Racing around Rome

First up – if you’re getting the email version, check the main blog via http://www.lsl2008.wikispaces.com/ because I’ll save and edit this to avoid losing too much.

Well, whoever called Adelaide the City of Churches had never been to Rome! Writing this (on only a slightly different keyboard) is a welcome rest for my very weary feet!! I suppose the get-fit regime and losing 20lb before leaving home helped – but it doesn’t feel like it :-/ The cobblestones don’t help of course. Between Termini and my hotel one wheel of my suitcase turned square. Am I the only one this happens to? Why make plastic wheels? At the very least they should be as robust as skate wheels!!!

That’s it for grouches – all else is brilliant!
The Churches:
I finally got back to where my overseas travels first began – 1999 at San Clemente. I was able to avoid siesta and this time got down to the level of the Temple of Mithras. Well worth it! And I’ve also been back to my favourite church: Santa Maria in Trevio – not on any maps, a tiny place behind the Trevi Fountain. I got the end of Benediction (the Latin almost came back!) then stayed on for Mass – understood only a few words but the music and setting …. I was very pleased to be there. The most impressive church was San Bartolomeo on Isola Tiberina. Every side altar is dedicated to different groups of 20th and 21st century martyrs with photos, relics (e.g. Oscar Romero’s missal) etc. It was being set up for a wedding (May Day when I visited) – it looked beautiful and you couldn’t help but think that any commitment in that particular church was damned serious. I visited Santa Susanna for no other reason than to remember particularly my daughter of that name. A surprise in the church stakes was St Andrew’s – of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland!! This was a place beautiful in its simplicity – recently renovated and re-dedicated only last Sunday. And one church, sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, was the pits: Santa Maria Maggiore – nowhere else were poor footsore tourists told to get up when they sat on the steps for a few minutes rest.

As well as churches, this is the City of Uniforms! There’s the Carabinieri, the Polizia, the Army, and goodness knows what else. Very few seem to do anything more than longe about, smoking and chatting to their mates. The odd police car goers screaming by – people manage to get out of the way – it must be those table tennis paddles the lean out the windows holding up – red whith ‘stop’ on them!! It’s the ambos who must have nerves of steel – traffic and pedestrains all over the place and they just charge on through the lot. Motorbikes everywhere too, of course, including Vespas – but none so old as Hilly’s!! The Deaprtment of Finance also has cars with flashing lights. I’m sure Piers thinks this only appropriate 😉

There is another sort of uniform, of course – priests and religious. I wonder if some people simply dress up to get entree more easily to various places. Two black men – only eyes and collars white – sat at my table at the self-serve cafeteria at Termini** yesterday. Priests from Kinshasa in the Congo.
** note: good value when you’re travelling on a shoestring!
Anyway, charming blokes they were. One understood English but spoke French so I practised on him. It’s a pity all the things I need to say I can manage in my schoolgirl French – but it’s not a lot of help when everyone speaks Italian!! The other spoke English. I don’t know how many bishops there are in Congo but he was the Secretary General of their Conference and will be in Oz with a party of 50-60 for World Youth Day. And he laughed heartily when I asked if his collar was a passport to places where the rest of us have to queue. I think he meant ‘yes’!!

Random bits and pieces
The flight over was uneventful. Both flights I was seated in one-of-a-pair seats. To Singapore I had the company of a very pleasant cinema studies person from Monash, off to present a paper at a conference in London. From Singapore to Rome the other seat was empty so I enjoyed the space. You may correctly gather that my ‘no upgrade’ record remains unbroken 😉

My hotel room is tiny but perfectly adequate – marginally larger than a ship’s cabin. It’s very conveniently placed in Aventino with Santa Sabina and fabulous views over Rome at the top of the street. You ‘could’ walk to most places from the hotel but, given that you’d then be walking miles between all sorts of places, my best purchase to date was my very first purchase in Rome – for a mere EUR16 – a weekly ticket that covers buses, trams and trains. I use them all!

I do get lost – I’ve gone around in a few circles 😉 But having all but learned the Lonely Planet off by heart I can turn even that into an advantage. A real plus in the advantage stakes was discovering the lift to the top of the Spanish Steps – I figure I’d earned the walk down only, after walking ‘up’ the 121 steps of the Vittoriano and also the steep climb to the Pincio lookout near the Piazza del Popolo!!

No smoking signs now appear all over the place. It wouldn’t have been dreamt of at the time of my first visit. There’s a long way to go but it’s a very welcome start.

I’ve been to a Renoir exhibition today – it includes one painting from the National Gallery in Melbourne ….. coals to Newcastle !!

When I get home I’ll decorate this with a photo or two. As of last night I’d taken 277! But fear not!!! I think a lot are very dodgy, i.e. blurs that will be a reminder to me but not good for much else 😉

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