Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too much to see in Rome

Well they say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and there is no way one can see Rome in a week.

I ended up in Rome sort of by accident. I have always wanted to see this ancient city, but the primary goal of this 4 week trip has been to play music, and be on tour.

Unfortunately Rome does not seem to have a very thriving local, independent music scene – there are too many tourists, and too many ancient monuments. But I was given an offer to stay for free at a nice quiet apartment just outside of Rome, a short Metro ride into the city center. And the flights to and from Rome are much more affordable than those to and from Florence and other Italian destinations. My host has been Daniele Mutino, who played accordion for the How to Survive the Apocalypse musical that my friend Mark Nichols helped write and produce in San Francisco last fall. Daniele has been away for work almost this entire week, so I’ve had the place to myself.

Luckily the apartment is close to a Metro station, and luckily I have had an internet connection. Both have allowed me to take advantage of my situation. I have decided to be a tourist this week – and I used Couchsurfing to make some new friends!

Piazza Navona in the Rain

The Colosseum

My first full day in Rome was spent walking around aimlessly taking in the sites – It was unseasonably wet – the rainclouds and umbrella covered tourists gave everything and unusual mood. But it was refreshing – and I later realized much less crowded because of the rain. As my week carried on – more and more tourists seemed to be swarming the hot, dirty streets, and I often preferred sitting quietly in the cool apartment, or in a church. It has given me some time to reflect and start a couple of new songs.

Piazza del Popolo

Rome has probably 1,000 churches – almost all Catholic, and over decorated with fancy granite, marble, gold, paintings and relics. I wasn’t raised Catholic, and after seeing the ostentatious display of wealth in this cities’ churches, I am glad that I have never been a part of that religion. As amazing as St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is, I don’t feel any emotional connection with Catholicism. Though it’s hard not to be impressed with the vast and ornate space; it did make me feel like a puny little ant in this world – along with all the other camera-clicking puny ants… but I think the Grand Canyon can do that, too.

Saint Peter's Basilica swarming with tourists

all those intersecting vaults....

Bronze statue of Hercules in the Vatican Museum

My two new Couchsurfing friends are Luca and Armando. Each has graciously spent time with me telling me their perspectives on this city. Luca is a freelance comedy writer for Italian television. And Armando is a musician and film editor. Both have confirmed to me that the local artists’ scene is small in Rome. But they’ve had good senses of humor about it.

I had thought of busking on the street, and making a little money – Daniele is the vice-president of the street performer’s alliance here in Rome and gave me some tips. But it seemed that most of the people I have seen performing are glorified beggers, and pop-sensation imitators – like the fake Michael Jackson in Piazza del Popolo. I didn’t feel like my music would be appreciated or understood, except for when I met Fergus, the songwriter from Scotland, who I watched and made friends with in Piazza Saint Maria Trastevere. I enjoyed his songwriting, and his one-man-band drum kit rig! But I still didn’t’ feel like pushing myself – it has been nice to have a week to relax a little. And take too many pictures.

Fergus the street performer

I did go see the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum – and it was impressive, but I enjoyed looking at the Raphael paintings and the ancient Greek sculptures the most. The art and archeological pieces collected by the Vatican are an impressive collection!

And the archeological sites that crop out at every turn in this city! It’s hard not to stumble on history here. But it’s also interesting for this California Girl to imagine how hard it must be to build new buildings here. And to wonder how people can have a sense of the future in a city so obsessed with it’s past!

the Temple of Vesta right in the middle of the city.

I’m really looking forward to Barcelona. I’ve been hearing great things about it, and I have a gig booked for Sunday June 13th at Bar Fantastico with Anna Morely. It sounds like there is a thriving music and artists’ scene there, and I’m looking forward to connecting with other musicians! And I’ve found a Couchsurfer to stay with for a few days!

1 comment:

  1. How long did you have to wait to get into St Peter's Basilica and the Museo Vaticani (sp?)?
    We were there between X-mas and New Year's and gave up after an hour in line with no hope of entry for hours....
    By the way, if you watch A Fish Called Wanda - when Wanda asks the character played by Kevin Kline to speak Italian, he says "Dove Museo Vaticani?"