Another Long Day in Rome

So, having had our somewhat down day, we were ready again this morning to face the bad streets of Rome. Man, it is just crazy out there! It is getting busier as the weekend approaches. Going to Florence tomorrow so we should miss some of the madness at least.

So we retraced our steps today down from where the shuttle dropped us at Piazza del Spagna then across town back to Old Rome. This time we strolled along taking the pics we missed out on yesterday. Walked back up to the Colosseum and through the Forums again. Still gives me the shivers even the second time through. Wow!

Then we climbed up a fairly steep and rocky path to the Capitoline Hill. As the name implies this is where the government in Rome is. Has been a government center since the first days of the city – or so the story goes. Here we found a modern copy of the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The original is in the Museo Capitoline and is quite spectacular.

We decided to take the time to venture into the Museo and boy are we glad we did. Not only are there priceless works of art and cultural history in here – the statute described above plus the remainder of the Colossus, an original she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus and Titian paintings, to name just a few – but there are breathtaking views of the Forums and Rome from the top of the museum. Also preserved here are remains of the original Temple of Jupiter and the Tabularium – or Hall of Records – from Imperial times. This is also leaves one rather thunderstruck.

After a nice lunch in the museum cafe and some more gawking at precious art, we made our way down the hill to the Church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami, which is built over the Cacere Mamertino. This is what is left of the cells where it is known the Gaul Vercingetorix was kept before being ritual strangled by Caesar. It is also believed to have been the cell of St. Peter – who died here of starvation, though not before producing the miracle well which is the reason for the church being built here – and reputedly of St. Paul as well. Not sure there is any evidence for either saint actually being here, but, hey, the church keeps the cells intact so I won’t complain. Creepy, creepy, creepy though. Just can’t imagine being forced down those steep stairs into the dark knowing you may never come up.

Then we made our circuitous way over hill and dale to gawk at the Circus Maximus. These days it’s just a grassy valley between the Palentine and the Aventine hills. The Romans now use it mostly as a jogging track. But one can’t help but imagine the pounding of hooves and the clashing of chariot wheels as the crazed drivers raced for glory to the cheering of the Roman spectators.

Then for a change of pace, we headed across the Tiber to the Trastevere. Among other sites this area holds the city’s oldest church, the Santa Maria in Trastevere. The church dates back to the 4th century, though much of it was rebuilt in the 12th. One of the first churches to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is a marvel of medieval art and architecture. We happened to wander in during mass so we stayed in the back out of respect, lit a candle for Mom (at last – really candles! Everywhere else we went either had none or electric “candles” – I kid you not.) stayed to see a bit of the service and wandered back out again.

Let me just take a moment to say a few words about the “gypsies” here – this is the generic, catch-all term for the subculture of folks in this city – and around Europe – who live their lives completely “off the grid.” They are in Italy illegally, in the sense that they have no legal identities to speak of: no birth certificates and hence no passports or papers of any kind. They may have been born here or in other parts of Europe and just wandered this way, in the finest tradition of Travelers everywhere. They make their living by begging or stealing or both. Rome is on the whole a safe city but beware the tourist who stops to answer a “fellow” tourists query for directions – hang on to your wallets and purses as these folks are quite adept at making things disappear. And the beggars are sometime quite insistent. I’ve seen gypsies of various stripes in other parts of Europe, though never quite as thick as here in Rome. Mostly you just see the beggars though – if you ever see the thieves it’s either too late or they just aren’t that good. Our guide through the Vatican remarked that even she still gets stung quite often. So while we are trying not to be paranoid, it is of course a good idea to be careful.

After a bit more of a stroll we settled down for the evening meal at Da Ivo, a fabulous pizzeria. Three little words of yummy goodness: fried stuffed olives. Yum! And more porcini mushrooms in the form of brochette. Then pizza with the best damn salami for Darren and sausage, mushrooms and whole olives (pits and all) for me. More yumminess. Then popped over to a fabulous gelato stand and strolled our way out of the Trastevere, across to a small island in the middle of the Tiber, then over the oldest bridge in Rome, in search of a taxi.

BTW: catching a cab is not an easy thing to do in Rome. And forget about the taxi stands – apparently they are merely a suggestion. After finding several empty we finally wandered back to the Piazza Venetia and found several taxis just hanging out there. Took one back here and now we are happily ready for bed and a full day in Florence.

Here are some pics to fend you off and more tomorrow if we are not too exhausted to post.

Picture 102.jpgJanice on the Spanish StepsPicture 115.jpgLeonardo’s bridge

Picture 137.jpgDo I really need to tell you?

Picture 153.jpg

Temple of Vesta

Picture 164.jpgHappy 10th Anniversary Caesar. (Not sure which one.)

Picture 210.jpgMarcus Aurelius

Picture 202.jpgShe wolf suckling Romulus and Remus

Picture 260.jpgJanice in the Cacere Mamertino

Picture 265.jpgDarren in the cheap seats at the Circus Maximus.

Until I write again!




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