Sunday, May 03, 2015

Rome Highlights

The Rome Highlights Tour was the official start to the Precoa Escapes Super Trip. There was a small army of us guiding hundreds of people on foot through Rome. It was a little bit stressful, but in the end, very memorable. Judging by the over 600 WhatsApp messages exchanged in the few hours we were doing the tour, there was a lot of coordination needed.

The first stop was the Collesseum.  On the tour, Mark was handing out selfie sticks, which made the selfie stick vendors super mad!  Because Dani wasn't feeling well, we toured the Collesseum separately.  The Collesseum is huge and impressive!!! We heard about the Collesseum, how people were whipped on the stairs to get them to move faster to their seats, how the people would drink gladiator blood because they thought it had special qualities, and other interesting things.

After the Collesseum, we walked to through the Roman Forum.  The Forum was the center of Roman public life, but not a lot remains standing.  It was fun to envision what it may have looked like centuries ago.

The Collesseum area was very crowded on the days we were there because there was a holiday, May Day, which is like Labor Day.  That meant that we got to see some street performers.  Like a guy juggling swords above some kids (!?!) and the statue person.  It was a fun environment, for sure.

The next stop on the tour was Piazza Venezia and the Altare della Patria, a monument to Victor Emmanuel, first king of unified Italy.  The Piazza gave everyone their first experience of crossing 5 lanes of moving traffic.  The key, we were told, was to just not look at the cars because acknowledging their presence "showed weakness."

After that, we walked down the street towards Trevi Fountain, where Dani and I spent our time during the tour.  One of the things that I found most amazing about Rome is that everywhere we looked was amazing architecture.  For example, I poked my head into a cathedral on the side of a road. It wasn't a touristy site, and there weren't any signs around it, but inside, I found a majestic ceiling and ornate decor. There were buildings everywhere that were absolutely beautiful!

For the tour, we left Precoa people at various intersections to help direct people on the route. Behind us on this selfie is a pedestrian street heading towards Trevi Fountain with lots and lots of street vendors.  At this intersection, Jason and Kathy Plotkin, who were stationed there, and Dani, who was checking in with them, all got to see Ben Stiller and his film crew driving down the road a few times, apparently filming Zoolander 2.  We will be looking for Precoa flags when we see the movie!

Trevi Fountain was under restoration, so we didn't get to see it by itself, but it was still pretty.  I put up the Precoa Escapes flag, and eventually it got the attention of the local authorities.  The first officer was okay with it being up, but his colleague, who stopped by a few minutes later, made me take it down.  Because of the construction, and because people were running behind, not many people ended up making it down to see Trevi.

The next stop on the tour, after a fun walk down a pedestrian corridor, was the Pantheon. Daven and Rebecca apparently had similar issues with the authorities and their flag.  Fortunately, all of us had the handy Precoa signs!  The inside of the Pantheon is enormous, and the light streaming through the hole at the top was amazing!

The next stop was the Piazza Navona. Again, there were street vendors and musicians everywhere. There were selfie stick vendors and splat ball vendors everywhere! I still don't understand the infatuation with the splat balls. Piazza Navona was big and open and had a lot of activity. During the highlights tour, there were a lot of men in black suits that blocked off one of our routes, apparently because the Italian Prime Minister was visiting a government building along the route. 

The next stop was the castle, and by the time we got to the castle, we had to get moving to make it on the bus and so we could take a few minutes in the Vatican.

It was fun seeing lots of friends along the route,

and we loved seeing all of the Precoa flags in front of the Vatican!  It felt like Precoa had taken over for a few moments. We fortunately had a few minutes to do a little shopping, but we didn't have enough time to go into St. Peter's cathedral.

It was a crazy time, but we got everyone through Rome and onto the ship on time (even though we almost left the Plotkins!).