Friday, March 27, 2009

Italia...Day Three

Before you begin...this post is rather verbose, and as I mentioned in a previous post on Italy, it's more for my own sake so I have a record of our trip combined with the short version is:

We saw the Colosseum. We saw Palatine Hill. We saw the Spanish Steps. AMAZING!

For a little more detail, read on...

Day three in Rome began with our last "best breakfast ever." We didn't realize just how elaborate of a spread that breakfast set up had been. 

We stepped out onto the street and were greeted by road blocks and a loud parade in full force...

We took a train to the Coloseum and opted for a guided tour.

While we waited for the tour to begin we spotted an "authentic Roman soldier." I would've gotten a better shot, but if he saw you take his picture, he would hassle you for $$$. He was pretty scary looking...aside from the red sweatshirt he was sporting, his "uniform" seemed quite authentic. 

Seeing the Colleseum was amazing! The whole thing was fantastic...the tour guide was hilarious. (The guided tours are set up where the guide has a microphone tied into a radio transmitter and all of us tourists had our own receivers with earphones so the guide did not have to yell the whole time...and we could look around while he talked.)

We learned some very interesting things...notice the Roman Numeral above the arch...the base of the Colleseum was lined with arches. Each arch had a Roman Numeral chiseled at its peak. All the people of Rome were invited to attend the games at the Coloseum, free of charge. They were seated by classes and the men and women were seated separately. Our guide mentioned that no one needed a ticket and sneaking into a better seating area wasn't a problem...if someone from a lower class snuck into the higher class's section, it was incredibly and immediately obvious, and they got thrown out pretty fast. This was because the classes were readily distinguished by there clothes and appearance. As the guide pointed out, thanks to our credit system, it's much more difficult now to distinguish between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy...back then, they didn't have plastic.

The Colosseum seated 50,000, and if our memories serve us correctly, all 50,000 could be seated in 15-20 minutes because of the way the seating was organized. Citizens located the arch they were to enter through and once you entered, you couldn't move from one seating section to another, so you had to enter through your gate/arch.

There was a basement level below the stage floor of the Colosseum where they kept all of the animals, which were brought up to the stage floor at the appropriate time by means of a crude elevator. The animals were kept in the dark for two to three days so the bright light stunned them, giving their opponents an obvious advantage... You can see from the above photos the maze of walls and spaces that were located below the stage floor.

If you've ever read the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers...let your thoughts drift back. Those books filled my mind as we spent the morning in the Colosseum. I'm so thankful I'd read them!

Above you'll see Constantine's Arch as seen from the Colosseum.

And several more shots of ruins (Palatine Hill) as seen from the Colosseum...

A close up shot of some detail on Constantine's Arch...

The inner framework of the Colosseum...which was amazing...stunning...scary!

For me, standing in the Colosseum and thinking back through the history that was made...hearing the Roman crowds screaming at the top of their lungs, imagining wine sloshing over the rim of a drunk Roman citizen's glass...the crowd waiting for the emperor to extend his hand in approval or disaproval (we did learn that the emperor did NOT give a thumbs up or down) was sobering. It gave me a very real sense of how finite I am. Though the murder of Christians was seriously downplayed on our tour, my heart couldn't help but think about the prayers lifted up to our heavenly Father...the Psalms and hymns sung to God as prisoners took their last steps out onto that was intense. Perhaps my very favorite day we spent in Italy. For sure my very favorite day we spent in Rome.

Following our tour of the Colosseum, we snacked on pumpkin seeds (NASTY...the way they were made...) and other various items from a vendor's cart and hung out with a couple from Australia...that was interesting. Then we headed over to Palatine Hill and enjoyed a short, but most informative tour of Palatine Hill...WHICH WAS FABULOUS!!!

I took this shot for Mom...I saw that fence and knew she'd LOVE it!

That was the home of none other than Benito Mussolini. 

A shot of the view from atop the hill...

A close up of a paint job that's only a few hundred years old...I cannot imagine!!!

A view of...well...we can't remember exactly. I should've written about this earlier! Anyway, these buildings looked over what was once a series of HUGE marvelous gardens. They were fairly overgrown. It made me sad. There were well established boxwoods, citrus trees, and lots of olive trees...

More views from the top of the hill...

A detailed shot of one of many pieces of architecture that have been recovered...again...can you even imagine living with that kind of architecture???

Another shot of more rambling ruins...

And here you see what was once the Circus Maximus (where the chariot races took place.) T ate up this view...we stood there for a while, quietly taking it in...quite amazing. There's not much left of it today...lots of people running and playing...walking their dogs, etc.

And oh, I mentioned the olive trees...they were everywhere...and I am quite an olive fan. In spite of the signs that clearly read (in English) "Don't Pick the Olives," my dare devil husband picked me an olive...and after we'd left Palatine Hill, I pulled that sucker out, wiped her off and popped her in my mouth and bit down, just knowing I was in for the BEST EVER olive!!! Hee hee. Do you know what they do to olives to make them taste like they do??? This was THE WORST TASTING OLIVE I'D EVER HAD!!! It lit a fire in my mouth. Being the lady that I am, I immediately spit it out on the sidewalk (gross, I know!) and proceeded to summon all the saliva I could to rinse the nasty taste from my mouth and I spit again and again and again...hmm...kind of wish we'd followed the rules. 

And last, a shot of gorgeous doors (like, I'd love to have those in my home) blocking entrance to an area that was being restored...Italians do things orange cones or yellow tape here...

A view of a portion of the ruins (from a HUGE castle) on Palatine seen a few seconds prior to tasting the olive...notice those strange looking something from a Dr. Seuss...they are called Umbrella Pines. "Way back when," as MW would say, the Romans planted them along all of their roads to shade their soldiers from the scorching sun...they are all over Rome.

Following a FABULOUS day of mega history that I will never forget (I hope) we caught the train and headed for the Spanish Steps and to do a little window don't go into a store unless you are going to make a purchase and you know what you are purchasing. They don't like you to come in and we were window shopping, planning to get some dinner in this most fashionable (and might I add expensive) area of town. 

And then it happened...we passed a store called Campo Marzio...and I was a loss for words...I knew I would make a purchase...I just had to figure out I wanted one of everything! The girl running the shop was so kind. She spoke English (which was very helpful) and let me take my time looking and even touching the hundreds of leather, hand made journals and pens, etc. After nearly 45 minutes of trying to narrow it down, I settled on a large brown journal and a pen set. I picked a few bottles of ink and sweet T insisted I get a few more...I am so I've already gone through several ink wells...I think Campo Marzio was my favorite store in all of Italy. It was fine.

I asked permission to take a pic inside and the owner was a bit hesitant but agreed I could take one...the entire store was about 15' by 15'. And way fine.

A view looking down the street, just outside Campo Marzio...

After that stop we wound our way up and down various streets and stumbled upon a Reformed Baptist Church. No one was there and the doors were locked. We camped out on the steps and watched some young children play soccer in the street and then we noticed a bride and her father standing just outside the church across from where we were sitting...and we realized there was a HUGE wedding going fun!

Finally we made it over to the Spanish Steps and took a seat. We people watched...and then spent a few hours searching for a top rated pizza place (can't remember the name right now)...we asked local after local, most had heard of it, but couldn't remember how to get there. It was hidden to say the least. Finally we found it and it was wonderful! (In spite of the fact that I accidentally ordered my pizza with sardines...I thought I was ordering olives...oh well. It was rather salty...but still good.) In Italy, there is no concept of private dinning...we were seated almost on top of another couple...from England. We had some enjoyable conversation, some good pizza, and some great beer. It was a wonderful way to cap off Rome. 

Following dinner, we caught the bus (whose number was specified by Frommers as the bus we needed to get back to the termini)...and the guy drove and drove and the area didn't look familiar. Finally he pulled over on the side of the road and turned the bus off. T and I were the only passengers still on board. When we tried to question the driver, he waved us off the bus and then pulled out a beer. He had no intentions of moving on. 

We pulled out the map and realized we were about as far from our hotel as we could get and still be in Rome...and then we spotten a single, older, American woman. She was studying abroad and new a little more about where we were than we did...together the three of us caught the last bus (a few minutes shy of midnight) and rode back to the termini...on the way we passed the Cat Sanctuary...being the cat fans we are, we were sorely disappointed we'd not made time to visit. This is where the unwanted cats of Rome are dumped. We were told even cats without legs live there. Hmmm...(pretty me, at least.)

And so finally, after midnight, we stumbled into our hotel room and fell into bed, exhausted, but filled with the sites and sounds and tastes of Rome...FABULOUS!!! I do believe this third day ranked as one of, if not my very favorite day of Italy.


  1. Oh, I am loving these Italy posts. Makes me feel like I was there with you guys! And Happy Birthday!!!!!!

  2. Oooh, thanks for posting all these amazing Italy posts! I am one of those brave people-I'm reading through each one, all the way through. :) Love the architecture and trees and ruins...lovely. I'm eating it all up!
    BTW, happy birthday, Mr. T. :)