On the morning of August 29, we got up early and had a quick breakfast before checking out of Residence la Contessina and heading to the train station for our trip to Rome. Our train left the station very close to on time at about 8 am. The train trip to Rome took about two hours, about half the time it took us to drive it.
After getting off the train at the Termini Station in Rome, we first went and got our tickets for the Leonardo Express to the airport and then went to find our hotel. Hotel Piemonte was only two blocks from the train station, making it a relatively easy walk even with all of our luggage. We checked in and then walked back to the station to catch the subway to the Spanish Steps.
I was truly shocked by how dirty the Roman subway was. All of the trains we saw were covered in graffiti to the point of not being able to tell what the original color of the train was. But after a short subway ride, we emerged at the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps were built to connect the Bourbon Spanish embassy with Trinitia dei Monte above. The Spanish steps offered a beautiful vista of the skyline of Rome. We climbed to the top and looked around before walking back down and heading towards the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain is a relatively short walk from the Spanish Steps. Once we got to the Trevi, we wandered down close to throw our coins in. Legend has it that throwing a coin over your shoulder into the fountain guarantees a return trip to Rome. We also went and refilled our water bottles from the fountain. One of the most interesting things I saw in Italy was that the public fountains circulate potable water, and so we regularly refilled there.
After leaving the Trevi, we headed toward the Pantheon. Along the way is a really interesting building where the remnants of the Temple of Hadrian have been integrated into a much newer building in the Piazza di Pietra. Along the way we also found our Travertino marble picture frame in a shop.
Upon reaching the Pantheon, we immediately went inside to look around. The Pantheon was built around 120 AD and is the oldest building in the world with its original roof still intact. The dome of the Pantheon is made of concrete and was the largest self supporting dome in the world until the completion of Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence. The dome of the Pantheon is also noticable for it’s large oculous which is the only light source for the building. Since 609, the building has been the Catholic church Santa Maria ad Martyres which has aided its preservation. The Pantheon is also the tomb to Raphael and Vittorio Emanuele II.
After leaving the Pantheon, we headed out towards the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument and the Roman Forum, stopping for our midafternoon gelato on the way. While walking in that direction, we stumbled on the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina. This complex was originally four Roman temples that were rediscovered during excavation for a new building complex. The four temples are relatively well preserved including some early frescoes on the back wall of what is labeled “Temple A.”
From Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, we continued on to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. This large monument celebrates Italian unification and is home to Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We spent some time walking around the monument and admiring the view from the top before continuing into the Imperial Forums.
The Roman Forums were built in a number of separate stages. We walked along the top of the Trajan’s Forum, the Forum of Caesar, and the Forum of Nerva on our way towards the Colosseum. Unfortunately we were not able to walk into the Forums because they were closed for an archaeological dig.
Our next stop was the Colosseum. We opted for the guided tour because it allowed us to skip the line and we figured we would learn more. The Colosseum was definitely an impressive building although we did not learn much from the tour. I personally could not imagine sitting at the games for days on the marble seats that the stadium finished. The marble of the Colosseum has largely been stripped over the intervening centuries as it was used as a quarry for other projects.
After leaving the Colosseum, we raced up to Palatine Hill, under the Arch of Titues, and just managed to squeak in before it closed. Palatine Hill was the residence of choice for the rich and famous of Rome and the home of the Caesars. A recent excavation also revealed the remains of a Bronze Age settlement on the hill. The ruins on Palatine Hill were incredible and lead us to imagine what life must have been like in their heyday. We walked through the ruins of the palaces of Caesar Augustus, and Flavian, as well as the Stadio Palatino before the park guides came to usher us out.
We then stopped to admire the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Constantine in the setting sun before wandering around the back of Palatine Hill near the Circus Maximus. We wandered all the way around the back of the Fora Romana and ending up on Capolitine Hill as we looked for somewhere to find dinner. We stopped to admire the Campidoglio which was redesigned by Michelangelo before wandering back around the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.
We ended up having a good dinner at a small restaurant not far from from the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. We then headed back to the subway to head home, only to discover that it had closed at 9 pm due to construction. So we were left to hike back to the hotel, which was not an insignificant hike. We ended up hiking back past the Trevi Fountain which was even more beautiful at night. We then went past the Fontana di Tritone and through Piazza Barberini before returning to the hotel.
At the hotel, we managed to blow the circuit breaker for the third time in as many hotels. Unfortunately the night clerk did not know which breaker to reset, but he allowed me to charge my camera and transfer all of my pictures to my iPod at the front desk so I would at least have a working camera for the Vatican the next day. We finally got to sleep around midnight after transferring all of the pictures to the iPod and leaving the camera downstairs to continue charging.