Rome Day 1: Vatican, Pantheon, Capuchin Crypts & Priscilla Catacombs

Rome Day 1: Vatican, Pantheon, Capuchin Crypts & Priscilla Catacombs


Another day, another plane! We got up at 6, made a pizza for breakfast, packed up, and headed out. Time to say goodbye to Malta. 🙁 Easy trip to the airport, parked the car, dropped the keys, breezed through security, and got to our gate. Boarded my last Ryan air flight of this trip, and am happy to say that my carry on (the big one that is a bit oversize and a few kg over weight) made it on yet again with no issues! Whew! So glad I bought priority boarding for all my budget flights. I think that helps them to look the other way. 😏

Airbnb ($65 a night for our own little apartment next to the metro!) check in was at 3, but I told the host we were landing at 1030, so she graciously agreed to a 1230 check in so we could drop our bags. The train from the airport to Termini station was 14 euros each and a half hour trip. From there, we walked the little over half mile to the bnb. Checked in, dropped our bags, and hit the street for FOOD! Ok. Here’s how lame I am. I’ve really been wanting fried chicken (lame when in Italy, yes, but it’s the result of weeks of peanut butter sandwiches!!). Darling Brian saw a chicken place on our walk to the bnb, so we headed back there and had fast food halal chicken, about 2 steps down from KFC, but worth it. 🍗 Sometimes, it’s the little comforts when you’ve been traveling for weeks on end…
We had a tour scheduled for 6pm, which gave us about 5 hours to cram in as much Rome as we could. We really only had a day and a half here. Why the heck such a short time? Because flights back to Los Angeles for Brian were cheapest from Rome, so it made better sense to fly to Rome from Malta, then to LA. Plus, I got a cheap flight to Romania out of there as well, so win-win. I had spent several days in Rome last year, so I had done the major “must sees”. Brian and I were going to fill in the gaps. But there are some things that MUST be done “when in Rome”. First up, Brian HAD to be able to cross off The Vatican as a country on his Been app. He had no interest in the Sistene Chapel or any of that (and I had done it last year), so we literally hopped the metro, walked to the Vatican, got within the walls, and Brian checked off his app. I asked him if he wanted a pope magnet? A pope necklace? A pope keychain? A pope soap on a rope? Pope nope was his response to each. 😝 See that line of people? All standing in heat that is a degree or two less than hell itself to get into the Vatican. Last year, I bought early entrance, skip the line. It’s the only way to go. You couldn’t pay me to stand in that line… We did get one souvenir from the Vatican- a free water bottle refill…(now, with holy water! 😇) I love all of the fountains around Rome…

Ah, the Vatican. So humble. Just like the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem in a Bugatti to stay at his 50,000 square foot gilded palace for the weekend… Keep tithing, Catholics! It’s for Jesus!

We didn’t burst into flames upon drinking it. We deem it #heathensafe

Next, we crossed the Tiber River and walked through the city to the Piazza Navona, with it’s beautiful water fountains. This is another of my “been there, done that” moments, but it was still fun to show it to Brian for the first time!

Wound our way around to the Pantheon. Another “biggie” that I checked off last year. And frankly, the one site that really upset me. This was built by the ROMANS. It is AMAZING. But oh no, the unoriginal Christians had to jump in there and turn it into some shrine for saints. Like damn kids who just HAVE to mess with wet cement….I find it revolting and blasphemous to history. Do not get me started on this place… 😡

Look at that gorgeous original Roman brick- standing for over 1900 years…

The Pantheon…a ROMAN TEMPLE. Roman.

Ancient Christian graffiti artists painting over gorgeous original Roman brick…

More walking and gawking. When you’re in Rome, it is imperative that you look down every single narrow street, because you never know what you might find! Like this Roman building incorporated into a “modern” structure. GORGEOUS! Or just a pile of amazing Roman ruins, waiting there like they’re waiting for the empire to rise again and restore them to their former glory…

It was super hot, and about a mile back to the bnb. We decided to take the bus. Not sure who the Roman God of public transportation is, but he/she was apparently displeased with us. The bus pulled in, and we got on. It was jam. packed. Like could not move. We didn’t even make it past the place where the driver was sitting, and a bunch of people got on right behind us. I was trying not to freak out. I could do this for 10 stops. Really. Until at the next stop where no one got off and more people crammed in- to the point that the doors could barely close. What the fuck?! It was so hot, you could barely breathe. People were crammed so close together that you couldn’t move. My claustrophobia isn’t terrible, but it exists, and it was taking all of my willpower to have an anxiety attack. Brian was trying to reassure me. Finally, we got to the Colosseum stop, and just like I thought, a ton of people piled off. We were able to sit down. I will NEVER take a bus in Rome again. Ever.

Chilled at the bnb for a bit, then headed out on the metro to meet up with our tour for the evening. This was something a little different- a tour of the Capuchin Monastery bone crypt and the Priscilla Catacombs with Walks of Italy. Our guide was Melanie. And from the get go, I knew she was gooood. You could feel the passion for the history emanating off of her, and I was soaking it in! Now, the bad news- we couldn’t take pictures in either of these places because the church wants to make money and have you buy photos in the souvenir shop wants you to respect the dead. Good old Christian hypocrisy at its best. Normally, I would take pictures anyway, because if you are selling pictures, it has NOTHING to do with respect. If you don’t respect the dead, why should I? (And why should dead people be respected anyway? It’s not like they care…). However, I did respect Melanie, and didn’t want her getting into trouble. So I didn’t even try to sneak one. That said, let’s “dig in” to the history of these two places (grave pun 🙃 ), and I’ll use other pictures from off the internet so you can see what I’m talking about.

First up, the Capuchin Monastery. Melanie wove the history of these monks in a way that had me completely captivated. A lot of times I’m super interested in a tour. Rarely am I CAPTIVATED. That, my friends, is the difference between knowledge and passion. Ok, so let me try to recap this history in a nutshell… There were all of these Franciscan monks, who were supposed to be all pious and humble and taking care of the poor and shit. Oh, and chaste. Most of them decided those rules were more like “suggestions”, so they tended to take the opposite approach. #typical One group of Franciscans in the 1500s though were firm believers in the rules, and they were kinda making the rest of the Franciscans look bad… So the naughty Franciscans, who were moved and humbled by these other monks, decided to turn their lives around and rededicate themselves to the tenants of their order. Oh wait, that’s not what happened. They persecuted the monks who were doing what they were supposed to be doing and forced them to go into hiding. The persecuted monks added a hood to their robes- called a cappuccio (see where we’re going here??). A few years later, they got permission from the pope to travel and preach to the poor. And the order of the Capuchin monks was born. They lived in serious squalor, but that was one of their rules. However, some biggity wiggity that I forget his name came to power in Rome and was kin to one of the biggity wiggity Capuchins, and didn’t want them living in such a horrible run down church (more because it made him look bad than concern for the conditions). So he gave them another place to live. This place we were visiting today.

One little problem…the Capuchins had been burying their dead under their old church (the one that didn’t exit through the gift shop) for about 100 years. So they packed up what paltry possessions they had, and still had a lot of space in their carry on (this was before Ryan Air). So they dug up their fellow monks (THOUSANDS of them), and brought them with, sticking them in the crypts below their new home. And then one day, they got bored or something (no wifi). Someone decided to go down there and arrange the bones. Like pin them to the ceilings and make chandeliers out of them and shit. Vows of poverty do weird things to you…I vow never to be impoverished! And the famous Capuchin crypts were born. The monks come down here to walk, reflect, and pray each evening- as a reminder that life is short. In fact, there’s an inscription… “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Lovely. Ok, now that you have the 411, here are the pics… It really isn’t as creepy in person.

Out of the crypt, into the catacomb! We all piled into a van and headed off to the next location- the Priscilla Catacombs. Different place, same story. No photos. You have to respect the dead by buying pictures inside of the gift shop, because Jesus. Oy with you Christians… 🙄  So pics aren’t mine. Ok, history lesson time!  Ancient Romans cremated their dead. When Christianity came be-bopping along, they were against cremation. After all, you needed that body for the resurrection (frankly, I’d prefer a new body with a smaller butt and better knees for eternity, but whatevz). So the catacombs were born- a series of burial chambers built outside of the city walls. This particular one is about 8 miles of tunnels!! On either side of the tunnel, there are ledges carved into the walls where the bodies would be placed. They’d dig your ledge to fit your body. The catacombs were raided over the centuries, so when they were rediscovered in the 1800s and archaeologists started doing their thing, a lot of destruction had taken place. Bones were strewn everywhere. Remember how adamant these Catholics are about respecting the dead by not taking pictures? Well, yeah…tell that to the pope. Because a massive amount of this destruction was caused in the 1600s when not one but TWO popes sent down treasure hunters. Yeah, now that I think about it, I do remember reading in the Bible that, “He who robs and desecrates the dead shall be blessed with riches, but he who takes a photograph shall be damned for eternity.” Have I mentioned oy with you Christians yet?? 🙄🙄

Image by © MAX ROSSI/Reuters/Corbis

The archaeologists have cleaned up the catacombs. The vast majority of the ledges are now emptied- the bones stored somewhere down here inaccessible to the public. But ledges where dead people once were aren’t the main draw down here…it’s art. Some of the oldest Christian art in the WORLD! Let’s look at two of them….

This one is the oldest known image of Mary and Jesus, dating back to about 150!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!

And this one is probably the oldest painting in the world of the Annunciation (when the angel told Mary her EPT test would be coming out positive).

Soon we were out of the catacombs and back to the land of the living. I can not recommend this tour enough!!!!! Seriously, between the Sistine Chapel/Vatican Museum tour and Coloseum/Forum tour I did last year, this is BY FAR my favorite. And that is 100% because of Melanie. Book with Walks of Italy and ASK FOR MELANIE BY NAME. You will get a guide who admittedly geeks out over this stuff!! Brian said that she reminded him of me- how I get all animated when I’m talking about this kind of stuff. It’s called passion. And it’s what makes a good tour a GREAT tour!!

As we were leaving, I told Brian I really wanted to talk to her about teaching for my school. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, than she started talking to someone next to her (our audio was still on) about making money doing this kind of thing, how it’s her passion, how she TRAINS (aka TEACHES) other guides in the off season….everything I needed to hear to go from tentatively considering approaching her to knowing this was fate! We had a nice conversation. I hope to bring her on board next year! We asked her for a restaurant suggestion. And speaking of fate, she gave us one. I never split one day up into 2 journals, but what happened next deserves its own entry…



Rome Day 1.1: Propaganda and Proposals

Rome Day 1.1: Propaganda and Proposals


So usually I like to journal one day at a time (great, now I’ll have that tune stuck in my head…). But this one deserves its own post. Last post, I left off at asking our fab tour guide, Melanie, for a restaurant suggestion. We wanted something cozy and romantic, as it would be our big “fancy Rome dinner” outing (no, fast food halal fried chicken for lunch was NOT our one big meal for the trip!!). She suggested a place called Café Propaganda that she likes near the Colosseum. We headed out on foot.

I hadn’t gone to the Colosseum at night last year, and wow, but it was spectacular!!

We walked to Café Propaganda, which was right behind the Colosseum. Got a table for two and perused the menu. The prices were actually quite reasonable! And so cute inside- just what we were looking for! And with a French flair, to boot! We had literally gone through probably 3 dozen or more listings on Google and couldn’t find anything we liked, which is why we asked Melanie…

Brian ordered wine, and I, being the bastion of European culture that I am, ordered water. Still, not fizzy. Because I’m couth like that. And wine is icky-poo. Then they surprised us with these free little appetizer things that looked like tomatoes, but weren’t. Just designed to look like them. Of course, Brian had to pause because he doesn’t like tomatoes….Oy. They were really cheese with some kind of red stuff on the outside, and a sprig of basel. OH. MY. GOD. Um, I’ll take 2 dozen to go. Brian, you want any?? Whatever cheese that was, and I have no idea, it was deeeeelicious.

We ordered an appetizer of Eggplant Parmigiana. I had to coax Brian into that one, because he’s convinced he doesn’t like eggplant (just like he was convinced 2.5 years ago that he didn’t like asparagus, now he eats it every time it’s on sale…men….). In the meantime, they brought us 3 types of bread on a little wooden tray. Holy. Freaking. Moly. They were GOOD!  Then, our eggplant. Um, I’m not sure I’ve ever had anything that good in my life!!!! It was AMAZING!!! I wanted a whole bucket of it! I wanted to lick the plate (Brian barely talked me out of it). And even Mr. Picky Veggie declared it delicious!!

Now it was time to wait for our entrees. We were sitting there talking, and then things get kind of blurry. I’ll do my best here. So we’re sitting there talking, and he puts his elbows on the table and reaches his hands toward mine. I take his hands. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Then he says something like, “If we’re going to do this we need a ring.”, and proceeds to put an AWESOME octopus tentacle ring on my right ring finger. Ok, now I’m confused. Words aren’t matching actions. We did the octopus ring thing (different type of ring) at a castle in France a couple of years ago, and that was just a ring for Christmas, on my right hand. Was this a repeat? What was happening? Everything was foggy. So, typical black and white, get to the point, logical me blurts out, “Are you asking me to marry you?”. That was an affirmative! OMG! And I’m not even #knockedup!!! I told him WRONG FINGER and moved it to my left hand. So hypothetically, I think I’m engaged to myself now… What you have to understand is that this is so us. Dorky. Awkward. Unconventional. Seriously lacking in seriousness. In other words, the perfect proposal! And did I mention it’s on Friday, July 13?? What could POSSIBLY go wrong?! 😛

Brian and I have been talking about getting married for a while now. I remember the first time it even popped in my head was shortly after we got together and I was in France. I was in the Musee de Beaux Arts in Lille, and there was a thing where you could write wishes on a wall. I don’t even know where it came from, but I wrote that I would want to marry Brian. That is TOTALLY not me. And then, when I went to London right after that, and was in the garden of King Henry VIII’s castle, there were these trees that I thought would be perfect to marry Brian under- very Alice in Wonderlandesque. Of course, Henry VIII’s court probably isn’t the best place for wedding planning….but I digress.

Now, for the super weird part. Two nights before this, I had a dream that we were getting married and could not find a place for the ceremony. We were searching all over the world. This is not something I have dreams about. But it was real enough that I mentioned it to Brian the next morning, and even brought it up a few more times over the next couple of days. Was I having a premonition? Was Brian giving off wedding vibes that I was picking up on? Hmmmmmm….🤔

Oh yeah! Food!! The main dishes came. I got Carbonara melted tortello with pecorino cheese and salted zabaglione mousse. That’s how cultured I am. Or….Melanie had mentioned pecorino cheese was a very local thing, I saw it, and ordered it. One of those. Brian got homemade potatoes gnocchi with clams, asparagus (yeah, that veggie he was convinced he hated 2.5 years ago…) and saffron. God damn, but we are FANCY!! And it was GOOD! And honest to god, each of those entrees were like $20 each. Which really is not bad at all.

So, I reckon we’re hitched. And we’re both excited about it! Thank god his pickiness only extends to food and not women! 😜 The only regret I have is that we didn’t tell the waiter what had happened! We might have gotten a free dessert or something!!!! #alwaysacheapass And that, my friends, is the moment that I turned into one of THOSE girls. Holy crap. I have a natural inclination toward planning (which is why I’m such a good traveler!), so wedding planning snapped into place! We decided on a travel themed wedding. That was about it before he had to go back home. Left to myself and my own devices over the past several days, I have managed to figure out rings, the venue (our home after we finish the remodel- no need to search the entire world like in my dream!), looking at dress ideas (the fact that EVERYWHERE I TURN there is a wedding dress doesn’t help, as you will see on upcoming blogs), and music to walk in to and walk out to. One of THOSE girls. #cringe This, from a chick who never gave a ding dong damn about any of that stuff before, shunned the very idea, etc… We’re still 1-2 years out from anything happening. We still have to get the blessing of a tax attorney and accountant. If they say “nope, not financially beneficial”, then we’ll just do a commitment ceremony. We don’t need a piece of paper. And whatever we’ll do, we’ll do on the cheap. And I mean CHEAP. We are not ones to go blowing a bunch of money on such things. Except the honeymoon- because money is for TRAVELING!!!! Oh, who I am fooling. I’ll have us in some $17 a night hostel somewhere eating peanut butter sandwiches. But, since it’s our honeymoon, I’ll let him splurge on honey to put on his. He likes that. That is true love. 💞



Rome Day 2: Obscure and Not So Obscure Sights of the City!

Rome Day 2: Obscure and Not So Obscure Sights of the City!


And now I present to you, the latest in the “Mary feels like crap while traveling the world” series….sigh.

Yes, it’s only Day 2, but it’s already our last day in Rome! Woke up and headed out as engaged peoples instead of just boyfriend and girlfriend at about 9am. 😍 We had a few things on our list to get done this morning before our tour of the Colosseum and Forum at 1:40. The plan was to get everything done, do our 2.5 hour tour, then come back and relax for the rest of afternoon/evening.

The day started out great! One of the things on our list, the Alchemy Gate, was in a park literally across the street from our bnb! I bet you’ve never even heard of this place. That’s why we were there. 🙂 Here’s the story. There was a villa here in the 1600s. This “gate” (more like a door) was one of the 5 entrances, with the other 4 now gone. The owner of the villa was very interested in alchemy (basically turning things into gold). An alchemist visited the villa, and said that he had the recipe to turn herbs into gold. The next morning, the alchemist was gone, but he left two things behind- some gold flakes that were “proof” of his abilities, and the recipe. Except the recipe was written in undecipherable symbols. The villa owner then constructed this gate in 1680, and inscribed the recipe on the door. The hope was that some passerby would see it, understand it, and translate it so more herbs could be turned to gold! Fun story!! Where the gate is, there are also Roman ruins from the 200s. I mean, c’mon, Rome! Could you get any cooler! Oh, and did I mention it’s all behind a fence and guarded by dozens of cats, all of which give you the dirtiest looks when you walk by or dare to speak to them…

I’m a bad ass cat, just hanging out on some ancient Roman columns. And by the way, fuck you.

From there, we walked to the Spanish Steps, which I didn’t see last time I was here. That was about 1.5 miles, and “eh”. It’s just a bunch of stairs. With about 50 tourists for every stair. Brian snapped a couple of pics. And I realized when I downloaded them that he took pictures of everything there EXCEPT the steps!! This is what happens when I hand over the camera…. So here I present you with “random things you can find AROUND the Spanish steps”. 🙄

Ok, I gotta hand it to Brian on this one. This looks a lot like my Sun King’s symbol, so I’m assuming that’s why he took it!

I looked at the map and decided we could walk up toward the park that is behind the steps. Another half mile or so. We got to the park, it was now well after 10am, we had gone over 2 miles in the heat, and not had anything to eat. Food was now a PRIORITY! We passed the National French Academy, and of course I had to google to see what it was. Apparently, it was founded by Louis XIV (my Sun King!!) to send French artists to Rome to study and for inspiration. They live at the academy for a year. Apparently you could go inside, but we are both a little “eh” about art unless it’s something super duper spectacular, so we continued up the hill in search of food…

Here is what I learned about Italy that day. They don’t believe in breakfast. Hardly anything was open. If something was open, it was all pastries, because Italians don’t believe in protein before 11:30am. I think it’s a papal decree or something. At this point, I’m getting antsy, because I do not function well on lots of walking, heat, and no protein. I have to have my morning protein, or things get ugly fast!! We strolled hand in hand in the beautiful park, while I started having an anxiety issue about food….. Walked through the ancient Roman wall back into the city and found food alright….like 40 euros for breakfast!!! WTF?? I want protein, not a home equity loan!! Apparently we had stumbled into the fancy schmancy part of town…

Brian googled for a breakfast place and found one. We hoofed it another half mile. It didn’t exist. There was nothing but pastries. My body was tired and I was getting a gnarly headache. We decided to just walk toward our next stop, and hope we’d stumble upon food somewhere along the way… We’re up to like 4 miles at this point.

Next stop was to go see the “immaculate” body of Saint Victoria at the Santa Maria della Vittoria church. I may or may not have suggested I would take a few nibbles off of said 1800 year old body…. I did take control of the camera at this point, because weird ass creepy shit is my specialty and I didn’t want Brian fucking it up (this was even before I knew about the Spanish Steps debacle) The church was pretty unassuming from the outside. Inside, it was kind of dark, very decorated, organ music quietly playing- it was all an air of some sort of spirituality- not “hey, we’re a super gaudy church- exit through the gift shop!” vibe like most have. Found the body. Oh for Christ’s sake. It looked like a mannequin. If I had bitten into that dumb thing, it would have been like biting into a candle. And probably not even a good one like Yankee. Those teefers are real, and the true miracle would have been braces for that poor soul. Fake skin, fake hair, fake eyes. Common denominator? Fake. Draw your own conclusions… That said, why are Catholics so freaking morbid? Shudder.

At this point, it’s 11:30, we’ve walked about 4 miles total on zero food, and my body is in full blown rebellion. It’s either get food, or lay down in the street and die. I wasn’t going any further. Thankfully, Italians finally can serve protein after 11:30, but it’s still hard to come by. Dear Italy, Woman cannot live on carbs alone. Love, Mary. Found a pizza-ish place where you could buy just a slice. There was one with prosciutto and fig on it that looked unique, so I went for that. Pretty good! I thought I would immediately feel better. I thought wrong….

Trevi Fountain was up next. It was a little over a mile from where we were. I checked the Uber rates. 10 euros. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I should have. We started walking, and I was feeling worse and worse. It was a combination of the heat, not enough protein, a massive headache (that I would have taken an aspirin for if I had had one- that’s a big deal for me because I don’t take pills unless it’s a serious situation), my stomach not being happy, my muscles being tired, my brain being foggy….I was a mess. But we got to the fountain. I had already seen it, so pics are Brian’s.

Brian led us what seemed like 10 miles through the hot streets and got us to the Colosseo metro station where we were to meet our guide. We were about 20 minutes early. I needed a restroom STAT. The guide said we could go to a bar that was through the metro station and upstairs. I will say- Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, Malta- you could find public restrooms. Apparently there’s another papel decree that Rome can’t offer such things. But hey, they’ll give you all the free water you can drink, so… 😊 Brian ordered gelato while I went to the bathroom. He was still trying to figure it out when I got back, so I just sat down at a table to rest my weary, rapidly declining self. So, if you order gelato, you can’t sit at a table. Holy fuck. Brian walks over to hand me mine so we can go, and gets griped at by the guy that we can’t sit there with gelato. Yeah, dude, we fucking got it. Can he god damned HAND me mine so we can leave, because he’s juggling 2 gelatos and a fruit cup???? Sheesh.

I was feeling a little better after sitting for a few minutes and getting some cold gelato and fruit into my system. Went back and found the tour guide, and I sat on a dirty sidewalk trying to maintain my strength. Soon it was time to go. So let me stop here and explain this tour. Last summer, my son, his girlfriend, and I took this same tour with Walks of Italy- the same outfit we did the catacombs tour with yesterday. This is the skip-the-line, arena floor, underground, and Forum tour. I wanted Brian to get access to all of those places, because I knew we’d never come back again and it needs to be seen. Well, because we didn’t plan everything ahead of time like we should, it was literally about 4 days before that I got around to finding a tour. And EVERYTHING was booked solid. I just so happened to find this one tour through Get Your Guide, so I snapped it up. The operator was Touriks. They ain’t no Walks of Italy…

We walk to the far side of the Colosseum (kind of the back side), and go in. We then have to stand in the sun for like 10 minutes while we are handed off to another tour guide and got our audio sets. All of the recovery I had made from sitting and eating melted in the heat. It was 95 out. I was trying to drink as much water as I could, but fear of there never being any bathrooms was in my mind. I sat while the guide got everything sorted. Finally, we were off and into the shade. I had to immediately sit. My body was giving out fast, and we were only about 15 minutes into 2.5 hours… As the guide talked, I immediately recognized that she was not very good. She repeated herself constantly. Her stories didn’t flow. The woman from Walks of Italy last year was AMAZING!!! She really knew her stuff. She was passionate about it and explained everything in a way that got you excited about it as well. This woman…ugh. I thought maybe it was because I felt bad and was just critical of the entire universe right now. But as we moved to the next stop, Brian confirmed that he wasn’t digging her either.

Next stop, on the arena floor, in the full sun and heat. I sat on the benches while the guide explained how the floor was covered in sand and asked why. I piped up, “To soak up the blood.” Yep. And that was the extent of my interactive Hermione self for the day…. Next we went underground, which really is the coolest (literally and figuratively!) part of the Colosseum. I immediately sat on a cold rock and even took off my shoes and put my bare feet against the cold stones, trying to release heat from my body.  This was my favorite part of the Colosseum last year- to see where the animals were kept, to see how they used elevators 2000 years ago to move them from the underground area to the arena floors. It really is spectacular.

Standing on the arena floor. There’s only part of it there now, but all of this underground used to be covered

Trap doors in the arena floor where animals would randomly pop up- surprising the gladiators and thrilling the audience!

There is still some marble left from the VIP seating area

View from the underground- kind of the “backstage” area. This is where the animals were kept.

Replica of the elevator system that would move the animals from underground to those trap doors in the arena floor

From there, we had to go to the upper levels, and I remembered that that meant a lot of stairs. I was NOT feeling stairs. The guide asked if anyone wanted to use the elevator. She didn’t have to ask me twice. So me, and an old lady with mobility issues, boarded the elevator. I’d rather be embarrassed than passed out… Up here, more sun. I sat while she explained everything, 60% of which was a repeat from what she had already said. It was frustrating as hell to pay this much money for this poor of a guide. By this time, even Brian was making fun of her constantly saying, “Can you imagine??” and “This is just the skeleton of the Colosseum.” And telling the story over and over of the “colossal” statue of Nero, over 35 meters high. UGH! She walked us right past the water fountain and didn’t even ask if anyone needed water, even though it was 95 today. The guide last year made sure to stop and let us fill our bottles. At this point, I’m just thinking ahead to the Forum tour, and having to climb Palatine hill….

View from the “cheap seats”!

Finally, it was over. We were supposed to go to the exit and meet the guide at 3pm. We had 10 minutes. I HAD to have water. So we backtracked to the fountain, filled up, then had to backtrack back to the exit. Got down there and found the original guide that we met. Where we were promptly pawned off on ANOTHER guide. We had the same guide for the entire time last year…. I pulled her aside, explained that I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to climb Palatine hill and I’d wait at the bottom. I knew they came down the same path again to get into the forum. So we entered the forum (which I love more than the Colosseum- it’s just STUNNING!!), and I found a bench under a tree near a water fountain to sit at for the next hour. Palatine Hill overlooks the Forum, and was where the emperors lived.

They came back, and the tour was basically over. She showed us some pictures in a book that showed the forum buildings and how they looked 2000 years ago compared to today. And that was it. Last year, the guide took us into the Forum to explain things. We were now on our own to explore the forum. Brian starts heading for the exit and I inform him NO WAY. He is going to see this. We’re just going to walk slow.  We walked through the ruins, marveling at how advanced this city was. At just how spectacular the buildings were. I can’t even imagine how impressive they were in their hey day… The Forum was the “heart” of the city- lots of temples, government buildings, and commercial/social venues. When we were done, the plan was to walk back to Colosseo metro and take the subway back to the airbnb. But I was too tired. I called an Uber. For only 7 euros more than the subway, door to door service was worth it.

View of the forum from Palatine Hill

Got there and grabbed some food at a café that was downstairs in our building and took it to our room. Then, we packed our bags, me giving Brian all of my winter stuff, making my bag MUCH lighter and easier to manage, and his MUCH heavier! We were both asleep by 6:30. I slept STRAIGHT THROUGH until the alarm went off at 4:45am. 10 hours. Holy crap. My body was just exhausted from all of this fast travel. Brian didn’t sleep as well, but he never does…