Thursday, December 13, 2007

9x365: The guy at the underground Roman Forum Museum at Assizi

scan0010Something funny tells me that Assizi is far cooler if you're Catholic. We weren't. We were staying in a rooming house dormatory run by nuns who cleaned a lot and fed us veal with unidentified boiled vegetables and I got the idea that I would tap dance in the hallway. Why I had a pair of tap shoes in Italy is anyone's guess.

Assizi crouches behind stone walls at the top of a small hill overlooking the rather sensuous curves of the valley and farms below. It, and the view from it are quite pretty.

In the morning we crowded into a bus that took us to a parking lot halfway up the hill, at which point the roads became too narrow for bus traffic. At the edge of this parking lot there was a narrow, imobile escalator leading up the hill with a button at the bottom, presumably to make it go. We pressed the button and nothing happened.

We walked up it instead, and by the time the majority of us were at the top it woke up and decided to work. Typical.

We went to see Saint Claire down a spiral staircase in the basement of the church by the same name, which had one of the most goregeous frescoed ceilings I think I've ever seen. So many of those are gaudy over-the-top with decorations and designs but this one was simple - a gently shifting blue-teal covered with gold stars.

Then it was down the street for a wander through Saint Francis, which was also impressive, though once again, would have been far cooler if any of us were Catholic.

Outside we wandered up to a little church between Francis and Claire that had been converted from a Roman temple with the most garishly and claustrophobically ornate decorations.

Outside we had some time to kill, and what better way than shopping? We were quickly discouraged though, because the first shop we entered was packed floor to ceiling with rosaries and nothing else. So was the next one, and the next. After a couple more we gave up, bought some alcohol at a corner store just because we could and sat out in the sun.

Something was bugging me, though. I had seen something that I wanted to check out. Something about Romans and a museum. After several minutes of nagging I convinced everyone to go check it out.

We found the Roman Forum Museum and stepped into a windowless gallery full of display cases. A rather lonely looking man was sitting at a desk just behind the door, and he perked up with our presence. We had a look at the admission costs and were fiddling around with our wallets because euros are all completely different sizes, some of which don't fit in normal sized wallets.

"Student discount," he said, "for you, two euro." Being the honest kids we were, we had to point out that the student discount was only for students from the EU, and our accents were clearly not from the EU, but he seemed to panic a little and insisted on giving us change. There was no one else in the place.

And to us kids who took Latin instead of French in highschool, it was the coolest little museum ever. A subterranean tunnel took us underneath the street above, walking on top of the same paving stones that the Romans walked on, and the place was chocked full of grave stones with inscriptions that we could actually read. It was soooo cool!

We thanked the man on our way out with crazed grins. Two days later we went to Pompeii, and a day after that, Rome, but for some reason they just didn't excite us as much, and I'd like to thank that man for the discount.