Rome Diary: Day Five

We have a day and a half before the long two-day trek home begins and here are five things I already miss about Rome:

  1. Spending all this time with my wife and folks
  2. Being so close to the Vatican
  3. Being surrounded by astonishingly beautiful artwork. Call me a traitor but in this department our young America just can’t compete. This city is a museum.
  4. The sound of Roman police and ambulance sirens
  5. The sound of the Italian language; especially when people answer the phone with “pronto.”

As nuts as this sounds, I will miss the bedlam of traffic. As someone who personally bristles under rules and government control, Rome’s free-for-all traffic is something to admire. 

Here are five things Rome has helped me appreciate even more about America:

  1. Ice in drinks
  2. Decaf
  3. The availability of to-go cups bigger than what might be used for a urine sample
  4. Soft toilet paper
  5. Americans are nice people

Romans are kind of rude. Not all of them. We have met some uncommonly nice people here. But the ratio of rude Romans to Americans in my admittedly small sampling is shocking. 

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe they don’t like my face (let’s face it, it is not a great face), but whenever I get out of the tourist bubble to purchase another cup of Rome’s awful coffee, a heating pad (don’t ask), or anything, I pretty much expect to be treated like I’m asking to borrow money instead of, you know, spending it. And a lot of it. 

Nothing is reasonably priced here. It costs $1.40 American to buy a $1 Euro.

Pompeii is breathtaking. After sitting in an audience before Pope Francis, touring St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and standing before St. Peter’s tomb, getting on a bus at 6:30 AM this morning for a three hour drive to see a bunch of ruins felt like something of an anti-climax. 

Brother was I wrong. 

In 79 A.D. the Roman city of Pompeii was devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The then-modern homes, shops, and streets that 20,000 citizens called home were buried in 15 to 20 feet of ash. Anyone who didn’t get out in time died, probably from inhaling noxious gas. 

It would take over 1,500 years before someone rediscovered Pompeii. The excavation continues to this day, and the preserved city has been a tourist attraction for 250 years.

Because a volcano eruption and 2,000 years of weather has had an effect, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you feel as though you have gone back in time as you explore Pompeii. But as you pass blocks lined with dozens of shops and hundreds of homes, as you explore two amphitheaters, a fish market, a public exercise yard, and even the local brothel (with prices for various sexual positions still etched on the wall), you do get a very good sense of what life was like for the citizens of Pompeii two-thousand years ago. 

Other than the miracles of air conditioning and TV, and the fact that they owned slaves and sacrificed animals to Apollo, it wasn’t all that different from ours. 

Today, the four of us spent over two hours exploring Pompeii and likely missed more than what we saw. What has been preserved is an actual sprawling city with paved roads, sidewalks, and intersections. It is vast, and around every corner is a detail to remind you that thousands of years ago, real people worked, raised families, and lived their lives here.

Truly haunting are the molds created by the cavities in the ash where people and animals died horrible deaths. 

We spent over 7 hours on that bus and it was well worth it.

Tomorrow: The Colosseum and its surroundings. 

The bus arrives at 7:30 in the AM.

I’d get jet-lag, but I just haven’t had the time.


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