Sunday, March 02, 2008

Rome (East), attending 2 masses and regrets on not packing the puller

This will be my last entry of Rome, the East part. I still have a few other posts lined up, 1) Castelli Romani: Castel Gandolfo & Frascati, 2) Orvieto in Umbria, and 3) the Vatican City, the Holy See-a UNESCO world heritage, which is in principle a monarchy state of its own ruled by the pope but geographically speaking, an enclave of Rome. So these entries will come later in the coming days.

Palazzo del Quirinale in Piazza del Quirinale - once a papal residence, this is now where the president of Italy lives. Not open to the public but the uniformed guards are nice to watch. Middle of the piazza is a fountain-obelisk and the statue of Castor and Pollux.

So, the East part of Rome! Truthfully, I wasn’t able to explore the area in great depths. Maybe because my hotel was located here and I felt so at home, and usually when this happens, we always fail to check out the nearby surroundings because there is always this nagging feeling constantly telling us to look further, and farther, lol. Sounds familiar? Truth be told, I have not climbed the Dom tower of Utrecht nor have I taken one of those canal rides in Oudegracht.

Fotos for this entry can be found here: Rome (East), Italy

You can see the president’s guards marching outside the entrance of the palace. Next foto is typically Rome or Italian - arched doorways, a lantern, and a mope (or Vespa).

Via Nazionale, just a stone throw’s away from my hotel is one of the busiest roads in Rome. The whole stretch is a big shopping lane too, which I thought was much better than rubbishy Via Corso. By the way, I found a nice place across the Tiber River near the Vatican one evening when I was joyriding in the bus. I forgot the name of the street, but it was one of those very few streets I saw in Rome that were selling good stuff. Well, at the very least, for this trip, Via Nazionale was my saviour (as it will be out of way to go cross the Tiber River to shop considering my tight schedule), my quick diversion during the early evenings before I hit the bar cafes for a drink. Isn’t it great that shops here close at 8PM? In Holland shops close at 5PM, the big department stores at 6PM, and they are only a handful, i.e. in Utrecht we only have two, Bijenkorf and Vroom & Dreesman.

Anyhow, I managed to buy 3 pairs of shoes for myself for this trip, and a shirt and 2 ties for the Dutchman, who was quite happy with his presents.

Me in Piazza della Republica.

I was actually looking forward to shopping in Rome because I planned to clean my closet and throw away all the old stuff and clothes I do not fancy anymore. It might be too early for spring cleaning, I guess, as the weather forecast this week says it will snow here, but I already have 3 brimming sacks of clothes and 2 huge bags of shoes and accessories in my hallway ready to go to the charity shop. However, I was quite disappointed that my grand shopping plan in Rome didn’t materialize. Maybe I’ll just go to the USA soon? I know my euros will go a loooong way there.

I also got by to taking a walk in the area on my last day in Rome but barely took fotos as my camera was almost full.

Here is a better view of Piazza della Republica without me hugging the view. The fountain is called - Fontana della Naiadi.

Some of the nice walking routes I discovered in the East part were the side streets of Via Nationale going towards Park Trajanus (Parco Traiano) along the ruins border near the Colosseo and all the way up to Santa Maria Maggiore, then to Piazza della Republica, and to Termini Stazione.

It was a breath of fresh air to walk aimlessly, and this time without an agenda, without a target place to see. Just walk, letting my feet lead me to the next alleyway and letting the environments surprise me.

This is one of the 4 fountains (Le Quattro Fontane, circa late 1500) in Via delle Quattro. Literally 4 ancient fountains facing each other on a narrow and very busy crossing.

It was Sunday morning, and my original plan was to go to the Porta Portese flea market located at the back of Trastevere. My flight back to the Netherlands was in the afternoon and I needed to be in the airport at least by 12:00 so I only have a few hours left, and I was still contemplating although halfheartedly on going to Porta Portese. The market is a bit off the core center and I was not sure of the bus route and schedules. I thought - maybe I just stay put in the area, take a walk and visit the churches. Good idea, its Sunday morning, so there will be masses going on. Perfect!

I’m not a Catholic nor do I have a religion – I am a free thinker, but I find it interesting to visit a church when there is a mass going on especially if it’s one of those traditional-high church mass rites, which we now rarely see in Europe.

The Sunday service/mass in St. Paul’s-within-the-Walls church in corners Via Nazionale and Via Napoli.

The first church I visited was an American Episcopal church at the corners of Via Nazionale and Via Napoli, St. Paul’s-within-the-Walls, the first protestant church to be built within the walls of Rome after the country’s Unification in 1870. The mass, or service in protestant term, was held in the left arcade of the church that has a small side altar. There were only 15 people in attendance including the pastor/priest/bishop, his assistant, and a musician. I was number 16 on the count and making sure not to steal any attention, I took a seat silently at the back.

The sermon was in English, and the pastor/priest/bishop has an English-southern accent. Well, I just sat there observing. Did you know that I was once a protestant in the past? I stood up and left the church when the service ended and when everyone shook hands and started talking to each other. I don’t want them to come up to me, so I quickly exited.

Then the second and last church I went to was the Santa Maria Maggiore (in English, St. Mary Major), one of the four major, biggest, and most prominent Catholic basilicas in Rome. This basilica was built in dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was used as a papal residence in the past too.

Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore with the beautiful baroque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore built in the 4th century on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning.

When I entered the basilica, the nave and the baldocchino altar, its opulent design and golden colors reminded me of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, albeit a mini version. There was a mass going on too and the altar was filled with light smoke – incense. Ah, I like it when the mass is traditionally carried out. I also was once a Catholic, during my childhood days, before my parents converted the whole family to the other Christian religion that prefers the King James Version of the bible.

The mass was in Italian and I could not understand a single thing but that didn’t matter. Lots of tourists flow in and out and many were standing on the narthex part of the church, like me, observing and appreciating the stunning art, design, and architecture on the walls and ceilings whilst listening to the Italian sermon.

This is the nave-interior of the Santa Maria Maggiore. Extravagant. The Roman Catholic Church is stinky RICH (wait till you see St. Peter’s Basilica!).

It was 11AM on my watch, time to walk back to my hotel and pick up my bag and head off to Termini Stazione. I’m boarding the Leonarda da Vinci express train from Roma Termini to Fiumicino Airport. It’s a half-hour journey, cheaper than a cab as its €11 one-way, faster than the regional trains, and takes you directly to the airport terminals.

Fast forward to my -+ 2.5 hours flight back home. Something dawned on me -- I regretted not packing the ‘puller’ (I call it plucker, to pluck hairs) with me!

You see I was sitting beside an American-Italian couple who I think was transiting via Amsterdam to the USA. The woman was American (you can hear her accent) and the man an American-Italian who speaks fluent or native Italian and also English with an American accent. He sat beside me reading an Italian newspaper throughout the flight, while I, seated from the window seat, throughout the 2.5 hours flight too, was confronted and harassed by his left ear sticking out into my private zone space.

At any rate, I tried to busy myself by reading the inflight magazine which I found out was just all duty-free shopping, so I put it back on the backseat and tried to get some sleep instead, but my mind just can’t stop thinking of the long, black, curly, bushy hairs jutting out from the left ear of this man beside me. Oh why did I not bring the ‘puller’ with me?!

ARGH - I am so annoyed. I am feeling prickly. I am gritting my teeth! I am so tempted to just pull the hairs out from his ear with my fingers. I WAS (ALMOST) SERIOUS.

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