Roman Holiday (PART I) / by Deborah Clague

I love pizza. Let me re-emphasize that: I LOVE, loooove, lurve pizza. At my wedding, it will shamelessly be the main course; if I'm ever on death row, it will be the last meal I savour. I could not be a true pizza aficionado though without visiting Italy at least once in my lifetime. And so I made it happen. Nom, nom, nom. 

I decided years ago that I wanted to visit every country in the world to experience how different people live firsthand. It's a big commitment that has involved plenty o' pennypinching and planning, but the payoff is memories that will last a lifetime. My trip to Italy has surely granted me some...including a few that I would rather forget. The excursion could not have started worse - first off, Air Canada somehow gave us the wrong boarding passes which I noticed, of course, right before getting on the plane (good thing too, because I've heard nothing but bad things about Abbottabad); once on the plane, I lost the corrected ones causing another delay. My travel parter got a headphone stuck in his ear canal that had to be plucked out with tweezers (but not before causing a severe migraine) and my first introduction to the love of my life (pizza, in case you suffer short-term memory loss) left me feeling used and abused. Literally. I paid €18 for a mediocre slice (approximately $25CDN) that left me ill for three days. 

When visiting the Eternal City, two things are apparent straight-away: 

1) Italian accents are the most amazing thing in the world.

2) They can't be arsed about cleaning graffiti.  

Despite it covering nearly every surface, Rome is still as pretty as a picture. Wandering the streets drinking up the scenery with no particular place to go was my favorite thing to do...I admit though that this opinion partially stems from the fact that I am a cheapskate who found everything to be quite expensive. Including using the washroom. Actually, pay or not, if you can find a toilet in Rome it becomes a more appreciated sight than the Pantheon or Spanish Steps. They are few and far between. 

One of the first sites I visited was the Colosseum. It is the fourth wonder of the world that I have seen in person. To think that nearly 2000 years ago, crowds in the thousands gathered to cheer on the bloody, gory death of a gladiator for entertainment. Today we congregate to buy Caesar bobbleheads and "I roamed Rome" t-shirts. If you think that's Velveeta, just wait till I tell you about the Vatican and their holy bottled water! En-route to the Colosseum, I noticed a parade of some sort winding through the streets. With rainbow flags waving and Kylie Minogue music blaring, I assumed it was Gay Pride. Europop is an (embarrassingly) guilty pleasure, so I decided to follow for a bit...walking faster than the float, I next came upon a group made up of flag-waving Communists chanting something that probably had to do with Mao or Layton, and then a truck blasting techno music. This is where things got a bit darker. I witnessed a few individuals wearing masks tagging buildings with yet more graffiti. I anticipated the notorious Black Bloc making an appearance, but nothing happened. Everyone congregated at the Colosseum to hold a protest about government ineptitude (and buy bobbleheads). 

To be continued...

Me at the Colosseum:

 Roman Forum:

A cat rescue was allowed to let the animals live at the ruins (prime real estate to catch the eye of an adoptive family):

My favorite building in Rome (Monumento Nazionale): 

Government protests: