Whew! Today was exhausting. We woke up a little late, but which was apparently the time that most Romans have breakfast and socialize with friends before work -at least in the cafe at Piazza di Republica. We had the most fabulous cappuccinos (only acceptable prior to 10 am here, as the Romans are coffee Nazis) and nice pastries, and then set off.
First was the colosseum, which was amazing. We had audio tours pre-set on our iphones, and learned a lot about the ancient stadium while we wandered around. After that, the Palantine Hill, which is where the aristocracy lived in the Republic, until Imperial Rome, when apparently the emperors of Rome decided the Hill was where they wanted their palaces, and built over the top of the houses that had been there. I have a pretty amazing photo of Domitian's monumental palace, which Roman citizens were afraid to be "invited" to! I think the evocative part of the Palantine Hill is how little remains of what they had -and what happens to all of us eventually.
The Roman Forum was also amazing. I was particularly interested in seeing the place where Caesar's body was cremated, and maybe a little appalled that tourists sit on pieces of ancient building, feet up, while they take in the sun. It seemed disrespectful, somehow. The oldest building, the House of the Vestals, was originally built in 600 BC or so, and was rebuilt after fires, etc. The scale of these buildings was amazing. The other thing I noticed is that the public buildings are built spaciously, but homes, even those of the emperors (which was all that was there) were built with very small rooms and little corridors.
We saw Trajan's column and the old public forums; on the way to our next destination, we found a vendor selling freshly roasted chestnuts from a grill. The warm, sweet smell was amazing, but I liked eating the chestnuts in the warm sun, from a paper cone. We went to the Pantheon next, which we both loved, but were a little sad by the old Roman decorations that appeared to be chiseled off , with Christian ones plastered over. We saw Raphael's tomb there as well. After that, we had amazing gelato (fig and walnut!), and wandered home.
We also saw some evidence of the riots. We were in the Monti district, trying to find a restaurant recommended to us. The Monti district is what used to be called the Subura district in ancient times, and was the place where Julius Caesar was born. It was a working class, noisy district, with colorful street life, maybe a little like today. We walked by a bank, and saw that their ATM machine and front windows had been smashed to pieces with a brick or rock, and some nearby posters, like the ones we saw yesterday, advocated for change. We've also seen an increased police presence, with some officers in tactical gear, but no rioters so far.
I also took photos of every public water fountain I found, but won't bore you with those. :) I did discover that there others also obsessed with the water fountains, and have them mapped out online, so I'm not alone. Haha. We saw many more colorful italian men (pants color of choice appears to be red or purple), and more smokers than the doctor in me likes to see.
Nate says that he's found the first evidence that I'm actually Asian. I don't much like rice, and am a danger with chopsticks, but took 380 photos today. He could locate me in any crowd by the "click, click, click" noise of my camera.
Tomorrow, we go to the National Museum with lots of Etruscan and Ancient Roman art, baths of Diocletian, some more Caravaggio and Raphael, and a little shopping- la dolce vita. I vastly underestimated how cool it is in the morning and at night!