Rome, Italy

November 16th and 17th, 2002

Rome view

Well, I’m 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 “cancelled” 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 it’s 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 we’re 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 don’t 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. It’s 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 we’re involved. At the metro station, none of the ticket machines give change and we can’t 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 time… 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. It’s one of those places like the pyramids of Egypt that you just can’t fathom the size until you stand beside it!
Rome Colosseum Rome Colosseum
Roman Soldiers
Colosseum Colosseum

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.
Arch Front Arch Side

After the Colosseum we walked through the various ruins of the “Ancient City”. 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.
Forum Ruins Forum Ruins
Ruins Ruins

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.
Vittorio Bldg Vittorio Bldg Vittorio Statue Vittorio Statue

Adjacent to that building was Trajan’s Column, which is said to be one of the best-preserved specimens of Roman relief sculpture.
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column

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. It’s 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.
Pantheon Outside Closeup of Fountain in pict on left
Pantheon Inside Pantheon Inside Pantheon Inside
Pantheon Inside Pantheon Inside

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 convicts!
Navona Main Fountain Navona Side Fountain

Next stop was the Vatican and more specifically, the St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican is a big conglomerate of buildings and grounds. In order to see St. Peter’s you just show up and get in line and it’s 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. Peter’s measures 186m by 137m and houses Michelangelo’s Pieta. Outside the Vatican, the front entrance is framed by Bernini’s 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 Chapel.
Outside Vatican front Outside Vatican on top


Pieta Outside Vatican on top

Since we had been using up so much energy sightseeing, we decided it was time for a gelato break (that’s 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 that’s 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 cone…. 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 Sant’ 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 didn’t come out that great.
Castle front Castle front

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 “Designed 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 air”. It’s a big time pick-up/make-out place in the evenings, located right at the head of the expensive shopping area.
Spanish steps at night

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 don’t know about speedy, but it has ensured that I returned to Rome after my first trip 10 years ago. Also, I couldn’t 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!
Fountain Fountain

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!

The Fill in with picts End

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