I’ve found it hard to start each post in this series about our trip to Italy a fortnight ago. I mean, it’s Italy. Where do you start?
My girlfriend and I began our Italian adventure in Follonica, spending two nights with some family of mine that I met for the first time. Then we headed south, spending four nights in Positano on the magical Amalfi coast.
Well, what do you know? I started.
Our last night in Italy was spent in Rome. I wish we had more time to spend there, even just to walk the streets.
Australia has only been settled for a little over two hundred years so the oldest thing of interest that you’re likely to see there is our ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke, now in his eighties, sculling a schooner of beer in under three seconds. Understandably, I was frothing at the prospect of seeing ancient Roman ruins so first stop: the Colosseum.
That such a thing was built two thousand years ago and that it is still standing today is astonishing. I hope they didn’t waste any money on an extended warranty. This thing was built to last.
The arena floor is gone, revealing a network of chambers below. They were used in much the same way that people use basements nowadays: they held boxes of crap that they didn’t want to keep but couldn’t be bothered throwing out and guys pashed girls down there after school.
The Colosseum reminded me that technology doesn’t say as much about a society as the imagination with which they harness it. Stonemasonry and brick making might not sound like technology to kids raised with tablets and touch phones but stonemasons were the Silicon Valley geeks of bygone eras, masters of a technology crucial to building castles, fortresses and places of worship. What they accomplished using the technology available to them is astounding.
Right next door is the Forum. We didn’t get many good pictures of it but in its time it was an impressive space. Also next door is the Arch of Constantine (what a neighbourhood). It was built to commemorate Constantine’s victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
The letters in the inscription above were originally in bronze. When new, this arch would’ve been a phenomenal sight. It still is.
From here, we walked across town to get to the Trevi Fountain. A tip: forget taxis. There’s so much worth seeing and the atmosphere is the best thing about Rome. Soak it up as you walk. Stop and have a coffee and a cannoli. Take the chance to sit amongst the hustle and bustle.
En route to the fountain, we crossed the Altare della Patria, a monument built to honour Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. Its erection stirred up some controversy as it destroyed much of Capitoline Hill. Its gaudiness hasn’t won everyone over, either. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive structure with sculptures all over it.
After winding our way through some cool little cobblestone lanes, we reached the Trevi Fountain. The crowd surrounding it was thick. I was instantly bothered by it but after working our way to the water’s edge, I was gob-smacked by this work of crazy frickin’ art (sorry, I’m writing about Italy and running out of decent adjectives).
The Fontana di Trevi is a sprawling work of art. It’s hard to gauge its scale in the photo above but to me, the main figure of Oceanus in the centre looked to be nearly three metres tall.
The fountain is said to depict a virgin shepherdess who showed a spring to soldiers seeking water, according to a 16th century writer.
In the centre is Oceanus, the divine personification of the World Ocean which was said to encircle the world.
There’s a legend that says that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure that you return to Rome one day. Around three thousand euros are thrown into the fountain every single day. Talk about a money spinner. Clement XII: my hat goes off to you and your remunerative vision. Well played, sir. Well played.
All jokes aside, the money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy. Well played, Rome. Well played.
Call me cheesy but one thing that I really wanted to do in Italy was to sit at a cozy cafe or restaurant table in a cobblestone lane while sipping on an espresso (loafers optional). We visited a few in our short time there. Every one we entered had great coffee and cakes, fresh pasta, very affordable house wine good enough to make it onto any wine list in Australia and an atmosphere worth traveling to the other side of the globe for.
Back alleys and lane ways in Sydney should be avoided. In Rome, they should be sought out. Cafes, restaurants and stores line these romantic little thoroughfares.
Something I haven’t mentioned but that deserves to be said is that Italians are cool people. My grandfather is Italian and I can pass for an Italian, so a quick “Scuzzi…” from me has most locals firing off a barrage of rapid-fire Italian at me but my girlfriend is an Australian of Indonesian descent so she looks like nasi goreng but sounds like a meat pie and she was treated well wherever we went, too. Italians are laid back with what Australians would call a “she’ll be right” attitude. Feel like chilling out? Too easy. Late bus? No problem. Worried about something? No worries, she’ll be right.
Even after only one night there, I could go on and on about Rome but, frankly, I’m running out of adjectives. Besides, I’m no travel writer. What I am is a lucky man who gets to travel and explore with his awesome woman, a guy who has been fortunate enough to visit Italy in his lifetime.
Italy. There’s no place like it. It’s romantic and full of style, it boasts amazing food, scenery and architecture, the people are warm and the place is drenched in history with modern buildings swarming around historical artifacts of immense significance, like a living city-museum. And the fact that I have roots and people that I can call family there makes the place beautiful in a way that I just can’t articulate.
L’Italia è un posto meraviglioso. Ti amo, Italia.
Well, what do you know? I articulated it.