All roads lead to...

Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Sunday, June 8, 2008

He says:

While Florence was a bit of a let down Rome easily exceeded even my lofty expectations. Rome is, quite simply, awesome... Yes it is grotty, falling apart and fucking insane but it is also vibrant, exciting and so full of history that you are literally tripping over it in the streets. So many people had warned us about Rome and nearly convinced me that the place had been ruined by tourists and hawkers. Blatently not the case... I don't know what it is like in the height of summer but, with the notable exception of the over hyped and dissapointing Sistine Chapel, the crowds were small and the hawkers few.

The first morning in Rome we did the "best of" tour of ancient Rome. After an early start, we headed straight to the collosseum. Even after seeing so many pictures and movies of the thing nothing compared with seeing it for the first time in person... The size and presence that it still exerts is overwhelming, what it must have been like to visit it 2000 years ago one can only imagine. As we arrived right at opening time there was no queue and for an hour or so we had the place to ourselves, which was really special. Next we went to Palatine hill and wandered among the ruins, marvelling at the scale and complexity of the buildings and enjoying the views over the city. We then walked down the forum, very impressive also, exiting just as the tour groups descended in their thousands... The Pantheon was next, via the Trevi fountain. Nothing can describe the feeling of steping over the threshold of the Pantheon... Definitely the highlight of Rome for me, It really knocked my socks off. Again I had seen pictures but, again, I was totally unprepared for the aweinspiring dome, the marble and the incredible shaft of light piercing the domes roof. Brilliant! Even more satisfying to know that the christian's couldn't do any better with their domes a thousand years later... Instead having to claim the Roman Pantheon for themselves... After a late lunch, I was still too excited so we needed a change of pace so we went to the Campo de Flori for a look at the markets, visited the Spanish Steps and, the highlight for Gaynor, went to the Cappuchin Monks crypt, which contained thousands of bones and mummified monks, still in cassocks, propped into cautionary poses. Kinda weird, spooky and moving at the same time.

The next morning we headed to the Vatican, which in the end was a big dissapointment... After paying 30 euro to get into the museum we were both very underwhelmed by the Sistine chapel. I have seen so many better Frescoes during our travels (including Raphaels in the preceeding rooms) and to have to view it crammed in with thousands of other sweaty and obnoxous tourists was more then I could stand. The Basillica and main square on the other hand were brilliant (and free). After the vatican we headed down to some fort (you have to forgive me... I don't have guide book on me currently so names are excaping me) on the river that used to be Hadrians tomb. It was impressive and provided great views over the city... At this point Gaynor started getting another migraine so after rushing back to the hostel, settling her into bed and enuring she was alright I ventured out on my own for the afternoon.

I headed on the metro down to the SE of the city and went to see a section of the old town wall, a tomb in the shape of an egyptian pyrimid, the protesant cemetary and a large unnatural hill made entirely out of broken amphora's on the banks of the river. I then walked back towards our hostel via the Aventine hill (I love the TV show 'Rome' and so wanted to go there...) and circus Maximus. Chilled out in a park with the best view of the city yet, looked through a keyhole, went to the oldest christian church in Rome (designed on the plans for a Roman adminsitrative building (called a basilica BTW) so gave a good indication of what the buildings in the forum would have been like) and marvelled at the chariot raceway...

Yesterday we headed to the jewish quarter and Tiber island in the morning and then we headed down towards the Appian way. The jewish quarter and Tiber island were cool, but the Appian way was by far the highlight. We went to the Catacombs of San Sebastian, which were interesting and incuded some perfectly preserved roman tombs from the first century AD that were buried when the valley was filled in to build the San Sebastian church so are now accessed from underground... The Appian way itself was brilliant and really gave you an indication of what it was like to travel it iin Roman times. The basalt flagstones still bear wheel ruts from carts travelling towards and away from Rome, the sides are lined by private villa's, ruins and tombs (unfortunately, due to the grubby hands of the popes the marble has almost all been stolen, leaving only piles of bricks... After wandering the road south for a fe kilometres we headed back to the hostel, packed and got ready for our early train this morning.

Today we are currently sitting on a 6:45am train to Pompeii from where we will work our way back towrds Ischia for a week of sun, water and fun. I have done an internet search and there dosen't appear to be any wireless hotspots on the island so I am unsure of when I will get a chance to upload this blog, or whether there will be any photos to go with it.
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angelasusan on

When in Rome...
So, Roma hits the spot! I guess it shows that it was worth the pain of doing Ancient History by correspondence after all. Can't wait to hear what you think of Pompeii. And it all goes to show that the early-rising tourist gets the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon to themselves (much better thab a slimey old worm).

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