Monday, June 05, 2006

Balitang Roma (March 2006)

Il Coloseo
I wanted to spend the entire trip solely in Paris. J was itching to go to Rome since neither one of us has been there. He argued we didn't even need to add a single cent if we include Rome to the itinerary, the hotel and flights to-from Paris. It is just I hate the packing-traveling-unpacking that is involved in a hectic travel schedule.

Not to mention the wasted time getting to-from the airports and lots of waiting in line. I am also well aware that European airports are not like here in the States in terms of efficiency. Case in point, we almost did not make our flight back to San Francisco via Paris from Rome. Nevertheless, I am glad Mijo convinced me to go to Rome and spent my birthday there instead. Now I couldn't decide whether to take Italian or French when my Spanish course ends at the city college.

It was cold in Rome but not arctic weather like Paris. It rained for one full day but the rain was hardly a downpour and it was blue skies again the next day. I heard the rain almost doesn't exist during the summer which is very much like in the Bay Area. No wonder grapes, olives, figs and artichokes thrive here just like in Italy. The Romans look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine wearing the latest Armani collection. If you don't speak Italian, Spanish will do just fine.

Rome is like an open air museum. There is history and antiquity everywhere you turn. I am impressed with the size of cathedrals, buildings and monuments I can't imagine how they were put together by human hands. The ancient Romans were truly the greatest engineers, architects and artists of their time. Seeing the Colosseum in person is like meeting a very famous person up-close. I've only seen this symbol of the Eternal City in movies and history books. Unfortunately, neither moving nor still pictures can capture its true essence. Just like in any Roman attractions, the line going inside the Colosseum was very long. Thanks to Mijo's Salvadoran ways and the Italians' laid back attitude, we were able to cut lines and got in quicker than the rest. Once again, I was in awe admiring what remains of the two thousand year old structure.

It was raining when we went to the Piazza de San Piettro (St. Peter's). The line here beats the one at the Louvre. If you are a Catholic, this is a great destination or more like a pilgrimage. As soon as you step into the plaza, you'll realize this is where a part of your offering money goes into. The good thing about it is that the entrance is free no matter what your religious affliation may be. I only have one word for the Basilica -majestic!

The majority of 'via' or streets are cobble stones. This adds more "old world" charm to the city. Apparently, it is a lot more durable than cement and asphalt on top the aesthetic appeal. While it is nice to look at, it may not be good for the feet. At the end of the day, our toes and heels would ache like crazy. According to our hotel concierge, it is also bad on the cars and mopeds that's why not a lot of Romans drive in the city.

We had a better dining experience in Rome because the ingredients are something we are used to eating in SF. Italian food is what I call รข€˜carb galore' so Atkins people beware! ha! Aside from pasta, fresh herbs and garlic, they use a lot of olive oil, seafood and vegetable in their dishes. The red sauce is heavenly and so fresh you can taste the tomatoes drenched in white wine. Eating in Rome is also more affordable compared to Paris that's why we were more adventurous in our search for the next Roman meal. I did not see my favorite 'affogato' in any dessert menus. Affogato is vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. Maybe it is a San Francisco thing? Maybe it is only served during warm months? Maybe we went to the wrong places? I noticed most locals almost only drink espresso. If Romans do drink cappuccino, they only drink it in the morning. We had the best panini sandwiches at a cafe close to the Trevi fountain.

One piece of advice if you don't want to end up with a stiff neck - do a neck stretching routine before going into the Sistine Chapel because most of the known paintings are on the ceilings you'll spend the entire time looking up. The Music Director of the bi-weekly Opera held in a local church on Via Nazionale is a Luistro. I used to think that my last name is a made up one because it is so uncommon until Mijo and I went to see the Opera. So does this make me Italian? I certainly doubt it! :)

My Top 3 Rome in no particular order are - the Sistine Chapel, Italian food, and of course, Italian leather jackets.

Arrivederci Roma!

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