Sunday 16 September 2012
I’ve hardly been back in England for 5 days, but yet I’m off again. This time a totally different trip – a short city break to Rome with my mum!
A quick jaunt to Heathrow and I’m back in terminal 4 where I landed just 5 short days ago. Just a short 2 hour hop and we were landing into Rome airport!
Country number 13 – Italy
Rather than pay €15 for a train, we caught a €5 coach into the city. Being 9pm, there was no traffic at all and we zipped through in 30 minutes to Termini station. I wasn’t involved in the hotel (living it up for a few days!) choosing, but a perfect choice just 5 minutes walk away. Our room was lovely – a small boutique hotel with a sweet left on the pillow! Enjoying this luxury for a few days!
Monday 17 September 2012
An early morning wake up call ensured we were at the entrance of the colosseum by 8.30am ready for the gates to open and to avoid the crowds (the colosseum attracts up to 20,000 people per day)! Our plan was successful and we managed a whole lap of the upper circle before we spotted any large groups. Perfect for a few we-have-the-whole-place-to-ourselves photos.
The Roman Colosseum was build around AD 69 – 79 as a 50,000 seat amphitheatre. This was the backdrop for gladiator fights and battles against various beasts. Around AD 100, Trajan is believed to have held a 117-day games involving 9,000 gladiators and 10,000 animals! Today, the colosseum no longer stages such violent activities!
Next up, the Palatino. This is where the legends Romulus and Remus were saved by the wolf and whom founded Rome in 753 BC. In Roman times, this was the posh neighbourhood – home to Augustus and several successor emperors who each built more lavish palaces than the last. Today, the Palatino is a maze of ruins. The huge stadium is visible, scattered with flowers.
The Palatino leads into the Roman Forums, once glittering temples, now lays in ruins of columns. The vast area was also packed with tour groups. After enjoying the colosseum and Palatino pretty much to ourselves, this was a bit of a shame! Although impossible to work out where each temple would have stood, the columns themselves were impressive.
We walked around the sides of the Forum – better views than from inside! And up into the Piazza del Campidoglio where marble horses sat proudly on their plinths. Down a long flight of steps brought us round to Il Vittoriano, a huge white marble building, the roof adorned with chariots!
The streets heading up to the Pantheon are lined with delis and pizzerias. Perfect to stop off for a spot of lunch. After a refresh, we were ready for some more exploring!
The Pantheon was constructed at a similar time to the colosseum, but with a totally different purpose – as a temple dedicated to the gods. The un-reinforced concrete dome is the largest in the world and has been constructed with an 8.7m diameter hole in the centre of the roof – providing the connection to the gods. The front of the Pantheon faces onto Piazza della Rotonda and each of the 16 columns is 13m tall and constructed from Egyptian granite. It’s a rather impressive sight.
After weaving our way past all the cafes on the Piazza, we found ourselves stumbling across yet another Piazza – Piazza Navona. This Piazza is decorated with 3 ornate fountains and littered with more restaurants and cafes.
Italy is renowned for its icecream – known here as gelato (a much thicker, creamier, more pliable concoction) found in the numerous Gelateria. Each one just like a sweet shop – with so many different colours, flavours and sizes to choose from, but each one more delicious than the last. We tried a new flavour – peach and orange – amazing!
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets, coming across various small markets, churches and a small park. Each street provided a new backdrop for exploring. Eventually we found our way back to Largo di Torre Argentina where we passed by the cat sanctuary – many cats living in a corner of the ruins! Cute!
A short bus ride brought us back to Termini. After perusal of a couple of supermarkets we had enough goodies for dinner and collapsed, pretty shattered from a day of exploring!