I was invited to join a bunch of journalists (I know, me, posing as a journalist) recently on a trip to Rome to learn about tyres and tyre safety with Bridgestone (see other post for the tyre stuff – you can thank me later).
After the two days of serious stuff was over, we headed into Rome for a lovely dinner in the area “across the Tiber” Trastevere (Tevere being Tiber, tra[n]s being….you get the idea) in a little restaurant called L’Antico Moro. I was a bit under the weather so couldn’t do the menu (and wine list) justice, but we left well “fed and watered”.
Wandering around Rome at night was a particularly lovely way to end quite a busy day, and Carmine our guide was extremely knowledgeable – I have always been a “let’s just wander, get lost, find stuff, find our way, get lost again” type of person but his knowledge really improved what was already a great little walk.
This is a picture of a bridge I took – I hadn’t even seen the couple on the right….
We found, for example, the Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, which looked fabulous in the night – this picture doesn’t do it justice.
Then we headed back to the rather quirky hotel (lots of red and black, and a “Business Suite” with meeting room and bedroom attached – aye aye!) to prepare for our whistlestop walking tour the next day.
First stop on our morning wandering around Rome was the Coliseum, where you get allocated a time to enter – Carmine was very insistent we were on time, which we were…almost.
Here, his knowledge came into its own as we wandered around in a loose group, all listening to his radio commentary beamed to a receiver slung around our necks. No rushing to rejoin the group after being distracted by a particular photo you ‘need’.
We found out how the Emperor came into the Coliseum (a private gate and a secret tunnel, naturally), where the Vestal Virgins sat, how the animals made it into the arena (kept below the arena and lifted using trapdoors, who’d have thought?)
…..and how later literature and films probably invented the “thumbs up to live” from the Emperor. It is likely that the person paying for the whole gig, the “Editor” (thanks to Wikipedia for jogging my memory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladiator ) would spare gladiators who fought well, as they were expensive to train, house and feed.
All this from contemporary accounts, relayed by Carmine.
Leaving the Coliseum, we walked up an ancient road to the archaeological park. This is the bit of Rome that just blows your mind.
This, for instance is the remains of the temple of Vesta, where an eternal flame burned (hence the matches!) and the Vestal Virgins lived, chaste, until their 30th birthday.
You can see the Senate, the actual Senate, where Julius Caesar was murdered. There is almost too much to see and photograph, but this facade of the temple of Saturn caught my eye – still standing after so many years.
This ancient road passes the Forum, where citizens would play draughts (or a variant), scoring a board into the steps.
Leaving the archaeological park, we found a sculpture of the first ever selfie (Sally noticed that!)….
Then it was off to the Pantheon – 2000 years old and still an extraordinary building, newly-consecrated so no pictures.
We were so lucky with the weather, especially given the way the heavens had opened the day before and by the end of our tour we’d all started to get a bit parched. Carmine noticed and, after bringing us to the Piazza Navona in the sunlight next to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, we just about had time for an ice cream – a great way to finish our walking tour.
Well, you can’t come to Italy and not have ice cream, can you?
I hadn’t been to Rome before so this was an excellent introduction. A knowledgeable, entertaining guide and a great way to spend a few hours wandering around Rome.
Top panorama photo of Rome courtesy of Shutterstock