Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 4

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Colosseum exit with display of children’s UN Peace Day pictures

This series of (sometimes) relatively short posts, illustrated with photographs, records our recent holiday in Italy. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, we wanted to share our experience. You’ll get the full (nearly) story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all, in instalments.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 5

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Each entry arch was numbered, so attendees at the Roman Games knew which to use, allowing filling and emptying of the huge space to go apace.

21st September, Friday.

Up around 08:00, breakfast by the windows in Hotel Forum, and then off to the Colosseum for our 09:55 entry, as directed by our online tickets.

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Inside the Colosseum on entry.

At the queue we were offered a guided tour for an extra €18 each. We accepted this and joined a small group, around a dozen, just under the walls.

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Interior, showing one of the circular walkways

Elaine, our Italian guide, spoke good English as she led us through long, convoluted ways and security checks into the ancient building.

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The crowds begin gather, and the stage for the UN Day of Peace appears.

She described the structure, it’s history, and its use very well, earning her fee, and we saw a good deal of the place before the crowds began to swell as the monument took in its ever-increasing group of tourists.

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After more than 2,000 years standing, in a region subject to earthquakes, it’s amazing how much is still intact.

They have a system that allows no more than 3,000 visitors inside at any time and, toward the end, it felt like that figure had been reached!

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One of the Latin inscriptions

By coincidence, our visit was on U.N. World Peace Day, and the Colosseum had been chosen as a venue to display pictures drawn by 5,000 children to illustrate this theme.

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And the translation of the plaque above.

They were displayed on the fences and walls of the entrances and exit, some of them very good indeed.

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The stage and ceremony undwerway

There was also a small ceremony taking place on the area of the arena floor that’s been installed to let visitors see how gladiators and other elements of the Roman Games were displayed.

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In those narrow passages, with no daylight entering, and the stench of human and animal waste, the ‘performers’ would await their fate.

A naval band and speakers in the area leant the whole experience a festive air that strangely enhanced our experience.

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From higher up, a better idea of the space within.

Our guide left us after an hour, to wander on our own for as long as we wished.

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A view from one of the arches of the scene outside.

But, although she’d been introduced to us by one of the officials at the queuing point, it seemed our extra payment didn’t entitle us to the extended tour that included the upper floors.

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A wider view.

It did, however, apparently include a similar guided tour of the Palatine Hill, for which our tickets were valid either that day or the next.

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A different view of the exterior.

We could, if we wished, meet a new guide for that tour near the exit at either 12:30 or 14:30.

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The Trattoria Luzzi provided a break with food and drink.

Needing a break, we searched for a local eatery and, having been warned against using those close to the sights, we wandered away from the Colosseum and found a small street osterio, Trattoria Luzzi, where we had drinks and a leisurely light lunch.

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Sadly, the litter was not collected frequently enough

Back to the Colosseum and we waited at the exit, as instructed. Each guided group was identified by small stickers. Ours were hand-written small white labels, others were more official looking, bearing the tour operators’ names.

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From the Palatine approach

Nothing happened for a while but we eventually found a Chinese couple and a trio of English girls with the same stickers, but no guide.

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Restoration work continues

The Chinese guy went to the Colosseum entry queue to make enquiries whilst the rest of us waited. He returned after a quarter of an hour armed with new tickets for himself and his wife and the news that our guide was missing with no reason given.

Inside the Palatine enclosure

As our tickets gave us entry to the area, we decided to go on our own. The Chinese couple joined their new tour group and the young English women wandered off to see whether they could organise something for themselves.

That’s what I call a big toe!

We’re still unsure whether we were victims of some scam or whether there was a genuine reason for the guide’s absence.

One of the ceremonial gardens.

As it happened, it didn’t matter; our unguided tour of the Palatine Hill area turned out to suit us very well.

The nearest we got to St Peter’s was this view from one of the hills in the Palantine.

At the entry, after the usual security checks (the Italians are scrupulous in their attitude to visitor safety, which is very reassuring), we went to the information centre in search of a small map to help us find our way around the large area.

That phone obsession again!

None were available, so we bought a small guide for €10 and used its small map to guide us.

Views from the heights were pretty good.

Parts of the site, and all the museums, are accessed only via extra costs, and we felt we’d spent enough already, so we wandered around the public spaces and absorbed the history and views, often entirely alone despite the number of visitors.

A small neglected garden attracted us with its shade and we came across this aloe vera complete with resident lizard.

It suited us well.

Some of the buildings are very high!

As is our usual habit, we ascended to the height first.

An astounding amount of history lies displayed below.

The views were pretty spectacular, and I took plenty of photographs.

Everywhere you look are more monuments, buildings, ruins.

Good job photography’s digital these days. I had a 32GB memory card in my Nikon D3400, allowing me to take 1,800 high quality pictures before I’d need to change to the spare card I’d bought just in case!

The views just keep coming.

Quite a contrast to my first camera; a folding Kodak that gave eight pictures on a roll of film.

You could spend weeks here and still not see everything.

We wandered paths and visited various exhibits, enjoying the sense of history and learning from many information panels as we travelled the area.

Fortunately, the Italians like to provide plenty of guidance inside their historical sites.

Towards the end of our visit, thunder rumbled in the distance but there was no rain or lightning.

One building has been recently restored to its original glory and inside was this statue

By 18:00 we were ready to end our visit and discovered an exit only a few yards from the main road we needed to cross to reach our hotel.

And here’s the information about the lady above. Though to describe it as smaller than life-size struck me as odd, as she was taller than me!

Officials were just preparing to close the gate here as we left. And only then the threatened rain began: large spots, few in number, so we arrived back at Hotel Forum without getting wet.

A fascinating grotto

We passed the guy from Osteria Maracuja on the way and told him we’d see him shortly for dinner.

An attempt to show what it might have looked like originally.

This time, with the tables gathered slightly closer together to stop those on the boundaries from suffering a soaking from the now falling rain, we enjoyed our free glasses of prosecco and ate our meal.

Back at ground level, you can wander among those structures you see from above.

We poured our bottle of fizz, as we chatted with a local Italian, Maria, who was there with her 83-year-old mother. It was a good-humoured chat and we learned a lot about Rome.

So much to see; you can understand why I took so many (1757) pictures on our Italian visit.

Maria suggested a route for our Saturday walk and Valerie wrote down the various places of interest on a restaurant serviette (being a writer, I had no pen or paper with me, of course!).

This ancient temple is more or less intact

After Maria had taken her mother to the local station to meet her sister, their table was occupied by a charming Danish couple.

But all good things must end and we had to depart.

We talked with Christian and Mariana across many subjects, enjoying their company, and then, tired and happy, wandered back through streets made wet by the passing storm, via the light show displays, to our hotel.

It seems only fair to show you where we had most of our dinners.

21 thoughts on “Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 4

        1. None of us can visit every place of interest or beauty, in fact it’s a good job we can’t, we’d ruin the place! But if we share what we’ve found this way, it lets others see those places in a little more detail. That’s what I hope, anyway, Harold.

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  1. Such an exciting place, but I haven’t been there since I was a teenager. It doesn’t seem to have changed much, although I’m surprised they still haven’t mended all those old ruins!

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    1. I know what you mean, Mick. Those Italians, so slow to do the repairs, eh? Not like their Roman antecedents at all!
      They’re actually building a new Metro station to serve the Colosseum, so there are some large hoardings on the approach. And they appear to be doing their best to keep the places functioning and serving the multitude of visitors!

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