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Days adrift.  Click here to see our best and worst experiences so far.
3005
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35
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185
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581
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15
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1157
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45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

21 May 2018

Roaming Rome

4-7 May 2018

And so we drove our little Fiat Panda back to Bari, and then took the train across the mountainous spine of Italy to Rome. Here we met Tim and Nessa and Lopa, and settled down to three days of exploring and dining in the Eternal City.

The centre of Rome really is a city-sized museum. There is very, very little that is modern because the interwoven fabric of more than 2000 years of civilisation is too precious to interfere with. Precious for the world’s heritage, and precious for the tourist dollars it must hoover in. Because central Rome is full of tourists. To bursting. London or Paris don’t come close.

Some cool things to see in Rome…

The Colosseum

The Colosseum


The Colosseum is astonishing. And not just for the hour long queue to get in. This is a stone edifice on a, well, colossal scale. Being such an open structure, roofless and all arches, it allows your eye to take in even more of its sheer bulk. And to think that a civilisation more than two millenia ago could dedicate such enormous resources to build a place purely of entertainment, intended for the masses. You cannot see the Colosseum without picturing thousands upon thousands of ancient Romans all converging here, full of excitement, buying and eating snacks, meeting friends, talking about the spectacle to come. It is huge.
The Pantheon

The Pantheon


The Pantheon is otherworldly. The enormous dome with impeccable patterns of bevelled squares diminishing towards the hole in the centre. It is too perfect. Looking at a photograph of it, you want to believe it’s a computer render. How is this two thousand years old? It defies sense.
Castel Sant'Angelo over the Tiber

Castel Sant’Angelo over the Tiber


The Castel Sant’Angelo is a revelation in three movements. It was Hadrian’s mausoleum, and the curved tunnels beneath the oppressive bulk of the brickwork above are eerie and impressive at once. Then a medieval fortress was built atop the hulking imperial tomb, and from its ramparts you can look out over all the myriad domes and towers of the eternal city, the bend of the Tiber and the secret passage above the streets that the Pope could use to flee here from the Vatican in times of trouble. And then the fortress was converted into airy private chambers by successive Popes, with elegant loggias and astonishingly garish and detailed frescoes in evolving styles. The same rooms having gradually accreted an eclectic collection of art, arms and curios. A wonder that begs exploring.
Domus Aurea

Domus Aurea


The Domus Aurea is mind-bending, and credit to the curators who have created a tour that allows your imagination to visualise what these dank underground passages and chambers once were. Emperor Nero built a palace, a gigantic palace, with light-flooded chambers looking out onto sun-soaked gardens perched above the broad valley containing the bustle of the city. Then he died. Then the emperor Trajan filled the palace with rubble (from a hill he had levelled) and turned it into a hill and built his swimming baths on top. Eventually the baths disappeared and only a hill remained. A thousand years later some Renaissance folk found a hole on top of the hill and discovered the frescoes of Nero’s palace still amazingly intact below their feet. And in the next millenium, archaeologists have dug out Trajan’s rubble and now you can walk the vast darkened halls of a once sunlit palace and picture what it was.

The Trevi Fountain is just a fountain at the centre of a sea of tourists. Give it a miss.

Phew! We packed a lot into three days. And found it very easy to find a good bite to eat, be it lunch or dinner. In spite of the mad traffic, ridiculous pavements (or lack thereof) and precious little greenery I’d have to say Rome is one of my favourite cities. It is truly the museum city.


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