Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rome Day 2

Saturday morning, Bobby and I awoke looking forward to enjoying the 'Breakfast' part of our 'Bed and Breakfast' lodgings. We went to the managers room and knocked on the door. George Salvador, the manager of Salvador's B&B, opened the door and told us in his very limited English, "Ok, follow." We followed him out the door, into the street, and into a cafe a block away. He then said, "Cafe? Cappuccino? Tea?" It turns out the the breakfast included with the lodgings is a drink and a breakfast pastry from this local cafe! Not quite what we were expecting, but it filled us up and gave us our required caffeine. We then headed off to the Palatine Hill and Colosseum.

Directly across from the Colosseum lies the Palatine Hill. According to legend, this hill is where Romulus and Remus were found by a she-wolf that kept them alive. It is also where Romulus killed Remus and founded Rome in 753 BCE. Legend also claims it to be the place where Hercules killed Cacus. Whether these legends hold any truth, the Palatine is indeed a remarkable place for its large amount of ancient ruins. Overlooking the Roman Forum, the Palatine was ancient Rome's poshest neighborhood; many of the emperors lived there, starting with Emperor Augustus. Augustus, who ruled Rome from 31 BCE - 14 ACE, was the great-nephew of Julius Ceasar. Augustus built a large palace on the Palantine hill, which remained the imperial residence for over 3oo years. These days you can still see many of the floors and walls of different parts of the buildings. There is also a well-preserved stadio, pictured here, a stadium used by the emperors for private games and events.

Next to the Palantine Hill is the Roman Forum, a shopping mall, civic center, and religious complex all rolled into one. In use from the 7th c. BCE to the 4th c. ACE, there are well-preserved ruins of the Tempio de Antonino e Faustina (a temple built in 141 ACE, which was transformed into a church in the 8th c.), pictured here, the Tempio di Giulio Cesare (a temple erected on the spot where Ceasar was cremated, it was created in 29 BCE), the Curia (where the Roman Senate met, it was also later converted into a church in the Middle Ages), and the Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimus Severus, built in 203 ACE to celebrate the Roman victory over the Parthians).

Several other ruins of pagan temple have been incorporated into Catholic churches. The Chiesa de Santa Francesca Romana (built during the 10th c.) incorporates part of the Tempio de Venere e Roma (Temple of Venus and Rome, built in 121 ACE, it was the largest temple in Rome). Inside of the church is the skeleton of Saint Francesca Romana, the patron saint of car drivers.

Before we headed into the Colosseum, we stopped for a photo at the Arco di Costantino, which was built in 312 ACE to honor Constantine following his victory during the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Bobby and I wandered all over the massive Colosseum. We were there on a Saturday afternoon, which was pretty cool because I thought the USC Trojan football team would be playing in the Los Angeles Colosseum during California's Saturday afternoon. Turns out it was an away game, but the thought was neat...

Back to the Colosseum: built by Emperor Vespian, the Colosseum was inaugurated in 80 ACE. The inaugural games lasted 100 days, during which some 5000 animals were slaughtered as part of the games. Truly colossus in size, the stadium could hold 50,000 spectators, all of whom could be entered and seated in a few minutes thanks to the 80 entrance arches. The floor of the Colosseum was a true marvel for its time. Trap doors led down to the underground chambers that held the animals and sets for the battles. The animals and sets would be lifted onto the main floor by a complicated set of pulleys. It took over 200 men to make it all work!

That evening we saw the Vittoriano, a huge white building built to commemorate Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. Completed in 1935, many Romans dislike it and refer to it as either The Wedding Cake or The Typewriter. Their feelings are very similar to the Parisians feelings about the Eiffel Tower.

As we walked through the winding streets around the Vittoriano and the Pantheon, we came across this street musician. Called the Bird Man, he had an amazing set-up: while playing the accordion, he was also pushing horns, bells, and wood blocks with his feet and making bird calls with a whistle in his mouth! We stopped and watched him for about 10 minutes, then bought one of his CDs.

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