Roaming Rome

Roman Forum

We arrived in Rome in the rain and in the dark, but managed to find our way to the Gladios B&B, where we’d gotten a deal and were spending four nights for the price of three. The B&B had a pretty useless little kitchen, and breakfast consisted primarily of cookies and jam. However, we did have a quite large private room with a double bed and our own ensuite washroom, so we were happy. We settled into our room and dried off before heading out for a pizza and a glass of wine. It started to sink in slowly — we were in Rome, the city to which all roads lead, the empire that wasn’t built in a day, the place where one should do as the Romans do.

Setting out in the rain the next morning, we walked from our B&B to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. When considering our ticket purchases, we did one thing right, and one thing wrong. The thing we did right was to buy our tickets at the Roman Forum, where the lineup was non-existent. The thing we did wrong was to buy the RomaPass. The pass is good for three days of unlimited travel on public transit, and free entry to the first two attractions/museums on their list. After that, it provides 50% off entry to the remaining attractions. In theory this is a good deal, but there is one fairly major attraction that isn’t included on the pass: the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel. Since the Coliseum and Roman Forum count as a single attraction, we ended up only using one of the free entries included on the pass, and the other went to waste. It’s not that the other attractions were no good: it’s just that there are so many things to see in Rome that they didn’t take priority.

The Coliseum

Even though the skies frequently opened up and soaked us, the Roman Forum and the Coliseum were impressive. The scale of the ruins is awesome, and the innovations and intricacies of the construction are fascinating. It didn’t even matter to us that the area around them was full of tourists and hawkers preying on the tourists. This was the Coliseum, the Flavian Amphitheater, the icon of the Roman Empire. I definitely had one of those “are we really here?” moments. Unfortunately, the rain persisted and eventually drove us back to the relative warmth of our B&B, where we enjoyed some take-away pizza and wine.

The next day we headed out for a walking tour of the heart of Rome. Here we discovered yet again why the RomaPass was a poor purchase for us: nearly all of the sites that we visited were within walking distance of each other. Even if we’d wanted to ride transit more often, the metro system in Rome goes to surprisingly few places within the city. Guess we know for next time. We started our walk by visiting Trevi Fountain, which was packed with tourists (of course). I can only imagine how crazy it must be in Rome in the summer!

Pantheon

We carried on to the Pantheon, which amazingly is free to visit. The quality of light inside the Pantheon is gorgeous — all of the light is from the oculus in the centre of the dome. It was another example of how important natural light is in buildings — but more than that, it showed how a small amount of the right kind of natural light is much more dramatic than simply flooding a space with windows. As impressive as the lighting was the structure. The Pantheon is the world’s oldest and largest masonry dome. The columns that make up the entrance are huge. It all combines to make you feel really small, which is of course the point, since it was built as a temple to the gods.

Pantheon

After the Pantheon, we wandered through the streets some more. I walked back to the Coliseum and sat for a while to draw. We’ve both been trying to take time to draw more often. I find that looking back at my drawings recalls vivid memories of not only the places I draw, but of the time spent on the drawings themselves. Eventually we made our way across the river to check out another recommended pizzeria. What’s wrong with eating pizza again? When in Rome…

Sketch

On Sunday we headed to the Vatican. We arrived in St. Peter’s Square just as Sunday mass was starting. The Pope wasn’t there in person, but he still presided over the mass from wherever he was thanks to the huge television screens and speaker stacks set up around the square. There was a large crowd present, and some of the music was very beautiful. We made our way through the square and into St. Peter’s Basilica. Wow. It is a remarkable sight to behold. The huge space is full of beautiful statues, mosaics, and paintings. The canopy over the alter is huge and ornate (good work Bernini). The light coming through the windows was soft and brilliant. It definitely inspired a sense of awe, both of the beauty of the art and architecture, but also of the obvious (and excessive?) wealth of the Vatican.

We missed the Sistine Chapel because the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays. It is also quite expensive, and we were still feeling a little guilty about the RomaPasses. Instead we walked to the Spanish steps, went for pizza near Piazza Navona (see a trend developing here yet?), and went to bed exhausted after three long days of walking. There are countless other sights that we missed as well, but the reality is that Rome is simply too big and too full of fantastic things to see it all in the time we had. We were happy to have seen the things we did see at our own pace.

Comments

    WOW, there is grass… when we were there in July everything was scorched, including me. Roma!

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