Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Day Among the Ruins of Rome

Late on the 3rd day of our Italy excursion, after we did some shopping at the local supermarket, we took a bus to Piazza Venezia, as close as you will probably get to a center of Rome. We tried to get on an open, sightseeing bus, the red 110 as advised by most visitors to Rome, just for a familiarization tour of Rome. We did the same in London and New York and it is usually well worth the money. You see the city from a different viewpoint. But after an hour’s wait and 2 buses later, we gave up. They only wanted to sell us 2 day passes and no 2 hour tickets even though the buses were only half full. Well, I was not going to fork out €20 a ticket just to comply with their “marketing strategy” and be taken for a ride, excuse the pun.

From the Piazza I explored the Il Vittoriano, the Monument Victor Emmanuel II, climbing all the way to the top to snap photos of the Rome skyline, while Monica and Lamar waited in a shady spot.

The Monument Victor Emmanuel II, Piedmont king that became the 1st king of the unified Italy in 1861.

We walked around the monument to explore the Roman Forum, starting from the Capitoline Hill in the north to the Colosseum in the south. We entered the Forum through the Arch of Septimius Severus, crossing Via Sacra numerous times from west to east as we looked into the reconstructed Curia (Roman Senate), discovered the Temple of Castor and Pollux, passed the House of the Vestal Virgins, ogled the heap of ground where they claim Julius Caesar was cremated, stopped and watched a group of young archaeologist excavating more historical facts or another treasure from the past, explored the Temple of Venus, passed through the Arch of Titus, then on to the Arch of Constantine in front of the Colosseum. At this world famous landmark we decided to take a paid tour because it also included a tour through the forums of Augustus, Trajan and Julius Caesar.

The backside of the Palazzo dei Senatori on the Capitoline Hill seen from the Roman Forum. One can clearly see how new buildings are simply build upon older ruins. The bottom layer dates from about 100 BC and on the inside we saw some of the excavations. The next picture was taken standing in the center arch above.

The Roman Forum seen from Palazzo dei Senatori. On the left is columns of the Temple of Vespasianus and on the right is columns of the Temple of Saturnus.

It is quite common that one emperor will undo the work of a previous emperor (that’s what emperors do), but it is such a pity that so much of the various ancient forums were destroyed by Mussolini when, in a moment of self-indulgence, he ordered the building of Via Dei Fori Imperiali so that he could have a direct line of sight of the Colosseum from his office in the Palazzo Venezia.

Me, Roman Soldier! At the Colosseum you can have your picture taken with these guys for a Euro. If you take a photo of them without their permission they will come after you and demand you delete a picture from your camera. Any which way to make a buck out of tourists.

Highlights of the day were the Colosseum, the reconstructed Curia (Roman Senate building), the view from the backend of the Capitoline Hill overlooking the Roman Forum and the 3 remaining ancient Arches in Rome. Late in the afternoon, after all the walking, we rest our feet in the cool waters of a fountain in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument while eating gelato.

The Colosseum from the top level. All that is left of the arena floor are the walled passages that were below the floor level.

The Arch of Constantine seen from the top of the Colosseum.

Inside the Colisseum - Monica and Andre. No smiles? It was hot! We just climbed many steep steps to walk around on the top level (like taking the previous photo), walked down again and there was still an hour's walk ahead of us down Via dei Fori Emperiali through the Forums of Augustus, Trajan and Julius Caesar.

After taking the right bus, but in the wrong direction, we ended up in Trastevere on the wrong side of the Tiber River. A little bit of “travel experience.” With a little help from a friendly Italian gentleman we got off our incorrect bus, took another back to Piazza Venezia and then caught a cab to our apartment. From then on we used cabs extensively as we did on previous travels to New York. It is not always more expensive and it certainly doesn’t waste our time waiting on buses, taking detours, etc. When you travel you usually have limited time and you must use the time to the best of your ability and try to save on the legwork.

Rome's ancient center is very imposing. This was the Rome we came to see. Walking the ancient street of Via Sacra, standing at the wall on Via Della Curia overlooking the Forum, wondering what it was like 2000 years ago, imagining how Trajan’s Forum really looked in its heyday filled with hundreds of shops and vendors and thousands of shoppers, and visualizing what it would have been like to be part of 55,000 people watching a gladiator contest in what must have been an extraordinary building, the Colosseum, with its imposing layers of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian tiers. Tiers which inspired so many Renaissance architects, but they also plundered the building to build other masterpieces like St. Peter’s basilica, our destination for tomorrow.

Excavation inside the Forum area still continues today.

Trajan's Forum

Monica: At the end of the day, a moment in thought, on Via della Curia overlooking the Forum,
wondering what was it like down there 2000 years ago!!!

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