Sunday 17 August 2014

European Adventure: Day Twenty - Rome, Italy

Sunday was our only full day in Rome, so I planned as much as possible within those few hours. We knew we wouldn’t be able to see everything, but I wanted us to see the main sights. We started with an early breakfast and then walked up to the Vatican to catch a taxi. As it was Sunday all the Vatican sights were closed, plus the Pope was in Korea so the Vatican Square was pretty quiet. It gave us a chance to take a few more photos – something we were grateful of the next day when the square was packed with hundreds of people.

Fancy Vatican Doors

Swiss Guards 

Our first stop was the Colosseum which I had pre-bought tickets for. Dad had been here a few times, so he just sat in one place and listened to the audio guide. I had been but I wanted to see it again, so Brian and I explored together for a bit. That lasted maybe 30 minutes… For anyone who doesn’t know Brian well – Brian tends to become a serious photographer when travelling. His photos turn out amazing and once the trip ends I am super grateful for the awesome images we have as memories, but while traveling it can get somewhat annoying as he takes far more time in areas then I would. The Colosseum was an example of this, so we ended up splitting up and exploring on our own! It is a really cool place to see and quite amazing when you think of how long it has been there for. I am not much of a ruins person – that much is likely obvious from my posts about Greece – but the Colosseum is very impressive! It is the largest amphitheater in the world and was built between 70-80AD to hold between 50,000 – 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiator contests, public speeches, executions, drama performances and more making it a prominent spot in Rome. Over centuries it has been heavily damaged by earthquakes which caused large segments to collapse. The Colosseum was built in a way that audience members were seated based on their class and standing in society with the lower part reserved for the wealthy and the upper areas for the poor.  Currently it is undergoing a 25 million euro restoration project which is why much of it was encased in scaffolding while we were there.

Once Dad, Brian and I met back up we decided to walk toward Circus Maximus where the chariot racing took place in the days of the gladiators. After looking at the map we decided the best way to do this was to walk through the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill which we also had tickets for. While Dad had seen these a few times and I had been when I was in Rome at 13, we wanted to ensure Brian had a chance to see it. These were the type of ruins that aren’t my thing! Yes, when you think of the history behind them – how long ago they were from and their initial purposes – it was amazing, but they are essentially rocks! I think seeing Ancient Ephesus last summer has ruined the ruins for me, because that was the most impressive and fantastic ancient site I have ever seen – nothing can compare.

By the time we were walking through this area it was afternoon and boiling hot – that didn’t make the experience any better! The area is a lot bigger then we expected so we took a lot of time walking from the entrance to the exit. The Forum includes the ruins of many political buildings of Rome along with the residences of Roman royalty. This was the area that was the main center of ancient Rome and where public speeches, trails, and other gladiator matches would take place. The area we spent the most time walking through was Palatine Hill, which is the oldest part of the city and sits just above the Forum. It has been shown that people have lived in Palatine Hill since around 1000BC, and in mythology is the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the wolf who raised them. We did get to see the house of Romulus which Dad enjoyed as he and his brother are named after Romulus and Remus. We also got to see the Temple of Apollo, the ruins of many residences and some great views of Rome, including Circus Maximus which allowed us to cross it off our list.

Once we left the ruins we caught a cab and took it over to Piazza Repubblica which seemed like an interesting sight to see based on the map (no other research or knowledge). When we got there we discovered there wasn’t much to see – just the two main buildings (one of which is a hotel) and the famous fountain. Still, it made for a good place to walk around and we found a place where we had great pizza and another place with delicious gelato. From there we wandered around a few of the side streets, one of which took us back to the Vittorio Emmanuel (typewriter building) that we saw the night before as well as another beautiful building who’s name escapes me.

The plan had been to keep wandering and exploring the city, but we were all tired and wanted a few hours to rest. We decided to go back to the hotel and then head back out in a few hours. After a much needed nap we took a cab to the Pantheon. We wandered around Piazza della Rotonda for a while looking at the buildings and listening to some really talented street performers. The actual Pantheon building was closed but it was worth seeing the outside. It was built between 27 BC and 14 AD and then rebuilt in 126 AD.  Despite its age, it is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome, and today contains the tombs of Raphael and many Italian kings. It was initially a temple for pagan gods, but became a church in 609. According to Roman legend the Pantheon is the location that Romulus was “seized by an eagle and taken off into the skies with the Gods” after his death. (

Afterward we started walking toward Campo di Fiori, a Italian famous square that Dad wanted to return to. On the way we passed the Argentinian Square which Brian had wanted to see. This square was just a group of ruins in the middle of the streets which were quite interesting to see. Once in Campo di Fiori we explored the area and the nearby fountains and statues before finding a place for dinner. I saw a restaurant that had been recommended from my research which was a Mozzarella bar. It is an interesting concept as the entire restaurant is based around various types of mozzarella. In addition to the usual dinner items (pizza pasta etc) there was an entire section of different mozzarellas and accompaniments like meats and antipasto items. We went with a traditional buffalo mozzarella as well as a smoked one, which was definitely different. I didn’t hate it, but it’s not something I loved either. Smoked mozzarella must be becoming popular as I recently saw a version of it at the local store. Dinner was okay, but likely overpriced due to it’s trendy concept and location.

We decided to walk a bit toward the hotel and with luck ended up at Piazza Navona which is a place I had wanted to see. This Piazza is another of Rome’s beautiful squares which is claimed to be the finest Baroque masterpiece in Rome.  Like most of the others in Rome, this square is pedestrian only and is full of cafes and restaurants at the bottoms of the large buildings. At night it was full of artist booths selling various panting’s and sketches. We stopped at many of these booths and walked away with a few awesome pieces. The Piazza is full of various fountains, the most famous being Berini’s “The Four Rivers Fountain”. It also has the “Neptune Fountain” and the “Fountain of the Moor”. Sadly because it was dark the photos we took don’t do these justice.

We finished the night by taking a cab back to the hotel and having a drink at the hotel bar. Brian decided to walk up to the Vatican and take a few night photos, while I went upstairs to pack.

Just another old photo of Adam and I in Rome back in 1997! 

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