9/14/10 (Day 13)
This morning was our first breakfast at the Hotel Navona. Breakfast was included and we went to sit down. There was a basket of pre-packaged sweet breads that we munched on while we waited for our breakfast to be brought out. The server brought us each an orange juice and a large hollow bread roll. The roll was about the size of two of my fists and from what we could tell, the trick was to break it up and spread jam or nutella on it. This breakfast was actually very filling.
By now, we had a small load of things that we weren’t going to use any more on our trip including our cold weather gear from Switzerland. So, we went by a post office to mail it to the hotel in Marseille. This was our first real Italian language experience as they did not speak English at all. Yay for Italian phrase books and guess work.
With our errands done for the morning we started towards Ancient Rome. On the way, we stopped at the il Vittoriano, or the giant white monstrosity built in the 18th century to model the Roman architecture. The Romans all hated this structure as it was too big and too white. However, the panoramic views from here do not include the il Vittoriano, so it makes a perfect spot for photos. This is also the location of the tomb of the unknown soldier, so the area was patrolled well to make sure no one sat down on any steps.
Past the monstrosity, we found Ancient Rome. We walked past the Roman Forum and Palantino on our right and continued to the Colosseum. Our Roma Pass worked as it should and we were able to skip the long line and enter for free. Or, “free.” We purchased our audio guides and were rather disappointed to find out they had to be returned in 2 hours. The guides gave us information about how the Colosseum worked in the early AD years. It held not only the coveted gladiatorial competitions, but also theatrical productions, and the slaying of exotic animals. The information stated that tens of thousands of animals have been slain here including the now extinct griffin.
The floor of the Colosseum was most interesting as underneath was a series of rooms with contraptions and pulleys to hoist the animals and scenery changes up through trap doors in the floors. The animals would appear from out of nowhere.
I remember walking in and thinking that the Colosseum would hold about the same amount of people as Rice Stadium, and I was right as it held around 50,000 people at the time. All the marble and travertine had been pillaged from the outside by various groups of people over the years to build other great Roman buildings like St. Peter’s Basilica. Still, though, the Colosseum still stands in all it’s glory today.
A brief rain shower caught up with us and all the tourists grabbed an arch to hide under for the short 5-10 minute rain. Other than that, the weather has been gorgeous here with sunny skies, highs in the 80s and lows around 70 at night.
Outside, we headed over to the other part of Ancient Rome, the Palantino area that also held the Roman Forum. Unfortunately, in this area we did not have an audio guide or much information about what we were looking at, so we relied on other tour groups to gather information. One of the guides was fairly knowledgeable and after his tour ended he handed out information about the tour he was giving tomorrow of the Vatican. Well, that was in our plans for tomorrow, so we talked to him and found out where to meet his tour group.
By the time we made it to the Roman Forum, we just had enough time for some photos before the area closed and we were kicked out towards the exit. However, now, at closing, was the perfect time for photos. We found our way up an adjacent hill and watched the moon and sun set over the Colosseum.
We just so happened to be at a Metro stop, so we hopped on towards the Spagna side of town to find dinner at a place recommended in our guide book. Upon arriving, however, we found that reservations were required, though we could come back and eat at 9:30 if we wanted. Instead we headed towards a nearby piazza and found a place to eat dinner.
Here in Italy, most people don’t seem to start eating dinner until after 8pm, and the nightlife is hopping well past 10pm. After dinner we wandered over to the Trevi Fountain for night photography only to find it even more packed than it had been during the day. We slid in and got our shots anyway. We also got some night shots of the Piazza Navona and other places along the way. The Pantheon was not very lit at night and anyway half of it was covered in scaffolding.