24 February 2011

Livin' it up Roman style: Day 3 & 4

Ah, back to the Rome posts- try to contain yourselves. I know it is hard with all the anticipation....

Day 3 was the last full day we had in Rome. It was also the most fantastic. In part from a historical perspective as this was the day we visited the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (my favourite!!) and the Colessum. And in part because Rhys and I had just had some amazing moments.

We started the day with a couple of donuts and coffee courtsey of the crazy, chain smoking B&B owner and then made our way down to the Colosseum. The first time I went to Rome was in 2004 with Stef and Leah. We wanted to check out all the sights and according to the tube map, taking the 'Colosseo' stop was the way to do it. I will never forget walking up the steps from the tube, stepping into the street and immediately being overwhelmed by the enorminty of the ancient structure. There, less than 100 meters in front of the tube enterence, is the colosseum- towering high above the street, in all it's broken glory. It took my breath away and left in it's place an image that will never be erased. I wanted Rhys to experience the same thing so instead of walking to the ruins, we took the tube. He was just as awe struck 7 years later as I was on that summer day back in 2004. (and yet somehow I did not get a picture. i suck)

After the inital schock wore off, we wandered down to Constantine's Arch. It was constructed in 315 AD by the senate to honour Constantine's victory over a rival. It is massive. As an interesting side note, the Arc di Triumph in Paris is modeled after this arch.

We continued on to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Per a handy tip from a guide book, we went to the Hill first to buy ticekts. The €12 covers entry into both the ruins and the Colosseum. However the queue for the Palatine Hill is never long. Even in off peak time, the Colosseum queue was huge. With a ticket, you can queue jump. awesome. no waiting for us.

So here we are standing by the Arch of Titus. It was built by Titus' brother in 81 AD to honour the victories of Titus and Vespasian in the Judaean War. There is special inscreption on this arch to commerate the highlight of said conflict- the complete defeat and pillage of Jerusalem. The arch stood untouhed until 1471 when it was partially restored and used by the Frangipani family in their castle. That structure was demolished in 1821. In the same year the arch was dismantled (uh, how exactly do you dismantle a massive ancient arch?) and restored using travertine. The original material was marble, so you can see exactly where restorations have been made.

After the arch, we made our way around to the Temple of Venus and Rome. It is, or rather was, the largest temple ever built in Rome. It is thought to be desinged by Hadrian and finished in 135. It was damaged by a fire in 235, restored in 307 and remained completly intact and untouched until 625 when the bronze roofing tiles were stolen to create the ceiling in St. Peter's Basilica. Since then, it was left to go into disrepair and is only now being renovated.

The front part of the temple (where rhys and I are standing) is obviously in ruins, but the back part was turned into a convent and is still functioning. It is an amazing, massive structure to see- even today.

The temple sits on a high and as we rounded the corner to make our way down to the forum, we had an amazing view of the ruins.

The area that is the Roman Forum stands in the very heart of Rome. A busy metropolis has come to surround this fantastic bit of ancient, untouched history. Orginally desinged as a market place in 625 BC, the forum was the epi-centre of ancient Rome. The area was usedf or everything from market stalls to religious worship. As such, it the forum was divided into 3 areas- Religious, Political and Commerical. The senate houses and college of priests were headquareted here. The famous Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Vesta made its home in the forum. In the 2nd century BC, the market stalls were mved out and a judiciary moved in.

Below is the Temple of Saturn. To be honest, it is barely more than a pile of rocks, but it is thought to be the oldest standing temple in Rome, it was inagurated in 498 BC. People, that is old!

Everywhere you looked, there was a temple, church, grave or building that was thousands of years old. I could have easily spent hours and hours reading and researching. I would have even brought my own materials if Rhys had left me. If I ever win the lottery and have millions to spare, I will go back to school and study ancient Rome extensively. I took hundreds (literally) of pictures, but I will spare you.

After we left the forum area, we made our way up the Palatine Hill. There are many legends regarding the hill, but regardless of what story you believe, there is no doubt that it was on these very grounds that the ancient city was founded.

The most commonly believed 'tradition' is that the hill was settled first in 1184 BC. To quote the story from the Blue Guide "Sixty years before the Trojan War, Evander, son of Hermes and as Arcadian nymph, led a colony from Pallantion in Arcadia and built a town at the foot of the hill, naming it after his native village. Aeneas, who escaped from burning Troy after the Trojan War was welcomed here by Evander." Nice. I like that story. To continue on "Some classical authors give another explanation of the name Palatium: that it is derived from Pales, the goddess of flocks and shepherds, whose festival is celebrated on 21 April, the day on which the city of Rome is said to be founded by Romulus and Remus in 754 BC." **

Anyway you look at it, the place is crazy old, and covered in history. And as we were on a hill, we had some amazing views. check on the ruins- again.

just in case you wanted a panoramic shot as well :)

After the Forum and Palatine Hill, we headed over to jump the queue and have a look inside the Colosseum. It was incredible. I had never been inside before, but it was well worth the euros shelled out. As Charles Dickens said "It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic, mournful sight, conceivable. Never in it's bloodiest prime, can the sight of the gigantic Coliseum, full and running over with the lustiest life, have moved one heart, as it must have moved all who look upon it now, a ruin. God be thanked: a ruin!" a mouthful, but it sums it up nicely.

It was built in 70 AD and although is the most visited monument in Rome, it is the most under studied. It was only in 2007 that a full scale evaluation was conducted. I will not go into the history here because it is simply too long and too detailed. I do strongly recommend that you at least google the history and read up. It is fascinating; you will not be disappointed.

I will, however, offer this bit of information that I did not not before my visit. The Colosseum was obviously the forerunner of all modern arenas. But do you know why they are called arenas? Because back in the day, when they used to have bloody fights- you know to the death and all that- they covered the floor with arena to soak up the blood. yeah, arena means sand. interesting, no?

another interesting side note: the main train station is Rome is called Termini. You think terminal right? wrong. Termini means bath. The site is the ancient Roman baths. crazy eh?)

That said, here are some shots of us inside.

It was dusk by the time we left the Colosseum. They actually closed at dusk and they asked us to leave :) We made our way back to the B&B and found ourselves at sunset on the Pont' de Angelo. I tried to capture the moment, but I only got one picture before my camera died. And I didn't bring the charger.

This picture ends the visual part of my Roman tour, but I am not finished until I relay one further story. It ranks in the top 5 of 'best moments of my life'

After a shower, run around the Vatican (thats right folks, even on holiday you still gotta run!) and a wonderful dinner of pasta, Rhys and I decided we should make a somewhat early night of it as we were leaving the next day. We spent hours walking all over the city, getting lost on purpose just to make the night last longer, but eventually we found ourselves back at the bridge. the same bridge we walked over several times a day. But that night it was different.

The bridge was deserted save one older gentleman. He sat alone, playing a guitar. Not busking or begging, just playing for his own enjoyment. His own and ours. We walked along, hand in hand, as the moonlight danced upon the water. The tune changed and as the slow cords of "Your Song" filled the air, Rhys took me in his arms and we started to dance. I wish I could have captured that moment. The star light casting a gentle glow, the soft hum of the water rushing beneath the bridge, the cold air forcing me close to Rhys and slow strumming of the guitar. Rhys sang along...."I hope you dont mind that I put into words how wonderful life is now that your in this world...."

I couldn't have imagined a better moment. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. It was the perfecting ending to our time in Rome. After the song finished, the guitarist picked up the beat and we kept walking down the road. But for those few moments, we were the only two people in the world, dancing ever so slowly, on the streets of Rome. Day three, success.

Day 4 consisted of breakfast, a quick last walk around St Peter's and the Vatican and then it was off to the airport and back to reality. It was an amazing time; such a worth while trip. Our last big hurrah in Europe? Success

** Macadam, Alta. Blue Guide, Rome. Sommerset Books, London. 2010.
Website: blueguides.com

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