Why do we say Rome instead of Roma? …and Castel Gandolfo

We left Pompeii unceremoniously after the hassle from police for being in our van. We had planned to spend more time there, however this just put us off and we hotfooted it to Rome, where we found a couple of dedicated motorhome parking and service spots in Castel Gandolfo which were free! Oh why does every town not have these I do not understand? We parked up next to a few other vans, and got ready for a run, after spending so long sat in the van we needed to be active and keep our fitness up for our return to climbing.

Castel Gandolfo is the Popes other gaff, I mean I’m sure he has tons of others, however this is one of his palaces and it is in a picturesque location. It has a very traditional town square with the palace, fountains and a church, with cafes lining the outskirts. The main strip is also filled with restaurants and cafes that spill over onto the street. The town overlooks a huge lake, which in itself is surrounded on all sides by greenery broken with buildings here and there. If you follow a winding path below this view point you come to the train station. This was pretty much our running route so we were able to take in many of the sights in on one run!
The next morning we took the train into Rome, at two euro each way for for a forty minute train, it was pretty good value for money! As soon as we arrived we were approached by touts offering tours and guess what? Selfie sticks, who would have thought it? I don’t mind the occasional selfie, nearly everyone on the planet is guilty of at least one or two, however on this part of the trip it’s nearly all I’ve seen. I watched one guy walking through the Vatican museum recording himself walking through the exhibitions, the time was at 5.16, he’d been recording his face looking at things and the camera for five minutes? What the fuck is he going to do with that footage? Add to this the masses of people who walk up to an attraction, turn their backs to it, take a selfie or ten, and then walk off, without even looking or admiring it for more than a fleeting second?? I won’t even rant about the soon to be supermodels who take millions of photos of themselves, but never getting the right one, never the right look, never realising that each one is an actual true representation of their own face, if you don’t like it now, another million selfies won’t change it! Well, maybe I did rant a little…
Back to Rome, we first approached the ruins of the forum, that can partially be viewed from the road side, unlike other locations in Italy, there seemed to be numerous information boards about many of the locations that you were looking at, helping to cement some idea of how these places would have looked and their function in Roman society. The large white museum at the edge of these ruins was a magnificent building surrounded by statues and fountains, it was a truly grand building. We moved on from these trying to weave our way through sights whilst making our way to the Vatican.

The next ruins we found were the Largo di Torre Argentina, we had our lunch here and then we popped into a couple of shops to try and find a clock, that we have been looking for since the start of the trip, four months and we have still not found one! From here we did a map check and headed for the Pantheon, one of the oldest, still standing Roman structures. Seeing buildings like this one make you wish that everything was still standing, it would have been monumental to see all these structures in their prime! The great columns at the front were huge and although we wanted to go in, the queue was just as huge, winding its way down the street, so we decided to move on, with a little regret of not seeing inside, although this does leave stuff to come back and do one day.
Of all the places we have visited on our tourist trip of Italy, I was enjoying Rome the most. Every road you walked down there were buildings or statues to admire. The next was the fountain of four rivers in the Navona square, which would have been nicer had it not been surrounded by barriers. The square was full of people selling tourist tat and street artists, and a mass of pigeons that seem to always gather in town squares?

Following this we walked across an amazing bridge that crossed the Tiber river, heading directly towards the Castel Sant’Angelo. All the way across there were statues lining the sides, all amazing to look at in their own right, but together just looked amazing! We walked down the street admiring the castle as we passed, and soon we arrived at the Vatican and St Peters Square, which was more round than square, but who am I to argue? Surrounded by two semi circular columns that led towards St Peters Basilica, it was massive and quite awe inspiring. It reminded Jess of the Disney film Hercules.

Jess wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and the classic Michelangelo painting, so we joined the massive queue to the museum. This moved slower than slow, all the time being entertained by a loud American who was intent on sharing with everyone his travel experiences in the Slovak regions. By the end of the line I knew more about his trip than I did my own!
The museum was interesting and full of the usual things found in grand museums, statues, grand works of art, tapestries, Egyptian, worldwide, Roman finds and so on. The stand out rooms for me was a chamber just before the Sistine chapel entrance that had a fantastic painting on the dome that I preferred to the Michelangelo’s in the Sistine. The corridor of maps was impressive as was the Egyptian part. Although as with lots of museums it all become a bit too much to take in!

Part way through the visit I had a revelation of sorts, where I felt a little sickened by the grotesque wealth being shown off, also the knowledge that this is only part of a collection and the grandeur of the Vatican in general, it seemed that if this was the palace of a dictator or the selfish wealth of the rich, then the wealth on display would be just, however this is the peak of a religion, that I’m sure preaches equality and helping of the poor and needy? I’m not religious, but I’m sure these are some of the morals they they abide by, and if not, they should be. Surely they should be ashamed of such wealth when so many have so little? Maybe they use profits from entry fee’s to help those in need? Either way, I have not quite expressed in words how I felt, as well as I would have hoped, although I’m sure you get the gist. It just felt wrong and hypocritical.

Following this visit we made our way through Rome as fast as we could to try and gain a last entrance into the colosseum, however we were too late, and had to settle for a walk around the outside and a walk in the park to get a nicer perspective of what is a great monument. All in all we fitted a lot into a day in Rome, and I’m glad I have been and seen these sights. I’m looking forward to returning one day, with more time to try and see as much as possible and everything that we missed today, as it’s such a grand city that has so much more to offer. Before then though we have one more place to tick off, Florence, before we return to the mountains and start climbing again!?


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