Friday 30 June 2017
After spending the day catching up on a few admin things I picked Sylvia up at 3pm and we headed to Marseilles airport. We were booked on a Ryan Air flight to Rome. Terminal 2 where they depart from is quite basic but the boarding process was efficient and on time. On the 737-800 the seats were basic but comfortable with enough leg room. The staff made every effort to sell not only food and drinks but duty free as well as they wheeled carts up and down the aisle. A couple of years ago I read something about Ryan air wanting to carry passengers standing on short flights.
An hour later we touched down in Rome. After checking into Hotel Argentina we took a stroll and sat riverside on the Fiume Tevere opposite Tiberina Island. The riverside was lit up by stalls and restaurants.
Saturday 1 July 2017
We took a stroll down the river spanned by its old bridges and lined with character buildings, passing the Temple of Hercules Victor dating back to around 200BC.
We then strolled up the Circus Maximus, a large oval race track where chariot racing took place back in the day.
Arriving at the Palatino we brought a ticket to it and the Colosseum. This once city is pretty amazing with its multi-storey apartments overlooking the race track. There are the remains of an aqueduct that once supplied the city with water. For some reason (maybe Ben Hur) I had always envisaged Rome to be built of stone. I was suprised to see most of the buildings here were brick. Further investigation revealed that in fact the walls were made of an early version of concrete – made from volcanic ash and sand, laid rather than poured and mixed with rubble or stone to give it strength -then clad with brick or sometimes stone.
Some artists had grabbed a chunk of space here exhibiting some art not quite in keeping with the general theme of the place.
We eventually dropped down into the Forum, once the main commercial area.
Eventually finding our way out we headed down the Via dei Fori Imperiali to the colosseum. Soldiers and their vehicles blocked off the roads, I presume to keep bad people in trucks away from the thousands gathered in and around the venue. Touts, some with English and Irish accents, tried to talk us into hiring them as a guide.
Inside this concrete, in places 50m high, structure is really impressive. Under the area where the wooden floor of the arena once lay covered in sand, one can see the maze of rooms where players from lions to Gladiators were caged. Completed in 80AD it could seat up to eighty thousand.
Strolling back up the Via dei Fori Imperiali we passed the Colonna Traianei situated across the road from Mussolini’s palace, now a museum.
Hidden not far off Corso Via del is the Trevi fountain. Surrounded by hundreds of people, water has been gushing out here since 19AD, then supplied by an Aquaduct. The fountain itself was completed in 1762. The 2.8 million cubic feet of water that gushes out every day is now recycled. Around €3000 in coins are tossed in every day.
Our next stop was the Spanish Steps with a fountain at the base and church at the top.
From here we took the subway to the Vatican. Thousands of people queued to go into St Paul’s Cathedral and the Vatican museum. The square in front of the cathedral Is pretty impressive with a large statue in the middle.
Just down the road by the river is fort Saint Angelo built in 123AD as a mausoleum, later turned into a fort for the pope, and now a museum.
At the Piazza Navona we stopped for an afternoon wine and watched the many people go by. With its central statue and colourful buildings this is a very relaxing place.
Just a few blocks away is the Pantheon. Completed around 126AD this non reinforced building with its dome is quite an outstanding piece of engineering. In building the dome they used heavy aggregate in the base, thinning it as it got higher using pumice in the thinner top part of the dome.
We arrived back at the hotel in time for the 5pm free drinks and nibbles. In the evening we took a stroll across the river to the Trastevere area, where we enjoyed a great meal of pasta and meatballs.