All roads lead to Rome, and it helps when you are on a bus that is actually heading to Rome. Specifically it was headed to Camping Roma located on the outskirts of Rome. It was about 40mins out of the city, but it took about an hour on public transport to get into the city.
The heat from Venice had not given up and while standing in line to check in we must have tanned a little further, it felt like an even longer wait to check in than we had in Venice. Eventually I was checked in. I made a b line to my camping accommodation. It was a three bed tent. There was a light and a power point, and was already inhabited by two Texans on summer break. I threw my stuff on the bed and familiarized my self with the grounds. There was a beach volleyball court, pool and bar. There was a restaurant and nightclub, and i noticed that a traffic light party was on the agenda for the evenings entertainment.
I met up with some of the people I was traveling with and we sat by the pool watching the procession of party-goers arrive in red. Actually, perhaps I should elaborate. The traffic light party had us wearing Red if we were taken, Green if we were free and amber if you do what the Romans do, or rather, what goes on tour, stays on tour! I had a beer with some people I had traveled on the bus with then went to the volleyball court. It was starting to get dark and the volleyball court was under lights. Someone gestured for me to come and join the game. My height being an advantage. Little did they know that I actually knew how to play. They were taking the game rather serious with proper sets and powerful spikes, so I did not hold back… The Traffic light party was quickly forgotten since I was having so much fun on the court but Maybe I should have held back just a bit because the following day I was sore.
My everything was sore. I struggled out of bed mostly due to my lack of sleep. The tent was on the side of the park that was closest to the main road. Traffic noise and streetlights don’t exactly make for a good nights rest. I only had one day to fill on this excursion to Rome before going on Busabout’s Italian adventure, so I thought I would do the Ancient Rome walking tour. This way I could cover a few of the main attractions then when I returned on the other side of the weekend, I could revisit the good bits.
The walking tour kicked off at the ancient remains of the great chariot racing stadium, Circo Massimo, neatly nestled between the Aventine and Palentine hills. The tour took us through ancient Rome and gave us insight into the everyday lives of the people of ancient Rome. We went to the famed Mouth of Truth, and found out the truth about the famed Mouth. It was part of the original sewerage system. A breather pipe that often overflowed with ancient waste. Now thanks to the movie Roman Holiday (1953) it is a popular spot for tourists wanting to re-enact the scene from the movie where the Gregory Peck pretends to have his arm bitten off by the wall decoration and Audrey Hepburn is alarmed and then relieved to see that Peck is still in ownership of all of his limbs. Still, I wouldn’t put my hand in there. Two thousand years of roman waste isn’t my idea of a real test of honesty.
The tour continued to the Theatre of Marcellus, Originally an open air theatre that promised a true spectacle for viewers. If the show called for the death of a character, a slave dressed as the dis fortunate character, would be killed in front of the audience. We continued along the mish mash of ancient Rome and this veil of modern Rome until we got to the Cat Sanctuary. This is an excavation site that showed the religious followings of ancient Rome. This was also the site of the murder of Julius Caesar. It is now the sanctuary of Romes stray cat population
We soon found ourselves sitting in the shade of a red bricked building. It had a dome roof and had marble remnants still attached. We were behind the Pantheon. After getting a bit of a history lesson we went around to the front of the building. I dont think any words I could use will really put this into perspective. The Pantheon was incredible. it is fronted by sixteen marble pillars each 15 metres tall, crafted and transported as whole single piece pillars. The roof is the worlds largest unreinforced concrete dome and still to this day leaves architects and engineers baffled as to the method of its construction. Inside it is just amazing, you really have to see it to believe it.
After some much needed gelato to relieve the now endless onslaught of the sun, we went on to see the wedding cake… okay well it wasn’t actually a wedding cake although that’s what it is called. It was the Altare Della Patria (thank you wikipedia, I love how you jog my memory!). Its a war memorial to the unknown soldier and houses the eternal flame.
Then on the location that made me feel like i was in really and truly in Rome, The Colosseum. We were told in great detail the significance of the building and had a day in the Colesseum described to us in all its blood soaked glory. Two interesting facts that I took away with me, 1. there were government funded prostitutes in the stands for the free use of the patrons. This helped to reduce the testosterone in the crowd and any trouble that came with it. And 2. Christians were so lowly regarded that their tortured bodies were strung up and used as wicks to light the stadium.
Ancient Rome seemed incredible. You can really feel the size and strength of this ancient city. The city that is there now is a shadow of its former self. It never really drew me in, inspired me or captured my heart. It is a like a aged performer riding out their senior years performing their old hits to in small bars, pubs or RSL’s.