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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 41.8955, 12.4823DAY SIX (8/7)—Rome
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Today was devoted to Ancient Rome. The morning tour involved visits to the Roman Forum and the Coliseum, with driveby's of other famous places like the Circus Maximus.
The afternoon promised a walking tour of other famous sights: the Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
We decided to opt out of the morning activities as we had done them both and I knew my knee wasn't prepared for walking all morning and all afternoon.
We went to Mass at San Clemente … which is not just another church. Its frescoes are overshadowed by 12th Century mosaics. Below the existing church is a 4th Century basilica and below that, a pagan temple! Centuries of faith, art and history are yours to be had here. The church is beautiful and after Mass we visited with an Irish priest who told us about the church's history. All levels are available for viewing after the last scheduled Mass is completed. (It was an Irish priest who uncovered the historical churches below the current one.)
We then walked to Rome's cathedral: The Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. It is the cathedral of the
Church of Rome and the official seat of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).
We met up with the group at the Arch of Constantine. I discovered there that I had left the disk for my camera in the hotel room in the card reader (OMG!), so I had to go back to the hotel. Patrick began the walking tour with the group, which took them past the Capitoline Hill staircase (designed by Michelangelo) and into a lesser forum overrun with cats.
I met up with them at the Tucci Ristorante at Piazza Navona where we had Margherita pizza (named after Rome's former queen). We took in the magnificent Bernini fountain of Four Rivers and watched the mimes who stand as statues in the square, hoping to make money. In our short stay, we saw the Statue of Liberty and Tutankhamun mimes. These are less lively characters than the Roman Gladiators who demand pay for having their picture taken with the Forum or Coliseum in the background. If you take their picture, they run after you for their fee – often not disclosed upfront!
It was here I discovered "ICE" water – frozen bottles of water sold in the tourist kiosks near all
the famous sights. As you may recall, ice is hard to come by in Europe so this was a treasured find. I used it to drink and to cool my neck in the hot sun.
ASIDE: A word about packing. I did a miserable job. And I brought a lot of different clothes. And almost none was appropriate.
- I was somehow under the mistaken impression that women in Rome all wore black. So I packed mostly black. And a little khaki. I couldn't have been more wrong.
· I was under the impression that this being a European capital, the women also dress more formally than we Americans do. Could be true but nowhere where we were.
· I wish I had packed less black and more light colors. The black was far too hot for all this sun and heat, and for all the places we were that weren't air-conditioned. What was I thinking?
· I wish I had packed more shorts, more sleeveless tops and definitely more sundresses. Women of all ages are wearing dresses. Of course they're in style. But the big factor is they are cooler to wear.
· And with everyone hot and sweaty, the packing prize goes to those
who packed things that wick and wash and dry QUICKLY. We washed some cotton items 48 hours ago and with the air conditioning running on high, they haven't dried, so they will have to go in plastic bags to dry out at the next place.
· Patrick wishes he had brought more cargo shorts (they are longer, with pockets) so they would be good for days where knees need to be covered for church tours.
· He also would have brought more tee shirts and fewer polo shirts.
The afternoon took us out of the Piazza Navona, to an excavation site where they are digging UNDER the Piazza for the stadium and bleachers that existed there centuries ago.
Then on to the Pantheon, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD. The generic term pantheon applies to any building in which the illustrious dead are honored or buried. Victor Emmanual (first king of a united Italy), his successor/son Umberto and his Queen Margherita (after whom the pizza is named) and the painter Raphael are all buried here. The building is circular with a central opening to the sky. It is
one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been a Catholic church for the last several centuries (St. Mary and the Martyrs).
Next stop: Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, named after the founder of the Jesuit Order. An exquisite church with works by Bernini and other famous sculptors.
Our trip took us past two well known Roman columns but I lost track of their names. Then through the Galleria Alberto Sordi, home to some very chichi stores and gorgeous glass ceilings.
Out the other side and we were at the Trevi Fountain. And so were all the other tourists in Rome. I swear. It seemed like there were 20,000 people there throwing coins over their shoulders with a wish to come back to Rome. And another 20,000 taking their pictures. We were among the touristy throngs. The Trevi Fountain, BTW, is at the end of an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC to bring water to Rome.
Zach Coney said we just might experience the Trifecta of Roman tourism: visit the fountain, get pick pocketed by gypsies, and enjoy a gelato. The good news: we only did two of three. We stopped at San Crispino Gelateria, about a block away from the fountain,
a favorite of our Tauck guide Len Pacitti. He wasn't wrong in his assessment.
Last stop: The Spanish Steps which climb a steep slope of 138 steps, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe.
I bagged the climb and took a taxi back to the hotel with Leslie Williams, Ambler, PA.
Dinner was at 7 pm in the hotel dining room: The Donay. It was a tasty buffet of antipasto, perhaps a half-dozen pastas and half-dozen main courses, and 10 desserts. Wine and Prosecco were included.
The Halvorsens left their home in Charlotte last Sunday. Here it is a week later and still no luggage from Air France. They have gotten nothing but a runaround and they are very frustrated. Air France has done everything to reassure them EXCEPT deliver their luggage. It seems it came to Rome and went back to Naples today. And in between it went to Houston. I understand from many of our travelers that this is NOT uncommon for Air France. I think I'll put them on my blacklist. Trust me, you don't want to be there.
Note about the hotel Westin Excelsior Rome:
· Big hotel (300 rooms)
with many services.
· Very good air conditioning.
· Refrigerator/mini bar in room.
· Safe in room
· Very slow elevator.
· Located on Via Veneto, 15-30 minute walk to major sights
· Decent food, nothing to write home about.
· Near the US Embassy and the Villa Borghese
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