Recent Entries

Epistulae Ciceronis
A Perfectly Squiffy Jag


23.07.08 Wednesday
06:15 am - Rome. Previous Entry Share Next Entry

Piazza del Popolo, built in 1818 by Giuseppe Valadier.

Arco di Settimio Severo from the third century.

I crashed a wedding at the basilica of Santa Maria del Miracoli.

So many statues, so many churches - not sure which one this was in.


Considering that we did zero planning, Rome is treating us exceptionally well. While Katie's been at her conference, I've walked pretty much everywhere in central Rome at least twice (I've put an easy 125 miles on my shoes). At this point, I feel like I've gotten a very solid feel for the city.

I couldn't be more pleased with our hotel room, which is saying quite a bit for a city where $150/night rooms receive rave reviews such as: "Tiny, dirty, bad neighborhood - but not too far from the Metro makes this cheap and convenient for tourists on a budget. Rating: 4/5." We found a beautiful modern boutique right off Via Veneto (where Fellini shot La Dolce Vita and right up from the American Embassy - basically the fancy part of town) for mid-range prices. It's a touristy neighborhood, but it's clean, quiet and really central.

After a few days, a lot of the novelties of Rome where off. You walk down a tiny alleyway and come across a two-millennia-old Roman ruins or the baroque facade of a renaissance church or a charming little trattoria tucked away from the hustle-and-bustle and you barely take notice; these are common place. An academic could spend months here and barely scratch the surface, but even combining my interest and education in art (and, to a lesser degree) history and architecture I found myself quite satiated with the most obligatory tourist traps.

And this is an interesting point. When travelling I usually shy away from tourist spots. I have a stereotype that they represent the Disneyland of travel: gimmicks monetized for the simplicity of lazy tourists, who would rather pay a premium for the staged snapshot of a country than get their hands dirty digging for authenticity. This concept doesn't translate to Italian, though: the tourist spots are popular for a reason: there is only one Pantheon, one Coliseum, one St. Peter's Basilica in the world - and each are so important and so spectacular that they justify the pedestals they've claimed on the tourist route. Further, because there are so many tourists in Rome (far more than actual Romans) and because they come from so many corners of the world (albeit most from Europe) you become somewhat oblivious to their presence; Rome's culture is a mishmash of various travelers, all here for different interests and yet common destinations.

The exceptions to this, of course, remain culture and food - typically two motivators for me in travel. And, certainly, I've sought out both while I'm here. There are so many important and obligatory tourist destinations, though, that these have (surprisingly) become secondary priorities. On that note, I apologize in advance for what a cliché this photoset it; these are likely the same photos you've seen a dozen times before, quite likely from your own collection or that of your friends. Things that I usually focus on (people, signs, daily life) are easily overlooked in Rome and so I don't think I'm adding anything original here.

Another consideration during the trip, but not one I've made any effort to capture on film, is the night life. I wake up in the morning and play tourist then come home, change into my dress clothes and go out on the town - sometimes not returning until early morning. Consistent with its reputation, Rome comes alive at night as the piazzas fill up with travelers, tourists (many themselves Italian), students - and, occasionally, even Romans. Combine warm nights, no open container regulations and a huge number of tourists on summer vacation from around the world and things can get pretty fun. It's not what I came here for nor is it something I thought I would be that interested in, but it's an easy subculture to get sucked into. Especially with so many incredibly attractive Italians wandering around.

On that note, Rome does not make for a cheap holiday. You really need to watch your money. Even disregarding the abysmally weak dollar (let’s not even talk about my stocks!) there has been significant inflation across Europe - and while it hasn't (yet) taken a strong hit on the official metrics of the economy, people on the street are very aware of it due to the high cost of day-to-day living. Food, drinks, transportation - all add up very quickly, and there are very clear class-lines. Add in a 1.6x conversion rate for the dollar and you can easily spend $100/day not including lodging. Contrast this with our trip to Guatemala, which cost us $1,000 each for thirty days including airfare, hotel, food, rental car, gifts, etc - factoring in all costs, that same budget would last us maybe four days in Rome.

This set includes everything you'd expect: ancient Roman ruins, gothic cathedrals, Renaissance palaces, a variety of statues covering two-thousand years of history, Etruscan art, fountains, piazzas, ceiling frescos, etc, etc. The only notable item it doesn't include (yet) is Saint Peter's basilica and other sights from the Vatican City - that'll happen in the next couple days.

location: Rome, Italy

{int i; i=21; i++}

[User Picture]
verybadlady [23.07.08::02:43]
nice pictures!
[User Picture]
gfrancie [23.07.08::03:02]
Lovely pictures as usual.
I think the tourist stuff in Europe can be interesting because it is often an experience that can let you touch history. And they have so much of it, that it lies around the place like old cars on blocks in a neighbor's yard. "oh yeah that?...been around awhile. You can look around."

So where to next?
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::08:56]
I agree. And I also think that, while the subtle differences in culture are fascinating, that the U.S. and Europe really aren't that different - we express ourselves in slightly different ways, but the underlying approaches are fairly consistent. As such, that definitely prioritizes the history over the people.
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::08:58]
As for where next: Pompei and Campri for a couple days, then back to Munich and then home. We're planning on keeping this trip short then spending more time in Europe in either the fall or spring. (Hopefully the fall).
emperorct [23.07.08::03:08]
Gorgeous! Brings back many memories - I did Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence over ten years ago. I took disposable cameras, not yet having any interest in photography.

My album is lacking sadly in comparision to your slideshow at Flickr.

Enjoy the rest of the trip!
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:00]
I'll be going to Milan, Venice and Florence (or the area around Florence, at least) on our next trip. Hopefully by then I'll be to my target weight so I can buy a new suit - my reward for getting back into shape ;-). I only have like five pounds to go so it's tempting to get one now, but I suspect the exchange rate will be more favorable when I come back.
[User Picture]
antigrl117 [23.07.08::03:09]
jealous! my husband got to go for a class in college and i've wanted to go ever since. it looks awesome.
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:06]
Europe really wasn't high on my list - at least not western Europe. It's been quite a bit of fun, though. I think Guatemala is a better destination as you get some of the same history (colonial churches going back to the 1500's) plus a wider variety of culture (European, Hispanic, Mayan) as well as the ancient Mayan pieces thrown in - all for a lot less money. I'm still really glad we came here, though, and while I don't think I'll have the patience for the originally planned six weeks, I definitely think a two week trip is well worth it.
[User Picture]
fierceflawless [23.07.08::03:13]
for a moment, I thought the saint in the 4th picture was giving a finger gun a la:

[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:07]
I'll keep my eye out for one. With so many hundreds of statues in this city, one of the Renaissance masters had to have had a sense of humor.
[User Picture]
lormagins [23.07.08::03:28]
Man, your shot of that wedding from the basilica of Santa Maria del Miracoli is fantastic - I remember trying to meter for indoors for old churches in Europe and without extra-high speeds and ability to crank aperture ridiculously wide open they can be impossible, which sucks since there's a lot to capture. This just reminds me that I really need to upgrade my lenses.
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:15]
I didn't have a chance to buy a wide angle lens before I left. I had wanted to get a 14mm or 15mm - or possibly one of the Tokina wide angle zooms (I don't like zoom lenses, but people speak quite highly of them and they come in attractive ranges). On top of that, due to a mixup in communication, we left our walkabout lens (28-135 IS) at home.

That said, I've used my 24mm f/2.8 exclusively and its worked out really well. We bought this lens on a whim before our trip to Guatemala, but it's proven to be a very reliable piece of equipment. There have been a few places I've wanted a few extra degrees of visibility and a couple situations where I had to bump it up to ISO 1600 - but with the 40D the images are still well within an acceptable noise level. The 24mm is a well respected lens and probably the best value wide angle lens Canon offers so I'm not too surprised - although the Tokina 10-25mm f/2.8 would certainly open up some additional options photographically.
[User Picture]
silvergrrl [23.07.08::05:53]
Saw this yesterday, thought of your Roman Holiday:
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:40]
Ha! I wish I'd seen that before writing my post; I'd have just linked to it. Although, I wouldn't have succumbed to the American-guilt piece (bah) - but I'll post more about that later.
[User Picture]
lormagins [23.07.08::09:02]
Hey how much are you photoshopping these before posting? There's some that look like you did some burning or dodging on them?
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:18]
With regard to travel pictures, I've sold out. I've applied one of the built-in Lightroom filters to a number of these, with the result of increasing the contrast. I don't have the time or patience to do any detailed post-production but did add some eye candy (at the cost of some detail) in the export process.
[User Picture]
lormagins [23.07.08::09:26]
Cheater! LOL. j.k.

Eh, I'm a purist - I get it in-camera or it wasn't got. I just use photoshop as a capture tool for my negative scanner, really, with occasional cropping, but no other adjustments. Then again that means with my current setup I'm far more limited by the abilities of the emulsion, so I definitely need to start compensating with better lenses.
[User Picture]
tyrven [23.07.08::09:32]
I'm a purist only out of laziness - I like taking photos, not correcting them. By the time I get to the computer and finish rating and tagging my photos the last thing I want to do is spend time in Photoshop.

That said, while I share your view of Photoshop as cheating, it could also be argued that the same thing was possible (and done, often) traditionally by getting film weighted for higher saturation and/or contrast - such as Velvia - although, of course, true purists would also call that cheating (I don't think it's cheating, but I think it can be a cheap crutch).
[User Picture]
lormagins [23.07.08::10:22]
Dude, I think Ansel effing Adams cheated. I'm an in-camera girl, that's all. Many of the things done in photoshop are doable in the lab with really remedial techniques. I just disagree with the idea that the art is in the print, not the negative.

I don't particularly like the term cheating, but can't think of a better one. I also am not keen on "purist" but eh... *shrug*
[User Picture]
ladyfalcon [24.07.08::05:42]
I don't know as anyone I know has the same photographs as you do in your photosets - Even if they were taking pictures of the same things, you have an eye for framing a shot, and more knowledge of your equipment, than most tourists can lay claim to. So I hope you'll keep posting them, they're lovely.

I am still hoping you wind up in Prague so you can test the waters for me there.
[User Picture]
tyrven [24.07.08::08:06]
The current plan is to go to Prague as part of our "Iron Curtain" trip, tentatively scheduled for the fall (when it's cooler here - since many of the Eastern Bloc countries don't have consistent air conditioning). That may be pushed to Spring based on Katie's school schedule, though.

Prague was originally high on my list until I realized it had become a popular tourist spot. We're still going to stop there, for sure, but I think we'll make it quick. Rumor has it that it's beautiful, but has also become a party town chock full of drunk foreignors.