As per usual this one is being done in transit!!! Hahaha. So, our last day in Rome… I've really loved my time in Rome, and we've been lucky to have MAINLY good weather. It rains about once a day, but then the sky just opens, it stops within 30 minutes and then it's all clear again for the rest of the day. After packing (AGAIN!!! Something I DEFINITELY won't miss when I finally settle in London!!!!) and checking out, we headed back to the Vatican to try and get the stamps in our passport. On the way we stopped for the best gelati in the world again (still so AWESOME!!!) and upon finally finding an information desk at the Vatican were told that they no longer stamped passports!!! GUTTED!!! So, off we went on search of my leather jacket (which I ended up buying from a store we'd seen on our second night! Hahaha) before heading off for another walking tour from Circus Maximus.
This time we were off on the tour of downtown Rome (all the ancient ruins). So, it turns out that despite all the terrible things that Mussolini did, he was the one who was instrumental in digging up all the amazing ruins that we see in Rome today. He got the Circus Maximus excavated and the path dug up, but unfortunately there are no ruins there, as they were all stolen when Rome was in her period of decline. We learned a lot about the founding of Rome (the story of Romulus and Remus, versus the actual story of shepherds who got into real estate) before heading off on our tour.
Our next stop was the Mouth of Truth - famous from the movie Roman Holiday. Whilst the legend of the story is true (kind of) that it was used to detect if people were telling the truth by whether the statue bit them or not, the REALLY interesting part was it's original use. See, Romans are big on recycling, so when they found this really cool thing they decided it would become a lie detector. Even though it was originally used to pour sewerage through. Niiiiice! Hahaha. Needless to say, none of us put our hand in there!
From there we headed off to the Jewish Ghetto and the XXXX theatre. The theatre was a great source of entertainment and they tried to make their plays as true to the scripts as possible. So if someone died in the play, they would get the actors to do the play right up to the final blow, then pause, get a criminal who was sentenced to death, and kill them in whatever manner the play dictated. The Romans LOVED it, and would try to see these plays whenever they could. In plays that showed the conception of the minotaur they'd get a bull and a 'woman' (men dressed up as women in those times! Hahaha) and you can guess the rest…
The Jewish ghetto was really interesting, as there was a period of time where the Pope outlawed Judaism, and forced all the Jews to live in a tiny walled in area, as a result making it into a ghetto. Now, one of the emperors took all of the Pope's power, so the Pope excommunicated the Emperor condemning him to hell. As final retaliation the Emperor made Judaism legal again, and let them build a massive synagogue - which is allegedly so positioned so that it can be seen from the Pope's bedroom!
From there we headed to some more ruins where we saw the cat sanctuary. Back in Rome's heyday they had a big rat problem, so they went to Egypt and imported 1000 cats and let them loose in the streets. And then they had a cat problem, which everyone ignored for about 1500 years… so when Mussolini got to power he did a cat census and they realized there were around 60,000 cats wandering the streets of Rome. So Mussolini did the only thing he could - he made them Italian citizens… that's right - the cats can vote! Across from the Cat Sanctuary was the place where Julius Caesar was killed… which is now a salmon building with a pizza shop as the bottom floor… an interesting random fact about the murder of Caesar, was that he was given a scroll on his way in to the meeting which outlined the plot that was about to take place - but he never opened it, thinking it was just something that needed his signature. And he was stabbed 23 times. Just to make sure I guess…
Next stop was the Pantheon, where this time we actually saw Raphael's tomb. Which is ironically placed, as he was a renowned ladies man, and managed to die from syphilis at the age of 36 (an extremely rare disease at that time) and is now buried under the statue of the Virgin Mary… Hahaha. Back to the Pantheon - so it's 43.2m in diameter, and so far no one has been able to figure out how it got up there, and we could never do it now. At it's thickest point at the base, it's 6m thick, and at the centre of the dome, it's just over 1m thick. The cement was all poured in one go, and cement sets in 24hrs. The best part is they had no cranes to lift it… the name Pantheon means All Gods and it was used as a worship place for all of the Roman Gods. Depending on where the light fell through the hole in the centre, showed who was supposed to be worshipped at that time of the day. It's since been recycled into a Catholic church.
Next stop was what is called in Rome the Birthday Cake. A MASSIVE structure which is solely for the remembrance of Emperor Alessandro and is massively over the top. It also holds the shrine for the lost soldiers, and the two flames of Rome (which are now gas lit, but still burn 24/7). This statue was so unpopular when it was built that they needed a publicity stunt when it was finished - so Mussolini and the 20 other people working on it all had the inaugural dinner in the stomach of the horse - apparently the mustache of the rider is 1m in diameter, so I guess they would have fit!
Our second last stop was outside the ruins of the forum - where we heard tales of the massive processions that went on, as well as some more of the battle tales of Rome. Our final stop was at the Colosseum - which we found out was actually a gift from the Emperor to the people of Rome. So, remember crazy Nero from the last tour we did? So he just got crazier and crazier - at one point he declared war on the sea, took all of the soldiers of Rome to the sea shore, made them fight the waves, and declared victory when he stabbed the water with his sword. He also kicked his pregnant fiancée to death, but rather than burying her and pretending it never happened, he decided he had to marry her 'twin'. So, they found a 12 year old boy who looked 'exactly' like her, castrated him, and made him marry Nero. Shortly after they made Nero kill himself, and soon after the castrated child did too (understandably being quite messed up!) After Nero's death, and the end of the blood line of Julius Caesar, the 4 generals of Italy went to war against each other, until one of them one. Now, this general was a great leader, but by this point in time the Romans were really wary of Emperors. So, to distinguish himself as different to the previous Emperors he tore down Nero's house, drained the lake (presumably let the swans go free!) and then built the colosseum over it's site! The colosseum had tickets (you can still see the numbers above the arch ways) which were made of terracotta. We heard a lot more tales about the blood thirsty Romans, and the fighting in the Colosseum, but apparently Gladiator does a pretty fair retell, so I'll leave it out of here!
After a massive history lesson, Nick and I hightailed it back to the hostel to grab dinner, and make it to our train to Zurich on time. We decided to eat at the place next door which had been recommended and we were not disappointed. A delicious free bruschetta later, Nick started off with the 'best cabonara he had ever eaten', and I had a caprese salad. From there I had fettucini pescatore, and Nick got a marguerite pizza. Both AMAZING and too filling!!!! From there we WADDLED down to the train station, and made it to our sleeper cabin! Such a cute little room for just us two! I ended up falling asleep soon after getting on the train due to two reasons - 1) writing the start of this blog gave me travel sickness, 2) I ate WAY too much food.
We made our way off for our connection to Luzern which was much more pain free than I could have hoped for! We're now on the train watching all the beautiful Swizz country side rush past on our way to the land of CHOCOLATE!!!! Lol. Funnily enough the American sitting near us was quite surprised that she had to buy a ticket... Riiiight... a few minutes of arguing with the conductor later, she bought one... Hahaha
Miss you all and love you heaps - will eat some chocolate for each and every one of you! Hahaha