Day 12: The Eternal City

 

Tuscan Countryside – Rome

June 5, 2019

Today was a very early morning, and the sleep was not the best last night. Since our A/C wasn’t working, we kept the window open a little bit so we could stay cool. It was a really neat concept–the window didn’t open immediately to the outside. Instead, there was a piece of wall that acted as a barrier to the outside. We could rotate the barrier holding down a switch next to it, and a motor slowly rotated the wall to be perpendicular to the window, allowing fresh air to come in and create a view from the outside.  Since the low was about 57 degrees, though, I had to get up and shut it in the middle of the night. I was also suffering a bit from an allergy to something in the Tuscan air. It really hit me in Florence and continued through the night. Just a bit of congestion and the sense that my nose was on fire. Fortunately it went away in the morning, but it didn’t help with my sleep.

After getting going for the day and having a good breakfast (this was the first time I didn’t have a chocolate croissant for breakfast since our breakfast in Greenwich!) we started our short 3 hour journey to Rome. It was wonderful to see the Tuscan countryside pass by again. So much charm to the area.  We actually made a nonstop trip this time, since Jean didn’t need to take any breaks along the way in order to follow his European driving laws. We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Cristoforo Colombo, another 4 star hotel! This one is way nicer than the one in Tuscany though, so I am still super confused about what the hotel star system means. We weren’t able to check in to our rooms yet because we got there around 11:30 and check in wasn’t until 2:00. The staff let us check in our luggage and put it in a locked room off to the side. Afterwards we headed to the shopping mall next door to get some lunch.

The mall was amazing!  From the outside you wouldn’t have realized it, however.  After walking through an oddly nice parking garage, we went in the mall via some flat, slightly uphill escalators. Later we found out that they are flat because there is a grocery store in the mall.  Reaching the top, we found ourselves in an extra fancy mall, complete with decorative obelisks, gold accents, a coffered arch ceiling featuring 3 large domes throughout the building, elegant chandeliers, and 3 stories of shops! 

Euroma2
Inside the Euroma 2 shopping mall

Our main mission was to find some food. We ended up finding the food court, which allowed Emily and I to get food from different places. Emily was feeling a Panini and got the California Panini (haha) and I was feeling some pasta and got some lasagne. My meal was pretty good, but I think the lasagne in Menton was better. This was different though, it had a TON more cheese in it and less meat. But of course, it was still good.

After getting all fueled up, we headed into the city for our walking tour. The public transportation took quite a while since our hotel was near the edge of the city. There was also some construction that threw off the city bus route.  We ended up taking a bus to the metro station, and then riding the metro for about 10 or so stops. We finally arrived and met our tour guide Anna at the Spanish Steps. They were apparently named after the lower plaza– Piazza di Spagna, which means “The Spanish Square”. The square gets its namesake due to the fact that the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See was located nearby. The steps themselves led up to Trinità dei Monti church. 

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps

The next stop on our tour was the Trevi Fountain, an immaculate beautiful fountain that was meant to emphasize the importance of water for the Roman empire. Tradition has it that if you throw €1 over your shoulder, then you will return to Rome one day, but if you throw €2 over your shoulder then you will return to Rome AND find love. There are about €3,000 tossed into this fountain every day, and most of the money goes to feed the poor and help families in need.

Trevi Fountain
Panorama of the Trevi Fountain

It was at this point when we got some gelato from a place recommended by our tour guide. MAN was it good. I got chocolate and mint, and I think it’s the best gelato I’ve ever had!  There was an odd situation come up when I tried to pay for it. Emily was already in line so I caught up to her so we could pay. I only had a €50 note. I think the lady thought I was French, so she tried to talk in French, but then she called over an assistant and he asked if I was French. “No,” I said, “England!” I meant to say English, but then England came out, haha! As soon as I said that, everything seemed fine and she made change for me, and we could go. She may have been concerned that I cut people in line…not sure. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I do know the gelato was amazing!

One thing our guide told us is that they sometimes rename streets. But instead of change the sign and replace the name, they keep the old street name signs.

Roman road signs for the same street

At this point, our tour guide handed out headsets for us, so she could talk into a mic and we could listen through an earpiece via a wireless transmission. So nice to be able to hear and not only catch ever other word! Next we stopped at the Pantheon. There is a hole in the top of the dome of the Pantheon, about 8 feet in diameter. Apparently, because sacrifices were done under this hole, rain would not enter the pantheon because the fire would cause the rain to evaporate. Today though, rain gets in because the fire is not present. Beautiful building! 

The Pantheon
The Pantheon (classic example of a coffered ceiling)

Next stop was a church, but I can’t remember which one it was. I believe it was around this point in the tour where our guide mentioned how low the original elevation of the ancient buildings were compared to the current elevation.  It was probably a difference of 10 to 12 feet!

Elevation difference
Elevation difference of ancient elevation and present day elevation

Finally, we headed to the ancient section of the city. We passed the building from which Mussolini declared war, from the balcony over the Piazza Venezia, which was just down the street from a massive monument called Altare della Patria. Finally we headed down the road and we saw the Colosseum in the distance! With Roman ruins on our left, we approached the Colosseum as we learned lots about the Roman empire, what caused it to expand, and what ultimately caused it to fall.

Balcony over the Piazza Venezia
Balcony over the Piazza Venezia

 

Altare della Patria (English: Altar of the Fatherland)

And there it was! The Colosseum! It’s amazing to see with your own eyes. Such a historic, ancient landmark…so glad to have finally seen it!  We thanked our tour guide and handed in our devices. After taking a few pictures, we headed back to the subway, then to the bus, then to our hotel.

The Roman Coliseum
The Roman Colosseum

We wanted to cool off from the heat of Rome in the hotel pool! We got changed and joined several of the folks on our tour in a quick dip in the pool. One funny incident that occurred was during the walk to the pool. We had to walk maybe 2 or 3 minutes to get there since there are several buildings in this hotel complex. Once we got to the pool, I saw the lifeguard waiting to hand me a towel, which was good because I hadn’t brought one. All of a sudden, I drop about 6 inches into a puddle of water, sandals and all. Apparently, they have a little water feature on the path to the pool, where you can take your shoes off and walk through the shallow water before reaching the pool area. Oops! Missed that one. At least I didn’t fall flat on my face!

Shallow pool
The shallow water feature on the way to the Pool at our hotel in Rome

After a nice swim we cleaned up and headed to an included dinner at our hotel restaurant. It was very nice, with Penne Bolognese as a starter, followed by pork roast and chips as an Entree, and a combination between flan and cheesecake for dessert. Still not sure what it was exactly.  I also had a glass of white wine that went well with the pork. A perfectly satisfying meal, not too little and not too much. We also enjoyed having some conversations with the Parks and the Soutters.

One last thing on our list for the evening was to get some cash and some metro tickets for the next day.  Apparently both of these things could be found in the mall. We headed next door and lo and behold, we found the ATM! Thankfully it had a language setting where we could display English. We also got 4 1-way passes at the Tobacco store for the metro tomorrow. Looking forward to another day in Rome!

Step Metrics: 14,303 steps; 6 miles; 649 cal; 2h 36m time

 

Self Q&A

Q: What ultimately caused the Roman empire to fall?

A: The History Channel summed it up nicely by providing 8 reasons.

  1. Invasions by Barbarian tribes
  2. Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor
  3. The rise of the Eastern Empire
  4. Overexpansion and military overspending
  5. Government corruption and political instability
  6. The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes
  7. Christianity and the loss of traditional valuesWeakening of the Roman legions
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