Roma was better and more beautiful than I possibly thought it could be. We all had an amazing time. There are ruins and lovely parks scattered throughout the city center. Rome not only was a great city, it is a great city. But I'm going to let the pictures tell the story, because they convey more than I can by writing, although they are wholy inadequete to show how immense and interconnected everything was. This is our hotel room balcony.
The first thing that we went to see was the Colosseum. We walked from our hotel, and I kept telling Brian I thought we were going the wrong way because we were heading down an alley... surely the way to the Colosseo wouldn't be down an alley. Surely there would be lots of billboards advertising it or something. But no, that's part of the beauty of Rome. There are tons of alleyways and suddenly you pop out into a piazza with a beautiful fountain or church. There is adequete signage (all the roads are marked-- unlike the UK). So we strolled down the hill to the Colosseo and it kept getting bigger and bigger as we got closer. Here is is from the hill. It is actually in a valley though, so it is even bigger than the picture shows.
Now you can see its height a bit better. Look how little the people are. In its glory days the Colosseo would have been completely covered with marble and each of the 80 arches on the second and third floors had an over life-sized statue in it. It was built using slave labor and only took 8 years to complete. In the picture you can see a bit of the Forum in the background.
Here's our globe-trottin' boy at the Colosseum.
And this is what remains of the interior. All the marble has been stripped off over the years for other statutes and monuments. The Colosseo was originally built over a drained lake, so there are two floors underground which are not open to the public. These were used as a place for keeping gladiators and animals before the fights. There would have been wooden planks and sand in the center of the stadium to cover these levels. The sand was to soak up the spilled blood. The modern use of the word arena comes from the Latin word for sand. It is a pretty gruesome form of entertainment and it is hard to fathom that sucessful gladiators enjoyed such celebrity that some free men actually signed up to become gladiators. Our guide told us that the Colosseo was not a place that many Christians died. Apparently most of the martyrs died in the nearby Circus Maximus. It is hard to imagine living in such times.
After touring the Colosseo, it was time for lunch. We ate at a great place across from the Colosseo. We had pizza of course. It was good, but definitely different than American pizza. Ours was topped with hard-boiled eggs, olives, mushrooms, and and Italian ham. It was very good, despite my initial skepticism about eggs on pizza. Here's my boy in a highchair. He is getting so big! He was a big hit with our waiter, too, because the waiter had a one month old daughter. He wanted to know all about what Iain could do and how old he was. Iain was pretty popular the whole trip actually. He got tons of attention and everywhere we went we heard "Ciao, bello!" (hello, beautiful boy!). Iain thought that was great of course.
After lunch we went up to the Palatine hill. Lots of wealthy Romans and emperors built their homes here overlooking the Forum, including Augustus, Domitian, and Titus. I could see why-- the area was just amazingly lovely. And when you add all the ruins it takes on a romantic, dream-like quality. This was probably my favorite place in Roma.
The picture below shows the remains of Domitian's indoor private race track. The one above shows his private baths.
And as if beauty and ruins weren't enough going for it, the Palatino also has a former Renaissance mansion and formal gardens on it. Roma is like that. You think something is lovely or interesting and then you turn a corner and find another beautiful surprise. The gardens are called the Farnese gardens named after the grandson of the Pope who had them built and enjoyed living in those plush surroundings.
Iain thought the garden's goldfish were pretty nice!
Here we are on Palatino hill at the Farnese villa overlooking the Forum.
After exploring the Palatino, we clambered down the hill and walked through the Forum, wich was the heart of ancient Roma. Here are the remains of the Roman Senate. Not much left, but still impressive. All the ruins are enormous. Roma is definitely a city that evokes the imagination. I guess that is why so many artists and writers are continually drawn to this city.
At the end of the Forum, again tucked behind a corner, is the Mamertine Prison. It is believed that Paul and Peter were imprisoned here. It was a smelly, nasty place. It was cramped and very dark. Our camera has a very stong flash, so you can see the altar here quite well.
Here is a picture of the ventilation shaft that I took without using the flash. Was it really here that Paul wrote " I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." We took a moment and prayed here for our little son that he would be such a man.
After the prison it was raining and we were tired, so we decided to stop for a drink and an ice cream. Roma is famous for its yummy gelati (ice creams). We had a chocolate tartufo (ice cream shaped like a trufle). It was a really yummy dark chocolate flavor with cocoa powder sprinkled all over it. We split one scoop and even then it was almost too rich for me to eat my half--and I adore chocolate!
After our stop, it was dark, but we decided to keep walking around the city. The rain had slowed, but it hadn't stopped. This is the Victor Emmanuel II monument. He unified Italy in 1870 and was the first king. It is right next to the Forum and it is the biggest monument I have ever seen.
We continued our stroll through the lovely Roman streets until we came to the Fontana de Trevi (Trevi Fountain). It is also very large and lovely. They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi, you are guranteed to come back to Roma. So we all did, including Iain!
We didn't hang around the Trevi as long as we would have liked because there were a lot of con artists preying on tourists there. This was the only place that we had any problems when we were in Rome. There were tons of guys who would try to sell roses and when you refused, they would try to to "give" them to you. They were very persistant and followed people around. They also tried to take your picture for an exorbitant fee. The police were there and every now then would make their presence known, at which time the hucksters briefly took off. While they were gone we made an agreement to have another tourist couple from the States take our picture and we took theirs. The woman was holding some roses. Apparently one of the guys "gave" them to her and then the police showed up, so he left. While we were taking pictures he reappeared and demanded payment for the flowers. The woman told him that he could have them back and he snatched them out her hand (hope there were no thorns-- ouch!) and started cursing at her. Brian challenged him and the man walked away. (I love my brave husband, but I do worry about his safety sometimes. But if you know Brian, you know what a "don't mess with me" air he can have when he wants to. The man apparently took the hint.) Brian spoke to the police and they were very nice, chatting and joking with him about it. The guy was gone, so they didn't get him, even though what he did was illegal. There were just so many of them.
After Trevi we walked up to the Piazza Spagna and Piazza del Popolo, which was a pretty long walk. It was even longer back to our hotel and while we were walking it started pouring and one of our umbrellas broke. The streets were uneven and full of puddles and it wasn't long before we were both soaked. Thankfully Iain was nice and dry under his plastic rain cover in the stroller. We were so happy to get to the hotel and get dried out! Yuck! We laughed about it though, because it has become a bit of a family vacation tradition to have one long, painfully exhausting walk.
So that was a first day in Roma. It was great and we saw a ton. The city was so beautiful and it was thrilling to be someplace that I'd only dreamed of going and have it be even better than I expected, even with our little man in tow. More to come soon!