08 January 2016

The Ancients of Rome

Over the summer L and I started planning our vacation. It's become our tradition to go somewhere together in the fall and this year we decided on Italy. I was gobsmacked that she'd never been to Rome so that's where we headed-Rome and Florence!

Prior to meeting me in Rome, L had to go to Central America for work so she was fairly exhausted when she arrived. Exhausted and sick having picked up something in Central America. Unfortunately she lost a day but it gave me a chance to do some research I probably should have done before arriving. I also walked around visiting churches so I wouldn't have to drag her into them all!

The day she lost was a Sunday. We were waiting in line at the Palatine Hill to get tickets into the fora when she just couldn't anymore and had to head back to our AirBnB. What we learned that day was:
  1. There is no such thing as 'off season' in Rome. I felt so overwhelmed by the people! I don't even feel like in Istanbul (at least not off season).
  2. Never try to visit the major sights on a weekend day. We'd been waiting in line for half hour or more when she just couldn't anymore but Monday we just sailed through the lines.
  3. Get the OMNIA/ROMA passes! These were awesome. Not only did the price include entry to the Vatican, the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, and the Fora they also included the use of one of the hop on hop off buses, free public transportation, and discounted entry fees to most of the city's other museums for the three days the cards are valid.

Arch of Constantine (L) & the Colosseum (R)

Arch of Constantine detail

When we finally got out and about to see everything I was so excited. I've been to Rome before but in 2000 when I was a know-nothing, slightly terrified college kid on my first ever trip abroad. Rome was especially exciting for me because last year I took an online course on Roman architecture and going back to the city with even the little that I retained made the city and the ruins so much more interesting. For example, the Colosseum is just an amphitheater but it's called the Colosseum because there were a colossal statue of Nero that stood nearby. The Colosseum has a long and fascinating history eventually being dedicated as a church. In fact it is now tradition for the Pope to lead the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday there.

Arch of Constantine detail

Palatine Hill stadium

The Colosseum from the Palatine Hill

And while the Colosseum might be "just" an amphitheater is it the largest one in the world. Romans have an interesting way of dating everything to the Colosseum as well. If you say that X is older than the Colosseum it's like whoa...

The Temple of Antoninus & Faustina
I was super excited to get off the Palatine Hill and into the Fora...where I was promptly a little disappointed. I love me some ruins and I thought I knew a fair bit of the history going in (from the aforementioned architecture course) but the current on the ground reality is a bit of a confused mess. A picturesque confused mess, but a confused mess nonetheless. With each emperor building his own forum adjacent to/on top of a previously existing one and often using materials from the previous forum what remains today is a jumble of rocks and marble from which, even with the assistance of a really good guide book, it is difficult to extrapolate what each pile of marble was.

Column of Phocas, Arch of Septimus Severus, Santi Luca e Martina

Looking into the Forum West

It didn't help that the Catholics came in and repurposed a bunch of the old temples (even if that did keep them standing). Which segues nicely into my next post about Rome when I explore the Vatican and several of Rome's more impressive churches!

No comments: