9/4/09

Italy #11

Day Two in Rome meant the Colosseum.

After some confusion as to where we would spend Sunday night, which resulted in our booking a room at the Hilton attached to the Rome airport, we ate breakfast and headed out. This day was considerably more overcast and threatened with rain. We got off the underground at the station stop marked "Colosseum." And this is what we saw when we stepped outside:


They weren't lying!

We decided to pay the extra entrance fee to have a guided tour of the grounds. However it was much too short for our tastes, concluding after only about 45 minutes. But then we were free to roam the entire archaeological site. We spent a great deal of time in the museum portion of the Colosseum, which profiled the family responsible for its construction. During this time, the weather was growing continuously more ominous.

How do I describe seeing the Coliseum? Much like the Sistine Chapel, it simply defies words. At this point in our trip I was suffering from serious mental fatigue. First there's the challenge of existing in a country where one's mother tongue is not the primary language. That's not to say the Italians weren't exceedingly accommodating to English speakers. They were, in fact, fabulously well equipped to deal with ignorant tourists like us! But I heard Italian words all the time. My brain insisted on trying to translate, to the best of my ability--which wasn't much, resulting in a great deal of frustration.

On top of this, I was continuously coming to grips with the age and history behind the attractions we were seeing. To actually imagine gladiators fighting to the death down on the floor of the Coliseum is a difficult feat. It's much easier to let the history wash over you, resulting in comments like, "Wow, it's so big!" I was trying to get under its historical skin, which was making me very tired. I got to the point where the sight of a strip mall would've been refreshing--something that didn't tax my mental reserves.


But seriously. The Coliseum! I was bowled over.

We had lunch at another little touristy place, where they offer decent food at a decent price. The maƮtre d' was just about the most charismatic salesman I've ever seen. We watched him for two hours as he convinced passing tourists to stop in and eat, often supplying more customers than the waitstaff could accommodate. He spoke (or could do his sales pitch in) English, Spanish, French, and German. When speaking to Americans, he switched to the American pronunciation of bruschetta ("brew-SHET-ah," as opposed to the Italian "bru-SKET-ah"). We just hoped he was earning commission for how many butts he put in seats.

And then it started to rain. We made it to the entranceway that led to the archaeological ruins surrounding the Coliseum. And there we waited. We watched a bootleg copy of Star Trek on my 2-inch Nano screen--the WHOLE MOVIE--and still the rain kept coming. Finally Keven bought a €5 umbrella from a street vendor and we set out. We didn't last very long. Without a guide, it was hard to make out what we were seeing exactly. Plus we were utterly exhausted. And wet. And cold. We decided to call it a day. Here's Keven looking wiped out:


After packing and leaving the bed and breakfast, we did some souvenir shopping and took the train to the airport. We checked into the Hilton, made ourselves vaguely presentable, and headed down to dinner. The hotel featured this tremendous buffet, complete with complimentary wine. Only we didn't ask how much it would cost. About halfway through dinner, Keven thought he heard someone say it cost €96 apiece. We were startled but quite beyond caring. We just ate tons--in case that was the actual price! In the end it turned out to be about €80 total. Expensive, but not enough to make me want to chop off a leg in shock or frustration.

I collapsed into a bubble bath, Keven got cleaned up, and we slept. We had an early flight to catch home.

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