Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rome in 2 Days

Incredibly, KS and I squeezed quite a lot in two days in Rome. We did five (yes, 5) tours in those two days and would have gone for more if we had our third day.

So here's what we covered:
Day 1:
We took a Skip the Line Tour covering Museum, Raphael's Rooms, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica from Viator. It was packed with people and we had to ask twice before we could see where our tour group was gathering. There were hundreds of people lining up to get in so we were very glad we got to skip the line!

Flat ceiling painted to look like it was sculpted
Raphael's famous painting (what is it called?)
Tapestry along the corridor



Our tour ended at noon and we made our way to the Appian Way for the Catacombs.

We took a tour into the catacombs and the tour conducted by a Phillipino brother was very interesting! He kept us very engaged, asking us where each one of us was from (he even asked us if Malaysia had a new President!), urging us to rush from one secret place to another as though we were on a secret mission or going into places he wasn't allowed to show.  


On the way to the catacombs
Catacomb entrance
After that, we walked along the Appian Way to see one of the oldest highways in the world. The large stones were pulled out from the ground where the catacombs were and I think they're volcanic rocks. These roads are straight and usually 8 feet wide to comfortably fit 6 Roman soldiers marching abreast to conquer the lands.


We saw some drivers who ignored the no entry sign and punished their car suspensions by going over this road.


Since we still had daylight, we took the train back and stopped by the Colosseum. My goodness! It's colossal! I never imagined it to be so huge! I made KS hang around until it became a bit dark and took like 80 shots. But I couldn't find a decent one out of that whole stack, there were humans everywhere.

The holes in the pillars used to support an exterior layer that has been pulled out.

We ended up having a very late dinner before calling it a night.

Day 2:
The next day, we headed to the Spanish Steps to join the Free Walking Tour. The walking tour through the city past the Parliament, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Bridge of Angels and ended in the Vatican. 

The Pantheon was packed! Too bad we couldn't go back when it was quieter.

It was an excellent way to get a feel of the city on foot, just to give you a flavour of where you'd like to visit later. We would have liked to go back to the Pantheon but we had other plans lined up for the day.

After the tour, we took a train to St Paul's Basilica Outside the Walls.

Unfortunately I don't know why Paul is holding a sword since he's not a fighter.
I loved this church mostly because there was hardly anyone in it and it was so peaceful.

After visiting St Paul's, we headed back to the city and planned to go for the Colosseum our. As mentioned before, we wound up asking the wrong person where we should be lining up for the tour and was ushered to one of those unofficial tours.

We did learn a few things in the tour though, like how the Colosseum as built to allow 100,000 people to enter and exit within 15 minutes. Why this is different from our current stadiums is because these people were allowed to view the shows for free. Free because the emperor wanted to make the people happy with his rule and divert their attention away from the other things they weren't happy about.

After this tour, we were told the tour offers a free tour of the Roman Forum just next door. At this point, KS and I were weighing whether to go to the Capuchin Crypt to see how human bones are used as part of the decoration or to go for the Roman Forum tour. We ended up with the Roman Forum tour which turned out to be the most informative tour of our trip!

The guide, Stan, whom they refer to as their George Clooney (but he looked more like a Russell Crowe), gave nuggets of useless information which I totally dig! Hahaha! For example, he informed us that we could drink the water from the flowing taps all over the city. 


The first water fountain we came across had a dustbin next to it. I certainly didn't think the water was drinkable! We bought quite a lot of bottled water before we knew we could drink from the taps.
Plus, most of these taps have holes at the top. Notice how low these taps are? To drink, instead of cupping your hands, you can block the flow of the water and the water will eventually spout through the top hole! Smart eh? I managed to try this later in Burano, Venice and was so excited when it worked!

Anyway, back to Roman Forum, the guide made us imagine being right there at the start of the 1st century, how this place would be the downtown, the happening place. The sophistication of the Roman engineering of the Aquaducts, the huge and high ceilings of the buildings they created and how they've endured over the centuries really made me so amazed.

Another one of those structures that you HAVE to be there to appreciate how huge it is. This was a warehouse back then.

Over the centuries, a lot of these structures and material were recycled to build new buildings. Like the bronze sheets plastering the Colosseum were removed to be melted down to make other things, pillars too were ripped down and used elsewhere. See this structure below?


Have a closer look at the pillars. The stripes near the top were created when ropes ate through the pillar surface when they were yanked by horses, in an attempt to tear them down. The pillars held fast and remain there as it is now. Imagine the force! Imagine the workers urging the horses on as they strained against the might of the pillars!


Thereafter, I walked those roads, imagining the hordes of Romans back then hurrying along their daily business on these roads I now tread. 


See the parallel grooves? These roads were used for horse carriages, I think. How many wheels had carved these grooves? 

Yes, I was mesmerized at the Roman Forum and brought back to the past. Something which I totally did not expect.


From there, we walked all the way to Trevi Fountain. How can we visit Rome without visiting this fountain, right?


As expected, the Trevi Fountain was teeming with tourists. Many of whom were just sitting and enjoying the view, others were throwing coins, some with their right hand over their left shoulder.

We stayed for a short while and then headed back to Roma Termini for dinner before we went back to sleep. Our early morning train would take us to our next adventure, Cinque Terre.

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