Nov 13 2007

Rome: Come for the tacos, stay for the religious artifacts. (P.S. There are no tacos.)

Published by at 6:21 pm under Italy,Rome

Ben and Mrs. MooneySince the first days of our trip, we’ve constantly been making bets with each other on how long it will be until we run into someone we know. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have money placed on Friday. After two months abroad, we met up in Rome with the parents of my oldest childhood friend, David. It was a surreal experience to walk a mere kilometer from our hostel to a central Roman hotel, and to find sitting in the lobby, the Mooneys! They had a few hours to kill before boarding their cruise around the Mediterranean, so we decided to check out some of the Roman sights together. Side note: Since when do I use kilometers as a standard of measurement??

USING THE AREA FOR DEFECATING IS PROHIBITED.” Or so proclaims one of many unexpectedly posted rules you will encounter at Rome’s Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are only so named because they lead to the Spanish Embassy, which is a disappointment for those expecting tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and especially nachos. With guacamole. Other cryptic warnings posted at the Spanish Steps include…


Besides the ridiculous signs, there is yet another upside to the Spanish Steps: namely, if you do visit them, it’s only a little further down the road to Piazza di Popoli. This is a far superior square, which contains several cool fountains, statues, and one giant obelisk. Not to mention a church that contains a couple of works by Carvaggio. I didn’t know who Carvaggio was either, but it turns out that he painted “alternative” takes on well-known Biblical stories, which meant that he was always butting heads with the reigning Pope.

The good news: Carvaggio’s paintings are really cool, and it’s worth going out of your way to see them. The bad news: the churches capitalize on your desire to see his paintings by keeping them in darkened rooms. So how do you see them? By inserting coins into a machine, which operates the light. 1 Euro = 1 minute of appreciating Carvaggio, or something like that. Then the light goes back out. Unless of course, you have more Euros… [Insert maniacal papal laughter]*

Guaranteeing a return to Rome Like everyone else in Rome, we made the obligatory trip to Trevi fountain, and tossed coins over our shoulder into the water. Doing so is supposed to guarantee your return trip to Rome. Brittany threw a coin in when she was here nine years ago, so I guess it works! I was loathe to part with our precious Euro pennies, but we were fortunate that Mrs. Mooney was carrying some worthless American coins, which we could all painlessly toss into the fountain. A nearby beggar saw me with the American coins, and gave me some change from his tin cup.

Before the Mooneys left us for their cruise ship, they were kind enough to treat us to lunch. Dear Mooneys: thank you for the awesome paninis! Going from PB&J to Prosciutto, Mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes on fresh baked bread was a definite upgrade.

Special bonus for lucky you! Highlights from Day 2 in Rome:

Gelato in front of the PantheonGelato in front of the Pantheon! OK, so we were really just in this part of town for the gelato. But it turns out that the Pantheon is really close to the gelateria, so we figured we might as well swing by. The Pantheon was once home to all the Roman gods, but is now home to all the Christian statues it can conceivably contain.

Something I didn’t know: the Pantheon is also the final resting place of Raphael, and you can see his tomb in a glass case inside the Pantheon. Another thing I didn’t know: it’s the current stomping grounds of pushy street vendors who, inexplicably, try to sell you multi-colored squeezable monster toys, and/or bubbles. I still have no idea what these toys have to do with the Pantheon, or Rome as a whole. Don’t try to ask the vendors though. They’ll assume that whatever you say or ask translates directly to: “I must have all your multi-colored squeezable monster toys!!!” And once a street vendor has attached himself to you, good luck EVER getting rid of him. It’s like an STD that shouts, smells, and tries to sell you toys that no one would ever want.

Looking down the well that Peter dug in his own dungeon.Seven minutes before its closing time, we slipped into Chiesa San Pietro In Carcere, or “The Church of St. Peter in Chains.” The church is so named because it is built right on top of the very dungeon where Peter was held by the Romans, while awaiting his execution. Just inside the church entrance, we descended a narrow flight of stairs into the dank concrete room where Peter was held. You can still see the bars to which he was chained, and the spring which he dug in order to baptize his fellow prisoners. It’s a tiny little church, but a definite Rome highlight for me! You can see the symbol of the upside-down cross in the photo, which is a reference to the fact that Peter was crucified upside-down.

I admit, I’m a nerd for these Christian heritage sites, which means you’ll have to endure more of my religious excitement in Rome. I’m also a nerd for guacamole, but unfortunately for you, it’s nowhere to be found in Rome, so it looks like we’ll ALL have to go without. Nope, not even at the Spanish Steps. What gives???

*[Insert Ben inching one step closer to eternal damnation]

NEXT: I’m just glad we haven’t used the phrase “When in Rome” yet »



6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Rome: Come for the tacos, stay for the religious artifacts. (P.S. There are no tacos.)”

  1. Stellaon 13 Nov 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Is Brittany throwing coins in the fountain or giving someone the ‘bad’ finger?

  2. Abbyon 14 Nov 2007 at 2:21 am

    I love the pope!!!

  3. Davidon 14 Nov 2007 at 8:52 pm

    hooray for the Mooneys! Glad y’all were able to hook up.

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