Alright, since I still have so much more to tell you from my time abroad, we’re going jump back into the Travel Tales this time around. This will be the final post of Rome, and with that, Italy. Our last day in Rome took us to some some incredible sights before we enjoyed our last Italian meal, strolled past the Trevi Fountain, and called it a vacation.
I admit, Tuesday was a really great day for the history major. We walked to the Colosseum, but on the way passed the ruins of the Circus Maximus. We had gotten a Roma Pass enabling us to skip the queue to get in. And it was pretty darn amazing. When you walk in you immediately see the stadium, built between 70 and 82 A.D., including the area where the officials and high ups would have sat, the rest of the stone benches rising up all around. In the center is a maze of old stone and a thin wooden platform placed above part of it, to show how the maze-like work was the underground area where I believe the victims and animals would have been kept. It was so easy to imagine the masses of people hording in to attend such gruesome events way back in the day. The various entrances crowded with people trying to get in, chariots carrying others down the road, through the Arch of Constantine (well, after it was built) and to the Colosseum.
We took our fill of this piece of history, walking around to the opposite side and going up a set of steep stairs to the second level. What I wasn’t expecting to see in the Colosseum was a cross. Having always associated it with the Empire before Christianity, It never occurred to me that the church would have converted it to their own uses. While that probably saved the Colosseum from being destroyed, I kind of wish they hadn’t put their influence on something so grand from a polytheistic time.
Perhaps unique to our visit was when my mom and I decided to use the restroom before heading to some other ruins. After going back and forth a few times and then asking where it could be found, we made it. The unique part was waiting in line…we, and others in front and behind, we serenading by a group of girls right in front of us. They were just giggling and having fun of course, but it was interesting when we recognized the song. We were hearing a John Denver song in Italian or Spanish! Yes, John Denver I tell you! Small world sometimes, truly. And they weren’t bad, either!
We then walked across the street to Palatine Hill to stroll through more history and ruins. Palatine Hill makes up the most central of the Seven Hills of Rome and serves as an important location in Roman history and folklore. Legend has it that it was on Palatine Hill that Remus and Romulus were found and suckled by she-wolf who kept them alive until a shepherd found the two. Rome is, of course, named after Romulus who would later kill his twin brother in an argument (it must have been some argument…).
There is a small museum detailing and showing examples of the archaeological findings of Palatine Hill. Bronze pots, vases, tools, and the structure of primitive houses were explained in this museum. Amazingly, we were walking in an area that has been inhabited since 1000 B.C. – it was truly incredible to ponder that while admiring these centuries old structures! Among the ruins was the Flavian Palace, begun in the year 69 and extended to overlook the Circus Maximus around 146 by Emperor Septimius Severus.
With the trees blooming and beautiful flowers growing, walking through Palatine Hill was truly a peaceful and wonderful treat. This “original city of Rome” has been treated with the utmost respect and continues to be excavated and examined to reveal more of it’s past. Palatine Hill also affords many stunning views of the city from different angles. You can look out on one side and see the Circus Maximus, Vatican City, and the Castel Sant’Angelo, then go in the other direction to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the three large arches of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. From the hill we made our way down into the famous Roman Forum. No strange thing happened to us, though, on the way to the Forum….
The Forum is supposedly the sight where Caesar was stabbed in the back by Brutus (et tu, Brute?). Although, further research suggests it may actually be at the Largo di Torre Argentina. This site holds the ruins to four Republican Roman temples along with the remains of Pompey’s Theatre (where Caesar is said to have been murdered). What alerts me to the fact that I think we actually passed and took pictures of this without knowing it’s significance was reading that it is also a cat sanctuary where stray cats are cared for. We were quite surprised as we walked past another site of ruins after lunch and began counting the cats we were seeing! Now, being the cat lover I am, we had to stop and take some pictures. The archaeological sight, too, seemed familiar.
Anyway, back to the Roman Forum. It is here that we saw the remaining columns of the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, Temple of Castor and Pollux (anyone else a Gemini?), the Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the Temple of Julius Caesar, and more. Again, this was an astounding experience – especially for anyone interested in history. As you can guess, many Roman emperors left their mark on the Forum, and it served as an important central spot in the Roman Empire for both political and religious purposes.
Once we had our fill of the Roman Forum and ruins – which are everywhere around the city, may I add! – we made our way back to our hotel. On the way we passed the magnificent Victor Emmanuel II monument in the central location of the Piazza Venezia. A monument to the monarch of the same name, Emannuel was the first king of Italy when it became a unified country. It’s definitely worth walking by to see the detail of the statues and just how ostentatious and massive it is!
Dinner that night was at a small restaurant along Via di Ripetta which had been recommended to us by friends; a restaurant called Trattoria Al Gran Sasso. It was near Via del Popolo where we had been walking the day before. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere and seemed to be a neighborhood type of place as we saw tables of old friends, another tourist family like us, and some elderly folks who definitely knew the owners. We sat next to the entrance where fresh strawberries and mushrooms were right there on display to show what the seasonal items were. The meal wasn’t the best one of the trip, but it was pretty good.
Our appetizer of grilled vegetables and mozzarella was excellent, and we each enjoyed our meals. I had the roast lamb chops, my mom had some kind of spinach, pepper, and steak dish, and my dad the veal escalope saltimbocca. A delicious, fresh, complementary biscotti was served after dinner and we walked out of there satisfied and full!
It was amazing that a street that could be so busy during the day was empty enough to walk for blocks in the middle of at night. And that’s what we did, making our way to toss a coin or two into a certain fountain. While very touristy, and definitely a place to keep your purse and other valuables close to you, the Trevi Fountain is definitely worth a visit. At night, it is stunning. The lights shine up from the water and beneath the statues give it a very cool atmosphere. The detail of the smooth looking statues of the mighty Oceanus (not to be confused with Poseidon), Abundance, Salubrity, and the awesome horses with wings called “hippocamps” is what you would expect of any great work of art.
The Trevi Fountain is so named for the fact that it is the meeting point of three streets; literally, “tre vie”. Not only is it a tribute to Greek and Roman mythology in its presentation, but also to the ancient aqueducts – most notably to the Aqua Virgo which supplied fresh water to ancient Rome in 19 B.C.. It was tradition to build a fountain at the end of an aqueduct. Now, the construction of this manifestation of the fountain itself has a somewhat muddled history, full of contests and lead designer’s deaths which began in 1629 at a request of Pope Urban VIII. Most of what we see today was completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini.
So yes, we made it to the fountain and threw our euros in. I threw twice because I was too quick for the first picture apparently…oops. Now the coin lore goes something like this: one coin means a return trip to Rome, two means you’ll be getting married in Rome, and three has two popular variations. Either a divorce is in your immediate future, or that three coin tosses awards one with much luck. Of course, in order for the legend to work, each coin must be tossed with your right hand over your left shoulder. I will have to keep you updated on how well these Trevi Fountain coin tosses work, though all three of us are hoping for that return trip at least (will it be at the wedding, they’d like to know). And I do have to admit, I always love a good wish and coin toss!
That night we packed up and prepared to leave behind a city of immense history, tradition, and excellent food. All we kept saying on the way to the airport where I would be parting ways once more with my parents was how great of a trip this had been. Italy is definitely on the “return to” list and we would all love to see more of the country. I think I can safely say all three of us would recommend a trip to Italy, and to definitely make a stop to Rome. There is so much to take in, whether from an artistic, historic, religious, or architectural standpoint. It is an incredible place!
Whew! So we made it through Italy, then. I have had this post nearly done for about three or four days now, but tiredness from fishing, last days at work and the internship, and taking various family members to the airport had taken it’s toll on me when trying to complete it. Fishing was incredible and we caught 20-30 fish and thus brought home dinner for ourselves as well as friends and neighbors. Pictures and more details on that to come! The next stop in the travel tales in France, so I will be posting on that soon as well as more recipes and recent going-on’s. Thank you for getting through another decently long post and your continued interest in my blog. Posts will be coming more regularly soon, I promise! As always, thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…