Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rome, Day 2

A brand new day has so much potential, right? That's what Scott and I were thinking as we left our hotel that morning. We'd slept in and were headed out to do touristy things around 10:45 am, armed with the specific instructions from our hotel as to how to get to the metro station. 

We read: "Take a left out of hotel drive. Take bus 508." Got it. 

We met a very kind couple from Spain as we were walking down the drive headed to the stop. They asked if we knew how to get to the metro station and we very confidently assured them that we needed to take bus 508. Before we even reached the bus stop, we spotted a 508 coming over the hill. We all very excitedly waved the bus down, climbed on board, and.....headed in the opposite direction from the city. I looked at Scott nervously, still paranoid from our experiences from the day before, but he assures me with, "It's okay. I'm sure we'll turn around up here somewhere."

Well, we did turn around. Only, we turned around after TWO HOURS OF RIDING THE BUS THROUGH THE ROMAN SUBURBS. You see, upon closer examination of the directions from the hotel, we discover that our instructions actually read, "Cross the street at the end of the drive. Take a left to the 508 bus stop." 

Ooops. We kind of overlooked that whole "cross the street" part. Apparently, there was a 508 bus stop on both sides of the street. We were supposed to take the one on the opposite side of the street, actually headed in the direction of the city. And the bad thing is, we brought the poor Spanish couple down with us....we were so sure that we knew what to do! They kind of stopped talking to us toward the end of our 2 1/2 hour ride through the suburbs. In fact, they moved seats, to the back of the far away from us as they could get. 

After that spectacular joyride and diplomatic nightmare, we were finally at the metro station and on our way to the Colosseum. As soon as you exit the metro station, you are practically at the entrance to the sight, but after our little detour, we were famished. So, we pulled out our handy Rick Steves guidebook to find a recommended restaurant in the area. About a block away we found Della Casa Estudiante, a nice little family-run restaurant with outdoor seating. Scott was dying of thirst, so he ordered the "large Coca-Cola."

This is what he got. Look at that face. Have you ever seen a happier man? Forget that we paid 8 euro for was a lot of Coke and that meant he could drink as much as he wanted. In fact, I had to help him finish it. Because, according to the Law Of Scott, we CANNOT waste Coke. 

Scott also learned a valuable Italian vocabulary lesson at this restaurant. In Italian, sausage and cheese antipasti does NOT mean "pasta with sausage and cheese." It apparently translates to "plate of sliced hot dog, bologna, and cheese." I've got to admit, Scott's face was pretty priceless when she brought him this plate. 

I had a good laugh over it. He struggled to eat it, poor guy. The kind waitress brought him a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mayonaise to help him out, but it was to no avail. Let's just say that Scott won't be ordering "antipasti" anytime soon. 

This is the arch of Titus, as seen from the second level of the Colosseum. This arch was built by Constantine, marking his victory to become the Roman Emperor. It also marked the beginning of the legalization of Christianity.

The Colosseum is a sobering and fascinating place. Many, many people lost their lives in this arena. Walking through the stadium was a reminder of how incredibly blessed I am. 

Below the floor of the arena, where the stone columns are today, used to be mechanical elevators and lifts used to hoist animals and people into the arena. 

A pope in the 1500's took pity on the crumbling auditorium and began it's restoration. Since the decline of Rome, the stadium had been abandoned, used as apartments, and even as a church. This pope also erected this cross in honor of the Christians that lost their lives here. 

After the Colosseum, we headed across the street to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Palatine Hill was the area where the emperors, senators, and other important people built their palaces. The Forum was the political, religious, and economic center of Rome. It as the place for parades, important speeches, religious ceremonies, elections, etc. Scott and I listened to our handy Rick Steve's Forum Tour on our iPods. It was informative...and free!

After some time in the Forum, we were climbed the stairs on the far end of the Forum, and ended up on street level. We were trying to find the St. Peter in Chains Church, but couldn't find the entrance. I was quite sure I had found the right door and began walking up the stairs to....the Rome Mayors Office. Thank you to Scott who saw what I was trying to do and saved me from much embarrassment and possible arrest. 

Instead of the church, we headed to the Maritime Prison where Peter and Paul were imprisoned. It was tiny, damp, and smelled of mildew. It was remarkable and humbling to see where these two men were in chains for Christ and it was a humbling experience to see the horrible conditions in which they were kept. 

After visiting the prison and the tiny chapel above it, we headed to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is fantastic...mostly because it was a nice shady place to sit for a while. 

From here, after sitting in the Pantheon for awhile and deciding what to do for dinner, we headed over to my favorite place in all of Rome, Campo di Fiori. It's a piazza lined with restaurants and shops and around twilight it starts to fill with people. After dark it's completely magic--musicians, flower vendors, children, food, gelato--perfect. We decided to do dinner here, then begin the "Night Walk Across Rome," as outlined in our guidebook by Rick. 

We ate dinner in Campo di Fiori at Ristorante Carbonara. It was lovely, with great views of the square and the all the action. The pasta was good too! 

From dinner, we wandered around the square for a few minutes, then headed over to our next stop on our night walk, Piazza Navonna, home of the Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini and the world famous Death-by-Chocolate. 

The Four Rivers Fountain represents the four main rivers known at that time: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de Plata. The fountain is beautiful with tons of minute detail....even a sculpture of an armadillo. 

It was here that I got my Death by Chocolate tartufo ice cream. I wish I had a picture of it, but I don't. I ate it rather quickly, and let me just say, Sweet Mary that stuff was good. I got a double chin just from eating one serving. 

After our ice cream/gelato break, we headed over to the Trevi Fountain. Truly a masterpiece and powered by an aqueduct, it's the place to go if you want to be haggled by rose vendors and see lots of teenagers make out. 

It really is quite beautiful and you can hear the water rushing from a block away, but unfortunately, it's almost too crowded to enjoy. We found a quiet spot on the right side, took a few pictures, and headed to the Spanish Steps, our last stop on our night walk. 

The Spanish Steps get their name because they lead up to the Spanish Ambassador to the Vatican and have been around for over 300 years. Apparently any good Romantic came here for some inspiration: Keats, Wagner, Byron, etc. 

It was pretty, but it there's not much to see except....stairs. We took our pictures and headed for the metro for our long journey to the hotel, completely exhausted. 

And that's Day 2. It's worn me out just re-living this through my journal and pictures. It's no wonder that I slept 24 of the first 48 hours that I was home! 

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