After a Euro breakfast (cheese, meat, bread, yogurt) at the hotel, we struck off on foot for the Colosseum. As any city map of old Rome will show, it’s messy navigating. There are no direct routes and lots of winding, teeny, tiny streets. Even if it looks fairly straightforward on the map, it’s not. Rome is not for the cartographphobic (i.e. afraid of maps. I think I made that up.). Surprisingly, Mr. Macho at the front desk made a gallant effort to be helpful in drawing a path for our “twenty-minute” walk.

Several wrong turns and fifteen minutes later, we were at Capitol Hill instead. This was familiar territory and I felt a pang of longing for the Hubs. Well at least I was pretty sure we were headed in the right direction, more or less. We climbed the broad steps to the piazza, surrounded by castles-turned-museums, to admire bigger-than-life statues and graceful architecture. Then down and way back up again, taking on the many steps of the adjacent ancient church for view of Michaelangelo’s symmetrical design on the piazza below. The cityscape from this vantage point is stunning. How approachable, how touchable, is ancient history here!

A few more wrong turns, scrutinizing the map on every street corner, and forty minutes later, we’d finally arrived. The sun was well into her morning climb; we were hot and sweaty but proud of the accomplishment. “Yay! We did it!” my daughter exclaimed, always the team cheerleader. The Colosseum was worth every step. Eighty percent of the original structure has been lost but what remains is plenty powerful.

We hadn’t purchased Roma Passes so we joined a gathering tour group to skip the long line. Our guide was clearly a native Roman and proud of it. He wore light skin-tight pants and a tight, dark long-sleeved button up shirt, open to reveal chest and a silver chain. A messenger bag slung over his shoulder, he walked with a strut, like he owned the place. His accent was heavy but his commentary injected with humor that made up for anything missed. He focused on the business of the Colosseum, as a critical method of mass marketing and brand-building for Roman emperors. He described in detail the way people and animals interacted in this space, and the political and economic costs of sustaining this medium through four centuries of use. Fascinating.

Our tickets included access to the ruins of the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill, across the street. By this time, the sun was blazing high in the sky. It was suffocatingly hot, the path long, and our tour time at the Vatican Museums pressing in. Ten minutes of this was enough. Dust swirling at our feet, clinging to our ankles and clothes, we spun in retreat. Time for a break!

It took some doing to hail a taxi but my girl came through. Twelve Euros later we were at the Vatican Museums. Fortunately, there was a friendly café across the street and we had time to refuel. Fresh fruit salad or green salad, cold water, and AC. Perfect. If we had quit there, Saturday in Roma would have been a success. But there was more, much more!

~René Morley

Read all about Roma, 2012! Friday | Saturday morning | Vatican Museums | Saturday evening | Sunday

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