October 12, 2012

I slept in this morning. And I didn’t even feel guilty about it. Baby steps.

As soon as I got myself together, I took the tram to Piazza del Popolo to meet up with a fellow Couch Surfer. (Not everyone can host, but there are often people who offer to show you around or get a meal and chat.) Since this guy’s name was Fabio, I figured he was a legitimate Italian, so I made lunch plans with him.

Fabio turned out to be very nice and very laid-back. His English was very good, but only if I spoke at a reasonable speed (which can be a little hard for me), and we had a nice chat about Italy while dining at a local place with excellent antipasti.

I then took the train south to Cinecittà, Italy’s largest film studio (the home of many a Fellini film). I loved HBO’s Rome — except for the rampant sex and violence, which was, admittedly, a lot of the show — and so I thought it would be a fun and rather meta experience to explore the set of Rome while in Rome. Plus, the archeologist from yesterday’s tour said that the show was pretty authentic in its design, and it appealed to me to have all of this history come alive.

The studio was large and expansive, with lots of warehouse studios and an enormous back lot. The ticket included entrance to the museum (which was honestly a little silly — hey kids, this is how movies are made!) and then a guided tour of the back lot. And, dude, IT WAS AWESOME. Talk about a vivid game of pretend.

After walking down “Broadway” from the set of Gangs of New York and then the exterior sets of several Italian films, we walked onto the (four hectare!) Rome set, with its own 3-dimentional Forum façade. I kept laughing out loud when I peered through the doors of buildings to see a bunch of scaffolding and trees beyond. The building material was largely fiberglass, polystyrene, and wood, but it all looked so real, even up close. It cracked me up to knock on the hollow “stone” and find an occasional anachronistic screw (but only on very close inspection).

Something that surprised Romeviewers is that the iconic buildings are painted, and not the stark and gleaming white marble we have come to associate with Ancient Rome. This is accurate, though — many parts of the buildings and monuments were in fact painted, as were many of the statues. Paint fades away with time, but the natural color of the marble does not. (You now, I can only imagine that Washington DC’s huge white monuments are based on those of the Roman Republic. But these monuments seem to mimic the popular images of Ancient Rome, and not the accurate ones.)

Upon leaving the Form, we entered a maze of Ancient Roman streets and piazzas, eventually passing through Rome’s Egypt set, more sets for Gangs of New York, and then the huge public square used for a recent film based on Francis of Assisi. So coooool.

It rained while I was on the train back into the city center, but it had stopped by the time I arrived. It’s been so hot and sunny, and so it was wonderful to see Rome after the rain, wet cobblestones and puddles, rolling cloudy skies…

I met up with Tess for dinner, and we walked to a little place several blocks away from Piazza Navona (sea bass and fresh salad… yummmm). And then, after dinner, we went to Il Gelati. Guys, seriously, what am I going to do when I don’t have access to gelato every day?

As we strolled north through the ancient city, I asked Tess to regale me with the history of Rome, from its founding through the present, and she happily obliged (with amazing amounts of dates and names and interesting analysis… she knows her stuff). I don’t know if I will have time to write a Brief History of Rome before I leave, but I will at least shoot for a ridiculously abridged Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. We’ll see. There’s kind of, you know, a lot of important history here. We’re talking thousands of years.

I arrived at Barbara’s fairly late, and we chatted for a bit before I sought out my bed, barely able to keep my eyes open.

Tomorrow: my last day in Rome!