November 16th and 17th, 2002
Well, Iím happy to say that this year found me in Italy for my birthday!
Waking up early on Saturday, Dave and I headed for the airport - - on time and passports in hand! We checked in at the front desk with absolutely no problems. Then since we had plenty of time, we set about window-shopping in the airport stores before heading for the departure gate. After 20 minutes of hanging out, we go to check the departure screen for the status of our flight and see ďcancelledĒ next to our flight. Since this is right in front of the information booth, we ask the girl at the desk and she looks at the screen and says itís cancelled! What a job! Anyway, so we head back to our airline desk to inquire (along with every body else in the universe) and wait in line. Once we get to the front of the desk, the girl announces to everybody in line that the flight is no longer cancelled, but will be delayed for a couple more hours. Way to cause panic! So with more time on our hands, we decided to grab a coffee and go check out the Observation Deck. One thing I forgot to mention is that everything was delayed due to a thick fog that had blanketed London. The Observation Deck was pretty cool because it was outside on the roof of the building (about three stories up). As weíre listening to the planes take off, the fog gradually starts to lift and more of a crowd starts to gather. Now I love watching the planes, but we donít have a thing on the plane spotters in Britain. Those are a serious bunch of people who walk around with big spotting books, notepads, binoculars, and transceivers so they can listen to the tower. Anyway, we hear from one of the guys that the Concord will be taking off shortly, but we don't know which runway. Of course we hear the engines, turn to look at the runway behind us and it's over in a matter of seconds!
We finally arrived in Rome around 6 in the evening. The first place that we stopped for a room was full, but the owner kindly refered us to another place and even called ahead. We dropped our bags in the room and headed for dinner. Of course, I had to get a big plate of pasta with mixed seafood and Dave ordered some ravioles. After spending so much time in pricey London, it's refreshing how cheap it is to eat in Italy! After dinner we meandered back to the hotel and managed to get a little off track. Itís amazing how there are old ruins, buildings, and fountains scattered everywhere in Rome.
Sunday morning we got up early to try to see Rome in a day! We figured it would be quickest to take the underground metro to the Colosseum and then walk across town working our way from Southeast to Northwest. Well nothing is ever that easy when weíre involved. At the metro station, none of the ticket machines give change and we canít find a customer booth to buy tickets. We head back out of the station and look for a store to buy some water and get change. Then the shop girl tells us that we can buy tickets from any Tabacchi store (like a newspaper shop). Oh well, now we know for next timeÖ So in the end it took us longer probably to go by metro then to just walk!
First stop was the Colosseum. It is absolutely stunning to say the least. It is just
amazing that back in 80 AD the Romans had the engineering knowledge to build the place!
It housed as many as 50,000 spectators with a labyrinth of brick cells, ramps, and
elevators to transport animals from the cages to the arena. Itís one of those places
like the pyramids of Egypt that you just canít fathom the size until you stand beside it!
In the same courtyard as the Colloseum is the Arch of Constantine which commemorates
the victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD312. It uses fragments of monuments
of Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius to create the triple arch.
After the Colosseum we walked through the various ruins of the ďAncient CityĒ.
The Roman Forum was used in 7th and 8th centuries BC as a weekly market. The Fori
Imperiali is a mixture of temples, basilicas, and public squares from the 1st and 2nd
centuries AD. Basically as you walk down the street you can see ruins on either side
of you that have been dug up by archaeologists over the years.
This part of our walk ended with the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. It was an
absolutely huge building with statues of horses at the top.
Adjacent to that building was Trajanís Column, which is said to be one of the
best-preserved specimens of Roman relief sculpture.
By this time it was approaching noon so we headed over to the Pantheon. Walking
around Rome, you would think it was a group of giants that inhabited the place.
All the buildings were on such a large scale that it must have been amazing to enter
it for the first time coming from the countryside. Erected nearly 2000 years ago, the
Pantheon is a domed building which has an opening in the center. Itís half-sphere was
constructed from poured concrete without the support of vaults, arches, or ribs and is
the largest of its kind. Dave and I enjoyed a quick sandwich for lunch on the front
steps of the Pantheon before heading to the Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona is known for the huge Fountain of the Four Rivers at its center. Each
of the river god statues represents one of the four continents of the globe (Asia, Europe,
Africa, and America). Then the Piazza contains two more fountains, one at each end, which
was designed in the 16th century. Back in AD86, the piazza was a stadium, which housed
wrestling matches and track and field events. According to my book, it also hosted mock
naval battles for which the stadium was flooded and filled with fleets skippered by
Next stop was the Vatican and more specifically, the St. Peterís Basilica. The Vatican
is a big conglomerate of buildings and grounds. In order to see St. Peterís you just show
up and get in line and itís free. Of course, Dave and I decided to climb the stairs to
the cupola (top of the dome) for a small fee. This was a treat since the first opening
lets you out on the inside of the dome to see all of the beautiful paintings, while the
second opening lets you out on the outside of the dome for a view of the city! St.
Peterís measures 186m by 137m and houses Michelangeloís Pieta. Outside the Vatican, the
front entrance is framed by Berniniís colonnade and topped by 140 statues. Around the side
of the main entrance is the entrance to all of the Vatican museums, including the Sistine
*****CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE VATICAN PICTURES!!!!!
Since we had been using up so much energy sightseeing, we decided it was time for a gelato break (thatís ice cream to me and you)! We walked up to this place that seemed to be quite popular and got in line. I noticed everyone was walking away with HUGE amounts of ice cream, so when I approached the counter I told them I wanted a small. Well the guy puts one huge glob of ice cream on the cone and then asks what other flavor I want. I thought thatís strange and I told him again I only wanted the one flavor. So the guy puts another HUGE glob of the same flavor on my coneÖ. Meanwhile Dave is getting the same (and that is the small)! So we both walk away with a pint of ice cream on top of each. What a place!
Refreshed from the gelato stop, we head to the Castel Santí Angelo. This was built
by Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It also served Popes as a fortress,
prison, and palace. When the plague hit in 590, Pope Gregory the Great supposedly saw an
angel at the top of the complex and had the building rededicated to the angel. Some of
the rooms are open so that you can see the beautiful artwork on the walls and a few of
the artefacts. The place also gives a great view of the Vatican, but since it was already
getting dark our pictures didnít come out that great.
With tired feet, but two more stops to go we head on to the Spanish Steps. These are
nothing more then a whole lotta steps which are a big hangout for the younger crowd.
As my book puts it ďDesigned by an Italian, funded by the French, named for the Spaniards,
occupied by the British, and under the sway of American ambassador-at-large Ronald
McDonald, the Scalinata di Spagna exude an international airĒ. Itís a big time
pick-up/make-out place in the evenings, located right at the head of the expensive
Final stop is the splendid Fontana de Trevi, which emerges from the back wall of the
Palazzo Poli. No trip to Rome is complete without a stop here because this is the place
where legend has it that tossing a coin into the fountain will ensure a speedy return to
Rome. I donít know about speedy, but it has ensured that I returned to Rome after my
first trip 10 years ago. Also, I couldnít take any chances since we had to fly back out
of Rome for our return trip to London in 7 days!
P.S. dropping two coins is said to aid falling in love in Rome!
After the fountain is was probably about 8:00 and we were starving. I was just thinking that pizza sounded good, when this guy with a flyer asks if we want to try his pizza/pasta place. Dave and I look at each other and figure, sounds good to us! So the guy takes us down a side street to his little family owned restaurant for dinner. The food was really great and I ended up making friends with the lady that worked there, so we got extra free chocolates at the end! What a day! Armed with a cappuccino and some chocolates in our tummies, we head for the hotel and a sound sleep!
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