You know that game, Jenga, where you build a tower of wooden blocks and then knock it down? Well if you imagine playing that with 20m long 100 ton decorated marble pieces the resulting mess after the knock-down is what most of current Rome is built on or around. There are 2,000 year old bits of junk everywhere, some of interesting some not. The trick is to find the good bits and ignore the rest, unless you’re an archeologist or academic studying Roman history. For the latter it seems there is still plenty to be found. Reading Wiki earlier I found out that in 2006 & 2007 they made significant discoveries beneath the Palatine Hill.
Did you know most of the columns here were not made in Rome? Despite their indisputable construction skills the Romans were unable to make columns in anything other than slices joined together with pins so if you see ones made in one piece it came from either Egypt or Greece. Most of those in the Forum area are Greek, the ones out front of the Pantheon came from Egypt. That’s a lot of hard work to roll them to the Nile, ship to the port of Ostia in Italy and then up the Tiber before unloading near the mausoleum of Augustus and rolling to final location. Apparently the current Pantheon was built by Hadrian on the site of the one built by Agrippa, whose name appears on the front. Also vaguely interesting is that the color of the marble used in any particular building indicates how far the Roman Empire had grown by the time
Today we headed south from the hotel. We picked up Bernini’s elephant “Pulcino Della Minerva” followed by the turtle fountain and then the Jewish ghetto. What city is complete without a Jewish ghetto, eh? I’m worried about the way Jewish ghettos become comparable with Irish pubs as good places for tourists to visit, with the key difference being that most of the time they are actually sites associated with something Jewish (oppression usually) whereas the Irish connections are often tenuous at best.
This ghetto was following the same formula as most others, tall buildings left in poor (but trendy) condition with numerous restaurants and cafes to choose from. We had a nice coffee stop at one in the morning and a not so great meal stop on our way back. Golden rule – if you eat at anywhere within eyesight of an attraction you’re going to get crap food for a high price. My crap food, Kosher of course, consisted of luke-warm chick pea soup followed by anchovies baked in grass. Similar results were had by all and it cost €70. We know from the last two evenings we can get good home-made pasta and stuff for less than €50. That’s it with the well located eateries!
From the Jewish area we crossed the Tiber and back again passing what remains of the Ponte Emilio, the oldest stone bridge in Rome from the 2nd century BC. By then we were upon the Boca della Verita so we had to stick our hand in its mouth. Then off to the Circus Maximus, once a giant chariot racing stadium and general place of entertainment for around 150,000 spectators, now a pretty boring patch of grass between the Aventine and Palatine hills.
On our way to the colosseum we passed the entrance to the Palatine hill and decided to take a look. Having just missed the free guided tour we hijacked another tour which brought to life an otherwise relatively dull hill full of rocks. The original settlement of Rome and the etymological origin of the word palace there have been people living there since 1,000 BC including several emperors of the Roman Empire such as Augustus (adopted son of Julius Caesar and first emperor of Rome), Tiberius & Domitian. You can see why they lived there aside from the historical reasons, the atmosphere was lovely up there. Fresh scented air and orange groves, must be nice in the summer.
From there we dropped down and did the colosseum, still impressive the second time around. After that we’d had our fill for one day and decided to skip the main part of the forum, which we have done before anyway and headed slowly back to camp.
I was going to mention the ridiculous number of law enforcement people in Rome but reading up on it it seems this is well known and so nothing unusual for Italy at least. They are everywhere, in great numbers. Are we expecting an attack by an army of embittered illegitimate Berlusconis?
Law enforcement in Italy is provided by eight separate police forces, six of which are national groups in Italy. During 2005 in Italy, the number of active police officers from all agencies totaled 324,339, the highest number in the European Union both overall and per capita, twice the number of agents in the similarly sized United Kingdom
Tomorrow is another day.
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