Visiting the Ancient Monuments of Rome
15.05.2011 - 15.05.2011 69 °F
Sunday morning dawns bright and sunny, a brilliantly blue sky, temps around 69F. We make a quick breakfast, try to figure out the incomprehensible controls on the dishwasher, and give up and wash 'em by hand. We decide to take a scenic stroll on the Lungotevere, along the Tiber. We pull out our handy maps (we use a tiny Berlitz map as well as a bigger Knopf MapGuide, fill our Pacsafe 200, and off we go. It's a beautiful walk. Bicycles are passing on the pedestrian path that lines the river, the sycamore trees are rustling in the breeze, life couldn't be better! The gentle breeze and rustling sycamores also have a less fortunate effect: mounds of fluff wafting through the air, pollen and such being shed by the trees. It gets in our eyes and hair. Within a few blocks, everyone walking along the Lungotevere is hacking and coughing, tears streaming down their faces.
As I look down to shake some of the tree fluff from my hair, I spy a 10 Euro note laying on the sidewalk. I stop, and look around warily. Is it a trap? Some sort of Roman pickpocket scam? Will John Quinones jump out of the bushes to confront me if I pick it up? We wait a few moments. No one seems to be looking for dropped money, and none of the other passersby notice it. Cautiously, I pick it up an pocket it. Mrs. Zuke warns me, "Instant Karma's gonna get you!"
We stroll past the Temple of Hercules Victor and the remains of the ancient Circus Maximus where chariots once thundered, and we climb the slope of Palatine Hill.
Our idea is to get to the entrance to the Palatine Hill, where we've heard that the ticket lines are shorter, and buy a set of Roma Passes for our visit. We arrive at the Palatine (which is also the entrance to the Forum) and find a very disorganized line snaking about. We join what we think is the end of the line, and patiently wait for about 45 minutes. As we near the entrance, we find our line is merging with another, and we are angrily rebuffed by tourists on the other line. Turns out the line we joined wasn't the actual ticket line....it was the line for people trying to CUT the ticket line.
Ticketless, we decide to try our luck at the Colosseum instead. The plaza in front of the Colosseum is a veritable sea of people, and it's obvious it will take several hours to wait on the line here. We spy a sign for an alternate ticket booth somewhere on Via Foro Romano, so we try to find it.
Via Foro Romano is hysterical. The sides of the road are lined with street performers, living statues, posing gladiators, and, somewhat incongruously, an Andean Pan Flute band. Hot and thirsty, we spot a Tabacchi shop, and stop in for water. We are surprised to find that all Tabacchi shops sell Roma Passes, a fact we missed in our research. We pony up our €25 each and buy the Roma Pass package.
TIP: There are lots of discussions about how to most effectively use the Roma Pass to get the most bang for your buck and take advantage of the free and discounted entrance fees. My opinion? Just get one. The time you will save by not waiting on line at even a single site makes it well worth any premium you might pay by not utilizing it to the fullest. In addition, the included 3 days of transportation without the hassle of buying metro and bus tickets makes it a no-brainer. Just stop in to any Tabacchi shop and pick one up for a no-hassle experience.
Roma Pass in hand and Rick Steves in our ears, we enter the Colosseum of Rome, and marvel at the incredible feat building something this massive without the benefit of modern equipment.
Rome is holding a month of exhibitions on the reign of the emperor Nero, and many places, including the Colosseum have auxiliary exhibits about him. The exhibit at the Colosseum features artifacts from the Domus Aurea, Nero's "Golden House".
From our vantage point in the Colosseum, we gaze out over the Arch of Constantine, and notice that umbrellas are starting to come out. Time to visit the Roman Forum. The rain causes vendors selling umbrellas to sprout out of nowhere. Since there's very little shelter at the Forum, and we're not wearing jackets since the day started out so clear, we give up half of our found money, and buy a €5 umbrella.
TIP: No offense intended to our local weather forecasters, but the Italians seem to be much better at it. The daily forecasts were accurate to within a degree, and when they predicted rain, you could indeed count on rain. Even if the skies are blue, heed the forecast!
As we leave the Colosseum, heading to the Roman Forum, it begins to drizzle.
Breezing past the queue at the Forum with our Roma Passes, we decide to bypass the Palatine Hill, and head into the Forum. Again, we attempt to use the Rick Steves audio tour, but somehow got out of sync. Apparently, there's a big difference between the Temple of Julius Caesar and the Basilica of Julius Caesar! If you use the Rick Steves tour, for any site, be sure to start it before you even get in line. Often, his tours start from the exterior of the site you're visiting.
As we tour the Forum, two things happen. The rain starts in earnest, and my mp3 player (which I'm using for the audio tour) dies. I attempt to share an earbud with my wife's mp3 player. For the record, trying to share earbuds while holding an umbrella and walking on slippery paths = frustration and high likelihood of personal injury.
By the time we reach the end of the Forum tour, we are each half-soaked, and it really begins to pour. As we exit the forum, I spot another umbrella vendor, and give up the other half of the €10 note we had picked up. Within mere moments, the rain stops. Karma has been achieved, and the universe is again in balance.