Deadline. Junkfood. Deadline. Panic. Deadline. Coffee. Deadline. Hand in. 12pm. Packing. 4pm. London. 7pm. Stanstead. 3am. Flight. 6am. Italy. 8am.
The first week of my Italian travels was spent in Puglia, down near the heel of the boot. Puglia was the vacation for a foodie like me so I was excited to see how the rest of Italy, especially the northern states, would compare. From this point on I traveled alone, which given my eye-watering history (Prague anyone?) was pretty nerve-wracking.
Rome is the perfect city to wander aimlessly around. There is a timelessness quality which makes the city feel simultaneously ancient and modern; the plethora of history at every turn is juxtaposed with the selfie-stick jungle.
I headed in the general direction of the tourists big three: the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Forum, and the Trevi Fountain. On route, I stumbled across the San Pietro in Vincoli, a minor basilica which famously houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Unfortunately, I am a complete moron and missed the statue! I was too busy focusing on the classically beautiful ceilings and the prayer candles. A couple of hours later, when reading ‘Top Things to See in Rome’ I realized my stupidity and rushed back only to find that the church was closed for the day!
On of the most striking things about Rome is its recent revamp; everything was a sparklingly white and the city center was (mostly) graffiti free. Never had Italy looked more like Germany — a fact I’m not sure they’d be too happy about?
Once I had gotten to the Colosseum it was like stepping back in time. The once political and socio-economical hub of the Roman empire sprawled across the center of the capital in a kind of grandiose district of columns and bricks. The Colosseum is still haunted by the people that used to flock to the games and the museum on the upper levels has collected the knick-knacks and souvenirs from the crowds. You can even see the ancient graffiti carved into the brick: gladiators, swear words and declarations of love.
These two pictures of the graffiti are probably two of my favourite pictures from Rome. They were not born from blueprints, nor from the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. They depict neither politics nor socioeconomics. The graffiti forms a connection between us and them; between ancient Rome, the Globe Theatre and a standard football ground. We have always wanted to make a mark, to say that we are here. Plus we are inherently narcissistic enough to think that others will care who our top gladiators are (mine is Judy Simpson btw).
At this stage, I had wandered around Rome in the classic Italian sunshine for over 6 hours with only one 500ml water bottle (filled up twice!). Feeling a little light-headed, I was trying to find somewhere to sit down when I came across a Barbie exhibit at the Complesso del Vittoriano. Close to deliriousness and with a solid millennial enjoyment for ‘ironic’ entertainment, I decided to seek shelter in Barbies Dream House.
I decided to not take any pictures inside the exhibit because it was creepy. A Silent Bones-esque murderer would have been comfortable. Although to be fair, a 5-year old would have probably thought it was *goalz*, (and a 5-year old murderer would be staring at you through the holes in the portraits).
I managed to escape through the rather anti-climatic exit door at the end of the exhibit and continued to drift until I found a little restaurant/cafe between the Trevi Fountain and the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a church on the way back to the station. The decor was charmingly rustic, the coffee was strong and the chill of the mango sorbet was very much appreciated. Although the cafe I went to did not boast a broad vegan menu, there were several eateries around the city centre with a wide list of vegan options. I swear that Italy, the home of cheese, pizza and pasta was easier to navigate as a vegan than the UK.
Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Sant’Ignazio Church) was originally dedicated to the Founder of the Society of Jesus to be used as the college chapel. The inscription over the door (according to the tour guide I was sneakily trying to listen to) reads ‘School of Grammar, Humanity, and Christian Doctrine. Free’. Yet, as you enter the church you enter a space of pure luxury. The ceilings are intricately designed and painted in typical renaissance style with the theatrical focus on the painted on dome towards the back. Yeah, the church was too poor to commission a real dome, so the painter Andrea Pozzo painted a seemingly 3D dome. The optical illusion only really works from certain angles; if you are unaware of the trickery, the dome appears to bend and wave like a Dr Seus drawing.
As well as the coloured columns and unusually gothic statuettes, St.Ignatius had recently commissioned an art installation of a number golden trees. The trees, the leaves on the trees, and the apples that hung from the leaves on the trees were all cut and molded out of metal. They are meant to represent the relationship between man and nature and therefore between us and God. Planted at the base of columns and archways, the trees were used to divide the large darkened hall into a series of intimate (read: even darker) ‘rooms’. Due to the hush of the shadows, St. Ignatius was one of the few churches I had been to which felt like a place of worship rather than simply a tourist interest.
No one can be lost in Rome, primarily due to the volume of tourist destinations. I left to stop off in Naples and Latina before finishing off Italian travels in Milan. Keep an eye out for the next post!