This was the big one. The city of Rome on my 29th birthday. I joke, but am kinda serious too… 29, my last youthful birthday. After that it’s all downhill right? We were both really excited to see the sites, Fil was especially excited to see the Colosseum, but number one was having a good pizza for lunch. 🙂
Our port was actually Citavecchia, but an hour bus ride took us right to the center of Rome. We opted for the “Rome on your own” excursion which provided us with the round-trip bus ride and a basic map.
Within minutes of starting our walk we were outside of the Colosseum and the Arc of Constantine. I hate to say it, but I was immediately unimpressed. I think Fil was a bit awe struck, but I wasn’t really having it. The colosseum looked nothing like the pictures I had in my head. It was deteriorating. Nearly all of the decorative outside was stripped and bare blocks remained. I instantly thought of the colosseum I saw in Croatia, and heard the echoes of what others had said, “Rome is much larger, but Pula is more beautiful”. There was absolutely no hope of going inside as the line was already a few hours long and it was barely 10am. I have never seen so many people. Ever. In my life.
The Arc of Constantine was right next to the colosseum and we were able to get a good look at that. It really was quite beautiful, especially considering it was constructed in the year 315. I don’t know if the armed soldiers are always there on guard of the arc, or if they are just there for the high tourist season (which must have just started in May), but it was not comforting.
Just behind these two is the main park which contains a mass of ruins. It is referred to as the Palatine Hill. The complex is an open archaeological park with ruins of the roots of the Roman Empire, and according to mythology, is the location that Hercules battled a monster. Seems interesting enough if you had all the information to go along with all the sites. Also completely encased by crowds we skipped, and kept walking. Later in our day we ended up circling around to the other side of the Hill and looked down into it to get a few views.
It was a bit early for lunch, but it was my birthday and I was annoyed with the crowds. Time to get Jen some pizza! We took a right and just walked a few blocks away from all the crowds. The noise calmed and I felt better. We passed a few lunch spots but selected one that turned out to be perfect. We ordered fresh focaccia with rosemary that Brock inhaled, pizzas and prosecco. Fil’s was a bit more traditional, tomato sauce, cheese, and then topped with prosciutto and mushrooms. Mine was dry with arugula, cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella crumbles and the best parmesan I have ever tasted. We cut our pizzas and ate them with knife and fork like good Europeans and enjoyed every bite. If you know me you know I love good cheese, and the cheese on my pie was so full of flavor I almost couldn’t finish it. It was too good for me! Crazy I know, but really these were the best pizzas we have ever had.
Refreshed we were ready to continue exploring. The signs and our map was in Italian so we couldn’t decipher too well, but comparing our walk to the English map at home I have been able to identify most of what we saw. One of the first things we saw after lunch was the Forum of Caesar. Caesar built this forum in 40-50 BC initially as an expansion of the Forum Romanum but it evolved into a place of senate business and a personal shrine. There really was hardly anything left standing there. In the center were three very clear pillars that were being held together by steel. There was a new statue of Caesar in front of the remains and we laughed for a minute there. We had one of those moments where we disagree about a translation and it turns out to be pretty funny.
The street in this section was blocked off. I believe it was just to help the crowds move and I appreciated having the street to walk on and not just the sidewalks. There were a few street performers along the way that we paused to watch, mostly dance troops. At the end of the road we looked up to an absolutely stunning building. It looked as if it had just been bleached, perfectly white. In the center was a statue of a horse that was the size of our house. It was amazing. I have come to find out it was the Altar of the Fatherland, in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a united Italy. It was so massive that it was really hard to get a picture of, but Fil managed to get a couple like usual. 🙂
We spent much of the afternoon just sort of wandering around. We didn’t want to walk too far and feel rushed to get back to the bus on time, and we were also kind of tired from all the sun that we simply aren’t used to. At some point we decided gelato, European ice cream, was a necessity. Gelato is a bit lighter than American ice cream, so it melts a bit faster, especially in the sun. Brock could not lick his cone fast enough. For every lick that made it into his mouth twice as much melted and trickled down his arm. We tried to offer some help, but nobody was coming between him and that ice cream cone.
Towards the end of our time we found ourselves in a little grassy area. Brock ran back and forth picking little flowers that he made into a little bouquet for me. ❤ ❤ ❤ (looking at the picture it must have been before the gelato)
This was the longest day we had off the ship, and we knew the rest of the trip would be much more relaxing so all was good. The main thing was that I got my birthday pizza and gelato. What can I say, we are a food loving family. We are glad we saw ancient Rome. I think we would have enjoyed it more in the off season, but we were definitely glad we went. If I am being truly fair, so often we have these picturesque day trips to beautiful and historic locations, but we always seem to miss the chaos. We never have crowds or bad weather. I guess it is our luck, but also raises our expectations. This is why I am a bit disappointed with Rome and it’s a silly reason. Yes, there were more people than you can imagine that prevented us from seeing a lot of things, but we still had a wonderful day as a family.
It was an exhausting day. We all napped on the bus ride back to the ship and were quite happy to have casual dress that evening on board. We were both looking forward to getting a good nights rest before our next stop in Palermo, Sicily where we were set to see the small fishing village of Cefalu. (it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the whole cruise)