After a couple of nights in Florence without any sleep, we were so tired yesterday morning that we sunk regretfully into our beds until 13:00PM, yet without this monstrous rest we would have been unable to enjoy the day.
Our first stop was a 2 mile walk to “The National Roman Museum” ; it’s just outside the main train station so if you have some changeovers in Rome with an hour or two to spare, you could easily pop over the road to this cheap and interesting museum! There are three floors of frescoes, statues, mosaics, and sculpture, and it’s only EUR 3.50 for the entrance fee! I actually saw two exhibits here that are my favourite pieces of the whole trip; the first is entitled ‘The Boxer’, a statue of exceptional quality depicting a post-fight boxer resting his battered body. Sitting with his legs apart, his hands are clasped together and still in gloves, and the way in which he is positioned draws the viewer’s gaze to his face. He concentrates with intensity from empty eye sockets, his cheeks and eyebrows covered in blood, bruises, and scars. It reeks of the brutality of combat and is really a sight to see.
The second, and best, exhibit that I will mention is “The Portonaccio Sarcophagus”. Found in 1932, the piece shows the progress of Roman horsemen as they annihilate those in their path; in a collage of soldiers, spears and devastating blows, the sculpture seems to leap from its bounds and re-enact each swing of the sword, stab of the spearhead, and crush of the fist as if it’s happening before your eyes. It’s absolutely incredible, and will definitely be remembered for years to come as a highlight of the trip.
Next, we trotted off to the “Capuchin Crypt” . Now, this place has no end of regulations that I’ll list so you don’t get caught out like the woman in front of us: no camera, no phones, no bare shoulders, no shorts, no smoking, no food, no drink. Who says the Church isn’t fun, right? Anyway, after paying EUR 8.50, we walked through the small museum rooms depicting monk’s clothing, religious artwork, and other interesting exhibits relating to their lives. We, however, were there for more macabre reasons, and swiftly made our way to the crypt itself. When the monks arrived at this church in the early 1600s, they trucked 300 cartloads of deceased friars with them, and packed some 3,700 skeletal remains into arrangements contained within the burial crypt. It’s really, really fucking weird.
Apparently, according to the Church, it isn’t macabre but rather an uplifting demonstration of the passage between life and death. For the monks, who lived lives of poverty waiting to earn their reward of being with Christ, that may have been so, but don’t ask me to walk into a dark room of decorated skulls, pelvic bones, and all sorts of deathly imagery and expect it to raise me up into some ecstatic state of freedom. It’s definitely worth visiting, as I suppose everyone will respond in different ways, but I found it a tiny bit unsettling, a tiny bit amusing (I have no idea why), and extremely interesting nonetheless. In the final crypt a sign, in five languages, declares: “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…” Spooky.
After a little stroll about the place, we wanted some dinner and a good night out, finding both at “The Meeting Place”. This is one of my favourite night spots and was rammed with students dressed up for a fun night of drinks and food; their menu of cocktails, beers, and wines is given to you as a newspaper, and after ordering two glasses of Old Fashioned, we paid our EUR 10 each to access the buffet and cracked on with dinner. Forget the image of lukewarm shitty food in dirty bowls, this buffet was amazing; one corner held a sushi chef creating eleven different types of sushi and sashimi, which all tasted divine, and led to a bar top counter with paella, fresh pizzas, cold wheat salads, cold rice salads, pastries, and pasta. Everything was of amazing quality and prepared on the spot, and after a few runs we were stuffed.
After a couple of hours, there was barely room to move. The students had descended in their hoards and turned the spot into a vibrant space of conversation, drinks, and good music; if you want a few cocktails in a brilliant environment, then I’d definitely recommend going. Cocktails are about EUR. 8 each, and there’s even a room selling cigarettes in there if that’s something you’d need.
Today, I woke up to find out my dog had died, so wasn’t feeling too adventurous. As luck would have it, Jacob was also feeling pretty tired, so we’ve sauntered around in the sun, read our books, and had a bit of decent grub, ready for the two days of 12 hour trains that begin tomorrow, and will result in us being home.
It’s been an amazing month, it really has, and I’ll be posting some summaries and reflections as soon as I can. You guys have helped us find some incredible nights out, fantastic restaurants, and enjoyable day trips, so I can’t thank you enough. Special homage paid to Rebecca as she’s travelled near enough everywhere and is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to this stuff. Check out her blog!