Lost in the Forums of Ancient Rome

Yesterday I was explaining how very little of anything is labeled in Rome. The monuments and giant obelisks in the middle of piazzas have nothing indicating what they are or why they are there. Occasionally, something will be written in Italian, but even asking for that is pushing it.

Today we ventured way back to the times of Julius Caesar and Augustus and a lot of other people I can’t recall the names of. I have to give credit to two people for getting me (and Jose indirectly) interested in this whole ancient Roman experience. My brother, Jason and a fellow teacher from school, Katie, both mentioned the HBO series “Rome” to me at almost the same time. I believe it was the time between seasons 1 and 2 when all the fans were dying for new episodes. They were both raving about how incredible the show was, the actors were all amazing, and the effects and details (costuming and props —not historical details) were just perfect. If I am not mistaken, my reply to both of them was, “no, haven’t seen that one, but have you seen Dexter, the show about the forensic blood analyst that’s a serial killer, but he only kills bad people?” Anyway, a few months later, we ended up catching the second to last episode of Rome’s second (and final) season. We were hooked. Immediately! Within weeks we had seen all the episodes and were just so impressed with the show. Warning: The show is amazing, but it’s also not PG. It’s extremely graphic in every aspect: sex, violence, language, but as a whole it works perfectly.

They filmed here in Rome and it supposedly cost almost $300 million to film both seasons. As with many cable shows, it ended before it’s time, but they couldn’t afford to continue filming. If anyone caught another great show, Journeyman, from last fall, the main character is played by one of the main characters in Rome. The actor’s name is Kevin McKidd. The other main character from Rome is supposed to have a show on network tv soon too. His name is Ray Stevenson. Here’s some info on the series Rome from wiki.

Wow that took a while, the whole point of that story was to set the stage for the day we had today. We toured the Colosseum, and the ancient Roman Forum. It was hot today. I even got a sunburn! which I was not expecting!

We left the B&B around 10am and got to the Colosseum quickly. It was quite a sight to pull up on the road next to this huge mammoth structure. It was incredible! I kept saying Wow over and over like an idiot, as the taxi driver rolled his eyes.
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Our plan was to buy tickets at Palatine Hill instead of the Colosseum because the lines would be shorter. So we walked there and the line was much shorter but Jose suggested that I scout the doorway to see if we could get in another way. As I was scusi-ing my way through loads of people, I see a man holding about twenty-five tickets in his hand pretty much throwing them to the large group he was with. He was giddy with excitment saying “I guess they’re free today! They must be giving them away.” Then, I swear this is true, he hee-hawed. Yes, like a donkey. So I quickly waved Jose over and we got in line and within seconds we were at the ticket booth. The man at the counter handed us two tickets and said “Free today”. BONUS! This included our fees for the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum! So we turned around and headed for the Colosseum. Look, here’s a roman soldier on his cellphone!
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We get there and there is a huge line all the way around the Colosseum. We were pretty sure this was the line for people who did not have tickets (and didn’t yet know they were free) so we walked around until we found the actual entrance you go in when you HAVE your tickets, which was packed. There was some confusion over how the guided tour and individual lines divided so there were irate people being asked to leave the line they had been standing in for who knows how long because it was for groups. So they started hooting and hollering in a lot of different languages waving the tickets they already had. What do we do? Of course, jump right in just as security moved them through to avoid an angry mob-like situation Within three minutes of arriving at the Colosseum we were inside and had bypassed about 1000 people in line. I know, one day karma is going to catch up…or is this karma’s way of apologizing for the Uffizi Gallery incident?

We took an elevator up to the second level of the Colosseum and walked around. This was very enlightening to see. In the pictures below you can see the original floor on the left picture. In the right one, the flooring was removed to show the tunnels and passages below.
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There are as many as thirty lifts down here that corresponded to areas on the fighting floor where animals or other gladiators or slaves could be popped up behind a gladiator. This is a pretty elaborate system. While we were looking at everything, we saw a descendant of one of those wild animals used as killing machines, trotting along the top edge of a tunnel stopping every now and then to bask in the sun. I was so scared, I was unable to focus the camera on the scary kitty cat errr wild beast.

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The Colosseum looks completely different from the inside, and I prefer the look of the outside. Here are some other views.

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After the Colosseum, we walked to the opening of the Roman Forum area. Here is where the remains of the ancient roman life exist today. This was very, very cool. I’ve never walked on ruins before. Here you can rest on columns, sit on boulders, lean on buildings that were important to history. There were so many things to look at, it was very overwhelming. When we get home, I’ll post the link to the photo album where all the photos will be stored, because it’s impossible to post as many as I’d like to this blog.

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As I mentioned earlier, Italy does not like to give information about its monuments or things of interest. Here’s a place, over 2000 years old and we’re allowed to climb all over it, but we can’t ever know why that piece of rock is historically prominent??? craziness!
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We experienced quite a bit of frustration trying to decipher the maps we had (Rick Steves book and the one we got at the entrance). The map scales were different and it seemed like things were angled in other directions. There were many moments of “Where they heck are we???” and “What is that thing??” from us and from the people around us. Frustration and confusion are wordless emotions. Plus the shaking of fingers and pointing at maps and then in circles around also indicate there could possibly be a map problem. 😛

Here are some places we thought were important enough to photograph. This is the location where Julius Caesar was burned after his assassination. Behind the wall is the actual spot, marked by flowers.
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(Doesn’t Jose look very pensive and reflective??)
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Here is (we think) the Curia, where the Senate met (contrary to belief, Caesar was not assassinated in this building, they were meeting in another building across the street — how’s that for trivia???)
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These ruins are just beautiful. This used to be the forum, the open area in the center of town. These rocks have been here for over 2000 years. amazing!
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We spent about two and a half hours just wandering around looking at old buildings and rubble and imagining what it used to look like. I think if I lived here, I would never get sick of this.

We finally moved our way out of the forum to another staircase which lead to another level of buildings. Jose wanted to see the Marmatine Prison where St. Peter and St. Paul were held prisoner.
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I will be completely honest in saying that this place was sad and not pleasant. You walk into the main entrance and this is the hole in the ground where prisoners were lowered into the dungeon. There’s a short, very creepy, staircase down into the cold, damp dungeon.
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Here there is a small room, very disgusting smelling. Supposedly, this is the actual column where St. Peter was chained during his imprisonment. You could touch it if you wanted, but I didn’t.
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I did not like the mood in here at all…go figure it’s basically a torture chamber. I was very happy when Jose had finished his photos and we could leave. Sad place. On the wall upstairs was a list of some of the prisoners and how they died. Again, sad.

After that lovely fun family adventure, we were pretty much done for the afternoon. Here is another funny sign to lighten the mood.
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We did not go back to Palatine Hill or make it to Capital Hill, but I am very happy with what we accomplished today. Plus, we have to leave somethings for our next trip to Rome!

We came back to the B&B for a quick lunch and then a nap. We stopped at Osteria Mario, which was very close to our place. Jose had ricotta and spinach ravioli with a sage butter sauce and parmiggiano reggiano cheese. This was exquisite!
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I had my one of my favorite dishes, veal saltimbocca all romano! It was also very delish.
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We also had bruschetta with very tasty tomatoes.
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After the nap, I worked on the blog for about two hours prepping photos and writing. Then it was time for dinner! We went back to Maccheroni and sat outside this time. We had another Caprese salad, oh so good! The tomatoes are delicious here and the mozzarella (no worries…not from Naples!) was sublime.

I had canniloni (sp?) filled with meat and covered with a tomato/creamy cheese sauce. DELISH!
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Jose had fettuccine alla bolognese. It was also very good.
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We finally got to try their tiramisu and it was excellent.photo 477

Then as if we hadn’t eaten enough food, we took a walk around the neighborhood and ended up at a famous gelataria called Giolotti and had a cone of chocolate and caramel and fresh whipped cream. OH SOOO GOOD!
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That’s a wrap for tonite. We are leaving extremely early tomorrow for Pompeii (via Naples) and should be back in time to pack, buy some last minute gifts and eat dinner! and gelato! Oh there’s a time change tomorrow/tonight (Saturday/Sunday) so it’s REALLY late!

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