Thursday, July 15, 2004

What a week!

To start, I apologize for not keeping up. The week has been pretty 'pazza' - that's 'crazy.' But it started off quite well, as I went to Assisi on Sunday and returned Monday. I managed to 1. take the right bus to the train station, 2. buy the correct tickets back and forth to Assisi, 3. find the right track, thus getting on the right train, and 4. get off the right stop and switch to the correct train to Assisi. All by myself. I know this sounds silly, but I was quite proud of myself, and felt like an accomplished and wordly traveller! Sr. Carol (a Franciscan sister who worked at my elementary/junior high school and who I had for Confirmation classes) met me at the train station in Assisi and brought me UP hill (as if you had any doubts...) to the town. Their guest house is attached to the convent, and is on one of the major streets that lead UP hill from the Basilica of St. Francis. When I arrived, I was brought into the dining room and Sr. Carol and I were served a delicious lunch by another sister. It was just the two of us, and I wasn't expecting lunch, so it was a nice surprise. They took me to my room which was MUCH nicer than the Centro, because it was only 24 euro (like 30 bucks) first of all, and I had two beds but no roommate, a wardrobe, a desk, a nightstand, a remote-control ceiling fan that was almost as good as air conditioning, AND...MY VERY OWN BATHROOM WITH SHOWER AND HOT WATER. FABULOUS!!! Then Sr. Carol brought me on a tour of the town, starting with the Roman sites (which included a very cool little forum with museum attached that I went into later that night) and then with several of the churches. The churches are amazing, especially St. Claire's where the crucifix that 'talked' to St. Francis is, and the
which houses his tomb as well as lots and lots of frescoes by Giotto (famous artist...), Cimabue (another one...) and others. Simply gorgeous. Sister was a great tour guide, and I thought she should do that on the side, but she assures me she is very busy with her work! We also met another American girl who was travelling alone and she joined us on our tour of the Basilica, plus I took her with me into the Roman Forum and the two of us met up for dinner later that night. On Sunday, after 7:15 (!) Mass and breakfast with Sr. Carol, I walked around town. I started at 8:15 and the city was was quiet, there was no one on the streets, no tours, no open shops, and there was that dewy haze that mountains get. It was soooo nice. By 9:45, when I finished my walk, it was an entirely different place, but it was great to see the town come to life with the shopkeepers sweeping and setting up, the buses coming up the hill, the tourists in their groups, etc. Sr. Carol brought me and Jennifer (the other American girl) to the bus stop that goes to the train station. Our trains were leaving around the same time, so that was nice. We said our good-byes and thank you's, and by 3, I was back at the Centro. The rest of the week was much less pleasant, however. Tuesday we had the obligatory visit to the Colosseum, but it included a great lecture by Kathryn Welch who just finished a book on the building AND knows how to give a good lecture. Then we got special permission to go inside a building owned by the Knights of Rhodes which used to be the Knights of Malta, or perhaps it's the other way around...either way, we got some great views of the Imperial Fora from up there. I think we did something else then, but I can't remember nor can anyone else in the computer room. But I DO know that we only had a half-day schedule, so four of us went to a nice leisurely lunch and Charlotte who is so very sweet, treated us girls! That was very nice of her and we had a great time. She decided to go home after, but Katy, Carrie and I then went shopping because the sales are on. It was a long but fun day. We had a lecture at 6:30, and the three of us arrived at the Academy at like 6:29. Dinner at the Academy because it was Tuesday, but no celebrity sightings this week. Wednesday was hell day. It was slated as a half day, and just to give you an idea, we left at 8:15 and didn't return until 6 p.m. I'm no Nobel Prize Winner, but that's not a half day.... First stop was the Domus Aurea (2), or Nero's Golden House which is AMAZING and only newly opened (I think '99 or 2000). We FLEW through that in about 40 minutes and then we were an hour ahead of schedule. So rather than go back in and explore, or perhaps go to the bathroom, or have a coffee break, or relax in any way, shape, or form, we are led through a pointless 45-minute walk through the Subura, which in ancient times was the 'red-light district' (any students reading's the neighborhood where Eucleides gets mugged...). But now it's just a neighborhood, with souvenir shops and bars and whatever. It was like some sort of 'filler!' But our leader finally stops, at 10:45 and says, 'Okay, now you can have a break but you need to be at the Palatine Museum for our appointment at 11.' But it takes about 20 minutes to get from where he stopped the walk to the museum, and of course, it's on the Palatine HILL. So much for the break. Up we go and we have a tour of the Imperial Palaces there (dating to the Flavians) which were HUGE and amazing...we get the word 'palace' from 'Palatine.' Finally, a lunch break (I had pizza) then back to the Imperial Fora. We meet at Trajan's column which is truly a fascinating monument, a huge sculpted column that tells the story of Trajan's military conquests. But out escort never showed to let us into Trajan's forum, but we waited...for an hour. Then we gave up and went into Trajan's Markets which was like the first mall, cool, but only for a short time. Meanwhile, I had collected money from everyone so I could go pick up tickets to the opera at the Baths of Caracalla (2), and the ticket office closed at 5 and it was right near all of this stuff so it was the perfect day to go, but we didn't get out of the markets until 5:30. Half day, right. We were a disgruntled group, but we had a birthday in the house so we got a bit rowdy at dinner, and rowdier when we went out after dinner, to a wine bar in the Campo di Fiori where glasses of wine start at 1.30 euro. It was fun. This morning was not necessarily so fun, but we survived our trip to Tivoli where we visited Hadrian's Villa and the Villa D'Este. I believe I have links to both of those on my webpage, so if you're interested, you can find out more. I will say that the Villa D'Este is simply's known for its gardens, but more so, for its fountains. Incredible. So now we're up to date. We go on another all-day trip tomorrow, to Ostia Antica, which is Ancient Ostia, the sea port of Rome which sits at the mouth of the Tiber. Thanks for all the comments and emails - I am starting to be a bit homesick and it's nice to get word from home.

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