Imperial sights

Trip Start Jun 03, 2011
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Sunday, June 5, 2011

Last night was a continuation of getting lost in Italy, only this time we ended up looking at map after map for half an hour before we found out where we were... We saw break dancers in the Piazza Navona and watched a wide variety of other entertainers.  There was a concert going on on the Spanish Steps.  Due to jet lag, we called it an early night. 

This morning we went on a guided tour of the city to see the imperial sights.  First we went to the capitol, which has a monument in the center of Marcus Aurelious.  Apparently they kept it there because they thought he was someone else.  But now it is on the 50 cent Euro piece. The Capitol is situated on one of the lowest of the 7 hills in Rome, but it's still rather impressive.  It's surrounded by examples of different eras in Rome.  On one side is the Forum, in a valley, representing ancient Rome.  On another side is a church  built in the medieval area.  The Capitol is an example of Renaissance architecture, and also just next to this is a "modern" architecture, the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuel.

Rome is built in strata, one era on top of the other.  Some buildings are perfect examples of this.  In the Piazza Navona you can see underground to the floor of the Circus Dominus (race track) of ancient times.  The seats are still in the basements of even the newer restaurants.  The higher up the base, the newer the building it seems. 

Next on our list we went to the Forum (actually in it this time).  Unfortunately many buildings were not accessible due to restorations.  In the center are planted a fig tree, olive tree and grape vine to symbolize Rome as well as Romulus and Remus (their basket was caught in a fig tree).  We saw the temple of the eternal flame, cared for by the Vestal Virgins.  They were very well renowned in their time.  There was also a temple of Nero.  It's amazing how the Catholics have edited history here.  If a building was claimed by the Catholics as a church or temple, it was in lovely condition.  However, those that were not worthy of being temples have suffered much decay.

Next: The Colosseum.  Amazing.  Just... wow.  Explanations are better in the pictures.

The Pantheon! A creation made for the worship of all gods, and the lowest point in Rome.  Now a Catholic church.  There are holes in the floor there (as when it rains, it rains through the hole in the ceiling), that once drained to the bathhouses, now draining to the river.  Raphael is buried here.  And this place is just humbling, once again.

The Vatican: HUGE.  Also, everything that looks like a fresco in the Vatican? It's really a mosaic.  Every single detailed painting is made of glass.  Very very impressive.  Also, there's a bronze temple inside that is made from "recycled" (read "stolen") bronze from the Pantheon. 

The evening was fabulous.  First, we meandered.  We went to the Piazza di Popolo (the people's plaza) first on a random whim.  Just before we got there it started pouring rain.  We hid beneath an archway there for a while, and eventually began again en route to the Piazza Navona.  We only made wrong turns about 4 times, still pouring rain, our socks getting drenched and cars driving by splashing us even more.  But eventually, we made it to our destination.  We looked into a toy store: very neat toys, but very overpriced for inaccurate historical replicas.   We also found a little liquor and oil shop, so of course some olive oil and wine was purchased. Then, there was food. We ate at the ristorante Tre Scalini.  I had the Spaghetti carbonara, George had the lasagna.  The lagna was good, but the spaghetti carbonara: amazing.  Spaghetti with bacon and eggs.  Sounds scary, yes? But bacon here is not American bacon, it is more like prosciutto. And the eggs were hard to notice. Very flavorful, especially when it has been soaking in a parmesan sauce.  We met some folks at dinner, too, and all had a good time and too much wine.  We were seated outside as it had finally stopped raining, listening to a gentleman in the Piazza play the guitar for the restaurant guests.  For dessert, there was Tartufo, a specialty of the restaurant.  My best guess is that it was a chocolate truffle filled with dark chocolate ice cream and topped with whipped cream.  But I don’t speak Italian, so who knows. 

After dinner we proceeded to get lost once again, taking possibly the most roundabout way to the Pantheon possible (as the Piazza Navona is about one block away from the Pantheon and it took us about 30 minutes.)  We drank from the Trevi fountain, which is beautiful at night.  And yes, here it is expected that you drink from fountains.  The water is delicious.  Then, eventually, back to the hotel for sleep. 
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