Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rome sights - Day 17

We are not about to tour sitting down today, so walk everywhere. Down to the Colosseum first, join a tour which is well worth the money, and then just wander. The Colosseum is still an amazing piece of engineering in stone, although like most of Rome, it is inadequately conserved, has little interpretative signage, is dirty and desperately needs the equivalent of the British National Trust and Heritage lottery money. Or just stop outsourcing the guding business, put things under one umbrella, and take a bigger clip of the tourist ticket for the work. But I suppose Rome has just so much heritage that knowing where to start must be quite an issue.

We wander up onto the Palatine Hill, where there are stunning views back over the Colosseum, the Forum and the ancient apartments and districts which surrounded them. Again, a distressing lack of maintenance: the gardens at the top are unkempt, littered, and signage, even of exits, is absent. But as the entire hill is a honeycomb of ruins, again, where to start? Still, cutting the grass and tending the plants do seem obvious jobs.

Down the (unmarked) back end of the Palatine, on past the Circus Maximus. Formerly Imperials Rome's chariot racetrack, it is now a jogging circuit! On to the River Tiber, which is flowing strong and dirty. We cross at Ponte Palatino, and go back over the pretty little twin-bridged Isola (Island) which houses - what else in Rome? - a church, a ristorante and a souvenir shop. Back up to the Campidoglio - a musuem and Government complex with beautiful facades and statues. Then nip around the back to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which has to be simply the most expansive and impressive memorial of this sort ever built. Trajan's Column off to one side. Photos ensue.

Caffeine deprivation starts to set in: we've had an indifferent pizza at the foot of Palatine to keep us going. Off in the general direction of the Trevi Fountain, picking the less travelled little streets. Arrive at a high-level entrance, and are amazed to realise that the Fountain is actually the front of an inhabited apartment block! You'd need a strong bladder to live there....

The Trevi was very controversial when built: it is scuplted as if from living rock. A glorious spectacle, once you subtract the touts, crowds and the inevitable graffiti, litter and general Roman lack of maintenance. We slip away in search of caffeine, but pick the Quirinale Hill to go over - a solid Government and Police/Defence block, it seems. So no coffee houses. We cut down through the Gardens, off the hill, onto Via Nazionale - a main drag with lots of shops, and have a very satisfactory fresh orange, and a cappo. Equilibrium is restored. There are glamorous Italian types all along this street, and a lot of clothing stores. Interesting to observe the fashions and take the odd photo of accessories and other useful bits.

Back over to the hotel area which is actually situated in a quite good area. Lonely Planet, sharpen up your locality descriptions! Theatre and Opera houses very close by, and a fascinating clutch of religious articles shops around the back of the former. We consider a Marian statue for the hall back home. Then look at the price. Around 1000 Euros... Nah. Thought the Church had stopped profiting from this sort of stuff.

We do however see, in a cheaper but similar shop, a glow-in-the-dark Joseph, Mary and kid statuette series, which prompts a small reminiscence from M:

"I don't mind if it rains or freezes
As long as I've got my plastic Jesus
My plastic Jesus on the dashboard of my car..."

We also discover an Internet cafe close by the hotel, so now have a place to post all of this....and to find ourselves a hotel in Firenze - Florence. We are rather last-minute, don't-plan-it-to-death folk, as might by now be apparent.

Both Glorious Ruin'ed out for the day, to the extent that choosing another ristorante is just too much. And it's just around the corner. And they don't laugh at our Italian: we've got a few words, and have found that, used judiciously, people appreciate the effort with a quick smile. Asking for a new word always goes down well too.

Although we don't ask for a translation of "Casa del Pudenzia", a sign just one street back from our hotel. It probably doesn't mean House of Puddings. Perhaps Lonely Planet was right, after all?

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