Waiting For The Man In The Window   Leave a comment

Rome Coliseum

Rome Coliseum

The Coliseum – our journey through Rome continues with yet a third landmark marred by scaffolding. Ho hum! Fortunately, here at the Coliseum, it’s just a little around the side so, thankfully, not enough to spoil our view.

Another stunning piece of architecture but still smaller than I anticipated. I really have to learn to lower my expectations in this regard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still incredibly impressed at the places I go and the things that I see but sometimes a little taken aback at the lack of magnitude.

The crowd is sparse, the line for tickets short and it takes us no time at all to enter the amphitheatre (unless you count the incredibly steep steps). Here’s where it all happened back in the first century. The gladiator fights, the cold-blooded executions, the trap-doors which kept hidden the wild animals before they were unleashed into the arena…so barbaric. It’s easy to conjure up images in your mind of what a terrifying spectacle it must have been, but hard to fathom a life like that. Society has come a long way…or has it? Well, that’s getting a little deep, isn’t it? Moving on…

A quick metro ride and a walk across a park brought us to the Villa Borghese. We saw a nondescript, unimpressive building and, thinking it was the villa, were puzzled that someone told us this was nicer than the Villa Medici. The gardens, however, are beautiful and are filled with the long-legged bonsai trees (Umbrella Pines) I love. The galleries are booked well through to 2016 apparently so, being hot and tired, we head out of the park and begin the walk back to our hotel.

NOTE: Once we arrived back home, we realized that the nondescript building we saw wasn’t actually the villa, but the gallery so if you go, don’t make the same mistake we did!

We took the Metro from the Coliseum to the Villa because we were short on time, otherwise we would have walked. Grab a map from the hotel and navigate the streets of Rome yourself. It’s the best way to see any city. Besides, there are 2 metro lines and they are mostly away from the core area. Apparently each time they try to add a line, they come across a new set of ruins. Perhaps 2 lines is all they will ever have…

The highlight of our trip to Rome was hearing the Pope’s sermon at Vatican City. Now, this will come as a shock to anyone that knows me well because I am not religious in any way. However, we happened to be on a half day walking tour which ended in St Peter’s Square around 11 on a Sunday and when we heard he’d appear in the second window from the right at noon, how could we not stay? Our wait of about 45 mins went quickly even though the scorching sun was beating down on us. Thank goodness we were standing right next to a fountain!

NOTE: Unfortunately, we missed seeing the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the incredible art project that Michaelangelo was originally reluctant to take on. What a loss that would have been to the world of art and architecture!

The square soon filled to capacity and more. A group of young nuns beside us sang joyous, uplifting songs while waving banners and waiting for their Padre (or Papa, as they fondly refer to him). Pope Francis is the rock star of the Catholic world and they are the opening act. I realise it’s the anticipation of his eventual appearance that keeps them going, not the appreciative clapping of the crowd at the end of each song. The air is electrically charged, it really is exciting and, regardless of your belief or non-belief for that matter, you can’t help but get caught up in the atmosphere!

Curiosity made me wonder whether there would be a mighty roar from his fans when he finally appeared or would the awe-inducing silence be so loud that all of Rome could hear it? A dark red flag draped over the window ledge of the Pope’s private apartment signified the man was near. If there was ever a time when I wished I had a zoom lens, this was it. But there was no doubt. The unmistakable shape of the figure in white and the ever-familiar wave, as he greeted all who waited for him in the hot burning sun, confirmed the presence of Pope Francis…and there was no deafening silence.

Leaving Vatican City, we head towards the beautiful Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge which spans the very narrow River Tevere (Tiber in English). Lunch at Trattoria Don Giovanni is on the street under a tent and the fans that tower over us at each corner offer a brief respite from the heat.

Campo de Fiori (Field of Flowers) – it’s name belies its history as it was once a stage for public executions which included the burning of heretics at the stake. The market goes back to medieval times and was in different locations (one being the Piazza Navona) until about 150 years ago, when it moved here. Now you can buy flowers, vegetables, oils and spices from Monday to Saturday. Decisions, decisions…what to buy, what to buy?

All in all, Rome was fabulous. I love that these beautiful buildings are being restored because it’s important that we preserve their history, their charm and their link to our past. Imagine a world without the older buildings, I don’t even want to imagine it. But seriously, they must have known I was coming to visit….you’d have thought they would have hurried up and finished!

Next stop, Napoli, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Arriverderci Roma!

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Posted September 10, 2014 by Jaclyn in Architecture, Holidays, Italy, Travel

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