Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rome - Day 1

First sight of the Coliseum coming out of the Subway.

Interior of the Coliseum

Shot of the Forum from the Palatine Hill

Victor Emmanuel monument

Bought a 3-day transit pass at a nearby Tabacci and bravely boarded a tram for the downtown Termini. There we got on the Metro for a long-delayed two-stop trip to the Coliseum. Reggie almost passed out from the heat and crush of passengers, but finally we arrived and debouched right in front of the Coliseum. Still an imposing sight after 2000 years of abuse, it was full of innovations, from the entry/exit system that we still use today that could get 50-70,000 occupants out in 15 minutes, to elevators that brought up animals or other surprises, to the system of poles and tarps (rigged by sailors, who were experts in ropes, etc.) used to shade the masses.  It was built in 10 years and the main stone structure was so massive, mortar wasn’t even used. The stones were pinned together with iron until a later age needed the straps for swords. The marble facing and hundreds of statues, even the columns, were pillaged by later builders, notably the Vatican.

Then a short stroll up the Capitoline Hill to view the Forum Romanum, the commercial, religious and legal center of the Empire, alas in ruins today, but still being excavated. Down the Via Sacra where returning generals held their triumphal processions, to the site of the Senate, the Temple of Vesta (home to the vestal virgins) and the triumphal arches at each end.

Beginning to fade by now in the Roman heat, we limped down the road to the wedding-cake like monument to Victor Emmanuel who finally united Italy in the 19th Century. Speaking of weddings, 6 or 7 brides were being photographed at various points around the Coliseum, it being Saturday and clearly a popular spot for pictures.  On the way we passed a statue commemorating Julius Caesar at whose feet an adoring fan had left a bouquet of roses.  How many people still have adoring fans after 2,000 years?

Then a refreshing beverage at an expensive sidewalk café and home. Forsaking the Metro, we deciphered the bus system and took a bus to the Termini, caught a tram and nearly got off at the right stop!

A long but amazing day. Supper at the neighbourhood restaurant (owned by a Brit) and frequented by Italians who eventually asked us how we had found the place since it was so far off the tourist path. They were relieved to hear it was an accident and we promised not to tell anyone how to get there (but if you’re in the area, it’s called Il Necci on Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 68, Pigneto, Roma....Shhh.)


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