Thus far our Roman adventures had included the obligatory pilgrimage to Rome's more touristy destinations (the Pantheon and Colosseum to name a few) and having eaten our body weight in gelato, pasta, and pizza (even venturing to the backwoods of suburban Rome for dinner), to say nothing of meeting Pope Francis (in a way) and being dazzled by the opulence of the Vatican City. The blisters on my feet remain, even now, two weeks after returning from the Eternal City, testament to our intrepidness. But the true test of stamina was saved for our last day in Rome which also ironically was to be the most idyllic.
Verily, the view of Rome and the Vatican City from the top of St Peter's Basilica dome is unparalleled in terms of sheer elevation. But the problem with being on top of the world isn't loneliness, it's that the one view you can't enjoy is your grandeur overlording the domain at your feet.
So we scaled the Spanish Steps up to the Villa Borghese gardens where we could appreciate the imperial stature of St Peter's, this time from across the city.
July 14, 2014
Thus far our Roman adventures had included the obligatory pilgrimage to Rome's more touristy destinations (the Pantheon and Colosseu...
Release the cats!
At the birthplace of fight night and Russell Crowe (long may he live).
I smugly waved two tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill in Henry's face. As I flapped them about they gave off a faint heat, they were still warm from being freshly printed.
"You know how they say 'A Roman queue wasn't finished in a day'? You'll see it for yourself when you get to the Colosseum and see the queues to buy tickets. You'd think they'd figure out that you can buy them online."*
*What my smug self was not prepared for was the torrential thunderstorm that rained all over my historical parade.
Henry's face lit up. "How ever so lovely! I have not been here since I was a lad. I do hope the Colosseum has not been cancelled, I am so looking forward to watching thieves being eaten by lions. T'would be more fun than the World Cup."
Wednesday, 25th June 2014.
On the morning of our second day in Rome I woke up early to the sounds of the hustle and bustle of Rome drifting from Via Cavour up and trickling through the old-fashioned windows of our studio apartment. T'was most convenient as I am the sort of tourist* who endeavours to wake up early, see and do as many things as possible (God forbid if one item on the itinerary goes unchecked), and be in bed by the very respectable hour of midnight.
*A happy side effect of travelling is that it enforces a rigidity so often lacking in the schedule of a freelancer, even now, two weeks later I bolt out of bed at eight and review the day's tasks. This is hardly groundbreaking nor innovative for those who commute to 9 to 5 jobs working for other people. But I work for myself and this is revolutionary, dammit! I'm even contemplating buying a Nespresso machine for mornings!
The ceiling of Santa Maria della Vittoria church which I thought was grand enough until I visited St Peter's Basilica.
Rome wasn't visited in one day. Henry and I valiantly attempted four. They say the test of a relationship is to travel together with your significant other and if by the end of it neither have tried to rip out the other's throats then maybe, just maybe, the relationship will work. (The true test however is whether a couple can survive a trip to IKEA together) Anyway, true to form I planned this short trip down to every last detail, itinerary and all (the only exception was Cuba, that was Luxy's pièce de résistance). All Henry had to do to was to say 'yes dear' which as every smart man knows is the key to a happy union. Boyfriends and husbands take note!
Last week Henry and I Pope-d over (hee) to Italy and Rome-d around (heehee) the Eternal City and Vatican City.
Now, I'm not especially religious. I'm not an atheist either. I'd say I'm agnostic. I am spiritual, very superstitious, I believe in the supernatural, the world of spirits etc. and I do believe in a higher power. I don't believe that this higher power necessarily takes on the form of a anthropomorphic, fatherly figure nor that this higher power must be called by a name and have a face. The way I see it is that the crux of all religions are the same: be a good person, help those in need, chew with your mouth closed. Whether you pray to Jehovah, a nameless faceless presence, or nobody at all, the enduring message that religion wants you to keep close to your chest is to have faith, love, help, and protect your fellow (wo)man, and just don't be a d-bag.
The thing is, for a few years I had a great disdain for religion, more specifically the religious (This was during the inevitable socialist-communist-atheist phase I went through during university. I also wore Doc Martens and shaved a side of my hair just because). I thought of the devout as sheep. I thought of religion as the cause of most of the bloodshed recorded throughout the annals of history to present day. I sneered as religion as a tool of oppression. An atheist (and in hindsight a savant snob) I was dating at the time said, with curled upper lip, that 'Religion has one purpose and that is to keep the wretched in check. Without the promise of being rewarded with a better life after death in exchange for good behaviour they would have nothing to lose and therefore threaten polite society. Only the desperate and the stupid would believe such dogma.' My personal view on the religious while not that extreme was incredulous. How could anyone unquestionably agree with everything they were told was gospel truth? How could anyone dismiss evolution and say that science should not be taught at school? How could anyone in their right mind agree with a twisted preacher who insists that his interpretation of the Holy Book dictates that we should hide and oppress women? Add to that the corruption in the Catholic church, people telling me that I'm going to hell for not picking a side (or rather their side), and people trying to convert me against my will. Is there any doubt why my view on religion is so tainted?
So for a long time I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I chose to focus on the details I disliked about religion, specifically the Catholic church. That it was outdated with its dismissal of contraception and the persecution of those they deem 'heretics', the hypocrisy of denouncing gays when there existed a subculture of male priests sexually abusing male adolescents...need I go on? In short my view of Catholicism was a bunch of out-of-touch old dudes telling everyone they were going to go to hell which was ironic given that they were covering up atrocities within their walls.
Then along came Pope Francis. Need I say more?
I wanted to see for myself the Pope who embodies what I believe a religious leader should be: a humble man who serves the people, eschews grandeur and opulence (he said no to official papal apartments, opting to live in a more modest 'Vatican hotel' and wants to take the bus to work), has the common touch and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, gets with the times. And who can forget