Day II of our Rome experience took us to what is arguably the most famous ancient ruin on the entire planet. Needless to say, we were excited and set out early.
Our first stop was a small collection of ruins near the last tram stop on our line, Argentina. I didn’t think much of it at the time, aside from the fact it was littered (ha!) with cats. After reading a bit, I realized it was the area where Julius Caesar was killed and where famous operas like ‘Barber of Seville’ saw their debut. Hmm. Not far from there we came across the grand Piazza Venezia and the enormous Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. My second favorite building in Rome. It contains the Eternal Flame of the Unknown Soldier and acts as the starting (or ending) point for the most famous set of tourist attractions in the area. When it was built, it was considered an eyesore due to the enormity of the monument and the fact it destroyed an entire hill.
We walked from there to the Trajan Forum, which is little more than a collection of incomplete columns now. Indi seemed to know much more about it than I did, and I’d been here before! Though there was some resoration going on (as always) we got to see a good bit of it and even touch some of the ancient masonry. Across the street from that is the Roman Forum of Peace, where the Roman Senate once stood. Again, this part is little more than rubble and columns, but a little imagination really fleshes it out and you can imagine what life was like back then. There are even bits of an ancient map (carved out of stone) of the city and a small display explains how intricately planned and maintained Rome was back in the day. I had no idea they had an urban planning department. Can you imagine how many cabinets of papyrus they had?
At the end of the street is the grand ruin itself, the Roman Colosseum. It’s so strange to see such a familiar sight in real life when you’ve seen it in other media your entire life. It’s like it’s not real. It looks exactly like I remember it, which is a good thing I suppose. Indi pointed out that the Colosseum contains all three types of columns, which once again proves she is much smarter than I am. The Arch of Constantine is right next to it, and it is fenced off now…yet I don’t recall that fence last time. It’s hard to believe how long this stuff has been here. Angkor Wat in Cambodia was breathtaking and amazing, but they were built as temples. This stuff was actually used daily for normal urban needs. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Thankfully, there were less tourists than I expected, but that’s wintertime for you. At least we had a clear blue sky!
We had pizza for lunch (you really have no idea how good it is here) and I reflected on my current location. I was less than a block from the Hotel Delta, where I stayed in ’95, and was sharing one of the most romantic and historic cities in the world with my wife. I am truly blessed and thankful that this trip has been possible. After lunch we spent a little time in the park next to the Colosseum, then boarded a bus back to Vatican City to check on the museum. It’s a shame our money is as scarce as it is, as we couldn’t really afford to go into the museum (including the Sistine Chapel) as it’s nearly 40 euro to get in! We just have to come back.
It was right around here we found out there was a political protest going on in town against the Italian president. Always ones to people watch, we got the particulars and boarded a bus to head to St. Giovanni Square to see it. However, we didn’t know the bus had been diverted due to the large crowds and ended up at the wrong end of town before realizing our stop had been entirely skipped. As it was too late to get back there in time, we headed back to the tram and home.
That pretty much sums up Rome for us. It’s way too little time and we’re saddened to be leaving so soon. We had some WONDERFUL hosts (thank you Amy and Stefan!) and fully plan to return, though it probably won’t be on this trip. Our next stop is the Renaissance capital, Florence. Again, not enough time but we get more time in Venice, so that’s something, right?