The days seem to be really long, but this trip is going by fast!
To start off (mostly because it was too early to do anything else), we decided to go to a historic/famous market, Campo dei Fiori. It is just in a little square in the city, but hosts a daily market with all kinds of goods. It reminds me a lot of Farmer’s markets that I have been to before, but they also have special pastas, spices, and other goods that normal farmer’s markets may not have. We bought some delicious strawberries and cherries and had them for breakfast. After Campo, we visited Piazza Navona, with the famous Bernini fountain of the four great rivers in the middle. It is a huge piazza, with restaurants lining it all around, and the big main fountain in the middle with 2 smaller fountains. After eating breakfast in this piazza, we wandered over to the Pantheon, which is a HUGE dome that used to be a pagan temple. The Catholics took it over and made it into a real church, but it still just looks like a huge dome. In fact, it is the largest unreinforced dome in existence. Austin says they cheated though because there is a big hole in the middle. They have the area under the hole blocked off so that nobody gets hit by things going through the big hole in the roof. It was quite a majestic building to visit, and there were not many people there because it was still so early in the morning.
|Pantheon in the morning|
Following the Pantheon, we made a short stop off to a massive granite building that we saw on our bus ride to Campo. It was so striking we just had to visit it. It afforded us great views of the city, and was the site of the tomb of the unknown soldier, complete with flame. I’m pretty sure there were some other museums and things in this building, but we did not visit them. I think it was a monument to the first king of Italy, Vittorio Manuele, but because we just briefly saw it and climbed the steps up as far as we could, I can’t be sure what the building actually was because we weren’t planning on going there.
|We are still looking for a way in at this point… but there is
the Roman Forum
|Coliseum from Palatine Hill|
After this brief detour, and finding a cat sanctuary, we made our way to our hotel for the night, a bed and breakfast outside of the city center. One of the main things that impressed me about the historic city center were the modern buildings, or at least modern facades on buildings, right alongside these open squares where they were excavating ruins. I thought it so odd that people had been living here for so long, and that even though there were ruins all around, the bustle of city life continued. Our main stop of the day was to the Roman Forum, Palatino museum, and Coliseum. We started off on the wrong foot, getting off the subway and walking completely around a huge hill of ruins (probably 1-2 miles total, in order to find the entrance. On the way we were able to see the location of the chariot races, though, as well as many city streets and the entire set of ruins from the outside. Finally, we found the entrance, but it was close enough to lunch time that we decided to eat our lunch overlooking the ruins instead of going inside and then starving to death. We made a good choice; the Roman Forum was a relatively small complex with ruins of temples to various Gods as well as buildings where the Roman Senate met and huge arches that Napoleon used as models for the Arch de Triomphe in Paris. One of the most interesting buildings to me was a house were the Vestal virgins lived the served in a goddess’s temple. They were not allowed to let the flame burn out in the temple or they were flogged. If they lost their virginity, they were buried alive!
|One of the many splendid ruins of homes on Palatine Hill|
Next we made our way onto Palatine hill, which looked deceptively small when we started. We ended up spending a good 3 hours wandering around this hill. This was the ancient gardens and neighborhood where the rulers of the city lived. The houses and gardens were very grand, and Austin commented that even the richest people in the world do not have gardens and homes like the ones that the rulers in Roman days had on this hill overlooking the city. My favorite part was a waterfall/garden type spring that fell down a story into a fish pond with plants. It was really quite beautiful. The wind really picked up while we were visiting the hill, and most of the paths were dirt, so we ended up with a nice layer of dirt all over by the end of the day. There were wind gusts that would pick up all the dirt into little dust devils and we hoped we weren’t walking into the wind when that happened.
|From the upper levels…|
Lastly we visited the Coliseum. My feet were killing me by this point, but we still were able to walk around both floors and visit all the information boards and exhibits. We learned that the floor of the Coliseum was made of wood covered with sand to soak up blood, and that it could be flooded for water battles. The floor no longer exists, so we were able to see down into the underground chambers where they kept wild animals and scenery that they would bring up through trap doors for different kinds of fights. The whole concept reminded me of the Hunger Games in a lot of ways. They set up different scenes with different environments, and then would put gladiators in there to fight to the death. The scnes were mostly for the purpose of entertainment for the spectators, much like in the books… Creepy… We learned that aside from gladiator fights and gladiator vs. wild animal fights, they also had massive hunts where they put sometimes thousands of animals down in the arena and had good hunters go and kill them. When the animals were killed, they were brought down below the arena, butchered, and given for free to the spectators at the events. Eventually the building fell into disrepair after the fights became subpar and people didn’t come to watch them anymore. Then it was used as a quarry for many of the other buildings surrounding it, so that is why it seems more torn up than other buildings around. The Coliseum was very cool to see in person; it is a giant structure, and had so much interesting history. After such a full day, it was such a relief to come back to a hotel where Austin and I had our own room with a double bed. It was the first time we had slept in the same bed for over a week, and the room even had its own bathroom. We went to the grocery store for dinner, visited an internet café (because we have not been able to find wifi for awhile) and got a great night’s sleep.