Location: Rome, Italy
Day 43: Rome
Our final day on holidays and in Roma! We had a cruisy morning, enjoying breakfast in our room before heading out. The morning rain had cleared and we were headed for the Trevi Fountain. I thought this was in Cortona and was disappointed not to find it there (I was wrong) so you can imagine my disappointment when we got to the fountain this morning and it was drained and undergoing major works! Noo! After a good coffee and paying 4 (hello tourist area) we walked to Pantheon, a 2000 year old temple (now church) with the largest unrienforced concrete dome roof in the world. It also houses the tomb of Raphael. It dates to 120 AD but the original temple which was built over was constructed in 25 AD.
Next was Piazza Navona, with street performers, people selling art and 3 fountains, including a large fountain (with water hooray!) Called the Fountain of Four Rivers, representing the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate rivers.
We walked along and then across the Tiber river to Trastevere for lunch and to see the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, a 4th century, 12th century made over church with incredible mosaics adorning sections of the roofline and the back wall. Our walk back to the B&B took us past the Roman Forum, but a side we hadn't seen as we walked through the remains of Circus Maximus, the Circus Games where they had all sorts of tradional ceremonies and parades, but it was built for chariot racing! The government are investing in it's resoration, the end with the buildings in ruins; one day it will be open for visiting... minus the spectator stands I suspect! We walked past the Colesseum again and sat for a bit overlooking it as well as watching about half a dozen Polizia vans with what looked liked riot police piling out. We didn't see anything happen!
We headed back to our B&B and finished packing the bikes and bags, now with masking tape on hand (that took awhile to find) and enjoying our last 7 vino from the supermarket. We had dinner in a gorgeous restaurant called the Drunken Cow for our last supper, opposite the bike shop actually, before heading to the Irish Pub a few hundred metres from our digs to watch the All Blacks play Georgia. We were joined by a handful of Kiwis... ahh ooh'ng, groaning and cheering almost in unison at the game... they were so in tune! :)
It has been an incredible 6 weeks away, but we are both very ready to get home, see the animals, sleep in our own bed, catch up on all the news back home and of course... keep up our riding!
Next: Home to Sydneytown!
Location: Rome, Italy
Day 42: Rome
We woke up and it was raining. Didn't dampen our enthusiasm... doning our rain jackets, my useless in the wet Vans (so slippery!) and Bens "all terrain" jandles and off we went in the rain. Today's sightseeing agenda... the Colusseum, Palantine Hill and Roman Forum... or in essence, ancient Roma!
Our lovely B&B host was running late this morning with breakfast, so after waiting until almost 9am, we took a sweet roll each as we walked out the door and stopped off at a cafe (which is also a bar in the evening... feels slightly odd) for cappuchinos and prosciutto and cheese on lightly toasted bread on the way (lightly toasted for me even, Dad always said I liked my toast like warmed bread but they super lightly toast things here!).
We turned the corner about 5min later and there it is... the Colusseum in all it's glory. After completely confusing the dude serving us, we purchased our tickets and followed the signs and signage around the 2nd floor of the Colusseum. There was people doing restoration works while we were there, we watched a lady restoring a large artefact as well as saw plenty of items on display including various games and items left/used by spectators and large stones uncovered with engravings scracthed into them... moatly names of people who funded work on the Colesseum back in the day and those spots where the stones were placed marked their seats. There was quite a bit of signed information abiut the construction and design of the Colusseum and how the various elements in relation to the floor worked for raising the various animals, gladiators and sets for games as well as the way the tiered seating worked and was constructed. Much of this detail went over my pea brained interlect, especially without some kind of 3D reinactment of how it all works to accompany the words, but it was still very interesting!
We then headed down to level 1 and walked around this level, which is where the more affluent specaltators sat... this meant marble flooring (still in some spots) as well as marble seating (one section still visible). You got a much closer look at what the infrastructure looked like underneath the floor of the Colusseum (which we understand they are intending to rebuild the floor in time).
We were both intrigued as to why the government had let it go so long and into such a state of disrepair. We were surprised at how poorly it seemed to have been cared for in the earlier years gone by. There were two big fires that affected Rome in earlier years, and it is also prone to damage from earthquakes... but as you walk through the ruins, so much of it is in ruin. It must have been such an incredible place in it's heyday! It was heavily looted in the 1230s before in 1744 the pope began investigating into the care and resoration of it. The side we exited on has been restored in one part, with one of the walls rebuilt and a second section was still behind the scaffolding but had been completed. In this side though, one whole outer ring of wall is completely missing. So much work to be done... I bet in 50 years if we came back it would be evn more incredible! It has years and years of restoration work in front of it and so much more to uncover. Don't get me wrong, it was still amazing!
After we headed out, we walked to The Roman Forum and Palantine Hill, past the Arco di Constantino (built 312 AD to commenorate victory in the battle of Milven Bridge... we saw a painting of that in the Vatican Museum!). This was the second part of our ticket purchase. Not being a history buff of any description, I could have done with doing a little homework prior to today's visit... as well as a hardcopy map! For the uninitiated like myself (and to enhance my learning... I am doing alot of reading to put this blog together!), the Roman Forum was the main centre of ancient Rome and a busy market place. Now in ruins, we walked through the various streets to see the remains of shops, buildings, homes, temples, monuments and statues. It is hard to imagine what things looked like in their original state and get a clear picture of what you are looking at... best described by Ben as "a pile of rocks". He he. Pretty accurate in some sections.
To reach the Roman Forum, we walked up Via Sacra, one of the early roads of ancient Rome and is a passageway between the Arco di Tito and Arco di Constantino, leading from the Colusseum. We passed the Temple of Venus and Rome on our right and on left is a site under excavation that houses a variety of ruins from the 1-6th century. The excavation site is jumbly mess if you look at the information board (good luck excavators) but this passageway at one stage had shops along it.
We entered the Roman Forum at the Arch di Tito, an arch built by Emperor Domitian to honour his brother Titus. We first headed up to Palantine Hill, which contains the ruins of the palace built by Emperor Domitian in 92 AD and was the posh neighbourhood back in ancient times. Ruins of earlier settlements on Palantine Hill also still exist... it seems that everyone just built on top of each other if they didn't like what was there! We weren't able to see it on a Thursday, but the House of Griffins is an aristocratic 2 storey house from 1-2nd century BC. It is still quite intact beneath the palace ruins. We saw the ruins of Domus Flavia, a Bascilica with 3 large halls and some marble and statue remains, the Casa di Livia (house of wife of Emperor Augustus), Casa di Augusto (the emperors residence), a massive courtyard with fountain (a peristyle) and the stadium (a hippodrome) which may have been used as a garden or for training horses. It was lavish and had statues, gardens and fountains. We got a great view back of the Colusseum from the palace ruins and then we headed back down the hill, passed more palace ruins of courtyards and even a vineyard! There was also a small museum next to the homes of Livia and Augustus that we went into.
Back within the Roman Forum, we saw the Bascilia of Maxentius, the Temple of Romulus, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Spring of Juturna, Column of Phocus (13m tall and the youngest monument in the forum. Raised for the new Emperor who killed his predesseor and his 5 sons! Whaaa?), the Temple of Saturn and walking on one of Rome's oldest roads... Victus Iugarius, dated to the 5-6th century. We exited the Roman Forum at the Arco di Settimio Severo (commemorating Septimus Severus) with a sigh of relief... we were not expecting it to be such a long morning and so much to take in (I was also wishing I'd bought those inviting looking croissants we had seen at breakfast for a snack!) It had also rained from when we left the Colusseum and we were keen to get indoors.
We walked along Via Alessandrina and foud another 10 lunch of bruscetta pizza and gelato before hitting the rainy roads again, en route to a bike shop 2km away to try our luck at getting two boxes for the Surlys. I could wring my ahorts out by the time we arrived and unfortunately they didnt have any, but when we got back to the B&B there was a bike shop about 500m away called Biccicletaro that had a box and we bought a cheap bike bag. They were very helpful, spoke English and threw in a pile of packaging for us too.
To celebrate we bought a 7 wine from the supermarket and packed up with a bottle of vino rosso. Ok we may have bought such bottles every day in Rome and enjoyed before we headed to dinner... I believe we are on holidays and we earnt some relax time! :)
Dinner was a close by affair... the resturant next door was busy as the night we arrived so we headed downstairs and found it busy again. The food was good, nothing we ooh'd and ahh'd about... but still good. With only one day left and the packing commenced, the reality the holiday is almost over is upon us.
Next: Our final day! A cruisey day planned around central Rome and Travestere.
Location: Vatican City, Italy
Day 41: Vatican City
We jumped the Metro this morning to Ottaviano station to visit the Vatican City. Wednesdays at 11am the Pope addresses the crowd... a recommended day to go into the Vatican Museums and St Peters Bascilica... apparently! Less people inside, more people outside! First job was getting on the Metro... absolutely jammed packed, shoulder to shoulder at 8.15am. We got the second train that came through... squeezed in and held on!
Walked with the masses to the Vatican City, we joined the wrong queue (the one for the audience with the pope) then walked around the walls to the Vatican Museum entrance and joined the queue there. I tell you what, talk about getting harassed by people trying to sell us tour tickets to skip the queue. Buzz off!!! As bad as the hawkers selling friendship bracelets and selfie sticks. Even told us lies about the opening time and length of the queues... dodgy! The queue moved pretty quick as we arrived before 9am and we were into the museum in less than 45min. Got chatting to the couple behind us... an Aussie girl and a kiwi guy!
The Vatican Mueseum was fantastic. There are so many amazing artefacts, paintings and of course, the building and rooms on their own are a sight to be seen. No wall or roof has been left untouched. Pictures cannot do anything we saw justice!
Cortile Ottagono, a courtyard, built in 1484 and housing various statues from the 1500s including Apollo, Arno and Laocoon. The animal zoo... heaps of animal statues, including a cool lion and what looks like a deer of some sort being killed (Ben's favourite). Beautiful mosaics on both the floor and the walls. The tapestry room - massive tapestries woven in the 1520s and 1660s.
Our favourite room was probably the 120m long room of maps... or the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche. 40 maps commissioned in 1581 showing Italy, the ports and the major islands. We found plenty of places we had cycled theough on the maps (eventually!).
We then went though a series of rooms, including the rooms of Raphael and the Borgia Tower and saw some incredible paintings by the man himself. The Sistine Chapel was amazing... dopey here didn't realise we were in it immediately! I exoected a very controlled entry and absolute silence... both which were not done, despite security periodically shooshing people. It is quite iverwhelming as there is so much ti take in. I had screenshotted explanations of each wall and the roof so made some sense of some of it... but it was pretty full on. Such a large room and so much detail... the painted curtains look so real and are so detailed! It is amazing to think someone (or more than one someone) had such skill, thought, planning and insight to create such masterpieces in such a massive room.
The stairs out are also quite impressive. Ben had to take the pictures... I felt queasy just watching him lean over and take them! We exited... brains overloaded and had lunch a few blocks away... 10 each for pizza/pasta, drink and icecream. A 1000 times better than the dodgy dinner from the night before plus my gelato was significantly bigger so I was stoked... Benjamin less so :)
We headed to St Peter's Bascilica and joined the queue in St Peter's Square to enter. It moved quickly despite being curled half way round the square and aside from one weirdo thinking to the guys in front of us jumped the queue and tried to get us to move in front of them... it was a stress free entry. The Bascilica is incredible... it's decorated like it is on steriods if I am honest. So much grandeur, walls to ceiling lavishly decorated, momuments to popes - it is just incredible. We didn't climb up into the dome or head down into the crypt to see the final resting place of the popes, but wow... what a place.
Heading back, we walked along the river, passing 3 or 4 bridges, Castel Sant' Angelo (mausoleum, turned fortress turned mueseum), Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice, the courthouse), and then the Scalinata Trinita del Monti, or the Spanish steps, built in 1726 to connect a French built church with the piazza (with French money!). We also walked past the San Carlo Quattro Fontane, one of 3 churches built and dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, in 1646 on route to the B&B.
Once back, we dismantled and cleaned the bikes with a bottle of wine (no we didn't clean the bikes with wine silly... we used baby wipes! We drank the wine!) and NZ radio station, The Rock pumping out some great tunes. After dinner, much better than the night before, we had an early night... Sightseeing is hard work!
Next: Rome: The Colusseum, Roman Forum and Palantine Hill.