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Published: September 4th 2008
Maryius Caeser shows no mercy
It seems like I’m writing more on travel than Baedeker at the moment and it’s only going to get worse in the next couple of months, so be warned!
Rome this time, ‘I, Culina’ and ‘Sallus Aumonius’ (Sally A.) had only three days and nearly three millennia of history, it’s going to be one hell of an Italian job.
Day one, first things first, I got the whole ‘when in Rome’ business out of my system, but it was fun to actually say it when I was ‘in Rome’. Saturday morning and it was up early off to the Roman tube (funny how if you put Roman in front of something you imagine it to be ancient) and we headed straight over to join the queues for the Vatican and famous Sistine chapel.
I tend to read guidebooks once I’ve seen somewhere (don’t ask why) so I’d not really looked at what the Vatican has to offer the humble sinner such as myself, but I knew it had some paintings by some of those Ninja Turtle dudes, Raphael, Michelangelo etc so I thought it’s was worth look. Once I’d managed to pass over the border without being struck down
by The Wrath of God I knew I’d lived a truly pure life after all. Still, God loves to keep us guessing and trying to find the Sistine chapel was no different.
The Vatican is BIG and full of frescos and full of tourists being ushered around like the Lambs of God they are (are you getting the religious theme yet?) through vast corridors adorned with hundreds of the things. I imagine most people are mainly going in to see the Sistine chapel as we were and so we diligently followed the signs thinking it was just around the corner. To be honest I think we might have taken a wrong turn and ended up going all around the houses (or should that be frescos?). Passing on the way through the map fresco room which was really good, being a bit of a saddo when it comes to maps. Finally we came to the Sistine, it was very spectacular and the perspective on the paintings is amazing however I’d got a bit fresco’d out by this point so wasn’t quite as impressed as I probably should have been.
At this point you start to get a sense of
Senātus Populusque Rōmānus
That's The Senate and the People of Rome" to you plebs.
It reminded me of reading all those Asterix books when I was young.
the power and money tucked away inside the Catholic Church. It’s a little bit scary really and I’m not sure if I’m that comfortable with it all. But then I guess it’s the same for all religions, perhaps it’s the concentration of all that Catholic Power in one space which makes it a bit scary. But after dutifully sending the niece and nephew a postcard from His Popiness it was time to return to Italy for a bit more Roman occupation.
One of the best things about Rome is the abundance of water fountains dotted around the city, in the hot weather it was great as you can just fill up your water bottle whenever you want and save your Euros for some gelato instead, which is rather nice.
Especially when you are on a mission from God to see as many sights in one day as we were. After the Vatican we wondered down to the river to cross the Tiber by Hadrian’s Mausoleum, he died before it was finished, oh dear, and headed over the river.
Wandering around in the afternoon we took in the Piazza Navona which is rather pretty and has some nice fountains
Say 'Swiss cheese!'
Perhaps not his best side.
built by some bloke called Bernini. He seems to have built a lot of stuff in Rome and keeps popping up everywhere. And after a spot of lunch which lasted a bit longer due to the fact we ended up in a café showing some of the Olympics and overstayed our welcome.
Once we dragged ourselves away it was time to visit the Pantheon, the wonderful Pantheon, the marvellous Pantheon, truly the temple of ‘all the Gods’. I was rather taken with the Pantheon (can you guess?) as it’s an absolutely amazing building. Fans of sad geology programmes like me may have seen one which explains why the Romans could build such marvels due to the fact that the local ash in the nearby volcanoes allowed them to make concrete and with the bricks they made they could produce such amazing buildings. The Greeks only had marble and the Egyptians had sandstone, so they couldn’t build such amazing things, go Romans! It’s a bit of a shame the Catholics got hold of the interior but at least the main structure is unchanged.
Trevi fountain next, this was really nice if a little bit full of tourists. I
Is this the Vatican?
Is the Pope Catholic?
threw in the required coin which means I’ll be returning to Rome someday. It was rather hot at this point and I do wish I could have jumped in, it would make a great addition to anyone’s garden.
And finally the Spanish steps, they were OK, huge amounts of tourist take the edge off it, I think I was more impressed with the beautiful dress in the window of Dior, only 2000 or so Euros if anyone’s feeling rich?
So after a very full day it was time to head back to Hotel Alpi for a bit of a rest, we managed to resist the invitation by the desk clerk to meet his ‘Mama’ and have some ‘Bolognese’. I think he went to the Italian cliché school of tourism.
Day two and Ancient Rome day, on the agenda was the Flavian Amphitheatre (OK, I’ll call it the Colosseum), the Forum and Palatine hill. I was tempted to take the sheets off the bed and walk round in a toga, but I thought it might be a little excessive. The Colosseum was again, absolutely amazing. When you read about what actually went on there but it is also rather
Where's my stamp?
I crossed this border in to the Vatican, but they didn't bleedin' well stamp me passport!
frightening. The amount of people and animals who died in that place is staggering, I wonder if the sand and bricks have a higher than average iron content (work out why) than normal. I think they should recreate one for 2012, I mean, how else are we going to follow the Chinese?
Next up, The Forum east and west then the Palatine where it all began with Romulus and Remus. There is rather too much to see in this part of Rome for me to describe in detail but there are temples galore, ones for Julius Caesar, Castor and Pollux, Saturn. A couple of Basilicas, the one of Constantine and Maxentius is particularly impressive and lots of arches. And of course the house and temple of the Vestal virgins who seemed to have the best residence in the Forum.
Overlooking the Forum is the Palatine hill where Romulus and Remus were said to have founded Rome in 800BC, the des res area of ancient Rome. All the top dogs had a house on the hill, including Mussolini who built himself one as he obviously was having ego issues when he was in power. At the back of the
I was thinking of redecorating
Maybe I'll get a few frescos just like the Vatican. It seems to be the fashion...
Palatine is the remains of Circus Maximus, not much more than a dirt track now, but I’m sure once it was impressive.
Forum done and just enough time to take in the views from the ‘typewriter’ or ‘wedding cake’ that is the Victor Emmanuel Monument. I’d never actually heard of him but he was Italy’s first king. It’s a bit flashy but you can go to the top for great views over the city and Forum.
Last day and back to St Peters, we hadn’t actually gone in on the first day so we went back to take it all in and go to the top of Michaelangelo’s Dome. It’s HUGE when you get inside and as with all the churches we had been in it’s very fancy with lots of gold and statues.
But it really takes your breath away especially if you climb the 500 or so steps to the top of the dome. Highly recommended unless you are old, suffer from vertigo or are a little bit tall and fat. The first bit is Ok but when you get to circumnavigate the dome at the top it’s like being in a fun house or something,
Holy Fire Brigade!
It's God's own firefighters in the Vactican. Holy hose pipes!
all a bit skewed and you get rather dizzy. But the views are worth the effort, Rome looks beautiful from the top.
And finally, before we caught the plane we wandered around the Trastevere area for a while, this used to be a bit rough but it’s fine these days. This is where the ‘real Romans’ live according to the guidebooks, it’s very much how you would imagine Rome to be with small lanes and people rushing around on scooters.
Too much too see and too little time but we had a good stab, I hope to return to Rome, it’s lovely, go there. We even got upgraded on the way home, if you count getting free speedy boarding from Easyjet as an upgrade, oh I travel like a princess.
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