on September 17, 2010
Visiting Rome, the Eternal City, is an amazing experience. Around every corner there is a sight to behold, ancient ruins sit side-by-side with more modern structures and the whole atmosphere is one of a bustling cosmopolitan city but the ancient backdrops make it unique.Probably the best way to explore Rome is by foot as there is so much to see and most of it is in a fairly compact area. We only had one day in which to explore this vibrant city so we knew there would be a lot of walking involved. We visited in the middle of August and the weather was extremely hot and I would suggest you go armed with several bottles of water. Everywhere we went people were selling parasols to protect tourists from the unrelenting sun as there seemed little shade when leaving the narrow streets.Rome was originally built on seven hills but these are actually quite hard to locate now as some have been flattened out and they have all been built over, we did not find it a particularly hilly city to walk around which we had worried about.Although it is assumed that Rome was founded about 750BC it was Octavius Augustus (27B.C.), Rome’s first Emperor who presided over the construction of some of Rome’s most famous buildings. In the 4th Century Rome gradually became Christian and by the 5th Century the glory days of Rome were over. It wasn’t until the 15th century that Rome once again became buoyant and after a further turbulent period of history it became the Capital city of Italy in 1871. There also followed 20 years under the Fascist regime of Mussolini and occupation by Germany but now Italy is a Republic.We started our tour at the enormous Trevi fountain and after throwing a coin in the water to guarantee ourselves another trip to Rome we set off in the direction of the Piazza Venezia. This required walking down some narrow streets which opened out occasionally into surprising squares, one of which was home to part of the Papal University. Gift shops in these streets were a little cheaper than those immediately surrounding the Trevi Fountain.Piazza Venezia is almost exactly in the centre of Rome. Mussolini gave his speeches from the balcony of his residence in the square. This square is absolutely dominated by the enormous structure that is the Monument to Victorio Emmanuel II, the first king of the united Italy. The structure is 443ft wide and 230ft high. It was started in 1911 and finished about 25 years later. The whole columned design is in gleaming white marble and it is easy to see why the locals call it "The wedding Cake". It is visible from many points in Rome but somehow it does not seem in keeping with the other architecture and although magnificent and impressive it also looks a little tacky and out of place.From here we took the Vai dei Fori Imperiali. This took us past the Roman Forum which was the centre of the business world of Ancient Rome and it would have been the communal heart of the city too. The entrance to the Forum is not on this rod and unfortunately we did not have time to visit and wander around the ruins but the viewing areas on the main road actually afford excellent views and you can easily see the road layouts. The high position also lets you see the building outlines and it is easy to make out the Temple of Vesta.Walking further along brought us within sight of probably one of the most famous buildings in the world; the Colosseum. Built in around 72A.D this is the largest one of its kind ever built. It could set 50000 spectators to watch the games and the gladiators in the arena. The outside had 80 arched entrances to allow easy access for so many people, it was also thought to have had some sort of fabric roof that would have protected the spectators from the sun. The Romans had a great bloodlust for the massacres that occurred here in the name of entertainment but the advent of Christianity in the city put an end much of the sport. Visits cost about 15 euro but we did not arrive until quite late and the queues were huge so we decided we would have to save an internal visit for another day. We walked around the outside and by peering into all the shut off arches we were still able to see the cross which marks where the Emperor sat will his power of life or death for the combatants. The area is absolutely teeming with hawkers and pick-pockets are rife too so be careful, a lot of police seem to be on duty. There are many men dressed as roman gladiators who will pose with you for a photograph for a fee.Next to the Colosseum is the Triumphal Arch of Constantine, built in 315A.D many of the stones were re-used from other sites.We then took a turn towards the river and walked along the banks of the River Tiber. In the distance we could see the fortress which is Castel Sant’Angelo (as mentioned in Angels and Demons), a museum housing historical relics. However the heat had got to us so we had to call it a day and grab a taxi to end the day.
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