To catch up on the first part of our visit, read Rome, Italy Part 1 – Popes, Paintings and Parents . Day two of our three day stop in Italy and we set out for some more Rome-based shenanigans.
The Journey Into Rome
Morning saw us waiting on a sun-drenched platform, waiting for the local train into Rome. The station itself was very unkempt, graffitied heavily and nearly deserted. The train was equally dilapidated but had the added advantage of being somewhat quaint, adding up to charmingly shabby. Let’s call it rustic. Once in Rome, we hit the streets, ready to do some serious sightseeing.
We started at the Colosseum, where we greeted by an enormous queue. We grudgingly took our place. The stewards decided to split the line and somehow Karl nipped into the new line, saving us a good half an hour’s queue time. Irate tourists began to yell at us and I desperately tried to turn myself invisible. Horrendously embarrassed as I was, I only managed to turn red. I didn’t move out of the queue though, so maybe I wasn’t all that bothered after all. After studiously ignoring the European insults flying at our backs for twenty minutes or so, we made it to the ticket office and entered the Colosseum itself.
Wonders of the World
The Colosseum is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The list (which we started in 2009 and finally completed on our honeymoon in 2016) consists of:
- The Colosseum, Italy
- Machu Picchu, Peru
- Chichén Itzá, Mexico
- Cristo Redentor, Brazil
- The Great Wall of China, China (duh)
- The Taj Mahal, India
- Petra, Jordan
The Colosseum is very special. I loved the way you could see the different layers of the building. At the bottom the cells of Gladiators and their victims. Moving up to the fancy boxes where the great and good of Rome would watch the bloodbaths.
My Horrible Histories came flooding back and I marvelled that I was standing in the largest amphitheatre ever built, that has lasted (more or less) nearly 2000 years. I have worked at the Royal Albert Hall, a concert venue in London that is based on a roman amphitheatre. It holds 5000 people, and to think that the Colosseum could hold 10 to 15 times this many is mind-boggling. At least they didn’t have to worry about people taking photos.
“Excuse me Sir, but when the performance starts, you’ll have to pop that flint and tablet away. Maximus Flavius has requested no carvings this evening”
Back onto the streets, and after a lovely little lunch opposite Andrew’s old international school, we ventured onward by bus to more famous sights. I now can’t remember which order we visited them, so here, in no particular order…
The dome of the Pantheon is immense, it is the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world. However, you enter from the front of the building thinking that the whole thing looks a little squat. I think we are used to seeing these vast domes balancing atop great churches and so, unable to see it behind the classical facade, I was a little unsure of what to expect. But, when you step inside and take in the huge hole in the roof that opens to the sky, the scale of the thing really hits home.
It was originally built almost 2000 years ago and it has been in continuous use since. It began life as a Roman temple but was converted into a Christian church when Roman Gods fell out of favour. It’s a bit of a geometrist’s wet dream, all circles, squares and perfect alignment. The top opens to the sky, an oculus that lets in the sun, people are theorising that it may be a giant sun dial. Very pleasing to the eye.
In the centre of Rome sits a cluster of ancient temples, churches and public buildings which date from the Roman Empire. Tourists are free to wander among these ruins and picture the throngs of people who lived there 2000 years ago. Whilst nowhere near as well preserved as Pompeii, the names of the buildings ignite something in the imagination. The area is literally littered with famous spots. The podium that Shakespeare used to give Mark Antony his big moment, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears”, the place where the original Roman senate sat (although this is now a reconstruction) and most evocative for me, the temple of the Vestal Virgins.
Romans worshipped fire in the form of the Goddess Vesta and the priestesses charged to guard the sacred flame were white robed girls, recruited at a young age and required to remain pure and untouched until they had completed their 30 year service to the Goddess. I had visions of ethereal ladies in floating white gowns carrying urns of water and wine, I wonder which childhood book I saw this in…?
The Trevi Fountain
We gathered around this beautiful Baroque fountain, arguably one of the world’s best known, and gazed at the rippling water. There is something oddly pleasing about a nice fountain. It can hold me spellbound for a much greater time than the equivalent statue, that’s for sure. If I ever become famous enough to be memorialised in stone, I would like to be expelling water somehow. We tossed our coins into the water using our right hands and throwing them over our left shoulders in the time-honoured tradition. I don’t normally go in for chucking my money away quite so frivolously (excluding my trips to Primark) but it would seem rude not to! Throwing the coins in means that we will return to Rome one day. Having lost all our photos, we probably will.
In the evening, back at the house, Andrew’s Dad provided the dinner table with a gargantuan bowl of spaghetti carbonara. Karl and I had both expressed our great love of the dish and he had taken on the challenge. It looked wonderful, and if I liked onion, it would have been. Unfortunately, I intensely dislike the entire allium family (excluding garlic), and so I spent the duration of the meal trying to subtly pick it out of the tangle of spaghetti, sauce and bacon. I wonder if they noticed the pile of translucent layers hidden under the last little bit of pasta at the end of dinner?
The next morning, a quick lift back to Ciampino Airport and we jumped on our next flight, en route to Barcelona.
(I took some pretty good photos in Rome but the camera was stolen elsewhere on the trip so I don’t have them any more)