Ciao, Roma!

(Note: This is copied and pasted from Facebook which is copied and pasted from a travel journal that I did for our kids {which is why I call John “Dad”}….but I decided to put all four days into one long blog post so I can find it more easily later. So, you may have already seen this on Facebook – although this probably has more photos –  and can skip on by!)

Finally ready to get on the plane, after months of preparation!
This is how Molly (Jake and Alyssa’s dog) looked at me when I told her we’d be gone for two months… 😦

Yesterday (Friday, June 23) – arrived at hotel around noon. Pretty easy flight, only 8 ½ hours and only about 3 of those in the dark (we slept maybe 1 ½ or 2 hrs). We had good bulkhead seats, no one in front of us, and just the two of us – the airplane was an older one- two seats on both outsides and three in the middle). Had to ask for a converter because no power outlets, only a cigarette lighter type outlet, but a flight attendant went and got us a converter so we could charge our phones. No TV at each seat either, but the bulkhead right in front of us had a pretty big TV screen (for the whole section behind us) so we watched Beauty & the Beast – I’d seen it but John hadn’t. Loved it!

Took a shared taxi / minivan with two other families to get to our hotel. The driver spoke very little English but Dad sat up front and of course tried to learn his life story 😉 and also to ask map questions while the guy was driving…

We are at the Hotel Medici. It’s on a little side street, not too bad but very European. Small. I’ll add photos when I can. The room is taller than it is wide 😉 Across from two little Italian restaurants. We can look from our window into a window across the street, looks like they’re remodeling an apartment.

Our room at the Hotel Medici, on Flavia street

We stumbled across Diocletian’s baths yesterday and it was pretty interesting but we were tired and dehydrated. So after we ate at the little cafe across the street and then had some gelato (sorry, didn’t like it…too melty and super STRONG flavors…I’ve had it before and didn’t like it) we felt better and decided to walk to the Trevi Fountain. We walked and found a fountain…I thought – wow, there’s not nearly as many people here as they said there would be, and it’s not nearly as large as I thought it would be…then we realized it was the TRITON Fountain. So we walked some more and found the Trevi and also about 4000 others. It was fun though, and a fun evening walk through the city.

Near Diocletian’s baths
John taking a bath in one of Diocletian’s pieces of decorative statuary
At Diocletian’s baths
Trevi fountain
Trevi Fountain
So many people at the Trevi fountain!

Saturday, June 24 – Breakfast was here at the hotel, no eggs – but I’d read that their breakfasts here are more pastry like, and they were. They did have deli ham that was good (and since I won’t be having ham or bacon for the next couple months…might as well tank up) 🙂 and cheese and a good coffee and some of that packaged toast with little packages of NUTELLA, yum! And a section of pastries that Dad said “If you want one of those, I wouldn’t mind having a bite…” So he wants ME to get one so HE can eat it. 😉

Lots of nude statues everywhere, people asking for handouts. People everywhere pulling suitcases – we wondered if they’re moving from hotel to hotel? Not sure. Did I mention smoke? There don’t seem to be any non-smoking areas around. And I feel like that video of the little horse trying to keep up with the big horse – trying to keep up with Dad. And…Italians are beautiful people. 🙂

Decided to walk to the Coliseum. Took us just under an hour – lots to see along the way. Took several side streets that have high fashion stores right next door to “vintage” (resale) shops. Broken glass all along the streets. The closer we got – the more people we seemed to see. Like “all roads lead to Rome” – we felt like “all tourists lead to Coliseum”… 🙂Pretty neat, our first glimpse of it at the end of a long road.

First glimpse of the Coliseum at the end of the street

When you reach the Coliseum there are TONS of men selling hats, umbrellas, “waterwaterwater” that sounds like “wadawadawada”, selfie sticks, “extra special tours” and more. And as we walked up, and the size and shape and positioning of the Coliseum – I couldn’t help thinking of how it feels when we’ve walked up to the UT football field when the game has already started – the cheers and boos and yells and the music and just the huge level of noise and excitement in the air. I thought – what did it sound like then? Surely it must’ve been a similar sound with a similar feel, except with the sounds of screams from those being chased by animals and gladiators, and gasps from the crowds, roars from lions and screams from panthers…I couldn’t help thinking of Russell Crowe in Gladiator, when he said “Are you not entertained?” Incredible to think what people were “entertained” by back then.

We had already bought an “archaeological pass” for entrance into the Coliseum, the baths we went to yesterday, and several other sites, but found a guide to take us through. The lines were crazy long – not so bad if you were in a tour group. Tour was interesting. She was Italian – spoke good English but their accents are fun. She said things like – “The PEOPLE, after Nero gone, they say ‘we do not LOVE you we do not adMIRE you so we will not reMEMber you’” with LOTS of emphasis on lots of syllables…very animated. Makes me want to start talking like them. “Can you MAKE me some COFFee please…” 😉

The Coliseum – when you’re walking around in something built in 80 AD, you have to trust that the Italian government is still doing structural engineering tests…

We walked all through the Coliseum except for the bottom part (where the compartments are, you’ve seen pics…you have to pre-book a tour to go down there.) Got lots of video and pictures. Gazillions of people.

I learned that technically, it isn’t the “Coliseum” but the “Anfiteatro Flavio” – the Flavian amphitheater. Begun construction in 72 AD, completed in 80 AD – mostly using slaves from then recently conquered Jerusalem. One of our guides today said that “Rome didn’t fall apart, it was taken apart.” I suppose in some ways. I think the society fell apart – in part because of the way the people chose to live. But he was referring to many of the architecture and structures that were taken apart like vultures after something dies. The golden statue of Colossus melted for its gold, marble columns taken to use elsewhere. In that sense, I guess Rome was taken apart.

I also learned what a “vomitorium” is – a passage where big crowds can leave after performances. I guess we could call the foyer at the church building a vomitorium?

The Coliseum vendors were sold out of water. How do you sell out of water on a 95 degree day?? We could go OUT to buy water from the “waterwaterwater” guys but then we’d have to wait in lines to come back in. We had water in Dad’s backpack thing but it was getting warm. Better than nothing.

John using his Osmo camera stabilizer
The Coliseum is just as “impressive” as I imagined it would be
Hurts my heart to know what went on here
Guide showing how the animals were brought into the arena
Floor of the Coliseum
my best friend!

We had a little snack from our backpacks and at 1:30 went out to meet the tour guide #2 for the Forum, “Christian” with Canadian father and Italian mother born in Maryland (guess who asked him???) 😉 We went exploring, taking pics and video. The detailing on Arch of Titus (or Arc of Tito, as it’s called here) was really fascinating.

The Arch of Constantine – just outside the Coliseum
In the area of the Roman Forum
In the area of the Roman Forum
In the area of the Roman Forum
In the Arch of Titus, a relief depicting how the spoils of Jerusalem were carried away to Rome
The Arch of Titus

Found a coffee bar at the top of a hill in the Forum. It was about 3:30 and we hadn’t eaten anything…they had some bad pizza and “coffee cream” – tasted like coffee flavored thick melted ice cream, not bad but I was hoping for the icy granita style coffee. It’s everywhere in Israel but I haven’t seen it here. Anyway, it helped to tide us over until we could find a decent supper.

Coffee cream – like melted coffee ice cream. Thick. Tasted good but too rich for me!

Left the Forum/Coliseum area around 5:30 for the long walk back…our joints were creaking by then. 21,000 steps today. We ate at a little sidewalk Italian place not far from the hotel. We both had Fettucine Bolognese, and shared a Caesar salad and some wild berry cheesecake that was yum. (Don’t tell Italy, but Mandola’s Spaghetti Bolognese is better. But the pasta was fresh, so that was better…) It was hard to get back up! And we smelled – like Pawpaw used to say – like mountain goats. 🙂

Back in the room now. Italian serenading and accordion playing going on at the restaurant across the street, one floor below us. 😉

Sunday, June 25 (six months til Christmas, y’all!)

It’s always fun to people watch at breakfast in a hotel…there are those like Dad who are definitely morning people, chatterboxes and energetic. Then there are the opposites (sorta like me) who stare into space until the coffee has taken effect. (And oh, by the way, I put one of my hazelnut creamers into the side pocket of my backpack Thursday morning, so I could get to it really easily for breakfast on the flight Friday morning. Somewhere between security at DFW and the Chicago to Rome flight, it must have fallen out. Almost cried…pretty sure I had tears in my eyes. Pretty sure I need to learn to live without it…)

We couldn’t ever find any information or recommendations for a congregation anywhere near where we are, so we worshipped together in our room this morning. Dad read 1 Corinthians 11, and I started reading Matthew 27, but he had to finish. There’s something about reading out loud that brings things to life…I just couldn’t read beyond “the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him…” I know I’ve read it before, many times, but the image of gathering the whole battalion of soldiers in front of Jesus while they stripped him and mocked him – reading it out loud – hurt, and I couldn’t finish the reading. Dad had brought some communion cups, the kind that have it all packaged together. We sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” and prayed, and read about Paul coming to Rome.

Some little issues came up (nothing huge) and we couldn’t get to the Pantheon this morning. But Dad needed some video footage of some statues of emperors/bad guys, etc., so we walked to Lonely Planet’s (a great app, thanks Jonathan!) “top choice” art museum not too far away, called the Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. (Fun to say that with Italian emphasis…mooZAYo nazee-o-NAH-le rrroMAH-no puhLAHzo MAHsseemo allay TERmay…I have no idea if I’m saying it right, but I’m having fun with it.) I’m not all that crazy about art galleries, sorry to you art-lovers. It was HOT inside, too, and they wouldn’t let Dad take his “selfie stick” (Dad did say rather indignantly, “it’s NOT a selfie stick…” to the guy at the metal detector – but he just lifted his shoulders and eyebrows and pointed us to the cloakroom where we had to leave his backpack and selfie-stick-Osmo.

And lots more very nude statues…but we did see some pretty neat marble statuary from 1st century BC and later – busts of emperors Hadrian and Nero, among others, and Alexander the Great. And some impressive mosaics. There were little sensors on the bases of the displays that would make a horrendous noise if we reached over even just to point something out.

We were there til about 1, and had plans to be at some catacombs by 2, so we had a quick lunch and then took a taxi a couple of miles north to the Catacombs of Priscilla. It’s a Catholic site, and we learned after we got there that “the Vatican” does not allow pictures or videos :/ Sorry, but I had already taken a few. We had to wait about 45 minutes for an English guide, and ended up with 10-15 other English speakers. I hadn’t even thought about claustrophobia until someone asked the guide if anyone ever had any problems with it. Then I realized we were going underground, not my favorite place…but I’m still facing my fears (not enough to do Hezekiah’s tunnel though!) – and I’d seen some pictures in the gift shop of what it looked like down below and it didn’t seem terrible.

We went through some locked doors and down a bunch of marble steps and the guide put a coat on! I had thought to bring a scarf because I knew it’d be cooler…but I wasn’t expecting him to put a coat on. But I never got cold – just nice and cool. He took us down and around corners and past all kinds of corridors – I think the thing that made me the most nervous was that there were so many twists and turns that it would be super easy to get lost down there. But it wasn’t tight, and there were lights so I was only slightly claustrophobic. It really was interesting – he said there were EIGHT MILES of interconnected tunnels that made up the catacombs. I was surprised at how narrow and small many of the burial “shelves” were. I know I’ve read before that some will put the bodies in a place where it decomposes, and then they take the bones and “bury” it in a crypt in a catacomb. Dad said he thought people weren’t as big back then – I don’t see how some would have fit in these little crypts. They were stacked one on top of another – some were tiny, for children I guess. He said it was a myth that Christians, during the time that they were persecuted, hid to worship down in the catacombs. I don’t know what the truth is.

The shelves were much narrower and less deep than I imagined
John was forever wandering off…

While we were waiting for the tour to start I had picked up a little book for “explaining the catacombs to children”. It mentioned in there that very little was found in the burial sites with the Christians buried in the catacombs below, like was found with the Egyptians – food, money, etc for the “afterlife”. And I thought – it must have been because Christians understood that what was beyond this life was better, and they didn’t need any of the earthly stuff to “go with them”.

After the tour, we walked the couple of miles back to our hotel. We went through a pretty ritzy residential neighborhood with beautiful homes. Went through a gate into a park area – it had high walls around everywhere except at this gate entrance – huge pine trees, not the kinds we’re used to, these have visible trunks (I think of ours as having the trunks completely covered with branches) and they’re super tall. But I know they are some sort of pine – I can smell them, and there are pine needles all over the ground. This park led down a steep hill to some sort of pond. People were laying in the sun and bicycling and playing frisbee – looked and felt just like home except for the Italian language everywhere! It was like a little hidden getaway behind those tall walls.

Love the trees in Rome
And this house with vines growing all over
Pretty architecture
Huge doors
More beautiful design

We got back to the hotel around 6 and sat down with the computer to make reservations for one of those open-top buses to tour around the city, and then dashed out again and walked the mile or so to Termini Station, where all of the buses (and the metro, I think) meet, and where our “Big Bus” was supposed to pick up every fifteen minutes. After huffing and puffing (without supper) we got down there at 7:30 only to find out that the last bus pulls out at 7. 😦 We might have been a little bit hangry right about then…

So we walked back, this time a little slower, and tried another of the little Italian restaurants on our street. Sat outside again – Dad had lasagne and (cold, like cold on purpose) asparagus. I tried carbonara again – it was better than the first time I tried it but I have been surprisingly underwhelmed and just not all that impressed by the food. I’m sure we’re just not going to the right places, but by the time we have time to eat, we don’t want to walk another couple of miles. Anyway, it was good enough, and we topped it off with a cappuccino.

Sky was beautiful
More Pasta Carbonara!

Back at the hotel now – and Dad is mapping out our strategy for the Vatican tomorrow. It’s a completely separate COUNTRY, so we have to take our passports. We will walk back to Termini station as early as we can, and take the Big Bus (the one we couldn’t take tonight – we purchased 2 day tickets) around to the different stops: Piazza Indipendenza, not sure what that is…then Coliseum, Circo Massimo (we know as Circus Maximus), Piazza Venezia (if we get going early enough, we can hop off here and see the Pantheon, then get back on), then it stops at the Vatican and we’ll get off. We have reservations to get in at noon (not a tour, just to get in, not sure if we’re taking a guided tour or if we’ll just use the headphones we’ve reserved). Doubting we’ll be able to get much video/photos there – if they wouldn’t let us at the Catacombs of Priscilla – surely they won’t here, but we’ll see. If Dad gets thrown in the Vatican prison, I’ll be calling y’all for bail money. 🙂 When we’re done, we’ll get back on the big bus, and we’ll just ride around tomorrow evening. Sounds nice. 🙂


Monday, June 26

Today was really, really, REALLY hot. Walked 19,701 steps. Got asked “wanna skeep the line?” about 3000 times (we wished we’d had a sign that we could just hold up that said “WE ALREADY HAVE TEEKITS!”) Dad said “Man, I think it’s easier to get into heaven than into the Vatican…” 😉

I’ve never experienced crowds like today at the Vatican museum. And very little – if any – air conditioning. It was like a really bad Six Flags ride – in fact, like the log ride…slowly bumping back and forth, jostling against strangers, going up little hills and down little hills, following a pre-ordained path…and once you get on you can’t get off…sweating profusely. All heading toward one destination – the Sistine Chapel (where I got in trouble, by the way, for videoing the ceiling…) I think we swapped more germs with more people from more countries today than ever before.

And I’ve never seen opulence like today at the Vatican museum. Every centimeter of every wall was covered either in a fresco or tiles or gold leaf, every inch of every available surface had something on it…I couldn’t believe all of the art and treasures and historical objects they have. I’ve been told and I’ve read about it…but it was staggering. Rooms and rooms and rooms of gigantic tapestries and detailed cartography. Marble busts and statues (nude of course, but some have fig leaves – one pope, during his reign {is it a reign?} campaigned to cover them up) – so many of them, there was a long, long room with shelves lining the walls with the busts stacked one top of the other. It’s like they’ve got so much stuff they don’t know what to do with it. And I couldn’t help wondering how much $$ they take in every day – if a ticket is approximately $20 – just to get in, not counting guided tour prices – and there are THOUSANDS waiting in LONG lines to get in…they are making millions and millions. It was not a *fun* day but it was certainly eye opening. Dad got lots of video and I got photos. A couple of times he’d be backing up trying to get the perfect shot and I was seeing him backing into a statue, and imagining the domino effect in the Vatican… 😉 After a while we were just tired of it all and wanted to get out, but we had to follow the path along with everyone else. I don’t know how many people’s pictures I walked through today – it was impossible to move without getting in someone’s picture.

Scarab from Egypt


From “Palestine”
So many people, so many busts and statues and artifacts…
Nero’s bath
More ceilings
This lonnnnng line of people is waiting to get into St. Peter’s Basilica

The “Big Bus” that we thought “went to” several places we’d hoped to film – didn’t. Oops! It “went near” – so you could get off and walk to said places. But it was nice to ride this morning – it did take us right by the Coliseum, and pretty close to the Vatican, and we walked from there. I think if we had it to do over, we’d ride that the first night just to get an idea of where things are – and then go from there.

We rode back to Termini station around 5, walked the mile or so to our hotel, ran inside to charge our phones a little more, grabbed a quick bite at a deli on our street and then walked the mile back to Termini to get back on the bus to ride the whole route tonight. The sun was still pretty intense at first, but slowly eased off. Dad got some good video from the top of the bus of some things we hadn’t seen yet – like the remains of Circus Maximus.

Kids are kids wherever you go!
Another ancient amphitheater from the top of the Big Bus
Remains of the Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill behind it

Some things I learned today – early Romans liked to show off how wealthy they were by hosting elaborate dinners – one favorite was to stuff a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey inside a pig inside a cow – and roast the whole thing.

The bus tour, as we went by the Coliseum, mentioned that “it is estimated that 5000 animals and 2000 gladiators lost their lives.” Hmmmm….what about those Christians?

The bus tour also said that the average Italian eats 60 pounds of pasta per year, as compared to the 20 pounds per year that the average American eats.

Approximately 3000 Euros are thrown into the Trevi fountain each day, but once a day workers get in and collect the money, where it is given to charity.

Packing up to leave tomorrow for Israel! Sorry, this turned out to be longer than I thought… 🙂 I’ve got more pics but the internet is super slow tonight. I’ll try to add later. More accordion outside our window again tonight – “I Did It My Way” – Frank Sinatra would be proud!


One Reply to “Ciao, Roma!”

  1. On Sun, Jul 2, 2017 at 3:17 PM, Walking Where Jesus Walked wrote:

    > carmoore68 posted: “(Note: This is copied and pasted from Facebook which > is copied and pasted from a travel journal that I did for our kids {which > is why I call John “Dad”}….but I decided to put all four days into one > long blog post so I can find it more easily later. So, ” >


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