Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ancient Rome

I had a huge day of sight seeing yesterday! And like the fool I am… I put on sunscreen before I left, and forgot to put it in my bag. So I got quite burned yesterday. Lesson learned.

The apartment has a shelf of books people have left here, mostly Italy/Rome guidebooks, but a few surprises like a Danielle Steel and the Diary of Anne Frank. My favorite book so far as been Frommer’s Rome day by day. It’s tiny enough to carry, has maps, and has day tours planned out depending on what you’re interested in. There’s the impossibly rushed “Best in One Day” where the traveler would hit 15 of Rome’s most well known (and busiest) spots. There are mapped out neighborhood walks for areas like Campo de’ Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto & Tiber Island. There are special interest tours such as “Baroque Rome”, “Romantic Rome”, and “Underground Rome”. Yesterday I walked one of these for Ancient Rome.

I started at the Teatro di Marcello, a theater in the Jewish ghetto used for plays and concertos in the first century B.C. The theater is actually still used for concerts occasionally! Maybe we can go to one while we’re here… but I suspect they’ll be really expensive. The theater itself inspired the design of the Colosseum, so it really look like a smaller version. Apparently the upper levels are still inhabited as apartments!

I walked from the theater on Via di Monte Caprino, an old road that winds its way up Capitoline Hill. According to my handy guide book, this is the road the Gauls used when attempting to storm the Rome’s capitol in 390 B.C. The sacred geese of Rome tipped off the Romans, and the Gauls were defeated. The road itself was beautiful. It was lush, green, and just had a feeling of antiquity. The modern road beneath was loud and crowded and full of exhaust from the massive buses of tourists, but once I stepped up onto the ancient road it was quiet and calm.

The road leads around Capitoline Hill and ends at the piazza del campidolglio which is flanked by the Capitoline museums and the monument of Vittorio Emmanuelle II. I sat in the palazzo for awhile and people watched. The piazza was designed by Michaelangelo- NBD.
On the piazza, ate next to this dude.

Next I walked around the outside of the Forum. You have to pay to get in, and I am trying to wait to do pay things until Luke and I can go together. Surprisingly, you can see a good amount of the forum without actually going in! Especially the Arch of Septimius Severus- which of course makes me think of Harry Potter.

I walked down Via dei Fori Imperiali and it was awful. The road itself is wide and crowded. It was created by Mussolini and built over the sites of ancient Roman ruins. There were men selling tourist trap crap every couple feet who would wave an umbrella or hat in your face (maybe I should have gotten one of those…) The bright side was the ruins of Trajan’s market and Caesar’s forum on one side of the road, and the Colosseum at the end of the road! 
Trajan's market

I walked around the Colosseum but didn’t go in. It was so packed with tourists! I can’t even imagine how long people were waiting in line. The arch of Constantine is right next to the Colosseum and I spent more time looking at that than the Colosseum itself.

Next I walked through sweaty crabby crowds of tourists waiting for buses to the Circus Maximus. Very cool to imagine chariot races there (I need to see Ben Hur) but it’s basically just a big field. I don’t think I even took a picture.

I finished by seeing the Terme di Caracalla, or the Baths of Caracalla. They were beautiful! Built in 212 A.D., they were HUGE. I was really struck by how tall the walls were, and tried my hardest to picture what it looked like before all the marble was stripped away. There are mosaic floors and wall decorations that can still be seen. It was another breath of fresh air- no huge crowds, nobody haggling me to buy anything, no car noise.

Luke met me after he finished work and we walked past the Colosseum and had a sandwich from his favorite sandwich shop. It might be the most delicious sandwich I've ever had... Hungarian salami, pecorino romano, sundried tomatos, and pesto. I wish I had gotten a picture of the shop! It was a tiny deli run by two older italian men and it sold almost twelve varieties of salami, other meats, cheeses, and pickled olives packed to order, and wine. There was a picture on the wall of what the shop used to look like from the early 1900s. We took the sandwich and walked to the Angelicum where Luke went to school when he lived here during college. It was beautiful and we sat in the gardens for awhile, totally removed from the city. We spent the rest of the night sitting in a cafe in Trastevere, and it was perfect.


  1. What a great day! You were right about not wanting to just sit around in Minneapolis all summer.

  2. Laura, reading your posts makes me so hungry for all ways! I forgot to mention to you a word another Laura taught us before we left. She was a friend of our daughter's who studied in Rome. She taught us to yell "BASTA" if the street vendors got too pushy. It means "enough" and is used just like we might yell "enough" to someone being too pushy or demanding. I had to use at the Spanish Steps, and must tell you how impressed I was with how well it worked!
    Loved your pics from Trastevere...I'm sure we have some that match perfectly. Enjoy all the treasures Rome and Italy have to offer!
    Pastor Lesley