11/23/07We landed in Rome at 7:30am after a near sleepless night on the plane. Instead of wasting any time, we hopped on a couple trains and headed right to the Colosseum and the Forum area. When we emerged from the Metro, the Colosseum was right in our faces and gigantic! We walked around in awe taking pictures and talking about how it was built way back in 80 AD. Right next to it, and equally as cool, was the Arch of Constantine. The detail in the stone work was amazing. We entered the Colosseum and did a walking tour then cruised around on our own. Most of the marble was taken out later for other buildings, but the floor was exposed and showed the labyrinth of hallways and corridors. Sounded like some gruesome battles and shows that went on here.
Next was the Roman Forum area, it was the center of political, commercial, and judicial life during the first century. Not many building were standing, but several columns, remains of temples, and arches. Highlights included the Arch of Titus, House of Vestal Virgins, Temple of Romulus, Temple of Venus and Rome, and the enormous Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. Hard to imagine how they built these without the technology we have today. Heading west we saw the Temple of Castor and Pollex (some of the last standing columns), Temple of Saturn, and the Arch of Septimius Severus. It's hard to describe with words and pictures what this area is like. (notice how tiny people are standing next to these)
Further east and up many steps, we found ourselves in the Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo right before his death. In the middle was the statue of Marcus Aurelius. Museums and the Capitol surrounded the Piazza, and statues were all around. After sitting for awhile and taking everything in, we continued up the steps of Santa Maria in Aracoeli church, from the 6th century. It's modest outside is deceiving compared to all of the art and sculptures inside! How do they paint ceilings like that?! Fresco's on all of the walls dating hundreds of years ago, and the Santo Bambino is in the back... an olive-wood figure of the Christ Child that is said to have great powers. This church was just an inkling of what was to come over the next couple of days. We walked around to the front of the Capitol building to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the enormous while marble monument called the Victor Emmanuel Monument, in honor of the first king of unified Italy. Great city views from up here watching the mopeds and Smart Cars zoom around.
Exhausted from the lack of sleep and suffering from sensory-overload, we slowly made our way back through the Forum and towards the Colosseum to find the trains/buses to our hotel. Their bus system is extremely easy to navigate, and before long we were in the hotel where Jean proceeded to blow a circuit with her hair-dryer! Hysterical antics while trying to explain what happened to a worker (who came with a mop) that spoke no English. This was followed by a death-defying walk down a sidewalk-less street to try and find some dinner! Without going too far, the only thing we could find was some microwaved pasta bowls in a gas station... what a romantic Italian dinner for our first night. ha hah h ahaa