Jan. 21. 2016: Rome
Today’s destination is the Roman Forum. But we have to walk a couple of miles to get there, and we have plenty of occasion to take in the splendor of The Eternal City. One thing we are amazed by is the way ancient ruins are casually interspersed among bustling contemporary buildings, as if archaeologists just left them there and forget to pick them up. Here’s one ruined structure we found squeezed between modern apartment buildings.
We also notice that many “gas stations” in Italy are nothing more than a couple of pumps. And throughout Italy and France, the gas prices we’ve seen are the equivalent of 6 to 7 dollars per gallon!
Breakfast at Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world; it appeared in Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece La Dolce Vita. Built in 1762 after being in the planning stages for about a century, it pays tribute to Rome’s distinguished history of aqueducts. It’s easy to see how Ottorino Respighi was inspired to compose The Fountains Of Rome.
There is a film shoot going on here, a very low budget affair, it seems, since there is a crew of only 3 or 4. A young actress is doing a scene in which she’s apparently just fallen or jumped into the pool, and she’s quite wet, which is not a comfortable thing to be on a day like today.
On to the Pantheon, which is an architectural illustration of how early Christianity cannibalized paganism, subsuming not only its festivals and symbols but also in some cases its buildings. Constructed early in the Second Century as a pagan temple (the name is Greek for “for all the Gods”,) it was converted into a Christian church about 5 centuries later, and has been so ever since.
The dome is rather unusual, in that it has a big hole in it to let sunlight in.
It also lets water in, so there’s a drain in the floor underneath it.
It has some magnificent stuff inside, like a great many European churches.
In places you can even see the architectural layers separating pagan from Christian eras.
The structure also has the tomb of the great painter Raphael.
After leaving the Pantheon, we pass Bartolucci, a fabulous wooden toy store that has been a family business since 1936. They especially have a thing for Pinocchio.
So do we.
And then it’s the incredible Forum. Dating back more than 2500 years, it was the heart of ancient Rome, with government buildings, temples, etc., hosting all manner of pomp and circumstance.
Again, these ancient ruins are not, as one might expect, in some isolated location, but right in the middle of the modern city.
The remains make it clear that it was a jaw-dropping complex indeed.
A great place to get in some yoga, eh?
We’re walking on the same pavement where Julius Caesar walked. And reenacting some sword fight he might have had.
Kimberly decides that a fallen fragment of a pillar (which has not been placed off-limits to skin contact) would be a good location to do a yoga pose. A security guard makes it clear that he doesn’t care for the concept.
Then we move across the street to get a close-up view of the Coliseum (or Colosseum), built between 70 and 80 to be an amphitheatre to host a variety of entertainments and spectacles, including mock sea battles achieved by flooding the place — imagine doing that with the engineering capabilities of that era. There were also, alas, fights to the death between gladiators. (The popular notion that Christians were fed to the lions here, however, is quite dubious.)
As with many other buildings we’ve seen in Europe, there is scaffolding very much in evidence, making it difficult to get a good vantage point for a photo. Is restorative work ongoing in these places, or is it just done in the off-season?
In any case, Kimberly manages to find an angle for an interesting photo that includes the Coliseum and the scaffolding, plus some colorful flora.
On the walk back home, we pass a fabulous old government building.
And there’s some kind of demonstration going on..
Back at the apartment, we find our laundry, as promised, drying on a rack in the hall. Clothes drying machines seem to be nonexistent in Europe. There’s no sign of our hosts. “Helena” seems to have a habit of making herself scarce after initial contact, and there’s still no hide nor hair of “Giorgio”.
After dinner (which is after a trip to a health food supermarket around the corner), we decide to go out for dessert at a place “Helena” recommended, a nearby establishment where she said we could get the best gelato in Rome. We think she was right on the money. The Gelateria La Romana, established in 1947, offers gelato that is more outstanding than outstanding, in a wide variety of intriguing flavors. (Fortunately, one of the young ladies behind the counter speaks enough English to explain the flavors to us.) And the cost, amazingly, was only about 2 euros per person.
It is while we are in gelato heaven that I tell Kimberly my theory that we haven’t met “Giorgio” because he doesn’t really exist; I strongly suspect that “Helena” made him up so that people won’t know she’s running the place alone. I apparently heard them arguing in another room last night, but when I think about it, I never heard his voice — only hers. So either she was talking to someone on the phone, or she was doing a Norman Bates to convince her guests she wasn’t alone. In case I’m right, I’m respecting her privacy by changing their names.