Sunday, October 07, 2007

Europe - Day 2 - Rome: Arrival and Acclimation

Disney Theme for the Day: All Roads Lead to Rome

The day began with breakfast at the Exedra buffet; a generous and generally edible selection by European standards. (During my last trip to Europe, I had considerable trouble finding palatable food for breakfast with each new country. It typically took a day or two to sort out a solution for breakfast. London was the exception, where the "
typical english breakfast" never really matched what I was looking for each morning.)

After breakfast, we gathered in the Exedra lobby to await James' and Davide's preview of the day and direction to the bus. We also met our roman tour guide for the next two days, Marlena, and our driver Nino.

We piled into the bus with snacks in hand (provided by James) and after a quick head-count, headed for the Coliseum, with a brief driving tour on the way.

With warnings of pickpockets and overcharging vendors, we marched toward the Coliseum and breezed through the line with all logistics in the care of our guides.

With only a few minutes wait, we began our tour. Interesting facts about the Coliseum, gladiators, and the lifetimes of the roman citizenry of the era abounded:
- not just slaves, but professionals and amateurs competed in the Coliseum
- holes in the walls are due to scavenging for metal (pins connecting the huge building blocks) that took place hundreds of years later
- several inches of sand over the wooden arena floor were used to absorb the blood
- gladiator training took place in several enclaves, including one just around the corner
- there are 76 numbered entrances to the Coliseum interior, four in the cardinal directions: one for the Emperor, one for Gladiator entrances, one for the victorious, and another ...for the fallen?
- the Coliseum was built on Nero's lake... or not... Nero died at AD 76. Building of the Coliseum began AD 80 and finished AD 89. (I suppose it wasn't Nero's lake after he died.)
- An earthquake in 1349 caused much of the damage seen today, resulting in the "cut away view" (which is actually quite handy for seeing all the inner detail of the Coliseum).

We walked the entire perimeter, and then moved toward the center.

From the Coliseum, we walked up the steps to the
arch adjacent to the Roman Forum. After some discussion of the inscriptions on the arch, and the meaning of SPQR, we headed into the Forum, the site of the ancient city center.

Ruins were everywhere, each with it's own story -- however, it was a bit of ancient-history overload for me. But, fascinating to be in the middle of it all.

With alternating sun and a light sprinkling of rain, we made it back to the bus. But, not before James and Davide had provided us with rain ponchos! (We didn't need them, but wow(!) these guys are prepared! ...there had been no forecast of rain until late in the trip, in Venice.)

We headed into the city for lunch at a local pizzeria... never-ending thin-crust pizzas of all sorts. I'm afraid that after salad, I ate roughly a pizza and a half myself, and then chased it with a Coke Light and dessert. Time for more walking!

The rest of the day flowed like something out of a Lizzy McGuire movie.
We headed to the Spanish Steps, passing stores along the way: Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bulgari, Prada, and arriving at the Barcaccia Fountain and a brief stop by Babington's Tea Rooms, a public drinking fountain, the fruit vendor, and on to the Trevi Fountain. For luck, we tossed coins over our left shoulders with our right hands. A quick run through the mall brought us to the MAGRIPPALFCOSTERTIVMFECIT (Basilica di Santa Maria).

Headed to the next stop, I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of a Yamaha YZF-M1 MotoGP replica racer patterned after Valentino Rossi's bike. Nice!

At the square, we were treated to gelato by our Disney hosts. As they say, the first one is free. For the rest of the trip, we were hooked, and made sure to have gelato for dessert at least once each day.

For dinner, we were on our own. We got directions to Target (a Roman restaurant, not the store) and headed to dinner. And, unlike dinner in the U.S., dinner in Europe, and especially in Italy, is expected to last for hours. The check is only delivered upon request, and even then, with no hurry.... it's not uncommon to wait for half an hour to forty-five minutes after requesting the check! Dinner is a social experience and, here, life is lived at a different pace!

[Ever since my early July 1,000 mile ride to Dayton and back, I had suffered from a stinger in my left shoulder/back... somewhere during our Italian journey, I forgot that my shoulder hurt.]

On the way back to the hotel, we grabbed more gelato.

Back in our room at last, it was good to drop back into our cloud-like beds.... ah!

No comments: