Ok expect some disjointed blogs. Internet access us to be grabbed when I can get it, at the moment in a Pescia street corner! No photos- will do that in an album soon.
I had no expectations about Rome: no long-harboured desire to visit; only the lectures and readings from Medieval and Renaissance history as background; scenes from 1950s movies as visual cues. This has turned out to be a distinct advantage, resulting in a series of wonderful discoveries of a magical city, and few disappointments. The position of our apartment in the Campo Di Fiore district has allowed us to walk to every one of the major historical monuments, but also given us the opportunity to wander the myriad tiny back alleys paved in a mosaic of black cobblestones and discover a Rome fewer tourists probably see.
As I have said in other blogs about other cities I have visited, for me these are the best parts of a city. I have stood in the Sistine Chapel with the loud buzz of hundreds of tourists and been unmoved, but was brought to tears by the jewel-like interior of the tiny Santa Barbara de Libraire church discovered by chance up a side alley in the Campo de Fiori. It is flanked by a gelati shop and a restaurant and is barely 15 metres by 10 metres. It has a broken window pane in the front door and no acres of marble, but every surface is covered in beautiful murals and it offers a quiet place of contemplation, even for the non-religious like me.
Our three days in Rome have seen a series of similar discoveries-it is amazing to stand in the Coliseum and think about those who walked here 2000 years ago, but it is hard to get a sense of it if you are surrounded by 20000 tourists, including groups of chattering teenagers in their orange caps, or jammed up against in long queues (the queue to enter the Sistine Chapel was 500 metres). However walking back from a roam around the Trastevere district we happened upon a Roman theatre almost as ancient as the Coliseum, but with only a handful of visitors (unfortunately including a couple of 'ugly Americans' one of whom was overheard to say that she was taking photos of the interpretive signs to read later because she couldn't be bothered reading them now). The dig site was clothed in bright red poppies, with several resident cats, and invited you to take your time exploring.
Of course there are ways to beat the crowds: on our very first morning we rose very early and struck out for the Pantheon. Only locals were about, and by the time it officially opened at 8.30 there was a grand total of 5 people in the queue.
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