Sunday, August 2, 2009

Al Gladiatore and other specialties

June 22, 2009      The Longest Day Ever!

Enzo drove us Italian style into Rome.  He stopped in the middle of the street and we ran for our lives.  We met our guide, Paula, at the base of the Colosseum.  Her heavy accent made it difficult for us to follow all the details of the day through our Whispers.  The Coliseum took only 8 years to build in 80 A.D. by Roman slaves.  We explored the 2nd level, without a guide, on our free time, we had to imagine the seating and the floors, but it must have been enormous. 


We next walked to the Roman Forum, a magnificent valley of ruins.  There were original buildings that were still in use and some of the stone streets were original as well.  It was fascinating to imagine the civilization that once ruled here before 50 B.C.   Paula spouted facts and figures that no one understood, so we stood around taking pictures, pretending to know of what we shot.  The sun bore down on us and we sweated out our daily intake of water.  Luckily we found those water fountains, all over town, to refill our water bottles (Amanda was so happy).


Piazza Campidoglio, originally designed by Michelangelo, became the new center of political power for Roman politics.  It started in1535 and took a century to complete.  The ginormous statues at the top of the Cordonata steps stood naked and proud, but we ladies turned our heads.  Today we spent much of our time walking.  Enzo picked us up across the street from the piazza and drove us through the crazy city, to the Vatican.  Well, two blocks away.

While waiting to cross the street, Amber got the famous bum grab from an Italian.  She shrieked.  We laughed. And now it’s a great story.  We saw a fancy lady, dressed up with heels, put her helmet on then drive off on a scooter.  Italians make everything seem so much more chic.  Finally we made our way to the outer wall of the Vatican City.  We waited, along with tourists worldwide, in the security line to enter the city.  We waited for our tickets in the lobby of the museum which was more modern and westernized than we expected.  Tanya wanted to go back and get searched by one of the security guys checking bags.  “I should have left something in my pocket!”

Lunch was downstairs, cafeteria style.  We bought Tanya sandwiches and half of our Utah group went upstairs while we waited for our Panini’s to cook.  As Tanya, steph , and Sandra mounted the stairs to join the other girls the security guard sent them back to the cafeteria to eat.  They finished their lunch standing at a table while the other girls wondered what happened to them.  We all ended up sitting under a nice tree, relaxing our feet and eating hot tamales.  Amanda filled up her water bottle.


Like cattle we shuffled toe to heel through a museum of amazing paintings, mosaics, and sculptures over thousands of years old listening to a million facts in rapid Italian accented English.  Paula walked quickly, weaving in and out of the people, with her guide umbrella high in the air.  At one point that umbrella was but a speck of blue in the distance.  With the Sistine Chapel next on the agenda, the group waited for everyone to rejoin before continuing down the stairs. Whew.  After lunch we had a quick overview of the artwork of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.  The heat made many of us sleepy, so I’m not sure we all got the full extent of information that was available to us, but we knew the basics.  Upon entering the Chapel, we were herded to the center and left to mull around with millions of other people.  We all commented on the fact that if the Catholics ran this place like a Mormon Temple Open House, it would be better for everyone.  What they’re doing now is simply inefficient and under appreciative of the marvelous works that lie in that place.  We looked up… for a long time.

“NO PHOTO!  NO PHOTO!  SHHHH!”  yelled security guards to disrespectful tourists snapping pictures and talking loudly.  It was far from peaceful.  The room was smaller than movies and photos make it look.  The Finger of God blended into the ceiling’s other paintings and didn’t stand out like it seemed to in our minds.  We exited the chapel through the back right door and entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest cathedral in the world.


Michelangelo’s Pieta stood to our right, upon our entering the cathedral.  Truly awesome.  It now stands behind bulletproof glass, having been attacked by a hammer in the past.  Most scenes were made from glass, approximately 1cm, creating beautiful mosaics throughout.  They look like paintings until you look close up.  Michelangelo designed the church using centuries of architectural geniuses prior and created a masterful plan combining several of their ideas into one.  The dome is the third largest in the world, behind those of Florence and the Pantheon.


We took our pictures in front of the Swiss guards, dressed in their silly costumes (aka uniforms).  We walked right out onto St. Peter’s square.  Unlike everything else, this looked just like the movies.  Steph kept saying, “…in Angels and Demons that’s where…” pointing out key points of the movie and where they were in the square.  By this point our patience was exhausted, but we ate gelato and it all worked out.  Amanda left Sandra alone in the gift shop (where you could have your souvenirs blessed by the Pope and sent to your hotel) and was reprimanded by steph, “where’s your buddy, no one leaves their buddy?!”  Amanda obediently found her buddy before we left.  We met Texas and Chelan under the obelisk, in the shade, and waited for our ride.

Our free time consisted of about an hour and half to fit in every other Roman tourist spot.  We talked Vera into guiding us (as a friend, not a guide) to Trevi Fountain, where you are to turn your back to Neptune put the coin in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder in hopes to return to Rome (or make a wish…still waiting on that one).  The group could go anywhere, but they all followed Utah to the fountain.  Yeah, we are THAT cool!  Every tourist in the world packed into that place, we had but a few seconds to take our pictures throwing our coins one at a time.  Ali tossed her coin and almost fell in, which made us laugh.  

We would have liked to have sat around and enjoyed our surroundings, but off to the next attraction, walking/running to the Pantheon.


After 2000 years the building still stands strong.  The dome is one of the largest domes in the world.  The light inside the Pantheon is provided by one hole in the middle of the dome, called the oculus whose diameter is about 29.5 ft.  The hole is always open and the drainage system is the same today as used by the Romans.  118 A.D. was when the construction began, in 1608 is was transformed from a temple into a church.


We huffed ourselves back to meet the group at the Piazza Venezia, nicknamed the Wedding Cake for its white exterior and stacked looking fa├žade.  Vera allowed us to arrive late to dinner at Al Gladiatorre, where we had the best potatoes ever.  The restaurant, located directly across from the Colosseum, has been open since 1903.  We ate with the patio doors open to the Colosseum and were served the best food on the tour!


DJ Jazzy Brisa put her ipod to the microphone for a fun ride home.  We sang our hearts out.  At one point Enzo put the bus in park, in the middle of traffic, and searched for a portable microphone.  The traffic moves on, but Enzo is in no hurry.  He hands the microphone to Ali, who is singing the loudest, and invites her to put on a show.  Which she did.  Ali danced up and down the aisle.  She used her best dance moves and threw in some jazz hands.  This wild show, which may one day end up on YouTube, ended with Ali laying across the “emergencies only” bus bathroom.  She’s always wanted to sing on a throne!  We sat in awe, not knowing what to think about this show.  This dance/sing party bonded our different groups with performances from Will and Brogan from Chelan, Amanda, and two shakes from Tanya.  Apparently, Maryland put the show on mute and did not participate in any way.  They did not want to bond.  Enzo stopped and started the bus at will, not paying any attention to traffic or our safety, but we did let him play his “Mambo #5” several times.


We met at the top of the hotel, overlooking the city, to do our By Fars and quotes for the day.  The sun set over the distant mountains, leaving a deep red and orange sheet of color over the buildings and trees.  Anna and Joann joined us for the beautiful view and stories of the day.  The longest day, by far, but also the funnest.  


They didn't let you cross the border? - Theresa to Tanya

It's like making love right here on the 2nd row - steph 

I can have a baby now, I know what real pain feels like - Brisa

Hurry Ali...oh wait - sandra

I should have left something in my pocket - tanya (at the Vatican security)

I need a little sugar to offset the alcohol - sandra

Is God wearing glasses? - lindsey (in the sistine chapel)

A kick in the face?! - steph (keeping the faith)

Salad seems like you're just passing time - doyle

I'm all... that's and ugly sound - sandra (Z trying to get us to stop saying I'm all...)

I think she ate it - Vera (whisper microphone)

You can't stop this - Brent (about country music - Achy Breaky Heart)

How many ladies... ONE?!... shhhhhh Enzo's on the phone - DJ jazzy Brisa

She got two shakes - Amanda (tanya's dancing)

You gotta be like me... wait for the whole group - tanya

She's no longer grandma Ali, she's COUGAR Ali - sandra (Ali dancing with the boys)

...mine was to sing on a throne - ali (kareoke on the bus bathroom)

Come to my room, I show you how to use gel - Enzo to steph

And then we drive to Nappy Valley?!  - ali

Whats her face and what's his face - tanya (claire and brent)

I just drew on my boob - Sandra



Towel warmer.  Enzo fixing steph's hair.  Dinner - potatoes, dessert, lasagna.  Hot Vatican security.  Hot Italians in suits, scooters...anything.  Colosseum.  Ali almost falling in the fountain.  Singing on the bus.  DJ Jazzy Brisa.  Ali on top of the bathroom.  Learning about the Sistine Chapel.  Bathroom door hitting steph in the face.  Toilet seats.  Polka clarinet in the street.  Enzo's secret microphone.  Enzo out of his seat six or seven times while driving.  steph's gondolier shirt.  This (the sunset on the patio).  Tanya and Ali's palace.  Fresh water fountains...again.  Tanya's booty shake (2 shakes).  steph imitating Ali.  steph's asian hair (the guy at the Vatican with big hair).  Amber's but grab by an old Italian man.  Being muted by Maryland.

Crazy bus ride to ROMA (rome to americans)

June 21, 2009 - Sunday  HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

            Today is Roma - a 7 hour trip.  We happily left our rundown hotel for a better one in Rome.  Bathroom break woke up much of a sleeping bus.  We tried to liven it up with some travel charades and yog-oing (yoga on a moving bus).  Sandra won with a 9 second tree pose.  We passed through many miles of vineyards in the Tuscany region and ended up at another Autogrille for lunch.  Now we are closer to Rome, thus passing through ugly suburbs.  It is difficult to imagine Italy with all the modern buildings.  Enzo honked at all the tiny corners as we weaved through the back country to our hotel.  Steph switched up the order the rooms were to be assigned in, since Ali and Tanya seemed to get the raw end of the deal each time.  As we pulled up to the hotel on the hill, we knew right away that this was no Lido di Jusolo. 

the palacesteph and johanna's roomSandra and Amanda's view The Szymanski's bathroom

            The Grand Hotel, Helio Cabala encompassed all we imagined about Italy.  On top of the hill stands the main hotel while we stayed in the small villas on the mountain side.  Tanya and  Ali scored the biggest room with a loft, we nicknamed it “The Palace”.  They hosted our “by fars” and quotes as well as our church meetings, since it was the Sabbath.  

Our meeting began an opening hymn of “I am a Child of God” and then a short lesson from the Ensign by Sandra.  We each shared our thoughts and closed with a benediction in French from Amber.  Sandra and Amanda’s room had no power so they were moved into the main hotel which felt less like Italy, much more Americanized.  The sunset over the Tuscany valley took our breath away, we finally arrived in the Italy we imagined! 

            Enzo drove into town where we ate at I Belloni.  We ate pasta Carbonara with Scollopini (veal) and a weird but good cabbage salad.  For dessert we ate cake!  Sandra and steph with the Chilan boys and Brisa.   We made them laugh because we are hilarious.  The rest of Utah ate with Texas and the Kelleys. 


On our ride home the whole bus tried to convince Enzo to take us bowling, but to no avail.  We started to do our usual car singing on the bus, Enzo tried changing the channel by clicking an imaginary channel changer at us, rude.  He then stopped the bus mid-turn on a round about and searched for a cd he wanted to share with us.  These Italians live by their own rules.  Everyone met at The Palace for a dance party.  Tanya and steph shared their African dance with the girls, then Lindsay and Brisa came over to play games.  We learned to play Monopoly, the card game.  Bonding. 



I feel so 2nd class back here - steph

My tray has a hole in it!! - steph

Gondolier... gone to bed - pat

I’m yo-going - ali

You’re like teenage boy - ali

I don’t think this (arm out to the side - soccer mom stop) wil save you - ali

Come on car, the bike did it - vera

Oh my gosh, I would just push you down - steph

A railrow... a railrow... (-ali) ...”Duhh”... a railroa”duhh” car? - Sandra

Hey my mother packed for me... -tanya

Its okay, I’m fine - Sandra to Amanda (about blankets)

Grandma doesn’t match up with her - ali  you mean racially? - Sandra

I was like (grab, grab, grab) - ali (bum reference)

I’m sandra’s main man - steph

I’m click clacking in Africa - ali   ...When you were living on the railrow? -steph

He needs a chiropractor, he’s carrying his whole team on his back -schuyler

Is that a harry potter thing? - Brogan

I’m not in italy ordering moose piss! - ian

That was a cheap crappy one, I’ve been working real hard on these - pat (jokes)

He doesn’t want you blowin his woofer - pat

CHANGE! CHANGE! CHANGE! - Enzo (our singing- he tries to switch stations)

Enzo’s trying to change the channel - Amanda

He was sad, he lost Amanda - steph

No its an airplane - Theresa

Sometimes rich people die anyway -steph



Making Enzo laugh-our goal for the day.  Pizza at lunch.  Yog-oing on the bus.  good mad-libs.  Arriving in real Italy.  Biker through the puddle.  Ali and Tanya’s room.  African dance.  Amanda’s ink marks on the ceiling.  Enzo dancing on the bus.  Enzo stopping mid road to find a CD.  Amanda carrying an ant to the hallway.  Monopoly.  Hot Tamales.