I welcomed my first morning in Rome with a “Buongiorno,” showered, and put on jeans; they would prove to be my undoing in the day’s heat and humidity. I went directly across from Atos B&B to a cafe where I enjoyed a complimentary cappuccino, croissant and some red fruit juice, after which Gabriella walked with me for three minutes to The Beehive Hostel Rome.
I was debating whether to get the Roma Pass since I only had two days in the city, but Linda at The Beehive told me the pass didn’t allow you to skip lines, that you still had to reserve time slots online. There were no slots open to reserve, so I was unable to do anything. I simply deposited my bags and headed out for the day.
I walked about two blocks to Stazione Termini and walked through until I got to Tourist Information, which wasn’t at all helpful.
On the street, a guy presented the City Sightseeing Roma bus, which I bought for 31€ for 48 hours. They also sold me a timed entry ticket to the Vatican Museums for 34€, but the pass had no time on it and I didn’t really understand how it worked. I felt foolish getting roped into that because I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go there with all the hordes of tourists.
I stood in a very slow-moving line to get on the bus because the woman was processing payments from customers. They obviously needed a better system! People like me who already had tickets should have been able to get on the bus right away.
Finally, the bus started moving and we went three stops, going around a church and then to the Colosseum. I got off just past the Arch of Constantine. Rick Steves had said the Palatine Hill entrance was best for shorter lines and WCs, but the line to buy tickets was super long, hundreds of people moving at a snail’s pace.
I stood in line for 45 minutes and moved a couple of feet. I could have twiddled my thumbs in that line for two days because I didn’t want to do anything else in Rome but see the ancient arena where gladiators fought to the death, or where doomed prisoners fought off bloodthirsty beasts. However, I wasn’t so enamored of the idea that I was willing to forego everything else.
I finally concluded: forget it! I could wander around outside the gates and see enough to be satisfied. I walked past the Arch of Constantine, then around the perimeter of the Colosseum.
Following the crowds, I wandered up Via Sacra and past the Arch of Titus at the Roman Forum and around the back of the Palatine Hill to a small church. Of course I was limited to what I could see through the gates. I could barely see the Temple of Venus and Roma up on the hill overlooking the Colosseum, with its tall brick arch with a cross-hatched ceiling. Part of the Roman Forum, it was once the temple’s cella, or sacred chamber. The Arch of Titus, built by the Emperor Domitian to honor his elder brother Titus, was said to be the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I couldn’t see much of the rest except some glimpses through the gates.
Through the fencing, I only had a peek at the Roman Forum, which in ancient times was a marketplace, religious complex and administrative center.
Finally, I had enough and boarded the hop-on hop-off bus to go anywhere else. The woman ticket taker told one man to wait for the next bus, but he insisted he was getting on THAT BUS, and he kept trying to push in front of me. He kept saying “Don’t touch me!” to the woman. What an asshole. People in general were testy with all the crowds and the waiting.
The bus went by Circo Massimo and up to Piazza Venezia, where I got off because I saw a cafe where I might be able to use the bathroom. It was close to the Teatro di Marcello, or the Theatre of Marcellus, an ancient open-air theater once known for song and dance performances; it was built in the waning years of the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar cleared space for the theater, but he was murdered before construction began. It was completed in 13 BC and formally inaugurated in 12 BC by Augustus, named after his nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had died in 23 BC. It originally held between 11,000 and 20,000 spectators, and was the largest and most important theater in Ancient Rome.
The theater was on the edge of the old Jewish ghetto, Ghetto Ebraico, and I saw they had some kind of Holocaust museum there. The Jewish community in Rome was one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the 2nd century BC. Jews were confined in the ghetto from 1555 until the 20th century, due to a period of official intolerance ushered in by Pope Paul IV.
Found in the center of the Jewish ghetto was the Il Portico di Ottavia, built after 27 BC by Augustus in the name of his sister, Octavia Minor. The colonnaded walks of the portico enclosed the temples of Jupiter Stator and Juno Regina, as well as a library. The structure was used as a fish market from the medieval period up to the end of 19th century.
Nearby was the restaurant Il Giardino Romano, where I sat under an awning and enjoyed bread, sparkling water, and fresh pasta with cheese, pepper and chicory. It was super tasty! 🙂 In retrospect, this was the way I wished I’d spent most of my day, sitting at an outdoor cafe eating delicious food and watching people stroll past.
From there, I turned on my GPS to lead me to Piazza Campo de Fiori. I stopped in a cute shop where I bought a green and brown parreo and watched an older heavyset Italian woman with a blue streak in her blonde hair try on an exotic maxi dress.
I continued on until I reached Campo de Fiori, a bohemian plaza with a busy fruit and vegetable market and cafes lining the edges. In the center of the square was a statue of Giordano Bruno, an intellectual heretic who was burned on this spot in 1600.
At Piazza Campo de Fiori, I started Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome Walk.” I made my way slowly to Piazza Navona, Rome’s showcase square. The long, oval piazza was built around AD80 by the Emperor Domitian. I was first greeted at the southern end of the square by the Fontana del Moro, or Fountain of the Moor, designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1576.
At the center of the square was Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the Four Rivers Fountain, with its four burly river gods personifying the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate, with an Egyptian-style obelisk in the center. The fountain showed the Nile with its head covered, the Ganges with an oar, the Danube, who turned to admire the obelisk, and Uruguay’s Rio de la Plata, which tumbled back in shock and gazed upward at the nearby Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone, or Church of St. Agnes. The church was designed by Francesco Borromini.
I walked by the 2,000-year-old Pantheon, built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. After burning down in AD80, it was rebuilt by Domitian, then struck by lightning in AD110. The current version, with its 40-foot single-piece granite columns and its triangular Greek style roof, was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian between AD 118 and 125. Hadrian’s version was dedicated to the classical gods, but in 608, it was consecrated as a Christian church. I didn’t go inside, but there is supposedly a domed room of perfect proportions to be seen there. I regret that I missed the interior.
I continued my walk past the Senate building and San Luigi. After walking past the Parliament, guarded by police or military men, I found a couple more obelisks. In front of the Parliament was a 6th century Egyptian obelisk taken as a trophy by Augustus after his victory over Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt.
Apparently, Rome has 13 such obelisks, more than any other city.
In Piazza Colonna was a huge column from the second century. The decorative relief wrapped like a scroll around its length told in a sort of continuous narration the victories of Emperor Marcus Aurelius over the barbarians. After he died in AD 180, the barbarians began Rome’s three-century-long unraveling. Paul, one of Rome’s patron saints, topped the column that Marcus Aurelius once dominated.
At this point, I stopped to escape from the heat for a gelato. It had a band of chocolate around the top of the cone, and was topped with walnuts. After this much-needed break, I was ready to turn a corner to the Trevi Fountain, continuing on my “Heart of Rome” walk.
*Wednesday, April 24, 2019*
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose.
My intentions for my trip to Italy were determined before I left home. One was to use a different Italian word each day. My word for today was “Buongiorno.” The other intention was as follows: Pick up any book you have on your shelf. Turn to page 79. Pick the 4th sentence on the page and write that sentence at the top of each day’s journal entry. Then brainstorm any ideas that come to your mind related to that sentence. Write a travel essay using that sentence as your topic sentence.
I must admit this intention didn’t work out so well for today, because this was the sentence I had written in my travel journal. “I chewed on the string every summer because I never had anything else to do out in right field.” ~ from a short story called “Love Story” from the collection GOOF And Other Stories by Sean Enright. It’s a little difficult to write about being out in right field in a baseball game while you’re in Rome! Thus I altered the sentence and used a version of it to describe my frustration standing in line at the Colosseum. 🙂
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, February 24 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, February 25, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
Wow, what a busy 2 days you had!
Yes, Sue, but this post is only half of the first day! 🙂 The biggest waste of my time was the Vatican Museums on the second day! What a miserable experience.
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What time of year did you visit Rome? Summer is never a good time as the heat can be suffocating and it is definitely not for sight-seeing. I try to visit that city in May or late September and before I leave home I flick through a lot of guide-books and make my own itinerary but am invariably seduced into ignoring it in favour of sitting at a sidewalk cafe with a gelato or double-esspresso. I think I’ve been there now five or six times, each time for 4-6 days and I’ve still to see major parts of the city, especially outside the walls. But who cares? In Italy, it’s all about absorbing the atmosphere, eating well, and enjoying life.
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In case you ever wonder when I visited a place, Mari, I try to write it at the end of the post. This visit was on April 24, and it was unseasonably warm. I think ignoring any kind of itinerary is the best way to enjoy Rome. I made the HUGE mistake the second day of going to the Vatican Museums. What a miserable experience that was. I think hopping from cafe to cafe, eating and drinking wine is the best way to experience Rome. I agree wholeheartedly, in Italy it’s all about absorbing the atmosphere, eating well, and enjoying life. I learned this lesson the hard way. 🙂
I had to chuckle at your sentence prompt! I’ve only been to Rome once and felt the sort of frustration with the heat and the crowds that I sense through your post.
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I should have just cheated and picked another sentence, but I am such a stickler for following my own rules! Haha. It was rather ridiculous to stick to this prompt. I’m glad you understand my frustration in Rome, Anabel. I don’t think I’d go to Rome again; if I did it would be in the dead of winter, and would avoid all tourist attractions. 🙂
Good thinking. We went to Florence in winter and it was beautifully quiet. Mind you, that was over 25 years ago so things might have changed!
I think winter may be the best time to see those crowded cities, Anabel! I didn’t think Florence was quite as bad as Rome, but then we had done our planning a little more thoroughly there. I was winging it in Rome, and that negatively impacted my experience. This is why being spontaneous often doesn’t work. 🙂
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It’s one of those cities I was never sure if I’d love, so I’ve not been, Cathy. Piazza Navone looks immense and I love the fountains. I like walkable cities. Perhaps I’ll get there one day. I’ve always loved Italy. 🙂 🙂
I was not thrilled in Rome, Jo, and this first half of the first day was not the worst of it. The second day I wasted entirely in the Vatican Museums, a most miserable experience, up there with my second time in Pena Palace in Sintra! It is a very big walkable city. I should have just wandered aimlessly, but too late now. I doubt I’d ever go back. 🙂
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In the situation, I vote to miss the inside of the Colosseum, too. Your day got to have an impromptu as well as a pre-planned aspect (taking the Rick Steves path).
fresh pasta with cheese, pepper and chicory
This meal looks (and reads) so good! I know there was all this marble stuff, but really! I’m kidding, the marble stuff is more important, but the food looks good. Interesting to think of Roman art and architecture being Christianized but then having Egyptian art be Romanized. I guess whoever’s in charge has the say. But beauty from another camp deserves something of its own. I think I’d have left the Christian roofs off Moorish palaces and mosques. But what do I know?
I’m grateful to have this narrative exploration of Rome to enjoy. Thank you, Cathy! Mille grazie! (Something like that.)
I only had two days in Rome, Christopher, and that isn’t nearly enough especially if you’re determined to see the tourist spots. I wish I had avoided them altogether. Honestly, I hadn’t planned very well either, so it might have been more pleasant if I had done so.
That pasta was delicious, as was almost every meal I ate in Italy!
I guess the Romans were very proud of themselves for conquering parts of Egypt, and they came away with all their obelisks. I don’t really know all the history, but I think that’s what I read. I agree the mixture of Christian and Moorish architectural styles doesn’t work so well, except in the case of the Mezquita in Cordoba, one of my favorite places ever. Thank you, Mille grazie to you (or whatever it is!). 🙂
Right! I’ve used your prompt of a book I picked from the shelves (3rd time lucky, the first two just wouldn’t do) and posted https://travels-with-my-camera.blog/2020/02/11/bremerhaven-bremen/. Have I linked this correctly? I couldn’t find my photographs when it came to adding them so I’ve had recourse to Pixabay. I think they were on my old computer and I didn’t transfer them. Anyway, they weren’t as good as the ones I’ve posted.
I just read your piece, Mari, and it fit so perfectly. You were smart to throw out the first two that simply didn’t work. I should have done the same! Your link was perfect and I found my way to it easily. Your photos in the post are magnificent; they make the towns seem so inviting. I love it! 🙂
You still got some fabulous photos. When we visited Venice for a day (!) we saw the line to the Basilica and decided not to waste time in a queue but just to wander the streets, getting lost many times, but it was such fun and so relaxing. It was an unusually hot day in early June so we were happy not to have any regimented plans. I have spent a few hours in Rome, many, many years ago and it wasn’t so busy then (late January) – I have no idea where I wandered other than seeing the Trevi fountain. Despite throwing coins in the fountain I have never been back 😅 Italy really is a country where you can simply linger and just enjoy the ambience of the place, the food, the wine. Crowds of tourists really put me off visiting the big cities now, but I would still like to see Florence.
Thanks, Jude. It was hard seeing much through all the gates, so it was rather disappointing. If I had it to do over again, which I wouldn’t bother to do, I would just wander as you did, haphazardly and spontaneously. We enjoyed Tuscany the best, and there were a few other places we loved (Lucca, Assisi, Florence mostly), but I have to say, other than the food and the ambiance, Italy was overrated in my opinion. 🙂
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So much amazing history.
Yes, so much ancient history throughout Rome, and all of Italy. 🙂
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