This morning we ate breakfast--mostly leftovers from food we'd brought and bought last night--and then met up with the rest of our group out on the street. Casey tried to get some cash but was rejected by the corner ATM. Luckily Rex's card worked, so he bought bus tickets for everyone at the news stand across the street. We wandered through a market on the way to the bus stop and tried another ATM, but it rejected our card, too.
We got to the Colosseum pretty early--the ticket office was just opening. Casey had bought us tickets online but we had to exchange the printed reservation for actual tickets.
Right away we were approached by several people offering guided tours. (Because we hadn't bought our tickets early enough, we'd missed being able to buy the ones that included guided tours already.) We ended up paying separately for a guided tour, and it was okay. But we probably would have gotten as much or more out of Casey's downloaded audio tour. Our group ended up being large enough (our 10 plus 4-6 more) that it was hard to hear our guide sometimes. Plus she (Patricia) had a strong Italian accent. (Yes, I know--English speakers are spoiled and expect to be catered to around the world. Still, the people who approached us were native English speakers, so we had certain expectations before we were handed off to our Italian guide.)
The Colosseum is awesome. If I remember right, it used to be faced with marble, especially the inside entrance gallery, but all the marble was later pillaged for other buildings. It was never used as an auditorium--the acoustics weren't that good. It was used as a sports/battle arena. They could even flood the arena and enact water battles with scaled down, flat-bottomed boats. And while that sounds cool, the reality is that lots of people died for the entertainment of the upper classes. So we enjoyed this architectural wonder with some modern compunctions.
It was already baking hot by the time we left. We were supposed to meet up with our tour group again at noon to be guided through the Forum but we had an hour or so to kill so we walked around looking for water and souvenirs. We also tried another ATM and then, because we were getting nervous about having cash, we exchanged some at a money changer in a Metro Station. DON'T DO THAT!! If we'd known how badly we would come off after the unlisted fees, we would happily have let the others in our group keep sharing their cash with us until we got it straightened out with our bank.
So we walked to a little grocery store, where some of us bought snacks. Throughout our time in Italy we used the nasoni (street fountains, sometimes shaped like noses--literally means big noses) to fill our water bottles and never had any trouble.
At the appointed time we went back to the Colosseum for the second part of our tour, which failed to show. Somehow, we weren't all that surprised. We stood in line to get into the Forum and while we waited we chatted with some people from England who had also been in our tour group for the Colosseum.
Casey gave us highlights of Forum as we walked around it. There is a ton of history in this mall-sized area. I'm not going to share any of it. Okay, except for one thing: Vestal virgins could retire after 30 years in the service of the Goddess Vesta. They would be between 36 and 40 years old if they made it that long and then they were allowed to retire with a pension and marry. Who knew?
We left the forum around 2 p.m. then walked past Trajan's column.
More places that we walked to this day:
The Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola
The Pantheon. (Photo bomb cred.: Rex Harris)
Outside the Pantheon. On the left side of this square is a shop where several of us bought sandwiches priced by the pound. They were delicious. We only ate lunch so that we could then eat gelato.
The gelato shop. First of many. I ordered mango and chocolate mousse and was surprised when it was actual chocolate mousse, not chocolate mousse flavored gelato. (Later on, one of us ordered nutella, thinking it was going to be nutella flavored gelato, but nope.) Luckily, I love chocolate mousse! And mango is my all time favorite flavor of gelato.
We also walked to and through the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. Then to a TIM shop to set up phone service on Casey's phone, which enabled us to call our bank and ask them to clear our ATM card for use in Italy (we'd pre-authorized our credit card, but not our debit--bleh).
Then the Spanish steps.
If you climb to the top, you can get to the Villa Borghese gardens. There's a nice view of Rome from there. But first we had to shake off the rose seller who had attached himself to Lissa. The rose is "free" but then he tried to guilt Rex into paying something for it, as the nearest man who might feel responsible. Lissa eventually got him to take it back. There were a lot of different people who tried to sell us things on the street. Roses, splat toys, water bottles, elastic flingy helicopterish LED toys, etc.
We were tired by then, so we found a couple of benches on either side of a shady road through the gardens and sat down for a while. People jogged by. People ran by. People rode segways by. Probably tourist people. We just sat there and rested our feet while the time went by.
Then we pulled ourselves together and set out for the Trevi Fountain. On the way we bought groceries. Should have bought those after, probably.
It was very crowded there. We threw some coins in, of course. The last ones worked, after all. (You know, the legend says that if you throw in a coin, you'll return to Rome someday. Plus, they remove the coins each day and use them to fund a grocery store for the poor.)
Then we had our second round of gelato for the day. If we hadn't walked around 10 miles a day, we probably would have gotten really fat in Italy.
On our way back to our flats, we went through the Piazza Navona and watched the vendors fling their tiny LED whirlycopters (I don't really know what to call them) as high as the obelisk in the middle of the square. We bought a couple to take to the kids at home.
Back at the flat we ate fresh fettuccine with two kinds of sauce. Star made one sauce with sausage, zucchini, onions, and marinara that was to die for. I made a sauce with Asiago and cream and butter that was also to die for, because of the artery clogging richness of it. We tried to recreate this food experience at home, but it just wasn't the same.