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Published: October 19th 2006
Baths of Caracalla
If you can see the people down on the ground you have a bit of an idea of how HUUUGE this place is...
Ciao a tutti!
Sorry it's been such a long time between posts. My last week in Rome went very quickly, and here is Salerno it's not nearly as easy to get on the net. Still trying to work out how I'll do this since there's sooo much to say, but strap yourselves in and let's just see what happens, hmm?
Part 1 - ROME
Well Marianne and Sybille left on my last full weekend in Rome, which was a bit sad. The new people weren't arriving till Sunday so I had a weekend da sola
, by myself. I spent all of Saturday at the Museo Nazionale Romano (I'm hoping you lot are sharp enough to translate this difficult phrase) which was SO SO cool!!! Basically all (or lots of) the archaeological finds they have from Rome and the region, plus further afield are all here.
Marianne (L) and Sybille's (R) last night in Roma!
It's so big that the collection is housed in about four or five buildings, of which two at least (the two I visited) are massive - three/four big floors each. Without realising I managed to choose the weekend with free entrance to all of the museum! Woohoo, euros in tha pocket. The first was at the Baths of Diocletian, which is a really nice building anyway, and you first enter this really pretty manicured/formal garden where they have lots of headstones, random bits of ancient buildings, etc. Then there was all kinds of cool cool stuff, everyday items that were just really impressive. The coolest bit was the internal courtyard, which was full of statues and quite intricately carved sarcophagi. After a few hours here, I went to the nearby Palazzo which houses another part of the collection. This one was even cooler, if that's possible. (and also free!) The first two floors are Roman sculptures - imperial busts, a famous full-length one of Augustus, various gods and goddesses, and also some really impressive ones made of bronze. The top floor is even cooler AGAIN, because here there are lots of frescoes and mosaics. The mosaics especially just completely blew
me away. I never realised what a small scale some of them were on, ie. tiles just a few millimetres wide! Some of the frescoes have been restored as they would have been in the original houses (ie four walls of a room), which was amazing, plus the fact that it's dark in these rooms except for fairy lights (to preserve them) means it's all very atmospheric. Then in the basement there was lots of jewellery, which is just so delicate and beautiful. Plus waaay too many coins - from Roman times (interesting enough) to today (whatEVERRR!). BUT the coolest thing of all was....a mummy!!! A little girl, only eight years old. Really creepy, like the ice-man - brown, shrivelled, slimy... You can see her nails, teeth, hair
, everything. They have her sarcophagus and all the things she was buried with, including her little wooden doll, which made me feel quite sad. BUT SO COOL!!
Sunday I went to the 'Roman Houses'. It was found under a church, and there are about 20 rooms intact! They are on three levels (fun going up and down) (for those with small, easily-pleased minds that is), and there are frescoes and floor
My First Mummy
Sorry it's kinda fuzzy but no flash allowed
mosaics intact. All the archaeological finds are in a little museum at the end which is actually pretty good. There is also this stone box thing which allegedly held the remains of St....er, John perhaps. Or Paul. Saints have never really been my strongpoint! After this I managed to navigate successfully to the Baths of Caracalla, which I think was one of my favourite things in all of Rome! And guess what else? It was free that weekend too! God I'm good. You have NO idea how massive it is, like MASSIVE. I tried to measure the height in metres just by looking and I'd say a conservative (and badly measured) estimate would be 20 metres!! And they cover a really large area as well. I also spent some time in the gardens there, which was lovely - even though you're surrounded by main roads, it's quite peaceful in there and really beautiful.. I can't even begin to imagine what the whole complex would have been like back in the day, if it's still so impressive 1500+ years down the track. I wanted to visit la Bocca della Verità on my way to Trastevere, but there was a huge line,
Baths of Caracalla
Ahaha this photo is actually on it's side but I find it infinitely more amusing this way!
and I already know I'm a liar :P Lucky I put my hand in that one they used to have at Woden (if anyone else remembers it!) Plus that one predicted your future on a little printout, who needs the real thing!
Trastevere is an old, more traditional quarter of Rome, found surprisingly enough across the Tiber (Trastevere = lit. across the Tevere(Tiber)). It's all narrow little streets, falling down houses, etc. In the main square there was a Punch & Judy type puppet show going on which I found rather amusing, along with all the 3-5year old Italian kids. I've always been the mature type. The magic was spoilt momentarily when a crazy homeless lady came up with her Alsatian and started screaming at the puppets that she hated all of them as well as that f-ing wolf (ie. another puppet) and that they should all f off!!! The 3-5 year olds were slightly taken aback, shall we say. Finally I went to Largo di Torre Argentina, which is essentially a transport hub, lots of buses. But right in the middle there are more Roman ruins, with a slight difference. CATS. Lots of them! (Leaver girls should be
Baths of Caracalla
View from the gardens
writing notes to selves at this point). There's a cat shelter there and all the cats live in the ruins!! And since they're well looked after they're not even mangy, but quite nice (as cats go). I went to the shelter (it STINKS) but felt like a bit of an imposter with everyone around me gushing about how much they love cats! When I got home that night, the new people had arrived: Charlotte (from London) and Sebastian & Anna, a young German couple. My last week in Rome was fun as luckily I got on with them well. The night before I left we went out for dinner and Charlotte made sure I visited the Trevi Fountain so I could throw my coin in! Always leaving things till the last minute, I know!
One funny thing that happened the day before I left was when I went to see a movie. Te Break-up
this time (and no I don't have an Aniston fetish, perhaps the Italians do though??) Anyway, you don't leave through the main entrance, instead you come out in this little back alleyway. I was first out and I noticed three guys standing up the top
Hello Sleepy Kitty
One of many gatti - it's a tough life being a cat
of the alley and it looked like they were staring at me. Suit yourselves, I think. I keep walking and notice one has a TV camera, another a microphone. Ahhh, they must be waiting to ambush someone trying to sneak out the back entrance of one of the other buildings...scandal anyone?? Still
staring? I realise I must be blocking their view of whoever they're waiting for. Now I'm almost level with them. All of a sudden they're surrounding me, camera in my face, microphone under my nose... "What did you think of the movie?" I start laughing and say "I can't speak Italian!" "OK, OK, but did you like it?" "Er, yes, I liked it?" "Is it different to in America?" "I'm not American, I'm Australian!" "OK, but is it different?" "Er, yes? It is different." *awkward silence* "OK, grazie, ciao!" It was so funny - of all the people they could have chosen! So now you can tell all your friends that you know a famous Italian TV star (although for some reason I don't think that would have made it too far past the editors...!)
I grew very attached to Rome and
Punch & Judy in Trastevere
Show was funny, kids were cute, homeless lady was deranged - what more could you want!
was quite sad to leave - even now I still miss it! Before I knew it, I was off on the next leg of my adventure, Salerno. But first, I had to get there...
Part 2 - AMALFI COAST
Still with me? Gold stars all round. Right...lucky for me, I had my own personal chauffeur service! Caius and Em (Aisha's bro and his girlfriend) were here in Italy so on Saturday morning I hitched a ride with them and we drove down south. All credit to Caius' driving skills - driving in Italy is impressive enough, but in an English right hand drive car?? Nice. Managed to navigate more or less correctly , seeing a few little towns slightly off the traditional tourist trail along the way, shall we say. By late afternoon we had reached the Amalfi coast. We were staying overnight in a campground in Sorrento, which is up the other end of the coast, so we drove the winding road, passing all the famous towns to get there: Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, etc. As Caius pointed out, in Australia we wouldn't even bother to build on land like this! Steep much? But just gorgeous. The coast road
is insane - so narrow, very windy (ie. turning wise, not weather!), and composed almost entirely of blind corners (especially if the driver is on the wrong side of the car!). There are coaches all up and down it which just beep their horn a second before the corner then go (their horns have two notes though, much more melodic!). The campground was pretty good, and I got my own little tenty-cabiny thing, plus there was an inexpensive restaurant that actually had really good food, actually better than many places I tried in Rome! The next morning we headed back up the road (Sorrento and Salerno are at opposite ends), and stopped to spent the day in Amalfi. Handy Hint: Don't try to park a car in Amalfi unless you have a few hours to spare. Slight exaggeration but it did take a loong time! Amalfi, and all of the coast for that matter, is swarming with fellow tourists, but I still really enjoyed it. We managed to find a restaurant not entirely dedicated to tourists and which actually seemed like the real deal which was good, and then wandered the streets for a while. Cai and Em introduced me
Welcome to la Costiera Amalfitana!
Italy is just full of ugly places, huh.
to limoncello, Amalfi being the home of, so we all bought up, and why not? The quality is much better and so is the price! Apparently in Australia it's around $60 a bottle, here not more than about $25 max, and that's the traditional, home-made, top shelf stuff! That afternoon we continued up the coast, although my stomach was starting to protest at the constant winding road! We reached Salerno and tried valiantly to find my new home, but without success. Eventually I took a taxi with Mr Surly Italian Taxi Driver 2006 and Stage 2 had officially begun!
It was great though to catch up with Caius and Em, seeing some faces from home and all that. I had lots of fun that weekend, and I'm sorry they had to head back home (Someone tell them I'm thinking of them? Thanks).
Part 3 - SALERNO
Well, my Salerno is home is basically the polar opposite to Rome. The appartment is really really nice, immaculate
(except for my room, surprise surprise), my room is huge (ie there's also a dining room table in there yet still tons of floor space!) and really nicely decorated, and I look out
Lazy Summer Days
I don't want to know how much THESE deckchairs cost!
onto a church whose bells play Ave Maria every (early) morning and evening, which was cute the first two days but now I'm well over it! But best of all, the family are AWESOME!! They have a daughter, Valentina, who is almost 16, and yeah, probably your average teenager. She's generally a funny and nice person, but occasionally screams of "I HATE YOU!!" followed by the sound of a door slamming can be heard! Mum Annamaria is your typical Italian Powerwife, she never stops! Always cleaning, cooking (very well!), or fussing over us. So caring and lovely and very funny as well. But my favourite has to be the dad, Pino. Such an absolute crackup, charming, handsome, rogueish, loud - basically the essential Italiano. I'm just constantly in stiches whenever I'm in his presence, it's awesome. I think the scene that best summarises Pino and Anna was the other day when they were having an argument (yelling Italian style) about Pino not doing anything around the house to help Anna (COMPLETELY true), with Pino stirring and Anna getting frustrated, when all of a sudden she breaks of mid-sentence with a "Mamma mia! Look how dirty these windows are!", grabs the
La Grotta Azzurra
O sooooolo miiiiioooo
Windex and starts polishing compulsively - at which point we all burst out laughing. I'm really going to miss them!!! Plus, Anna is an amazing cook, so I've essentially been living in a restaurant! Could be worse 😉 School's a bit average but living with the family more than makes up for it, you have such a great time and learn more than you ever could in school.
I was living with a Spanish girl, Vanesa, for the first two weeks and we got on well but now she's gone home (replaced by an Aussie girl from Noosa who literally doesn't know ANY Italian, eg. she didn't even know CIAO!!), but there are also two people in particular from my class that I get on well with, Maria (Sweden) and Marco (England). Marco is from Newcastle so has an aaaawesome accent, just like Ross Noble for those who know who him! Marco in particular is good value, he's such a dag! On our first weekend here we all went to Capri (with another girl from the Caribbean). The ferry takes two hours and you pass all the towns along the Amalfi Coast along the way so it's all very
pretty and such, and a good opportunity to work on one's tan! The main attraction on Capri is La Grotta Azzurra
, the Blue Grotto. We took a boat tour around the island, which takes about an hour, until you arrive at the cave. Only problem is, all the other boats have arrived too! The entrance to the cave is tiny, so you can only enter by little rowboats (the oarsman rows standing up but almost has to lie down to fit through). We had to wait about 45 minutes for our turn, as there's only so many rowboats to go round! By the time it was our turn I was feeling SO sick from just going up and down and up and down in the one spot for almost an hour!! Blergh. Once you are inside its pretty awesome though. We went through the opening and we're all going "OK, so what are we looking at?" because it is just literally pitch black, and the guy is like "Look beyind you!" We turn around and the water is this insane electric blue colour, really beautiful. So you're floating around in darkness, except for this crazy water (and being in tiny
The so-called Mule-Driver
He was found next to his mule, aw
rowboats you're right on water level) when all the oarsmen start singing, opera-style! Their voices echo all around the cave and it's quite a surreal experience really! We all agreed that while enjoyable enough, overall Capri is pretty much overhyped. It's definitely been spoilt by tourists (and yes I'm well aware I'm one!). There were so many that everywhere you went it was literally difficult to move! And maybe I'm just ignorant or unappreciative but it wasn't "Bello, bello, bello!
like I'd heard - carino
(cute) yes, but not bello.
The only other main place I've really visited is Pompei, I don't know if you've heard of it? I say this jokingly, but unfortunately for us as a nation we do have certain OS reps doing us proud...the Aussie who's living with us now had arrived the day I got home from Pompei. I was chatting away and said "Yeah, so I finally visited Pompei today," to which she replied, "Oh right.....what's that?" !!!
Le sigh. Anyway, I went by myself because I didn't want to be rushed by anyone - this was the thing I wanted to see most in all of Italy! I never realised
The Forum, Pompei
Vesuvius looming in the background
how absolutely MASSIVE Pompei is!!! I spent about five or six hours walking around and still didn't see everything. It's such a strange place - the actual streets in particular are very well-preserved, so as you walk along you really feel like the only thing missing is the people. Speaking of which, I saw some body casts, which really brought home what had happened and the reality of it all. Talk about a horrific experience. Seeing their faces and facial expressions, in various positions obviously trying to shelter themselves, the folds of their clothing, everything. Quite sobering. I'd heard that Pompei is always crowded (it's the most popular tourist attraction in Italy), and although this was the case in some areas like the Forum, the brothel (complete with suggestive and explicit frescoes of services on offer!) and so on, it was great the number of times I found myself to be the only person in a street or in a house. I was pissed off at one point though, because I was walking along when this old man starts going "Inglis, si, yes?" and proceeded to walk two steps ahead of me for the next five minutes, pointing at everything
Wood-fired oven on left, on right four mills to grind the grain (donkey-power, as opposed to horse)
and going "Here, kitchen, mmmm", "Here brothel, mwa mwa", "Here pig" *makes horns on his head with fingers*, etc. I knew exactly what was going to happen, but there was nothing I could do to get away from him, and of course to my great surprise he then stopped and continued to do this little flourishy gesture thing to indicate now was an opportune time to pay him for his informative and requested services until I did!
On Tuesday Pino turned 40. By the time I got home at around 5pm he'd already drunk about 12 glasses of Sangria, and Cassie was well on her way too!! I had some cathcing up to do and I can assure you I gave it my best shot! Because Cassie doesn't speak any Italian I act as translator, so they had had an amusing, if not somewhat frustrating, afternoon together, and all the communication problems were found extra amusing by all of us involved thanks to Pino's skills in the Sangria-making Arena! That night we had lots of people over for dinner and it was lots of fun! Leaving by 8:20am the next morning for school was a bit of a struggle,
Streets of Pompei
Don't want to get our feet wet when we cross the road now do we?
I will admit.
Yesterday, Marco, Cassie and I visited Castello Arecchi after school (a medieval castle on a hill overlooking Salerno). Marco and I had attempted this the week before but were foiled by our complete inability to catch a bus from the correct side of the road. After about five minutes we found ourselves at the bus terminus down by the port, in the company of bus driver's having a smoko and wondering what the hell we were doing there! This time we had more success. We wandered around for a while, climbing around in dark crumbly stairwells etc, going "It's really weird that we're the only ones here! What if someone fell and hurt themselves, this place is deserted!", until we suddenly came across some lady going "What are you doing here! If you hurt yourselves we're liable, the castle is being restored, get out!" Explained a lot, really!
I've only got two more days till I will be moving on to Florence, and I don't want to leave! Well I do, but I want to bring the family with me!! But for now I'd better wrap up. (I can already hear the sighs of relief
Overlooking Salerno, Cassie (aussie) and I
and see the beads of sweat being wiped from brows!) Sorry this was soooooooooo long!!! Really! Lots of love to you all, can you believe I've only a month to go! That means I've been living here for two months y'all! Insane in one's membrane. Can't wait to see you all again!
Un bacione (a big kiss),
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