Posts Tagged ‘rome’

Today, we booked a skip-the-line tour of the Colisseum and the Roman Forum. It was amazing. The information we learned about how the Colisseum was built and what it was used for was amazing. Our guide showed us pictures/drawings of how it would have looked back in the day and described the types of games that took place (animals, gladiators, etc.) as well as the architecture of the building itself. Fascinating. Made me want to watch Gladistor again just to visualize the building, etc.

When we visited, they actually were preparing for a concert (charity show by Andrea Bocceli) so the equipment normally wouldn’t be there (ha!). It took them 7 years to build the Colosseum – that in itself is incredible.

Notice the roman numerals above the arch – that indicated which section you were seated in. This one shows XVIII. The people of Rome had a membership and were assigned a “section”, but not a seat. Folks arrived and spent all day at the Colosseum to enjoy the games with their families.

When the roman empire fell, many people lived in the Colosseum and eventually, they took apart all the pieces that they could sell for money, specifically the metal. So, where there used to be metal “clamps” holding two blocks together are now holes in the walls. Eventually most of the marble and all of the metal used to build the Colosseum was looted.

A piece of original floor:

Under the floor was where the men who fought, the animals and the gladiators – it was dark, smelly, torch-lit and generally unpleasant. It cost thousands of dollars to bring one exotic animal to fight in the games. They wanted to show the reach and power of the roman empire so the more exotic animals they were able to bring back to Rome, the more they demonstrated their reach and their wealth.

There are conflicting stories about whether men and women (same family) sat together or not. Gladiators were the “studs” or “rockstars” of their day and one story says the men and women sat separately; the women sat in the very top rows under the awning, as far away from the Gladiators as possible. However, because the awning equipment was quite complicated to maneuver, apparently sailors had to be hired to work the system of pulleys and ropes so although the women were kept away from the Gladiators, they were close to the sailors… LOL 🙂

The vestal virgins used to sit where the cross is below. Young girls were selected (it was an honor for them to be chosen) to be a Vestal Virgin and for 30 years, they served in the role. They took a vow of chastity for the duration and they were not allowed to have children. They also trained the next set of Vestal Virgins. If they broke one of the rules, they were buried alive. No mercy in those times.

Public bathroom – all located on the ground floor of the Colosseum. Everyone shared a bench and used sticks that were left in a gutter in front of the bench that had running water to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. Ew.

After the Colosseum, our guide continued on to the Roman Forum.

This is the view from the back and shows the inner ring; the outer ring was destroyed in this area. You can see the base of the outer ring still on the ground (it looks like a white curb/sidewalk in the photo below) but that’s really where the outer ring would have been:

Notice how high the door is from the ground in the below picture. That’s because back in the day, the ground actually was at the same level as the door. The columns were buried several feet in the ground to make them more solid. They never got looted because the roman people were unable to pull them down with ropes (see the indents of rings in the columns a few feet below the capitas – those were made by ropes) because they were so solid.

The bottom steps show a children’s game (getting stones in the right circle) that the kids used to play while they waited for their parents to do their shopping and socialize at the Forum.

This was interesting. At the bottom is the ancient town hall ruins and the new one was built on top of it. For 2000 years this building was used as a town hall, old and new built in the same spot:

We had lunch at Ginger Salute e Sapori; for dessert we had the best tiramisu ever.

After lunch, off to the Pantheon we went to see the inside.

View without people:

View with people:

We visited Sant’Ignazio di Loyola specifically to see the trompe l’oeil dome. The church didn’t have funds to build a dome so they hired a painter to paint one to show the effect of a dome instead.

Painting of a dome:

The last stop was a stroll to the Spanish Steps. In our confused navigation, we ended up climbing a back staircase only to find ourselves at the top of the Spanish Steps and then we climbed down them. 🙂 I was winded!!!

For dinner we found a spot called Ai Tre Scalini and it was fabulous. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a glass of wine and aperitivo (snacks) while we waited for a table.


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Today we had an all day tour to Naples and the ruins of Pompeii. Naples was a short city tour and wasn’t super interesting. The city itself seems to have a ton of infrastructure issues with traffic, construction, run down buildings and just too many people to accommodate everyone comfortably (excluding tourists).  Not impressed but the main stop in Pompeii more than made up for it.

I only took a few pics of Naples:

View of Mount Vesuvius:

After a forgettable lunch in Pompeii, we finally arrived at the ruins and our guide gave us a great tour of the highlights:

Entertainment area with roman theater in the background:


House of a wealthy family:


Many bodies were preserved in the position in which they died. Very sad.

This was hilarious – a house of leisure 🙂

When you walk in, there were pictures on the walls of positions/acts like a catalog so the men could select what they wanted. It was hilarious!

Bed inside the house – normally there would be a mattress on top of the stone base:

After getting back to Roma, we found a great spot for dinner (craving pizza) called “Grazie a dio e venerdi” (Thank God it’s Friday). 🙂 After dinner, we crossed the street and had gelato (again!).

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We had booked a tour to skip the line to visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. I don’t know what expectations I had really, but what we visited blew me away. We took the subway (easy to navigate and free with our Roma Pass), then walked along the Vatican wall to the tour meeting point. (Lots of pics – couldn’t help myself – sorry! But none of the Sistine Chapel – not allowed).

What I loved learning was that many of the ceilings are painted – there is no structure / molding. What you see is a painting made to look like there are reliefs with shading, etc. Absolutely beautiful.

One of my favorites was the map room with accurately painted maps along the walls and a crazy beautiful ceiling:

On our way to St. Peter’s Basilica next door:

Michelangelo’s Pieta (the first of 3 on this trip):

After this, we stopped for a quick lunch nearby, then headed over to Castel Sant’Angelo. This fortress was originally designed to be Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum (and his family) and also became a place for the Pope to flee the Vatican in the event he was in danger (via a covered passageway).

View of the Vatican from the fortress:

A nice surprise was a cafe up along a curved side of the fortress where we stopped for dessert and coffee:

That evening we had also booked a Food Tour which consisted of several stops to taste traditional wine and food from Italy. This was awesome. We got to try fresh mozzarella di buffala, sundried tomatoes, pesto, lots of cheeses, truffle oil, various prosciuttos, pizzas, gnocchi, ravioli, calamari, gelato…I’m sure I’m forgetting some, not to mention lots of vino! We were a small group and we had a blast all evening. It’s official: Everything tastes better in Italia.


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Day 1 Italy – Arrival in Rome

At long last, it was finally time for our trip to Italia. We made final preparations on Saturday and had an overnight flight landing in Rome at 10am the Sunday morning. They had the new entertainment system on the plane and we had fun playing games (trivia, etc.) and watching movies (I watched the Queen of Katwe – pretty good) and managed to snooze a bit. View from the plane:

We picked up our Roma Passes at the airport and met our driver (arranged a pickup from the airport to our hotel), checked into the hotel, unpacked, and went out exploring right away. Best way to beat the jet lag is to get on local time ASAP so when we have an overnight flight, we stay up as long as possible and go to sleep as close to local bedtime to feel good the next day. View around the corner from our hotel:

We walked over to the Piazza Navona, saw the Pantheon (outside only – for now) and the Trevi Fountain and enjoyed the neighborhood exploration and looking at all the buildings and ruins everywhere you looked.


Piazza Navona:

Trevi Fountain:

We stopped for lunch at a recommended spot right next to the Pantheon called Antica Salumeria and it was fabulous.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped for our first taste of gelato. The first of many. 🙂

Found our way back to the hotel, finished unpacking, took a shower in a very tiny shower (seriously, dropping the soap was not an option) – but our room was clean and had everything we needed. The off to bed to get an early start tomorrow.

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We’ve been planning our trip to Italy for a couple of months or so now and will be visiting Rome and Florence in the fall, with day trips to Naples/Pompei (from Rome) and Siena/San Gimignano/Chianti/Monteriggioni (from Florence).

We’ll be in Italy for 11 days, which is the sweet spot for Chris and I – we start getting antsy for home at around the ten-day mark – don’t ask me why.

Below is our itinerary and as most Europe flights from North America, we’ll be taking an overnight flight which has us landing in Rome midday local time. I’m unable to sleep on a plane but try to stay awake until night-time (local time) to adjust to local time as quickly as possible.

We’ve booked our hotels, as well as the tours linked below. We’ll be buying the Roma Pass (unlimited public transportation and free entry to 2 museums) and the Firenze card (free entry to museums).

  • Day 1: Arrive in Rome: Walk/Explore, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps.
  • Day 2:
    • AM: Vatican tour (skip the line)  for Vatican museums, St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel
    • PM: Castel Sant’Angelo
    • 5:30pm: Roman Food Tour – progressive tour that stops in various spots in Rome for food and wine tastings.
  • Day 3: Day trip to Naples and Pompei – tour
  • Day 4:
    • AM: Ancient Rome and Colosseum tour (skip the line/beat the crowds)
    • PM: Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini (with all the “old” stuff planned, this looked like a cool option for something different – it combines ruins with virtual recreation to show what a roman villa would have looked like, as well as a basilica and WW2 bunker).
  • Day 5:
    • Rome to Florence by train
    • AM: Accademia museum
    • PM: Santa Maria Novella church and museum
  • Day 6:
    • AM: Duomo, Baptistery, Campanile (Bell Tower)
    • PM: Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens (probably have lunch in the gardens)
  • Day 7: Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti (lunch at Tuscan winery), Monteriggioni midieval fortress
  • Day 8:
    • AM: UIffizi Gallery
    • PM: Palazzo Vecchio, Mercato del Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Loggia del Lanzi, Santa Croce
  • Day 9: Free time in Florence for shopping, exploring, and visiting anything we ran out of time (or energy) to visit previously.
  • Day 10: Free time in Florence
  • Day 11: Depart

So excited to see the art and ruins, eat amazing food, drink fabulous wine and get lost in the side streets of Roma and Firenze. Ciao!! 🙂



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