Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 52: Rome (Nov 7)


This was designed to be day 1 of the Roma Pass, and the start of the museum-type attractions that were covered by the pass, concentrating on the Ancient Rome sites like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Circus Maximus, and the Church of St Peter In Chains, with Trajan’s Column if we had time.


We left around 8:30, which was designed to get us to the Colosseum around 9:30, well in advance of the train strike. No problem. The Colosseum opens at 8:30am, but with the weather still iffy and it being the off-season, there were no lines at all when we got there at 9:30. There were maybe 5 people in line ahead of us. Since this was day 1 of our Roma Pass, we got in for free. We followed Rick’s strategy of seeing the Colosseum first, then the Forum, then Palatine Hill, and he’s got an audio tour and map for each of them, so that’s what we used.

Rick has tips on avoiding or minimizing lines. We had no problem and it was 10 minutes from when we got out of the metro stop exit right in front of the Colosseum to when we had passed inspection, ticketing, and were inside. We did the upper bowl first and then the lower bowl; we saw people wandering around on the bottom beneath field level but didn’t know how to get there. We spent about 90 minutes inside altogether. Walk around the building past the Arch of Constantine and you’ll see one of the exits to the Roman Forum, a little ways past it on the left is the ticket office and entrance to Palatine Hill, you can go in there and then go to the Forum; or, after seeing the Arch you can go back out to the main street where the metro stop is and walk towards the Forum main entrance. I think it’s a little longer this way but there are things to see on the outside as you’re walking. Rick’s book on Rome has a map called the “Roman Forum Walk” and an mp3 audioguide for free, so that’s what we used. Once you’re inside, there’s no additional charge to see the Palatine Hill. In the interest of time (we had a lot planned for the day) we decided not to go all the way out to the Circus Maximus or see about half of the Palatine Hill area – his map of the Palatine is not to scale, it’s much bigger than it looks on his map – and we missed the museum there too. We spent about 2-1/2 hours at the Forum.

If you follow his map, you’ll end your tour at the far end of the Forum from the Colosseum, exiting out at the stairs that lead to the top of Capitol Hill (that’s the back side of the Victor Emmanuel Monument). It’s a fairly easy climb, but at the top you’ll want to take in the view of the Forum as well as the Capitol Hill Square which was designed by Michelangelo. The entrance to the Capitoline Museums are up there too, but they were closed this day (Monday) so we had them planned for later.

After a quick lunch (and gelato, of course) I decided that with the rest of our itinerary for the day and the next few days, this was going to be the best time to see the old Jewish Quarter and a bit of the Trastavare area since we were there and it was only an easy 10-minute walk from the Piazza Venezia. Basically, we just followed Rick’s “Jewish Ghetto Walk” in his Rome book. We spent an hour there, then walked back to the Victor Emmanuel Monument (taking a shortcut up the Michelangelo stairs) on our way to the Church of St Peter in Chains (take the metro from Colosseo up one stop to Cavour then walk downhill 5 minutes, or it’s a 15-minute walk slightly uphill from the Colosseum, but either way it’ll take about 20 minutes from the Emmanuel monument). It’s rated as a one-star attraction but I wanted to see it for the amazing Michelangelo statue of Moses (I had also seen the other piece from the set he created at the Louvre in Paris earlier). It also has a glass box containing what is purportedly St Peter’s chains. It’s free but you have to pay to turn the lights on the statue and they only stay on for a couple minutes. We stayed there for about 20 minutes.

Because of the metro strike, we had to be at our stop to catch the bus by 9pm, when the metro lines would shut down. We didn’t know if they would simply stop running at 9 and have everyone exit at the next stop, or whether they just wouldn’t let anyone else on after 9, or whatever, so we decided to end the day a little early and make our way back to a restaurant near the Spanish Steps that was recommended to me. Just like pointing out the McDonald’s earlier, if you stand at the fountain at the bottom of the Steps, to your right about a block or two down is an obelisk in the middle of a piazza. Go to that piazza and standing next to the obelisk with your left side pointing the way you just came, at the far left corner of the piazza is a place called Ristorante alla Rampa. It’s also one of Rick’s recommended restaurants, under the “In North Rome: Near the Ara Pacis and Spanish Steps” section.

(Originally posted 5/13/14 at 8:45pm, Houston)

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