When In Rome ... Nov 3

Italy! I arrived at Civitavecchia on the ferry from Barcelona. It was dark. I had to find the train station and buy a ticket to Rome. It was cold and I was alone. But, you know what’s always prevalent and can cheer you up when traveling?

Australians.

I walked towards a shuttle bus that seemed like it would take me to the train station. I asked the driver – with nouns and waving my hands – if this shuttle went to the train station and an Aussie overheard me and chimed in. He said this was the shuttle to take, so I hopped on. We reached the station together since he was heading to Rome as well. The station’s counters were closed, but some helpful Italians directed us to the ticket machines. We bought our tickets and hopped on the next train.

The trains looked dated. Graffiti covered the trains, and the seats were stiff and old. The windows rattled, and whenever another train passed the windows made a large bang. I was startled every time a train came by. It was annoying. I thought I would never make it to Rome.

While on the train, a conductor came to check our tickets. He spoke to the Aussie telling him that our tickets weren’t validated and it was a 50 euro fine. My Aussie friend responded that we didn’t know about validation and we’re not from Italy. The conductor said it didn’t matter. He took our tickets and wrote something on them and gave it back to us. Then he left without our 50 euros. We were’t sure what happened, but at least we didn’t lose 50 euros. I’ve already lost enough money to the European transportation system so this was great.

We reached Rome and the Aussie and I parted ways. I arrived at my hostel stoked. I had a relaxing time in Barcelona and on the ferry, so my energy levels were rejuvenated. I was ready to tear it up in Rome. By tearing it up, I mean going on tours. I am extreme!

Now back to the hostel. When I checked in, I received a complimentary drink at the bar. A hostel with a bar in it? Freaking sweet. I unloaded my bags and headed towards the bar. I asked for a beer on tap. The bartender said he’d pour me a Fosters. I stopped him dead in his tracks. Only snowboarders in the U.S. drink Fosters. Aussies wouldn’t be caught dead with a Fosters. I had him pour me a Newcastle instead and drank that while I looked over a map of Rome. It was late, so I hung out in the common area – where the bar was – until I finished my beer and went to bed.

While in the common area, I noticed the immense number of Americans at the hostel. WTF. I came to Europe to meet Australians. Wait, I mean other travelers. I also saw a dude I met back in my Barcelona hostel. His name was Steven, I think, and he was traveling with his sister Ceci. Apparently, they took the same ferry I took, but a day earlier. I would run into these two again in another city, so come back to my blog in the next few days! It was really weird seeing them. Of all the hostels in Barcelona and Rome, we picked the same one in both cities. Weird.

Now for the my extreme traveling experiences in Rome: tours! The first tour I went on took me around Rome. The guide was good. He was very passionate about ancient Roman history, which was awesome since I loved ancient Roman history. History was my favorite class in the 7th grade, and I fell in love with Roman history through this class.

What part of ancient Rome did I love the most? This:

The freaking coliseummmmmm!!

Alright, that’s just a building, but only one of the most badass buildings ever!

Romans were sick people. It was considered “fun” to watch public executions and gladiators tear each other apart. The coliseum represented this aspect of Roman culture the best. The coliseum held games where gladiators fought against animals and other gladiators. What was the best animal for man vs. animal? The giraffe! Why? Two reasons. One, giraffes were weird animals to Romans. Giraffes didn’t exist in Europe, so seeing a gladiator rip this animal to shreds was awesome. Two, giraffes swing their heads in broad strokes when they fight. Kind of like this:

Why would this be awesome you ask? Well, if a gladiator could make a big gash in the neck of the giraffe – trying to chop the head off of course – then the giraffe becomes a flailing tube spewing blood into the crowd. The crowds loved this! Sick, sick Romans.

Onto gladiator vs gladiator battles. Both gladiators were trained before entering the ring. The emperors ensured trained gladiators would enter the arena otherwise the crowd would revolt to bad matches. More blood, more glory.

The matches between gladiators were rigged. One gladiator would be a trained veteran. They’ve mastered how to perform inside the arena of 50,000 people. They were trained to keep the match runing on as long as possible. This allowed for entertaining matches and wore out the opponent. Now, the other gladiator was also trained, but he was not trained in arena fighting. He was trained in basic hand to hand combat. He would use strong strikes and broad movements expending large amounts of energy. On the other hand, the veteran gladiator made small strikes and quick movements expending little energy. Advantage: veteran.

Next time we have a beer, ask me about how gladiators finished off one another. It’s badass.

The other part of the tour introduced me to the mouth of truth. A popular destination for tourists due to the movie Roman Holiday. Tourists line up to stick their hands into this mouth and take pictures in front of it.

The reason it was called the mouth of truth was that the Christians, after the fall of the Roman empire, used this as a way to determine if a person was telling the truth. The way they did that was to make up a story about the mouth. If a person stuck their hand into the mouth and their hand came out clean, then they were telling the truth. Otherwise, if it came out as if the mouth bit down on the hand, then they were lying.

So, the church officials would bring criminals to this location and front of a crowd and have the criminal stick their hand into the mouth. The sneaky thing that the church did was to put a mouse or rat inside the mouth. That way, when the criminals stuck their hand inside, the animal would bite. When the criminal’s hand came out of the mouth, it would have a bite mark. Therefore, everyone would know the criminal was lying. Dirty, dirty tactics.

Anyways, there is a better story about what the mouth was used for in ancient Rome. There was a period in Rome where the Tiber river had bad floods. Poor Romans, which were the majority of the population, would die in the streets of Rome. When the river flooded, it carried the dead bodies across the city passing on diseases. Romans fixed the problem by building a sewer system that could manage the flooding of the river. At the end of the sewer system was the mouth of truth, amonst other decorative exists, where all the water would flow out and into another area. The original latin name for the mouth of truth stood for anus. So really, the tourists are sticking their hands into Rome’s anus. Fun stuff.

Onwards to the Theatre of Marcellus!

There really was a theatre here. It’s now used as condos for extremely rich people. Notice the new additions towards the middle of the image? Also, notice the condo windows above the theatre?

The main thing I want to mention about this theatre, or rather all Roman theatres is how brutal they were. In plays where the antagonist or protangist dies, Romans used to freeze the scene, turn off the lights – i.e., put out torches – and replace the actor that was supposed to die with a criminal. Once the torches come back on, the criminal is killed on stage. It’s more realistic this way! Romans were badass. And sick.

Onto my second favorite ancient Roman building – the Pantheon!

The dome on this building was intense. From the outside it looks small, but from the inside, it’s insanely huge. Until the Houston Astro Dome was built, the Pantheon had the record for the largest dome in the world! Now, it’s the largest unreinforced – i.e., no rebar holding the concrete up – concrete dome in the world . This dome had nothing inside it to sustain it’s shape. Intense right? My mind was blown away for sure.

Now for some fun facts. The Pantheon is now a church. This used to be a temple for the different Roman gods. From many, to one. Also, the tomb of Raphael:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael was inside the building. Raphael died from an STD. Above his tomb was the Virgin Mary. I laughed. You should too.

I love Roman history! I’ll leave you with some more pictures from that day. I’ll have another post about the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, which were completely badass.

Victor Emanuel – the man who unified Italy. Also, the mustache on this statue is 5 and a half feet wide. That’s a crazy mo. San Franciso histers are put to shame by this dude.

Coliseum! Originally, it was called the Flavian Amphiteatre. The reason it’s now called the Coliseum was because when it was built, there used to be a huge statue of Emperor Nero in front of it. By huge, I mean 100 feet tall. They called the statue the Colossus. Due to this, the amphiteatre became the Coliseum, but only during the middle ages did this name stick.

Arch of Constantine.

Ruined temples.

The alpha male cat. These stray cats are honorary citizens of Rome. They are protected and live in the ruins. This one looks evil.

Freaking delicious!