Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roma Day 1 - 24 Oct 2011

One of our goals in returning to the UK was to "do" Europe - so here we are in Roma, on Nickys first trip to Italy.
We are staying in a swanky hotel in Via Veneto, of the film La Dolce Vita fame. And being the huge film buffs that we are, we have never heard of it!! After our buffet breakfast, we walked miles on the first day, climbing  four of the seven hills of Roma -  Quirinal, Capitoline, Palatine, Esquiline.
The first hill was Quirinal, where we visited the Piazza del Quirinal and the Presidential Palace, home to Berlosconi, and lots of under aged hookers no doubt.
From the first hill, we moved onto the our first Fountain – the Trevi.

Next we threaded our way thro lots of back streets and ended up in Piazza Venezia, which has two things of note, the first being the Victor Emmanuel monument, loathed by many Romans, as an expensive folly which sticks out like a bacon sarnie at a barmitzvah. Next to it is the Palazzo Venezia, where Mussolini would speak to the masses from a balcony window.
It was then time for hill no 2 – the Capitoline. Even the steps are of note in Roma – the Aracoeli Staircase was built in 1347 to celebrate the end of the plague (there is logic there, somewhere). At the top is the Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michaelangelo, and surrounded on three sides by the Museo Capitoline, full of truckloads of mega important artwork, that we didnt have time to go and see.

The Capitoline offers great views of the West side of the Forum, our next port of call. Forum is the site of many of the major ancient ruins from the centre of Empirial Rome. Many of the sites have become household names around the world - Rostra (speaking platform), Julia Caesar Palace (the real one, not that glitzy jobbie in Las Vegas), Via Sacra, the temple of the Vestal Virgins (more of them in the video below!!) and the Colliseum. They are all within the same region, a short walk down Via Sacra joins the dots. Nero committed suidice here, Caesar was murdered by his fellow senators, “Et Tu Brutus”. The site is full of archaeological excavations – most of the ruins are 5m or so below road level, who knows what they will find beneath the current stuff.

If you check out the first clip of the video above you will see the forum in the foreground and the Colliseum on the horizon after the masterful camera panning! The last clip shows Nicky walking down Via Sacre, or the Sacred Way, that joined the Colliseum to the Capitole and was a spine running thro the Forum.

The third hill of the trip was Palatine, just to the South of the Forum. This area has seriously old ruins believed to be where Romulus and Remus were brought up, suckling on a she wolf. Yeah, right...
We could probably fill this blog entry on the Colliseum alone. It is quite remarkable in terms of history, culture, adult entertainment and architecture. Stadium design has not really changed much since it was commissioned by Vespasian in AD72. Free gladiator duals were staged, sometimes including live animals. The prisoners and beasts were stored in the understage rooms, a bit like a modern day opera orchestra. The stage was covered in sand, which would be raked over between bouts, to hide the blood. Injured combatants would look up to the Emporer in the posh seats to seek leniency, which would be granted by a thumbs up, or not in many cases.

After a hard earned lunch, we wandered back to our hotel, via a few more spots of interest, including our fourth hill of the day – Esquiline. On top of this hill is Saint Maria Maggiore – our first gratuitously massive and ornate churches of the trip. If St Peters didnt exist this would be the top Catholic Church in the world, but as were to find out the following day, it is dwarved in comparison. It is still a commanding building which is awe inspiring.

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