Travel Journal

Rome – All roads lead to...

(Saturday 13 November 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 85-88 -- 10/28-31/10 Rome
I dropped Julie off at the hotel and dropped the car off. I haven’t really crunched the numbers yet but it was rather expensive to have the car with diesel prices and toll roads. I did put 14,100 kilometers on the car which is over ten thousand miles so we definitely did ride this box all over Europe. Anyways, I got the train and metro from the drop off spot back to the hotel. Julie was very disappointed with the hotel. A lot of the stuff they advertised wasn’t true and the breakfast that was provided was a thimble of espresso and a packaged croissant.
We walked to the Trevi Fountain where there were a lot of people taking pictures.
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I thought you were suppose to toss coins in the fountain – something about returning to Rome but I didn’t see any money being tossed although there might be coins at the bottom of the fountain I couldn’t get close enough to clearly see the bottom. We went to the nearby Spanish Steps
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and had some overpriced Gelato and sat down to watch the people go by. We headed towards the Coliseum but the fun thing about Rome is you run into interesting statues, monuments and fountains anywhere you go. We saw the exterior of the Capitoline Museum which we were planning on visiting the next day.
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There were some protesters there, for what cause, I do not know so we didn’t stay long. We instead went around and along the road we could see the ruins down in the Forum which Julie enjoyed.
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I didn’t know this was the Forum though at the time. We took some night shots of the Coliseum and
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then tried to find a short way back to the hotel as the Garmin gave a very roundabout way back.
We had bought a Roma Pass which we activated the next day. It was good for free travel on the public transit system for three days, two free entrances to selected museums and then discounts to other museums and events. The best value for this is to use the two freebies at the more expensive museums so we used it first at the Capitoline Museum. After checking our bags, we entered a courtyard which had the parts of the giant 12 meter statue of Constantine in different areas.
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I recognized the foot as it was shown on – can you guess it – the Amazing Race. It was nice that this museum allowed photography (no flash) throughout the building so we got some good shots. It wasn’t very clear that the museum consisted of two building and that they were connected via a tunnel beneath the plaza and we had to reenter to get to the second building which was exclusively sculptures and some well known ones at that.
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We next visited Texas Stadium . . . err, the Pantheon. Built by the Romans to worship all gods (hence it’s name) it survived the fall of Rome and the subsequent sacking of old monuments because it was converted into a catholic church and was in constant use. It was quite an engineering feat to create a dome that big by using lighter materials towards the top and leaving the opening at the top.
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We stopped at the Brazilian embassy but the consular’s office was closed. We wanted information on Julie obtaining a visa outside of the USA as I had hoped we could go there for carnival in March but we wouldn’t return home. The tourist information for Brazil said they thought it was not possible which I think is wrong. I believe you can only get 90 day visas out of the USA instead of the 10 year visa normally granted. It looks like we’ll have to check in Istanbul. We need to get tickets and lodging set soon as that is the busy time of year in Rio; otherwise, I will probably go to Brazil solo and meet up with Julie in Argentina later.
We visited Chiesa di Sant Agostiono & Chiesa San Lugidei Francesi next. These are known for their religious paintings but their interiors are not too shabby. That did it for the tourist activity for the day so we went back to the hotel.
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Saturday was our visit to the Coliseum so we got our tour tickets early and used the Roma Pass to obtain them. This ticket is good for the Palatine and Forum as well so we did that first before our one o’clock appointment. We listened to Rick Steve’s commentary on the forum that I had saved on the IPod and it was very helpful in getting a visual picture of what life was like back when the Forum was at its peak.
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The municipal building with the trio of arches was huge and staggering to consider that the ruins were just one of the four walls. We saw the temple of the Vestal Virgins, the spot where Caesar was cremated – people still leave flowers, the arch for the victory of the Jews built by the Jewish slaves from that war, The Palatine is the hill residence area overlooking the forum where the wealthy lived and where we get the word “palace”. We didn’t have a lot of time though and I would have like to spend more time there but it was close to our appointment for the Coliseum.
Our group was limited to twenty and we started at the underground.
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The guide explained that originally the structure was built to allow the pit beneath the removable flooring to be flooded so water sports and sea battles could be performed but this was later stopped probably because the space was just too small. The underground chambers were added along with elaborate pulleys all around the stadium to allow animals to be quickly transported up and to be out of sight between bouts. Our group then went to the top tier of the Coliseum, also off limits to the normal tourists, to enjoy the view and understand a bit about the history and function of the building. Very interesting tour. If you’re interested, these tours are scheduled through the end of Nov this year but will probably be extended. I don’t have the web site anymore but Google Coliseum Tour Underground and you’d probably get the information.
Since we had some time left over, I checked on things planned the next day we could do now. We went to Santa Maria della Concezione which I had scheduled for Halloween because of the rather macabre nature of the place. The brothers of the church had arranged the bones of their brethren in rather unusual formations including an image of the Grim Reaper on the ceiling. We met some Australian kids who were taking some rather obvious photos in the crypt which was forbidden. After the curator yelled at them several times, Julie showed them how to take the photos on the sly…respectfully of course.
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Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and dropped into a wine bar frequented by a Filipino friend Julie met outside our hotel. An interesting mix of people and we had a good time. They were having a Halloween party the next night which we thought we’d go to as our flight out of Rome was 6 AM the following day and we had no place to sleep and nothing to do to kill the time until we caught the late train to the airport. Julie also checked her email and found that her mom had come to Rome the previous day so we sent her instructions on how to meet up with us the next day.
The Vatican Museum is open for free on the last Sunday of the month, so we arrived there an hour before opening to try and beat the crowd and we were actual quite close to the entrance. And then came the rain.
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We both had ponchos but no umbrellas. Julie bravely volunteered to wait in a caf� out of the rain while I held our place…in the rain… which was very cold. After about an hour I was wondering why the line wasn’t moving. After thirty minutes later, Julie checked and found out there was a time change the previous night and we actually got in line two hours early!
When we finally got in, we were amazed at how big the museum was and the vast amount of statues, art work and frescos held within. We made a beeline to the Sistine Chapel and spent almost an hour there listening to Rick Steves’ commentary on the artwork. That Michelangelo is an okay painter for a sculpture. I really enjoyed the map room because of my fondness for cartography.
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We exited the museum to try and get to the pope’s address/wave at noon but took a wrong turn and went the wrong way around the museum. Did I mention that it was big? It took about half an hour to walk around and we missed my buddy Benedict’s appearance. The line for St. Peter’s Basilica was outrageous so we decided to get something to eat at a nearby restaurant which was a mistake. After waiting an hour after ordering for our food, we got up and left settling for a calzone at another shop which we ate while waiting in line for the church visit. We went to the crypts first which holds the remains of many popes including the much beloved John Paul II which a crowd gathered around and fresh flowers adorned the monument. We made our way into the church next.
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It was cavernous with plenty of open space which made it even look even bigger. Michelangelo’s Pita (sp) statue, of which there is a copy in the Vatican Museum nearby,
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adorns a corner and is very popular for good reason. The main altar can only be seen from afar unless you convince the attendants that you are catholic and want to say mass. It’s rather funny seeing a Chinese tourist with five cameras trying to find the secret word “mass” to get in the cordoned off area that holds the altar.
No sign of Nellie so we went back to the hotel. I tried again to find a hostel with a book exchange to get rid of some of my old guide books but didn’t have any luck. Julie meanwhile visited the pyramid near the Coliseum which would have probably looked better during the day but there was no time. I proceeded to get toasted at the wine bar during the Halloween festivities and we got a late train or two to the Rome airport arriving around eleven. We fell asleep in our terminal only to be roused by security as that section closed at 12:30 so we stumbled to another terminal to sleep until our flight was ready.

 


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