It’s my second trip to Rome and I am eager to share the experience with my friend, William (aka “Sweet Willy” because he’s just so darn cute). We arrive at the Roma Termini station and walk about 15 minutes to our hotel. As we are walking: Cease ready, sign up for the overall game now with lightning link constant success many victories wait a person!
William: Did you just see that car?
William: The General Lee Smart Car…did you just see that?
Me: I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m looking at hotel signs.
William: We have to go back so I can take a picture because nobody will believe this.
*we walk back to take the picture*
William: That’s nice. An eco-friendly racist.
Me: Really Rome? That’s what’s hot in the streets? Did we just time travel to the mid-80s? Bo & Luke can’t jump into a little ass Smart Car. Cooter doesn’t know how to fix this! He’s got 3 wrenches and an oil can. Did Daisy give up the Jeep and start taking public transportation? Uncle Jesse and I can’t take all this. It’s too much.
We finally leave the Italian General Lee and find our hotel. Upon check-in, I ask if we can store our bags the next day while we are sightseeing.
Me: Can we store our bags after we check-out in the morning?
Buddy: For how long?
Me: Just a few hours.
Desk Clerk: How many bags do you have?
Me: [thinking *Man, what is the problem? You can either store the bags or not. Isn’t that standard service at a hotel?* but New Nikki responded] 4
Desk Clerk: *long sigh & acting put upon* I guess
Me & William: *side-eye*
After we get settled in the room, we decide not to go out since we needed to be up early to do a lot of sightseeing. So, William does some work and I turn on the tv and see this program called “Il Canto”. Y’all ain’t ready for Il Canto. It’s like American Idol + America’s Got Talent + So You Think You Can Dance + Top Chef + Project Runway + The Bachelor. The program is like 6 hours long with people of all ages, group sings, dancing, judging, and guest appearances. I still don’t know what it was. There was this kid who looked to be maybe 12 and I think he won his part of the singing competition (but who knows because it was like he was there in concert or something). You could not tell him that he wasn’t a star. He had hand gestures, facial expressions and teeth spaced about an inch apart.
Me: Wow, I can’t take it. He is doing runs like he’s Mariah.
William: You know he just got beat up backstage.
William: Too nerdy. He can sing…but once he leaves the stage, Giuseppe is waiting there with the beat down to take his lunch money. If he was in NY, they would just roll up on you like, “yo son, that’s a nice coat. What size is that? A small? Really? That’s just my size. You can give it to me or I’ma take it. It’s on you, B.”
A little later:
Me: Did that little girl just sing an R. Kelly song?
William: You can’t keep Kells down. I wonder what the legal age of consent is here?
Then, we decided to make-up translations to the interviews since we couldn’t understand what they were saying. When the host was interviewing a sound guy after some little kid did a horrible rendition of Aretha’s “RESPECT”, we translated it as follows:
Me (as the host, Bruno): Silvio, what did you think of little Pashmina singing “RESPECT”. Did you find out what it meant to her? And, did she take out the ECT?
William (as the sound guy, Silvio): Bruno, she sucked. And, this show has run into my overtime so you know you are paying me time and a half, right? This ain’t a telethon.
Me: Silv, don’t worry about the OT. Clearly you need the money because those skinny pink jeans ain’t doing you no favors. Now get back on the soundboard and make sure my mic sounds nice.
After two hours of Il Canto, the Sleep Monster got us and it was a wrap.
We get up, have breakfast and check-out to start our self-guided “Rome in a Day” power sightseeing tour. We start off by going to The Forum and see a guy dressed up as a Trojan.
William: Where are Trojans from?
The Trojan asks if we want to take a picture so we oblige…
…then, as William is pulling out some coins to tip, Mr. Trojan was like, “That’s gonna be €10.” After looking startled, we realized we just got hustled. By a man in a costume. Chuck E Cheese doesn’t charge you for pictures! Of course, Chuck just walks around leering at you so I guess you have to pick your poison. Yes, I have issues with Chuck. Don’t judge me
It’s the start of the day and we are trying to be positive. We pay for the Roma Pass (which is a smart buy for sightseeing in Rome) then pick up an audio guide and a map. The Roman Forum really is spectacular with all the ancient remnants. However, it only has fragments of buildings & statues so it’s hard to know what is what. The map was even more confusing. The numbers didn’t correspond to the information boards outside some of the sites. Then, we attempted to use the audio guide.
William: I think we are at site 7.
Me: Okay, push play and let’s see.
[The audio guide has a British man giving a 20 minute soliloquy about columns and statues and if you look into the sun you can see Caesar or something we cannot find for the life of us. It almost felt like we had a learning disability because the sites are numbered so any 2-year-old should be able to do this.]
William: What is he talking about?
Me: I don’t know. I thought you knew.
William: No! And, he is still talking. It’s been what? 45 minutes? Why can’t he just give an executive summary and say, “to your left is an arch, now turn your ass around and walk?”
Me: Really? That’s how they do in New York? You have ADD.
In the end, we used Rick Steve’s Italy guidebook and just took pictures. The Roman Forum was ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center. This was the place where anything important happened in ancient Rome.
After walking thru The Forum, we head over to Palantine Hill. This is where the emperors chose to live and it was once filled with palaces. It includes the “huts of Romulus and Remus”, the Imperial Palace, the House of Livia and Augustus and a view of Circus Maximus.
William: Are those olive trees?
Me: Looks like it but I don’t know.
William goes to pull an “olive” off the tree. Meanwhile, I see Woodrow (Petey the Pigeon’s cousin) picking at food on the ground and he passes right over the “olive”. Of course, he is getting the side-eye because I haven’t forgotten what Petey did yesterday in Florence.
Me: Uh, did you just see that pigeon take a bite of one of those “olives” and leave it right there on the ground? Don’t eat that.
William: Why not? I’ll wash it off. You gotta build up your immune system.
Me: Really? You need to follow Woodrow’s lead and keep it moving.
Then, he notices citrus trees that seem to have some sort of fruit like oranges hanging from it. But, as none of it is hanging low enough for him to get, William has to content himself with the “olive”.
William: This could keep me from getting scavies.
Me: What the hell is scavies? A new hybrid flu of rabies and scurvy?
William takes a bite of the “olive” and discovers that it may not actually be an olive but it’s too nasty to figure out.
Me: See? Did I not just tell you that Woodrow was even like, “I’ll pass”.
We leave Palantine Hill and make our way to the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is a 2,000 year old building where ancient Romans used to watch gladiators, criminals and wild animals fight to the death. And, it is one of the most beautiful structures in the world. I could just sit and stare at it all day. The first time I saw it, I was overwhelmed…imagine being in a place where people walked thousands of years ago!
Outside the Colosseum, there are “tour guides” prowling around trying to sell you on purchasing some of their time to walk you around and tell you the true little known “facts” about the site. Since we had already been hustled once that day, we decided to pass and read what Rick had to say.
As we are walking around, we can overhear other tour guides and it occurs to us that we could do this as a side business too.
William: You know, we could set up our own tour company and give them the “real” experience.
Me: Yeah, we just need to market it right.
William: We’ll just be like, “yo son…you wanna know the real deal of why Caesar got shanked?” And, “This right here is where Jesus told everybody to get their souls right.”
Me: Really? We still doing the NY state of mind right now? And, what are you going to do when you get Mr. I Know My History fact checking you?
William: Throw him off the tour. I’ll just say “Were you there? You don’t know me. I’m a descendant of Caesar. He was my great, great, great to the 20th power granddaddy so shut up.”
William: *ignoring the crickets* We can get on the computer and create some tour guide certifications. Tell them that we majored in “tourification” and we aren’t just some random tour guides off the streets.
Me: So now we are “tourologists”? How many of those olives did you eat? Is this the scavies talking? Does it cause dementia?
William: We could even take them into the basement of the Colosseum.
Me: The basement? You mean the ground floor where they kept the folks that were about to killed by animals? That’s closed off.
William: Exactly. That’s gonna make our tour hot. It’s rogue…going where nobody can go.
Me: Uh huh. That tour will last 30 seconds.
As we are walking around, we come up with a scheme to offer to take people’s pictures for them so they will take pictures of us.
Me: Maybe after we take their picture, we tell them it’s €10. Get our hustle on like the Trojan guy.
William: I wonder what he does for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”.
Me: Probably has her out there hustling too.
As we leave the Colosseum, I am focused on getting back to the entrance to The Forum so I can get my passport back since I left it to secure the audio guide device. Now, William is all laissez-faire about this as it wasn’t his passport. He offered up job ideas should I not be able to get back to the U.S. (William: That tour guide idea is hot.). We get turned around and I’m looking at the map trying to find the entrance. As we start walking to the entrance, we come across these “mimes” that paint themselves up and stay as still as a statue. Some are better than others. This guy was great!
A couple of meters away from him, we see a duo performing.
William: Are those Native Americans?
Me: Uh, I see the feathers on the headdress and I hear the music but I don’t think the Romans stole this from them too.
William: I’m confused. Why are they here?
William: Are they selling cds?
Me: Everybody got a hustle. Maybe they are signed to Black Widow Records in Genoa???
We finally get to the entrance of The Forum and as they give me back the passport, I realize that it wasn’t even mine. It was William’s. HAHAHAHAHA. Apparently, we inadvertently switched passports when they were returned to us at the hotel.
Me: So who is being a mime on the street when they can’t get back to the states now?
William: You could’ve done tours.
Me: Well, you know Atlanta is the #1 tourist city in the U.S.
William: Get out. Where did you get that statistic from?
Me: GET OFF MY TOUR! YOU DON’T KNOW ME! YOU AIN’T A TOUROLOGIST! WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS? YOU GOT THAT TOURIFICATION CERTIFICATE? NO? THEN YOU LEAVE THE STATS TO THE PROFESSIONALS.
William: You need serious help.
By this time, we are headed towards the Pantheon.
Once we arrive, we see non-Italian ethnic groups selling purses and scarves.
William: You think that is real Prada?
Me: Is the Prada on Canal Street real?
We go inside the Pantheon, look around and take pictures. Now it’s time for a gelato break. Which must occur every few hours or you can get low blood sugar After getting my gelato, we walk toward the Trevi Fountain. People throw coins into the fountain to guarantee a return visit. The coins are collected to feed Rome’s poor.
Then, it was on to the Spanish Steps.
After leaving the Spanish Steps, we walk around the posh shopping district and window shop. Then we come upon a guy selling nuts…13 for €5.
William: €5 for 13 nuts with some salt sprinkled on them? Are they serious? I can get that at home for $1.50.
Me: These are special Roman nuts. You don’t know ‘bout them, son. They may be like Red Bull and give you wings.
At this point, we are completely exhausted and have to climb 1400 steps to walk back to the hotel. We end up stopping by St. Peter in Chains Basilica since we didn’t make it to Vatican City. That was another 1000 steps to climb. St Peter’s in Chains is where they keep the chains that were used on Peter during his incarceration.
It also hosts Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.
On the way back, there was a guy playing typical Italian songs the accordion. William wanted to get a picture with him.
William: Uh, he smelled heavily of liquor.
Me: That’s how rock stars do. They have to get lit up to rock the stage…or in this instance, the steps.
Afterwards, we go to the hotel to get our bags…which were sitting in the hallway. What kind of security system is that? No id, just sitting out for anybody to take. We were lucky they were there. The desk clerk is still getting the side-eye as I type this.
Sweet Willy and I are so tired by this point, we suck it up and decide to pay for a taxi to the train station for our 4 hour ride back to Genoa.
Overall, it was a jam-packed weekend but we had a great time and got to see a lot. Special thanks to Sweet Willy for flying all the way out to Italy for the weekend to keep me company and hang out in the IT. I had a blast!
Okay, y’all ain’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready. As you know, I like to give you a little flavor along with the history of the sites I visit. Well, when our tour guide gave us the background on what life was really like in Pompeii before it was destroyed, it was like I was listening to “E True Hollywood Story: Pompeii”. There is just so much.
First, the excavation site was visually more stunning than I expected. Second, I was amazed that so many ancient homes were still somewhat intact. I can’t even imagine my house being around thousands of years from now.
As we are walking, the guide tells us about the people of Pompeii. I’m listening kind of lazily while taking pictures. I mean, I’d just hiked up a volcano so my attention span was on a downward spiral. Anyway, the guide says a series of things that capture and hold my interest for the rest of the day.
1. Pompeii had an open sewer. That’s right; Pompeii’s theme song was “Funkytown”. I know…I couldn’t really believe it either. I had to ask for clarification because it just seemed too nasty to be real. Feces and urine would run down the streets and they would wait for the rain to wash it away. Sorry for you if it happened to be a dry month. You can see in this picture that there are huge stones that the people would use to cross the street (I like to call it “Doo Doo Crossing”) so they wouldn’t have to step in that crap (you know they only wore sandals which meant if they stepped in it, then they got the full effect). I am sure that folks inevitably fell off the stones. Maybe that is where the saying “Oh, sh*t!” came from?
2. The rich folks in Pompeii were pompous. Apparently, the good citizens of Funkytown liked to show off their wealth. When you went over to Titus’s house, he had his treasure chest open on the front table so you could see how rich he was. Also, they had a tiled mosaic of a big dog with “beware of dog” (in Latin) in the foyer. So, basically, they invited you over and said, “Hey, look at all my money…but don’t try to take it because Fido will kill you. More wine?” This was well before the time of Occupy Pompeii Street.
3. Pompeii was full of freaks. Apparently, Pompeii was where the party was at. They had 80 bars and 25 brothels. With the open sewer. I am not able to get past the open sewer so let’s just address that now. It’s gonna come up…often. Anyway, the freaks did come out at night and they were doing things that Rick James couldn’t even dream of. Modern Pompeii is full of people selling erotic calendars, statues, playing cards, etc (see below). Now, I originally thought these sexual position scenes may have been their version of “art” back then. But, the guide pointed out that they posted these scenes in the bedrooms of the whorehouses as a “menu of services” (just like McDonald’s). You know I was looking to see what the “goings on” were (purely for research purposes only). You ain’t ready for that. A menu of sexual services. Seriously. After getting your drank on at one of the 80 bars then crossing and falling into the open sewer, you go over to Octavia’s and ask for a #3. Love it.
4. Funk is a theme. Now, the good people of Pompeii didn’t have bath tissue back then so they had to make do. The lower caste folks would just wipe their booty with the left hand and eat with the right (they didn’t have forks or spoons back then which means they really needed both hands). The rich folks would use a communal sea sponge for the family. I’m gonna let that marinate for a minute. Imagine you and your family all using the same sponge to wipe after doing #2. I guess if they can deal with the open sewers, they can deal with a communal sponge. They also used urine to bleach their clothes. Really? My dog would love that.
5. They had cafes! We found these bars with counters. People would come in during the day and have bread and wine. They paid their money and would sit at tables to socialize. I never imagined an ancient civilization with marble counters!
It broke my heart to see the castes of the human & canine remains that were preserved from the lava and ash. You can see the remains below of a man, dog and slave.
Overall, Pompeii was fascinating! I highly recommend a visit if you ever plan to be in the Naples or Sorrento area.
[This is the post that started it all…my very first trip overseas! I sent this email to friends & family in June 2007. It still cracks me up.]
Hello, everybody! I have been in Rome less than 48 hours and so far, my trip has been like a Greek tragedy.
Act 1 “Getting to Rome”
I was booked on an US Air flight (from now on, I’ll be referring to them as Beelzebub Airlines, i.e. the Devil, or just B for short because it’s easier). Anyway, I had a B flight from Atlanta to Philly with just 1 hour for a layover before my connecting flight to Rome. Now, I knew it would be cutting it close should there be a delay but there wasn’t anything I could do. So, the flight from Atlanta gets delayed because there was too much “air traffic” in Philly. How long is the delay? One hour. Yes, I said 1 hour. The exact time I had between connections. So, the B pilot (I’m just gonna call him “Cooter”) tells us that B always pads the flight duration times so we will arrive at 5:15pm. I had a 6:05pm connecting flight. As Cooter is flying the plane he starts talking about altitude and the sunshine and other things I don’t really care about. I care about him increasing the speed on that jet so I could catch my flight. A 7-year-old girl looks at her watch (apparently the watch that Cooter doesn’t own) and announces that it is 5:25pm and we haven’t even begun to descend from the sky. I ask the flight attendant about options to hold my connecting flight by a few minutes. Of course, they can’t promise that but did say they would have an electric cart waiting to drive me over to the next concourse.
We finally land and I get off the plane around 5:45pm. Was there an electric cart waiting? I think you know the answer. My Mom calls to let me know that they’ve already boarded the flight and I need to get there now because they are about to close the door. So, I’m running like OJ thru the airport (without the knife or a Bronco) because there was no electric cart. I get to the gate and the less-than-friendly gate agent says, “We gave your seat away.” I responded with “Oh, so I’m flying first class now, right?” She said, “As of right now, you don’t even have a seat on the plane.” I just looked at her and thought to myself “Hmm, I’m gonna be on this flight if I have to sit with the pilot” and then wondered what kind of in-flight service he received because I’m sure he’s eating better than coach. She eventually finds a seat for me and I am able to board.
Act II “Arrival to Rome”
I arrive in Rome and guess who doesn’t have their bags? If you guessed me, then you are correct. I don’t have one article of clothing because I packed everything except for toiletries. I report my luggage as lost and started with my day. Rome is BEAUTIFUL. The experience of being here is hard to explain. However, I will share with you a few tidbits on the craziness that’s happened to me.
Since I don’t have any clothes, I had to go shopping. Now, something I didn’t know about Rome is that they apparently hate fat people. And, by fat people, that would be anybody that wears a U.S. size 6 and above. I go to a store and pull a couple of dresses off the rack to try on. I select a medium and a large (thinking that they might run a little small). A saleswoman (I’m calling her “Nunya” because she was all in my business without needing to be) walks up and looks over my shoulder at the sizes I picked up and says loudly (because apparently fat people are deaf too) “Jeeww need an EXTRA EXTRA LARGE”. I looked around thinking that maybe she was talking to someone else but she was all up in my face. So, I was like, “Um, I don’t wear that large of a size. This will be fine.” and go about my business of browsing the new “Crack/Smack” summer collection (because wasn’t nobody gonna fit them clothes unless they hit the pipe). So, Nunya disappears to what I thought was to mind her business. I was wrong. She comes out of the back room with an XXL size dress (I guess they leave the fat clothes in a special “Baby Got Back Room” or something) and then announces to the entire store “NOOO, JEEWWW NEED DIS EXTRA EXTRA LARGE. IT STRETCHES SO IT HELPS YO HIPS!” Um, what? My mind is screaming, “I know she ain’t talking to me.” I refuse to buy a size that I spent a year of hard dieting to leave behind. I wish I would by an XXL! I wear small and medium. I don’t care if America is lying to me about my size. Lie to me, America. I don’t want to know the truth. Clearly, I can’t handle the truth. So, I take the Jabba-the-Hut-sized dress and decided to try it on to prove to her that it was too big. Game on, sister! Well, to my surprise…that sucker barely fit. So, um…game off. My face was TIGHT! I was like, “oh hecks naw.” When did I become an XXL? Oh my God. I’m the light-skinned Precious! As I’m having my meltdown, Nunya says, “See, the fab-er-ic stret-chas fo jeww.” I just had to leave the store because my nerves were shot.
As I left the store and fumed all the way up the street, I started wishing I had some gelato to ease the pain of being called fat. Eventually, I find another store, and pick out a couple of outfits. But since the clothes are sized different, I wasn’t sure which size was appropriate. The sales guy (let’s call him “Antonio”) told me that I wear a 2. I was like “Is that a fat girl size? Because I ain’t buying a fat girl size.” At this point, my Mom is just looking away and laughing because other people in the store are looking at me like I’m crazy. Whatever. I was serious. NO FAT GIRL CLOTHES! My experience with Nunya had scarred me and I needed someone to talk me down and it was Antonio’s job to do it. He turned on the Italian charm and I finally found an outfit that fit then paid an astronomical amount because everything is expensive. If any of you are looking to do an outreach ministry, consider donating to me. Thanks!
Act III “Fat Brownie does Rome”
I thought my bags would arrive the next day…they didn’t. Thanks, Beelzebub Airlines! So, I had to go thru the shopping process all over again but decided to check out a different area. During my second sojourn into the trials and tribulations of being a big girl, I noticed something else…they don’t sell underwear. Well, they sell it sparingly and for a small fortune…like it is illegal or something. I asked at least 3 or 4 women where I could find underwear. At one store (I’ll call it “Skelewear” because you had to be a skeleton to fit the clothes), nobody spoke English. I know very limited Italian and used it up ordering a sandwich (big girls gotta eat). So, the lady says “yesa, I speaka a leetle englese.” I ask if she knew of anyplace that sold underwear. Her response? “Yes. No. No. Grazie” and she walks away. Yes, no, no, grazie? The hell? After walking around to a few stores, I finally found a pair of underwear. One pair costs $25 euro (since it wasn’t Spanx and that is apparently what I need to wear some clothes around here, I just passed)! I thought about finding Fabrizio on the corner and asking him if he could get me some Hanes off the black market for $5 euro. Somebody has to have the hook-up around here. I tried on more clothes, of which nothing fit. By now, my nerves are shot, I’m joining Weight Watchers online and looking for an Italian Lane Bryant. I end up borrowing clothes from my mother and other people on the tour. Because I’m too fat for Rome and have no luggage. How about that?
Act IV “My Daddy”
We went to see the Trevi Fountain and there was a guy that was dressed up kind of like the Statue of Liberty — faced painted gray with a gray robe holding a torch. I then realized it was an actual person…not a statue. So, I say discreetly to my father, “Dad, watch your step because you are about to back up on that guy.” He looks around and says loudly to the entire group of 37 people “HEY!!! THAT’S AN ACTUAL GUY. I THOUGHT IT WAS A STATUE! BRENDA, GET ME THE CAMERA SO I CAN TAKE A PICTURE.” All up in the man’s face. I was like, “What didn’t you understand about me being discreet?”
All in all, Italy really has been an amazing experience — 10,000 Miles by Air, 700 Miles by Bus, and 100 Miles by Foot (well, that may be a slight exaggeration). Seeing the ruins up close is something I really can’t describe.
Here are my favorites:
The Roman Forum — All Roads Lead to Rome
The Fonatana di Trevi was created by Nicola Salvi in 1762 and is Rome’s largest and most famous fountain. You can see the central figure is Neptune and he is flanked by two Tritons (one trying to master an unruly seahorse and the other leading a quieter beast). This is supposed to symbolize the contrasting moods of the sea. It’s estimated that each day 22 million gallons of water flow thru the fountain. This is the original site of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 BC to channel water to Rome’s new bath complexes. It may have been named for a girl named, Trivia, who is said to have first shown the spring to thirsty Roman soldiers. Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome. I’ve been back to Rome twice since that time.
The Spanish Steps (aka Piazza di Spagna) is the most famous square in Rome and takes its name from the Palazzo di Spagna, built in the 17th century to house the Spanish embassy to the Holy See.
The Colosseum is known as Rome’s greatest amphitheater. It was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72. In this theater, up to 55,000 spectators could watch gladiators fight each other or wild animals. During the inaugural games in AD 80, approximately 9,000 wild animals were killed. Slaves could gain their freedom by fighting men or wild animals to the death. I guess you fight for freedom or die trying.
The Pantheon is also known as the Roman “temple of all the gods. It’s the best preserved ancient building in Rome. It was built (and possibly designed) by Emperor Hadrian in AD 118. It’s interesting in that during the 7th century, permission was granted to turn the temple into a church when Christians claimed by be plagued by demons as they passed by the building. Today, it’s lined with tombs and holds the bodies of Italian monarchs.
Other than the clothing situation, things have been wonderful. The men are absolutely gorgeous and I’ve had several people say that I look like I’m 18. Which is great since I’m just a couple of years older than that Please pray for me that I receive my luggage soon. Otherwise, no telling what you might see on CNN. I might be in the studio with Sir Mix-a-lot working on the Italian version of “Baby Got Back”! Ha! Until then…ciao!