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Day 9: Roman Holiday Part 1- The Colossum

...and the best cannelloni ever!

overcast 13 °C

When in Rome…you must see the Colosseum! And today was the day. I had bought a guided group tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palantine Hill, lasting several hours and covering quite a lot of ground. The tour guide was, quite luckily, an archaeologist with a wealth of knowledge and experience. The early (painful) start to the day was clearly of benefit when we had quite a quick entry to the Colosseum. Later in the day we would see hours of queues forming, and I was delighted not to be wasting my trip in them!

The Colosseum was breathtaking. Lots of history was shared, and I’ve made a mental note since it would take too long to repeat it here, and honestly my brain can’t contain all the information, to read up once again when I’m back on the history of Rome. However, a few interesting bits of information…the toilets were the ‘Facebook’ of Rome, where juicy gossip, business, and general socialisation occurred between the gents of the day. The Colosseum is thought to have once housed a great body of water in the centre in which the Romans played some sort of naval games, however our guide believed this may only have occurred once during construction of the Colosseum, before the lower levels were developed. Wild animals from around the world, including Africa, were brought as a spectacle for the people, and brought with them seeds of various flora. The grass and mosses at the bottom of the Colosseum are species found in Africa! Quite contrary to my previous understanding, it is believed that over the couple of hundred years of the Colosseum’s use, it was only actually used for around 22 occasions (some lasting several days, up to 100 days when it was inaugurated). A pretty hefty investment for something not to be used frequently, but it was due to the ‘free’ nature of the games put on in the stadium, and the requirement that there be a sponsor of the significant coin required to run the events, which were hard to come by.
Next on our tour was the Roman Forum, another fascinating area of archaeological intrigue, politics, deceit, and drama. It was amazing picturing from the remains of columns and foundations what it must have been like back in the day. The demise of Julius Caesar, the political development of the empire, the set of virgins being the only women to be held in high regard. I can’t believe how little I know of the history, and how fascinating it is! Clearly, many of these experiences I’m having are set to trigger a greater interest and further reading of the internet when I’m back…and poor.
Finally on our tour was the Palatine Hill, the remnants of the epic palace where Rome’s emperors lived in lavish luxury. Much of the marble and other architectural supplies were harvested to build other monuments, such as deck out the Vatican museum and St Peter’s church, as with the building materials of the Colosseum (although the bronze was melted down for other, military, uses).
I had watched ‘Scam City’ before I left, a t.v. show by a Brit on the tourist scams likely to be encountered in major tourist cities such as Rome. One such scam was being ripped off by men dressed as gladiators near the Colosseum to get a photo, some charging as much as €20 per gladiator (so imagine if you’ve got two in the photo!). But I saw nothing like this, there were no gladiators hanging around, and generally did not encounter anything that made me concerned about my safety or being ripped off. Whilst there were constant announcements to look out for pick pockets, I equally did not see or hear anything which would have concerned me, and felt my bag and possessions were perfectly ok. Phew…Mum, you can relax!

After the visit to these incredible ancient sites, I went back to La Forchetta for lunch before nap-time. Had the second disappointing carbonara of my trip, and decided not to bother trying for a better one and focusing on trying a wider variety of Italian cuisine. I was reading ‘The Rosie Effect’, the second ‘Don Tillman’ book, and it was a great, easy read to pass the quiet solo meals with.

Had an epic nap for most of the afternoon, and felt thoroughly recharged. It had been an early start to the day, and I was keen to head out and have some fun with Carlos and Marta tonight!

We decided to walk to the Spanish Steps, and see the Trevi Fountain in the late evening when it was dark and lit up. We walked up Via Cavour, one of the main streets, and saw the Quattro Fontane (the Four Fountains) at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale. They are four late Renaissance fountains, one of which (to my delight), yet again featured a woman and a duck! But Marta corrected me, and shared that actually geese were employed and trained to protect the Roman city, by attacking unwanted guests!
We made it to the Spanish Steps, but alas, they were under renovation and inaccessible to the public at the moment. It did not detract however, from the amazing view at their peak, and the busy surrounds of the piazza at its. We wandered around, and decided to head slowly for drinks and dinner before the Trevi Fountain experience. Pre-dinner Spritz and Mojitos were at a bar which served us antipasto plates as snacks. Delicious little morsels of salami, fava beans, cheese, and pickled radish and celery. Our dinner venue was eventually decided after several restaurants were full, and we had an amazing dinner of beef Carpaccio, truffle pasta, and fresh wood-fired pizza and of course, delicious house wine. Our bellies full, and the night wearing on, we decided the Trevi would have to wait for another night, and instead queued up at what is supposedly one of Rome’s best gelatarias, opposite one of Rome’s best pizzerias (also with huge queue, at 10:30pm or later at night!). A taxi home sped us to our food-coma-induced slumber.

Daily summary:
Aww-inducing moments of ancient history – 52
Cumulative meals at La Forchetta – 2
Audible gushes of praise for food-based products – 18
Minutes spent lining up for gelato – 8
Statuesque geese – 1

Squishing in just…one…more…bite…of…gelato….priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 10:31 Archived in Italy Tagged italy roma rome tour tourist wine colosseum walking_tour pasta steak tiramisu_gelato

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