What we did today: everything.
Today was our Day To Explore Ancient Rome. The thing about ancient Rome is, it’s smack in the middle of modern Rome. They’re still digging things out; we saw one park in the middle of the city that’s all fenced off and it was full of archaeologists that were digging about six feet down, and it was all full of old walls and buildings and things. Rome has been in continuous existence for well over two thousand years, and everything’s all mixed together. We’ve seen buildings built in the 19th century and buildings dated something silly like 483 AD, on the same street and both in active daily use. There are roads that I’m sure date all the way back to the Romans. (Well, technically, we’re in Rome, so everything’s Roman, but you know what I mean). And the city itself looks like it has hundreds of years of history in it. It looks the way you think Rome should look.
Not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but it’ll demonstrate the point. This is the street our hotel is on: Via Dei Serpenti, which my limited Italian skills suggest translates to “Road of the serpent god”. I’m sure there’s a story there, but I don’t know it. Anyway, you’ve got a narrow road, really narrow sidewalks (or no sidewalks), cars and motorbikes everywhere, nice buildings, run-down buildings, old buildings, new buildings, alleyways, businessmen, hotels, businesses, little restaurants…and at the end of the road, the Colosseum. The city just keeps on going through the years, and some things change and some things don’t. It’s a fantastic place, and we’re in love with it. Everyone should come here once,
What was I saying? Right, ancient Rome. Well, there’s the Colosseum there, so you can bet we went there. It’s pretty neat: there’s a main level and an upper level, and you can walk all the way around the oval on both of them. There’s also a basement area under the main floor or stage or whatever, where gladiators lived and animals were kept and I don’t know what else. You can’t go in there though. As you move around, you’re walking on either the original floor and stairs (brick overlaid with marble) or restored versions of them (brick built in roughly the same style, no marble). There’s really not any sort of “museum” feel to it…you have areas you can go in and areas you can’t go in, but if you’re in one of the public areas and there’s an enormous chunk of once-beautiful marble pillar that weighs 500 pounds and has survived earthquakes, wars, and 2000 years of weathering and erosion, and you want to sit on it and take your picture, nobody cares. What are you going to do, break it? It’s a giant chunk of rock. Beautiful, expensive, cold rock, but still rock.
Anyway, the Colosseum was all well and good. We did a little wheeling and dealing with the street vendors outside; we’d done some in Pompeii, and we did some more later today too. Never pay full price for anything from a street vendor. Some of the conversations we had:
“Where you from?” “Canada.” “Oh, good country, Canada! Very good country! Special price for Canada!”
“How much?” (Vendor turns item over and points at the 80 Euro price tag) “Not eighty, but fifty!”
(As I slowed my pace and looked at a stand I was passing) “You like? You want? Everything fifty per cent off!”
(After buying something) “Grazias, thank you. You want another? Give you good price for two!”
“How much you want to pay? You tell me, I sell to you!”
At the first street dealer I encountered, I paid the first price offered for a souvenir: eight Euros. While I don’t regret the purchase, in retrospect I probably could have gotten him down to four, easily. I just didn’t realize that the prices were mutable until the next stand, where I hesitated over something and the price started dropping. Istanbul should be a lot of fun that way.
Anyway, after the Colosseum we went to the Palatine hill. This is a huge area full of ruined buildings. You could spend all day there without trying real hard. Part of it is the Forum (unfortunately, nothing funny happened on the way there); the rest is miscellaneous stuff including temples, decorative arches, Caesar’s tomb, and the old senate chambers (which eventually got turned into a chuch). I’m actually not sure what parts are considered the Forum and what parts aren’t; there’s no clear delineation that I saw. Chunks of marble pillar and whatnot are everywhere along the paths; hundreds of pieces of what once were beautifully carved architecture and are now serving as makeshift benches and stepstools for tourists because there are only so many thousand pieces of pillar that the archaeologists can bother trying to reconstruct.
After the Forum, we had lunch, and then we saw…everything else. The Pantheon, the Spanish Steps (actually that was earlier), Trevi Fountain, churches and monuments and arches too numerous to mention, plazas, ruins, and more. I’m not even going to bother trying to list or describe them. We were actually totally overwhelmed, especially since we didn’t really know what half the stuff was. (Pretty, yes, but what’s it for?) I took over 300 pictures today, and I’m sure I still missed stuff. You need a week to see ancient Rome; maybe more. We tried it in a day. We walked poor Cheryl’s legs right off. We want time, we want to understand what we see, we want to go through it slowly and really appreciate it. We can’t, We probably need to come back one day and do it right.
Tomorrow morning we leave for Athens. We’ve got one night in Athens, and then we’re on the cruise. I don’t expect internet access tomorrow night. There should be some on the cruise, but there mayh not be any wireless, in which case I doubt I’ll be able to do any blogging. Still, I should be able to email…