Sep 01

Romin’ about stilll

by in People we've met, Places we've been, Things we've seen

Monday. Coloseum tour day. Met Valentino our tour guide after a bit of confusion and spent the next 2 1/2 hours or so romin in the glomin.

This is an incredible place, given that it is 2000 years old, was abandoned in the 5th century, stripped of its decorations and its marble in the centuries following, was partially restored as a church in the 18th century (to which few Christians came because of its infamous history). The fact that it is so obviously still here is testament to the building capabilties of the ancient Romans despite the fact that much of the iron that was used to staple the building blocks together has been removed. See the holes in the walls…

Our tour guide Valentino was a character. Whilst speaking English she had a strong Italian accent which made her a little hard to understand at times but her strong desire to marry Russell Crowe was always easily understood. Even kept flashing his photo as the gladiator. We have been told via the tour bus commentaries that the Coloseum was opened in 40 AD with 100 days of games scheduled  to accommodate the unruly masses and distract them from their dissatisfaction with the ruling classes (free entry too whatsmore) and that in this period 5000 animals and 2000 gladiators met their end. Our tour guide disputed this saying that gladiators and animals were too expensive to lose and any loss of life was purely accidental. Who really knows the truth….

Valentino is in the red slacks with Monique and 7 foot son Dave to the left and rear with moi on the far left and Jude hoggin’ the limelight. Good job Valentino, you certainly know your stuff.

The floor of the  stadium was timber, covered in sand. Underneath were catacombs with elevators and trapdoors in the floor to facilitate the sudden emergence of actors or animals or other unwilling participants. Even at one stage the floor was flooded to accommodate boats to re-enact sea battles….

It remains an awsome edifice….

Then it was on to the Palatine Hills. This spot is said to have been the place where Romulus initiated Rome. In years following many Kings then Emporers chose this hill on which to build their palaces, many ruins ofwhich still exist….

some of which overlook Circus Maximus where the chariot racing took place. A bit like having an apartment on Queens Parade at the time of the Australian F1GP.

Footsore, overloaded with information and sweating like gladiators we called it a day and headed back to the hotel. Caught the peak hour rush – more footsore and sweating more like a team of gladiators we made it back for dinner.

So glad we did the guided bit – missed the 2 1/2 hour queue. Discovered though that having to remove my watch for the security scan at the coloseum and placing it in our carry-all, it didn’t make it back to the hotel with us. No-one got a good deal – it was a cheapy that had been playing up and had a cracked crystal.

Tuesday. Guided tour of Vatican City. Meet tour guide Massimo at 9.45am, jump the queue (which wasn’t all that long at this time) and join the other 32,000 daily visitors to this place. I think they were all in there before we arrived. It was packed. Fortunately after a lot of standing around we were issued with an audio pack so our guide could communicate with us. 4 1/2 hours later we were spat out the other end. Our guide spoke English but also with a very strong Italian accent and the audio equipment left a lot of words hanging so the commentary was a bit hard to follow, but I think we got the gist of it. Vatican City is over the top, demonstrably rich. 10 million visitors a year at at least 17 Euro each must help. The place houses some incredible artifacts and we didn’t actually get into the Vatican Museums – we went through one or two but didn’t stop. What we’re allowed to photograph is just some of the collected works and building features…

The Sistine Chapel is a no photo area – its also a no talkie area but the guards use loud speakers to tell you to “be quiet”. Its another model of hypocrisy, and we didn’t think much of the scupltors paintings either. Macabre, grotesque, hypocritical. But you have to see it to form your own opinion – we can’t show you pictures.

On to St Peters Basilica purportedly the largest in Italy if not the world. Yes, it is massive, it is grotesque and its over the top. It is ridiculous yet a magnificent engineering/architectural/artistic tour de force…

to give some perspective the letters over the top of the chancel are 6 feet high.

Then we got spat out into the the piazza where we at least got togawk at one  of the Swiss Guards…

then look back at Vatican City from a poor believers perspective….

What can one say!!

Next two days are catching some of Romes landmarks like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain  the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (purportedly the second biggest after St Peters) and  The Catacombs of San Sebastiano…

the latter a burial ground for initially pagans but then Christians and said to house the graves of 100,000 people of the 1st and 2nd centuries

Here endeth the sermon. We’re going home tomorrow and Jude says I can’t write this in Benalla – well I probably can’t write proper any where any way but youse a got what I gives ya.

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