Welcome to the second installment of our Italy journal! ;-) If you missed the first one, scroll down or go to the right for the history links. The 3rd day gets a blog entry all to itself. Don't worry..I think I will only do two more entries after this one.
My overall comment for this entry is that 95% of Italians speak english. Which makes traveling easier for us uni-lingual travelers. And they don't think their "italian heritage' is marred by learning a new language to further their economy (unlike some other cultures I know)..most billboards and road signs were in both languages and I feel sure they have to press 1 for Italian. They understand the benefits. and those that didn't understand English were not put out by the fact I didn't know Italian, we simple used hand gestures and pointed to get what we wanted.
On Day 3 we did the morning walking tour of all the major sights. It was a great tour and I checked many things off my bucket list. We started in the Piazza Navona which has the Fountain of Four Rivers. Basically, every corner represents a river/culture; African, Asian, American and European. When they sculpted this, American was just discovered so they didn't know much about us..we were portrayed very basic with a stick. The others were much more elaborate and detailed.
This is the Piazza from afar..the main fountain is in the distance with the obelisk.Close upThen we walked to the Pantheon. Our tour guide was very good and informative..definitely worth the tour fees. The Pantheon was probably the biggest surprise for me. I knew the Coliseum would be a 'moment' but I wasn't prepared for the Pantheon. Something about it was just amazing.
The sheer size was impressive
But this was the moment I became covered in goose bumps..totally unexpected.
The Pantheon has a huge hole in the top of the roof. It has taken them centuries to figure out why..this is what the THINK is the purpose. The hole lets the sun shine through leaving a circle of light on the wall..And every Solstice and Equinox, it lands perfectly at the entrance/portico (see the circle 'indent' in the wall in this photo), which apparently was when the kings or someone would stand in the light. Pretty good for something built in the 2nd century, huh?From there we walked to the Roman Forums. But on the way, you have to walk past what the Romans loathe and dub "the Wedding Cake". The Victor Emmanuel Monument, but in 1870 (so not ancient) by Italy's first king. The 43 foot statute of the king on his horse is the largest in the world...it sits right beside the Forum and it is massive. Beautiful..but it definitely takes away from the 'feeling' of ancient Rome.
Once past this, we went to the Roman Forum..which takes a lot of imagination but to stand where Caesar stood was great. The guide had a book with overlays so we could see what they think stood where these ruins are..that helped complete the image.Then we passed by Palentine Hill and the Arch of Constantine..
To reach the ultimate destination...The Coliseum.It was awesome. If you listened closely you could hear the crowds and lions roar. There was a fire, so the only thing left is the stone. Behind is where the bleachers were.The wooden floor that the fights actually occurred on is gone, but you can see a 'replica' they have installed over a portion of the floor to give you the idea. Under this floor, was where they held the gladiators (who were slaves) and the exotic animals before fights. The floor actually had 'trap doors' so the fighters could be raised to the Coliseum to fight without have to go outside or 'meet accidentally'..remember they fought bears, lions, tigers, etc. It was everything I expected and more. This was my 'favorite day' if I had to chose. After meandering around the Coliseum, we were parched (sense the theme) and found a little cafe with a phenomenal view.After lunch, we decided to seek out Rome's number one restaurant according to Trip Advisor. We used Trip Advisor a lot and tried to visit the number 1 location for both cities. In Rome, it is La Gelateria Frigidarium...yep..a Gelato place! And it wasn't on the beaten path. BUT after searching for a bit..we were rewarded.
The next entry will complete our journey in Rome (with the greatest view of the city) and start our adventures in Florence (including a random encounter with a lot of Ferraris!). I might get it up tonight.
To be continued....