After travelling a few hours from Florence we arrived at Camping Tiber a van park situated along the banks of the Tiber River. Some people we met along the way recommended this park to us. There is a free shuttle bus from the park to the train station which then is a 20 minute ride into Rome. The staff at this campground were so friendly, it makes the experience that much more enjoyable. We were soon set up on a pitch overlooking the river and then went straight to the pool to cool off - the temperature was in the high 30's everday.
Sunday 29 July we ventured in to Rome to start our sightseeing. We decided we'd start with the Colosseum. We got off at the train station and walked outside and there it was, right in front of us. Though I'd seen it before, it was still an impressive sight!! We joined a tour group that took you through the Colosseum and nearby Palentine Hill and Roma Forum. The tours are a great idea, even though you pay a bit more, you skip the lines and you get a guide telling you all about it. It's just a bit challenging with Cara, she's generally pretty good but there are time when she just doesn't want to stay quite and stand still - which you can understand!
It was such a hot day and we soon found that throughout Rome there are water fountains you can drink from (yes it's okay for tourists as well) and the water is slightly chilled. So we kept filling up our drink bottles from these and kept Cara cool by pouring the water over her and letting her drink from the fountain.
Monday 30 July: After we bought the car the front windscreen had a crack in it. As we've been driving the crack has gotten longer and longer. Loche spent the morning getting quotes for a new windscreen. The one we have has heating elements through it for the snow, but we would need to wait 2 weeks for one of those to be ordered (and an extra 300 euros) so we found somewhere that could put a standard windscreen in on Friday. Cara and I spent the morning in the pool and generally having a laze around.
The following day we headed back into Rome. On the way in on the train I was telling Cara we were going to visit a fountain today and she could throw all of Daddy's money into it!! She thought that was a great idea until Loche told her if she threw it all in, there wouldn't be enough for ice cream! We hopped off the train and walked through the streets to the Trevi Fountain. It goes if you throw money into the fountain you will one day return to Rome. I think the Rome City Council or whoever, started this rumour to make some money. There is apparently over 3,000 Euros thrown into the fountain every day! We squashed in among the hordes of tourists, threw in our money, took the necessary photos and then moved onto the Pantheon.
I remember from when I was here with Kerrie & Contiki in 1999 the building we saw with the hole in the roof, but I couldn't remember which building in which city. As soon as I saw the Pantheon, I knew this was it. The Pantheon is 2000 years old and was originally a temple, but is now a church. It's Rome's best-preserved monument and dates back to AD120. The dome of the church was the largest in the world until the 15th century. It is still the largest un-reinforced concrete dome ever built. And yes, there is a gaping big, perfectly round, hole in the centre of it.
From the Pantheon we walked over to Piazza Navona, a very old square with fountains and monuments. This square served as the city's main market for over 300 years from the 15th century. At the end of the Piazza we found a museum to wander through. There were many paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries and later. It was interesting to look at these and get an idea of what life was like back then - what the piazza looked like, how people dressed etc.
From here we wandered back through the streets headed for the river and followed the river back up to the train station. I decided to walk along the river thinking it would be a nice way to walk back, but when we reached the river I thought it was such a shame that more hadn't been done with it. The river is a lot lower than the streets we were walking on, so we were looking down on it. Alongside the river there are paved pathways or roads but nothing has been done to beautify it - there was rubbish and weeds overgrowing it and no one was walking down there because there was nothing to see. It was like it had just been forgotten about and left.
On Wednesday the 1st of August we had a shopping day and bought Cara some new swimmers - she desperately needed some as hers were all stretched and falling off her! We found some Minney Mouse ones in the Disney store and she couldn't wait to get into the pool with them. While we've been staying at this park we've been swimming everyday to keep cool. One day we decided to bribe Cara into floating all by herself with her floaties. I told her if she did it by herself I'd buy her an icecream. She was very quick to try it and has not looked back since. She tells us she doesn't need mummy & daddy in the pool anymore - she can float all by herself!
Thursday morning we were up early to get into the Vatican. We were ready for long lines and lots of people and we weren't disappointed! As soon as we hopped off the train we were bombarded with people selling Vatican tours. We chose one and were soon hooked up with the leader. For this tour you were given a headset and an earpiece so you could easily hear the guide. It was a lovely feeling walking past the enormously long line of people trying to get in the door. Once we got inside we had to go through security, which luckily wasn't too painful.
Our tour took us through the main parts of the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel and from there we could go into St Peters Basillica. It was good paying the extra money for the tour and I recommend it, but I personally didn't get a lot out of having the guide. There were hordes and hordes of people inside and I could not let Cara out of my sight. I was also carrying a backpack so was constantly worrying about pickpockets. This plus just trying to negotiate my way through the crowds (and you know I'm not a crowd person) meant I wasn't ever really concentrating on what the guide was saying. We finally made it to the Basillica and there weren't as many people here so I just started to relax and Cara tells me she has to do a wee, so I then go off to try and find a toilet for her. Once back, we found Loche and had a look downstairs in the Basillica at all the tombs of previous popes and other important people.
When we finished the tour and visiting the Basillica it was only about 1pm. There was an exhibition on Leonardo Da Vinci Loche had found out about and was interested to see. We decided that he should go himself and I took Cara home for a much needed swim and sleep. Loche returned a few hours later to tell me he had seen the most disgusting thing in his life…a homeless person, on a main street in Rome did a poo in the middle of the footpath.
On Friday Loche took the car in to get the new windscreen fitted and Saturday we were off again into Rome, this time to visit the Catacombs just outside the city centre. The catacombs are underneath one of the worlds oldest roads - Via Appia Antica. There are a couple of different catacombs you can visit, we went to the Catacombs of San Callisto. This was something amazing to see - there are just tunnels and tunnels of graves. There are no bodies in them anymore, but you are walking through these narrow tunnels and there are holes in the walls the size of coffins where the graves used to be. They have uncovered the graves of 16 Popes in these catacombs. Our tour lasted about half an hour and we walked through 500 metres of the tunnels - there are 30 km's of tunnels in total.
Interesting things about the Colosseum you have most likely heard it before but here it is again:
- It was called the Flavian Amphitheatre
- Capacity was around 70,000 to 80,000 people
- Seats could be evacuated in 10 to 15 minutes using many stairwells and exits. The Romans called it the vomitarium system meaning to "purge quickly".
- Took 8 years to build using around 10,000 Jewish slaves
- The stage could be transformed during events from arena's to a wooded hunting forest or even a pool using a series of hoists lifting equipment from a network of underground chambers. Animals were also held in these chambers.
- The Gladiator games were a continuation of the Funeral Games. When a senator or prominent person of society died the family arranged, fatal duels between men, the death of a fighter would release the soul of the deceased.
- It has been noted around some 700,000 to 750,000 gladiators died at the Colosseum and as many as 9000 in a two month period but this cannot be confirmed.
- The blood of dead gladiators was mopped up and drunk as a cure for epilepsy.
- Animals did not fair well, as many as 2000 could be killed in a day.
- Meat was butchered onsite and given to the spectators for free
- Gladiators were often condemned criminals, prisoners of war or slaves rarely did free men chose this sport as a profession.
- There is little evidence indicating Christians had been fed to animals.
- Sometimes public executions were by animals.
Palatine Hill: (Palatino)
- Is said to be the area where Romulus founded the city (Rome) in 753BC
- Palatine is where the word Palace originates as the original massive building on this hill towered over 30 meters tall, had under ground heating and was, well very Roman.
- Several aquaducts above and below ground have been built by the Romans feeding many millions of litres of water daily to the city from as far away as 90 kilometers. One of the underground aquaducts is still used today.
- Before elaborate churches there was elaborate Roman senate houses called Basillica's meaning square not Church, many early Christian Churches were modeled from Basillica buildings.
- The bronze doors of the church in the Roma Forum are around 1700 years old - see photos
Catacombs of San Callisto:
- They believe as many as 500,000 bodies are buried at this one site
- Only 500 meters of the 30 kilometers of tombs have been opened to the public
- They are more than 12 metres underground