Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italy Day 3 - 29th August 2009

We were up early on Saturday and thanks to the hotel shuttle bus, were dumped in Rome city centre with about 10 hours of tourism ahead of us.

Again I'm going to illustrate this post with slightly unusual photos as others have taken the classic Roman sights much better than I did and a Google search will take you to them. These will be ones you probably won't find in any search results, unless you search my hard drive !

So we walked past the Mouth of Truth again and within a few minutes we were at the Circo Massimo, or Circus Maximus as we'd call it. This is where chariot races would have taken place and it was a huge arena with sadly little evidence left of its once exciting heritage. In its heyday it would regularly hold 270,000 spectators and today it can still hold a huge number of people for concerts and special events. The rock group Genesis played before a crowd of 500,000 there in 2007 and the previous year, around 700,000 packed in to help celebrate Italy winning the World Cup.

We walked along the central median, or spina, and made our way out the far end which left only a short walk to The Colosseum.

We had to join one of two very slow moving lines to get inside as they came from both sides and there were only 2 ticket windows open to deal with tourists. Once inside, the true scale of the building was laid open for all to see, literally speaking as there was no stadium floor left and so in fact we could see what the original spectators never got to see.

I listened in to one of the many tour guides and found out that contrary to popular belief, gladiators did not come up from below the stadium floor but rather they walked in at ground level from an adjoining area where they waited their turn. It was the animals that came up from below via trapdoors as their appearance was supposed to amaze and thrill the spectators who would never have seen such exotic creatures before.

It has been estimated that over 500,000 people and over a million animals were killed during the active lifetime of the Colosseum so there must be plenty of DNA around to keep experts happy for decades. Maybe it has a shelf life. I donno.

I was also reminded that as well as being an impressive structure, capable of holding 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum originally had a cover to shade them from the sun. This consisted of a sail type canvas covering that was pulled out over the seats using ropes and pulleys and this only added to my amazement that this was all possible almost 20 centuries ago. Add to this the fact that it only took 8 years to build and it puts modern construction times into perspective.

Once outside we passed the usual plethera of locals who were making a career out of dressing up in leather and short skirts. These ones were much more savvy about the process and were insisting on money up front before allowing photos to be taken. They didn't like being photographed for free but with a zoom lens and a lifelong loathing of paying for anything, they were two time losers in my book.

I usually didn't hang around long as seeing someone coming at you with a drawn sword tends to give you wings faster than downing any can of Red Bull.

As we walked up the wide and impressive Via Del Fori Imperiali, we spotted a few more part time gladiators making their way to their spot around the Colosseum. I have to say that this one wasn't quite as intimidating as most of the others and I can't put my finger on why that was the case.

At the end of this street, we ended up back at the Piazza Venezia and as by now it was 2pm and very hot, both horses and drivers were taking a break from work.

We popped into a restaurant we'd seen on the first day and it seemed to be a favourite location for the local police. There were so many uniforms on display that I'd no idea what role they all played in Roman life but these two were very friendly and happy to pose for me.

I think they were probably friends with that last gladiator but I might be wrong.

We moved on to The Trevi Fountain which was a huge tourist trap as it turned out. It was also very hard to get a decent photo of the place as it's surrounded by buildings and it's pretty huge in itself. There were also hundreds of tourists all over it with police trying their best to keep them from going into the water.

Given how much money was being thrown into the fountain's waters, I'm sure the police were keeping people out more for financial than conservation reasons. I wonder who collects the money ? It would be nice to think it gets used for the upkeep of the fountain but somehow I doubt it.

We were going to continue moving North to The Spanish Steps but we were getting very tired and decided to instead go in a westward sweep back to the shuttle pickup point as this would take us past two more sights on the list, The Pantheon and The Piazza Navona with it's 3 fountains.

One led to the other and after filling up our water bottles in front of The Pantheon, we went on to The Piazza Navona and had a well deserved rest and gelato beside the middle and most impressive fountain, the Fontana Del Quattro Fiumi (fountain of four rivers). This fountain has a Hollywood link with the Trevi fountain as the coin tossing scene in the 1954 movie was filmed at Trevi and for the 1990 version they used the Fiumi fountain for some reason.

Sticking with Hollywood, the Dan Brown thriler, Angels and Demons, featured the Fiumi fountain as one of the Altars of Science and last summer Ron Howard filmed scenes for the movie version of the novel (starring Tom Hanks) at the same location.

This blog is just SO informative !!

Some of the sculptures on fountains were worth photographing as they weren't all nudes or nymphs or dolphins. Here's one which was pretty gruesome really.

And finally, on our way back to the shuttle stop, we passed a small shop selling all sorts of Italian souvenirs like t-shirts, flags and the like. This one was selling a fine selection of boxer shorts and as with any item of clothing, I felt the need to hold my selection up to my body to be sure it would be suitable.

In the end I decided not to buy them.

I mean when buying boxers, size is VERY important !!!

That large thing dangling down is my zoom lens by the way. I know you wanted to know.

And it's probably a good time to remind readers that all these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

Did you ever forget to zip up your flyhole? Embarrassing eh? Well your photo takes the biscuit mate! Shhh! Didn't you notice there was gaping hole in those boxers - due south of your midriff?

Daphne said...

Great post! I remember that one of the friendly policemen took his glasses off to pose for the photo - - awwww.
I'm not mentioning the boxers except to say that both gentlemen - that's Silverback and Stephen - thought they were a bit small.

Debby said...

OMG! I just about choked on my granola there! Low fat, if you must know. I'm in the breakfast room of the hotel all by myself at my table laughing like an idiot!

Excellent written. Love the pics. Love that you make me laugh!

Those boys did look very friendly indeed!!!

Still laughing...hope I don't choke on an oat!

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