed my undying gratitude, and told her I’d buy her a drink at every meal. I knew none of the stories, just had the feeling he was those guys you know is going to be weird. Very nice guy, but definately weird. Decent view from our hotel room, but the Hotel was not at all impressive. As our tour host joked, it was a four star hotel but two of it’s stars were out. Apparently the EF Tours usually come up with much better stays. Floors 1 - 5 were electronic and accessible by elevators, floor 6 was stair access only and had old fashioned manual key locks. You were given one key per room, and asked to drop it off at the desk each time you left. We unpacked, relaxed for a bit, changed, showered, the all met for dinner. Here are some Random shots in Rome. After dinner, we made our way to the famous Spanish Steps, a popular meeting place in Rome which had a spectacular Ambience. I think if I lived here, I’d hang out here frequently. At the top was an old Egyptian obelisk From the very top, you could see the lighted dome of St. Peters Basilica, probably about 4 miles away. Looking down the steps to the street and fountain Me at the steps The fountain at the base was beautiful, the public fountains in Italy all have continuously fed clean water and are allegedly drinkable, though none of us tested the claim. We walked on, I found it odd there was an American Federal style building deep in Rome. This style was popular with the rise of American Federalism after the Revolutionary war, where American style was trying to distance itself from colonial and classical revival. And another one, attractively lit Walking the streets of Rome we came across a random church that was quite intriguing. Then it was one to the famous Trevi Fountain. Rounding a corner, the elaborate façade comes into view. Me in front of the Trevi Fountain. Closer detail of the elaborate marble carvings I liked this view And this one A close up of the center of the fountain This church sat behind the Trevi Fountain The elaborate Corinthian capitals were impressive A close up The front of the church was gated, and had all these small locks on it. I asked the Tour guide what the deal with that was. Lovers, he said, would come and put the locks on the gate together, supposedly their love would last forever, or as long as the lock remained. He said periodically the city comes and cuts them all off. So much for symbolism. We all enjoyed some Gelatio (Ice Cream) at the fountain. Seeking out Gelatio became a popular sport during our stay in Italy. A Random statue at the corner of a random building I spied an ancient looking temple façade down a side street, turns out we’d see it later though. We headed to a random church on reports about the interior of it from someone in the group Note the size of the pedestrians about to enter The inside was indeed incredible There was a service going on, so we quietly looked around. The pictures don’t do it justice. That’s a small choir all the way at the end, to help give a sense of scale. The walls are elaborate marble columns supporting giant Roman arches and the whole ceiling was elaborately painted. This was a random ‘small’ church in Rome, and was impressive and awe inspiring. Throughout the trip, these churches would inspire mixed emotions in me. While their technical skill and achievement is amazing and worthy of worship on their own, like a skilled artist choosing a bad theme, what they were made in the name of, and how the resources were acquired to make them, bothered me as much as the admiration of achievements required to make them inspired reverence in me. Off to the side was this interesting model. Someone asked at another church if this model represented something that someone wanted to actually build. I doubt it, given the sheer scale of it, but the tour guide said it was.
That dome would have exceeded by 10 fold anything built up until then, and probably exceeded anything ever built. The temples surrounding the outside looked to be replicas of existing famous temples. If these are to scale, the size of this structure would be almost beyond comprehension. Off to the side was this incredible structure And this one beside it A closer look reveals amazing sculptures Next to those, another just as impressive We quietly left the church, and a few blocks later was the Roman Pantheon!!! The sheer scale of it is hard to capture. Here I am standing in front of it The columns alone are a good 5 stories tall, and made of single pieces of granite. Probably 8 feet in diameter at the base. How the Romans even moved these, let alone put them into a standing position without breaking them is perplexing. I’m not sure what the inscription reads, but the Pantheon was built on top of the ruins of a previous temple to a Roman general, called Agrippa, so it looks to be something in honor of that. It was closed at night, but we would be returning the next day, and the inside was far more amazing. Next we passed the same ancient temple façade that was visible earlier. A few blocks away, we visited Hadrean’s Column. Built in the first century AD, by the famed Roman architect Appollodorus. After that, it was back to the metro and about a half hour ride and half hour walk to the hotel Some thoughts on Rome and Italy. One thing that immediately jumped out was the vast prevalence of motorcyclists and scooters. Lane splitting was almost a requirement, quiet a contrast to the states where only California allows lane splitting. Scooters and bikes could go and park pretty much anywhere they could fit. This area of Italy, at least, must have 10 or 20 times the motorcycle ridership that the states had. The weather and narrow roads surely is partly responsible for that, the terrain was full of small hills and charming alluring twisty roads, but the absurdly high gas prices was no doubt the primary reason. Geologically most of the land and stone outcroppings were a light sandstone, and the houses all had dark red terracotta roofs, contrasted with the lush green of the landscape they all made for a rich and very different landscape.