(Translation: Feeling Ruined).
Rome has ruined me.
I’m going to give my “word” for it here because I’m teeming with it; Rome is Cherished, because it is an absolute treasure trove of paragons, prizes and – of course – penises. (Honestly, those statues erected all around the show are hung).
First off, the journey in.
The flit from Venice was a seven-hour haul plus stops so TGTaz had us engage in a game on the bus – confessions. We all had to anonymously own up to something that had occurred on the trip so far be it an embarrassing drunken mishap, an unrequited or unadmitted crush or a harboured secret. Once read out, we could choose to put our name to the revelation or remain clandestine. It was a great laugh – who knew there had been some girl-on-girl, a Slovenian threesome and a comering out outside the hotel? – but my favourite of all was that of Nic and Jenny.
I mentioned these two before but not by name; after Auschwitz they got it together and have been cutely inseparable ever since. Nic is the good old Aussie Bendighetto bloke, with Jenny a UK-becoming lass, super shy and sweet.
I have a crush on them as a couple.
Since Poland I have been taking secret snapshots of them together – asleep on each other’s shoulders, arms around as they stroll along, next to each other at dinner with hands held under the table. Not in a creepy way mind; I just noticed the two had had no photos taken of them together so I thought I’d quietly take on the job so upon the end of the tour they would have a full on album of them together. (Nic has now caught me in the act – I’m not very discreet, it must be said – so they are well aware of my Poparazzi).
Anyway. When TGTaz was reading out the spillages one came up, “I fell in love on Contiki”, with another a mere few moments along stating, “I have fallen in love and am seriously thinking of moving to Australia”. It was so adorable and loved up and everyone was on board (literally and figuratively) with a round of claps and cheers (especially me with a massive “Hoo-rah”).
Which leads me into the next kind of coupling coming up; myself mate.
Remember my little divulgence into the one and only Pat a wee while ago? AKA, PMS? The lad met in Paris who had a hell of a lot in common with I, who was training to be a Contiki tour guide? That I found myself rather taken with (now that’s a blatant tone down of the truth), and found it quite the conundrum having to adieu to?
Well, Pat has left the training trip.
Not through any inability on his part; more the fact that it’s just not what he wants to do. The intensity of the prep, the lack of sleep, the vehemence of the stressload – he’s already been in a “big person’s” job for the past few years and this was just a season, maybe two’s, worth of work for him. Pretty much to travel and get paid. But as of a few days ago he decided to pack it in and just voyage right now – because really, why not?
And first stop was meeting me in Rome.
So the drive there had a whole other level of anticipation and nerves for me. Not just a city to make like a Roman and conquer, but to once again see the someone that has also been setting me rather a flutter since the moment I met him. (And we shall leave it there for now. I feel like a pre-teen girl all in ardour with the boy in her class. Very un-me).
So we arrived in Rome, heading straight to the hostel to check in, plonk down our properties and head into the city centre for a driving tour, a walking tour and then dinner. However, Sheri and I stayed behind; I was meeting PMS ASAP and she was desperate for a drowse.
That evening the three of us (being Sheri, PMS and I) went out for some drinks, dinner, gelato and a night time nip in at the Trevi Fountain (you may know it from the outstanding film that is The Lizzie McGuire movie. It is said that if you throw a coin in over your shoulder, you will one day return to Rome. Already in adoration with the place, I threw in a good garner of leftover Polish zloty). We then went back to the bar across the road from our hostel to meet up with the rest of the crew, where the night gets a bit hazy. (Ok, blacked out. Once again I went far too hard. Last time. I have now met my happy place at two-point-four glasses of red; that’s my ratio for a good time).
Sheri also departed to fly out to Copenhagen early the following dawn, which I was actually rather glad happened whilst I was intoxicated; I was very much wanting to eschew saying goodbye to her as we have become extremely close and companionable chums. (Pat also went onto Florence, where I shall be meeting him tomorrow). I have to say, no Sheri by my side has led to quite the lost Pop (I.e., I really miss her).
As soon as Melissa joined the trip in Vienna her and I just clicked like Wizard of Oz shoes. A drama student and up and coming actress, at only 19 she seemed eons older – having left her home last year to go around the globe, she had many an insight and experienced world view that had me placing her at a good 24. A few days before we had locked in doing Rome together and I had been greatly looking forward to it since.
So a group of us metro-ed off to the Colosseum, where we instantly all lost each other bar Melissa and me. After a bout of photos cavorting around the archaic antique of a cake tin, we wandered along to see some more surrounding sights such as the Maximus Circus (ancient chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue), manta facade of a museum and antediluvian structure and of course, Vatican City.
Along the way we had very through D&M’s, discussing everything under the sun (My word, the weather was turning up trumps for us). Sometimes you meet people who even though you don’t really know them, you just have an instantaneous connexion with – I’m beyond blessed to have experienced it twice in two weeks with both Melissa and old matey Katie – and you feel like you can tell them anything in the world. As we went to town (well, Vatican City) taking photos and panoramas, we shared so many barebones it was unbelievable.
So the VC is actually a walled enclave within the city of Rome. Meaning it is actually classed as another country, the smallest state in the world by both area and population. (At just more than 100 acres, it is one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York).
It is what is known as a sacerdotal-monarchical region ruled by the Bishop of Rome, being the Pope. It is the Papal residence (I.e., the Pope lives there), and has within the complex 11 Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican gardens. The state has its own radio station which tunes in all over the world in 29 different languages, its own TV channel, a daily newspaper, a post office – complete with its own Vatican stamps – and a series of shops. More than 1000 people are on point to ensure the running of what is said to be the nerve centre of Christianity.
Merriment maker: back in 1857, newly appointed Pope Pius IX was highly opposed to all the penises adorning the statues around VC. He saw it as an acockolypse and decided to tackle the problem head on by lobbing off all the knobs, instead having the men’s modesty covered by a fickle fig leaf. But he ballsed up, leaving the sacks intact. So they stand the teste of time.
(Hilarious moment when Melissa couldn’t stop sneezing, and profanited a “Jesus Christ!” before popping her hand over her mouth and saying, “Of all the places to blasphemise, I feel Vatican City is probably the poorest choice”).
Being a Sunday the complex wasn’t open to Rome around – “No Pope on Sundays”, I chortled to myself, amalgamating in a churchy-pun with the much-loved HP; it’s a blessing – but there were still trillions of tourists brimming about, lining up to enter St Peter’s Square and swarming the souvenir shops to purchase holy charms from the capital of Catholicism (Melissa and I got friendship rosary bead braclettes, as well as me getting a St Christopher Protect Us token and a glorious set of pearly pink rosary beads for my beautiful Babcia). After a bout of gelato – biscotto of course, so out of my comfort zone but so oh so so good! – we got our pace on to get Melissa back to the colosseum for her guided tour (alas, we did not make it in time and she missed the meeting poin result in in her decideing to return to the hostel to nap).
Do you know what I have realised my favourite thing about travel is? Getting lost. Literally getting lost and misplaced and adrift and just peripatetic-ing around, immersing myself in the locality.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the legendary landmarks and prominent places, but to be honest? The thrill I felt at my first sighting of the Colosseum was on par, if not surpassed, by the sensation of glee I got upon seeing the dreadlocked dog along the riverside or the Beetle VW with false eyelashes on the headlights. For me it’s not museums and monuments and markers, but the meanderings that lead to being mesmerised by the seemingly mundane.
So I Romed. For – no exaggeration – a further four hours. I put my map away and just walked and walked and walked (thank fuck I was in my Nikes) and saw and surveyed and studied. And it would have to have been my favourite day so far.
I love being with people. Being in company greatly lights me up inside. But just traipsing about on my lonesome was just so enthralling for the afternoon and although I decided to miss a number of infamous Roman “must-sees” – the Mouth of Truth, Spanish Steps, that lark – I saw so much more that was truly Italian. (Plus, I’ll most certainly be back to befall the omitted).
So instead of chronicling a tedious play-by-play, I shall narrate a few highpoints of my Lone Rome.
I was standing on a corner consulting my map (I had dreamily wandered right off it and was in the outskirts for a wee while before deciding to turn back to the core to revisit Trevi Fountain during the day) when a moustached man approached me to ask if I was lost. “Just looking to head to Trevi Fountain,” I said. And that’s how I hustled myself a true tour guide for the next half hour – one roaming Roman, Marco.
Very into his art, Marco took me along the way to near the Trevi, telling me tales of the buildings and artworks around that only a true local would know. He pointed out aspects that the typical tourist would never see, such as a silent statue secreted sort of out of sight and tips of the Roman ways. (“When in Rome, you cross the roads slowly. Do not be afraid. And do not rush or run. The drivers will laugh and make fun of you”). He took me along the back streets (only a moment of misgivings until I saw the plenty a people within the inner insider lanes) and deposited me a mere street away from my reuired location. (Also did the whole Italian kiss on each cheek on the vale ciao, which he attempted to follow up with a pash. “It’s the Italian way, three kisses on the lips,” he insisted. Na uh mate, I am not falling for the one. I instead told him it was very culturally foreign to myself to lock lips with a stranger, so I would unfortunately not be engaging in the “tradition”).
- Family feasting
At VC Melissa and I had sat down to rest our fatigued feet and for her to refuel with a plate of gnocchi. At a table a few over from us sat a family of six with piled high plates of chicken, pasta, pizza, mozzarella and tomato, parmesan, bread sticks and grilled vegetables strewn about the table. After a hand-held grace, they started to share out the sustenance. It was such an art, so lovely to see, and it really drummed into me the social side of eating and the bonding that took place over the biscotti.
Mate, the bark on the trees here totally tripped me out. You know when you re-wallpaper a room and you have to tear away the old stuff to get to the bare bit beneath? That’s what these trees were like. (Just had a major memory revisit back to when I was about seven years old and we had gone up to Auckland to stay at our “cousins”’ house. (I say “cousins” because the “family” in subject are not actually related to me, but I still see the Swain family as being my relatives and talk of Aunty Sharon and Uncle Lance, as well as Nick and Chris as my cousins). While I was making my wees, I saw a slightly loose piece of wallpaper in the toilet and couldn’t repel the impulse to rip it off. I don’t know how I didn’t think anyone wouldn’t notice, but when the questioning came as to who the vandal had been it took me a long while to fess up to being the culprit. I’m pretty sure I only did when all were pointing the blame at the brother James, tbh. But yeah. Barking up the wrong tree and all that). Tree-ffic!
- Horsing Around
- Horse and carriages are main (or should that be mane?) draws (yes, again) around Rome, particularly at VC. It went completely by me until one Rhi (yet another Contiki chum with whom I have a double room with tonight – woohoo!) remarked on the fact that each of the stallions had a bag-like contraption at their nether regions. “To catch their shit,” she said oh so eloquently. I am unsure whether I like this apparatus or not; I mean for one, it means that pony poos are not excreted about the streets and squares, keeping them tidy and avoiding people stepping in dumps of do-do’s, but I feel for the horses. I mean, cantering about all day with a plastic (well, more like intensely strong canvas – I don’t think a flimsy supermarket jobby would do a very swell job of adequately capturing the monsters) bag attached to your arse wouldn’t be the most comfortable – nor becoming – of conditions.
- Home bound from the Rome Around
- Once it hit about 5pm and my phone was well and truly dead, I reluctantly called time and consulted my map to see where I was. (A long, long way away from where my staying place). So I plotted out a route home using the big bustling termini train station as my aim (round the corner from the hostel; unfortunately, exactly where it was on the map was covered by an ad for a cocktail bar so on asking a few Italians which way to the street, I kept getting sent to the bar instead which added on a bit of time to the trot). I arrived back sweaty and smelly and in need of a serious shower – but oh so so so so happy.
So Rome. An absolute treasure trove. I’m truly in ruins with my Rome-mance. It’s ruined me!
But forth bound we go to Florence, with a stop off in Pisa on the way. Time to be reacquainted with PMS and go with the Flo(rence).